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MAPPING KILDARE'S INDUSTRIAL HERITAGE

Leinster Leader 20 September 2007
 
From post boxes to power stations … mapping Kildare’s industrial heritage
by
LIAM KENNY
 
 
 
Recent years have seen a strong surge in public awareness of the value of old buildings and historic sites in the landscape. Local communities have shown great concern regarding the protection and preservation of sites which have a historic value in their neighbourhoods. There is hardly a parish in Kildare which does not have its church ruins, castle remnant, or old cemetery. In some cases the sites have a level of official protection through being listed as National Monuments or as protected structures in the local authority development plans.
 
However despite this welcome recognition by both official and community groups of their historic treasures one facet of County Kildare’s heritage inventory that has been  overlooked is  the category which might be described as ‘industrial archaeology’. This is the technical term for the study of places where people worked and earned a living through the centuries, generally by some kind of manufacturing process where materials were changed from the raw state to usable products. Factories of all kinds fall into this category; so too do abattoirs and tanneries, breweries and distilleries, pits and quarries, power stations and pumping plants. 
 
Many County Kildare industries are household names throughout the county and beyond: the Wallboard in Athy; the Ropes and the Cutlery in Newbridge; the Wallpaper in Kildare town are prime examples. And yet for all their centrality in the wellbeing of the county, relatively little has been recorded about these and other facilities. Even more elusive are records of the abattoirs, tanneries, bakeries and bottling plants which existed in the back streets and lanes of all of the towns in the county. And the pioneering activities of the ESB and Bord na Mona to extract value from the Bog of Allen have left a proud footprint on the mid-Kildare landscape. On the other hand not many will have heard of Kildare’s very own chocolate factory which existed in Maynooth in the 1950s!
 
Some placenames give a clue to the presence of manufacturing of some kind. The townsland of Bleachfields near Athy is indicative of the once thriving flax industry in parts of Kildare which disappeared generations ago; Slatequarries near Blessington highlights the extraction industry which underpinned the incomes of many households in east Kildare up to the present time; while the numerous Milltowns signify the proliferation of corn grinding operations, generally powered by water but occasionally, in north-west Kildare, by wind power.
 
Of late there has been a much greater interest among the heritage community regarding the industrial sites of the county and this interest will be given a highly valuable impetus by a Survey of Industrial Archaeology in the county which is currently being compiled under the auspices of Kildare County Council’s Heritage Forum.
 
The survey is attempting to map and list all sites of industrial archaeology in County Kildare from those as small as a post box to those as large as a power station. The study is being compiled in the first instance through scrutiny of Ordnance Survey maps but aware that industries were not always highlighted on maps the Heritage Forum is very keen to hear from Kildare residents who have knowledge or recollections of any kind of industrial activity in their localities.
 
Local knowledge about the existence of any kind of industry, no matter how small, in town and country is invited by the survey team as are recollections, photographs or other records relating to old industrial activities. And in terms of photographs even if the site is only incidental in the photograph – for example a factory or a mill glimpsed behind a group of workers or a family grouping – it is still of great value to the researchers.
 
The survey will mark the first attempt to chronicle the industrial heritage of the county – a heritage that is every bit as central to the life and times of the people as the old castles, churches or country houses.
 
* Anybody with memories or photos of industrial activity in Co. Kildare is invited to contact Brigid Loughlin, KCC Heritage Officer; postal address: Aras Chill Dara, Naas, Co. Kildare; telephone 045-980791 or email: Bloughlin@kildarecoco.ie
 
Series No. 33

A REPORT BY LIAM KENNY ON THE INDUSTRIAL SURVEY OF CO. KILDARE BEING UNDERTAKEN AS PART OF THE CO. KILDARE HERITAGE PLAN - from  his regular fetaure 'Nothing New Under the Sun,' in the Leinster Leader 20 September 2007. Our thanks to Liam


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