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Newbridge in the news … sites and lights dominate local agenda a century ago

Bicentenary celebrations are at full throttle in Newbridge this week as the Liffey-side marks its official 200th birthday grounded on a lease signed in September 1812 for the site on which the large military barracks was to be built.  The progressive Newbridge History Group has underway a programme of talks, walks and exhibitions exploring the 200 year history of the town.
There is no record of a previous generation of Newbridge citizens celebrating its centenary in 1912 but a survey of the local papers of that year indicate some of the issues that were on the minds of townspeople at that stage in the town’s evolution.
 An issue of the Kildare Observer of September 1912 reports on a meeting of the Town Commission which was chaired by Mr P Kelly, J.P., with Messrs. John Kelly, James Spaine and E. Wallace in attendance. The first item of business was to respond to a letter from an officer of the Royal Engineers Corps based in the Curragh Camp who had written offering the Town Council the lease of a strip of war department property in Newbridge. The letter read: “Dear Sirs, with reference to your application for the use of a recreation ground, can you kindly say if Newbridge Town Commission would be prepared to enter into an agreement for this as a letting for a period of years, terminable quarterly or half-yearly by notice on either side, and subject to annual rent. Signed: G Wallin, Major, Royal Engineers”.
 The Town Commissioners received the offer favourably and directed the Town Clerk to respond to the Major Wallin and to say that the Commissioners were prepared to take the plot of for a period of years, tenancy terminable by half-yearly notice on either side.
A problem of a more pungent nature confronted the Town Commissioners on the next item of their agenda. A letter was read from Mr O’Neill, Sanitary Officer, drawing attention to the unsanitary condition of the lane at the rear of Rowan Terrace, in which water accumulated and remained. He enquired when the Commissioners intended connecting the locality to the main sewerage. The Commissioners decided on a pragmatic solution to the problem by directing the Town Clerk to procure a sufficient quantity of gravel for the place mentioned and to push on with negotiations with the central Local Government Board for a loan to permanently improve the sewerage in that part of Newbridge.
The Town Commissions clearly had another problem on their hands in terms of the adequacy of the town lighting. The record of the meeting noted that “it was declared that the lamps be put in proper order at once.”
Another local body, the District Council, also turned its attention to services for Newbridge in September 1912. Mr. Doyle a council member moved a motion that the storage capacity of Newbridge reservoir be increased. He said that there was an enormous usage of water in the town and there was no means of increasing the supply. His fellow councillors agreed that plans and estimates should be drawn up for an increased capacity in the supply.
Whatever about the problems with the local utilities Newbridge was clearly a desirable place to live if the tone of an advertisement inserted by Robert J. Goff, Auctioneers & Valuers, is to be believed. The advertisement announced that Goff’s had been instructed “by Mrs. Mary Nickson to auction her Right, Title and Interest in the plot of ground near the Artillery Barracks” and on which a “newly slated two-storied comfortable dwelling house (six rooms) had been erected. “ Goff’s took the opportunity to advise readers that they had “on their books for sale or letting several desirable Residences with or without land, convenient to the Curragh and Newbridge.” The same firm also brought a touch of colonial style to the Newbridge auction market having been favoured with instructions by “Officers who are leaving the Curragh” to sell their house-hold effects ranging from “brass, iron and brass-mounted bedsteads” to a “light running dog cart (to seat four)”  No doubt many of the artefacts and curios sold at auctions such as this are in attics and garden-sheds in Newbridge to the present day.
The Newbridge 200 Festival programme gives impressive recognition to the town’s history. Among the heritage events worth looking out for are an illustrated talk in the Riverbank theatre this Wednesday at 8pm and a history walk on Saturday beginning at the Library at 2pm.  And if all this were not enough the Newbridge History Group have compiled a spectacular exhibition of old images of the town – some never seen in public before – which is on display in the Credit Union throughout festival week. Series no: 296.

Bicentenary celebrations were at full throttle in Newbridge as the Liffey-side marks its official 200th birthday writes Liam Kenny in Looking Back Series no. 296  

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