librarys Banner
Kildare Collections
and Research Services
Default text size Large text size Extra large text size High contrast text


Local Studies Department

Lewis's Topographical Dictionary 1837

Towns & Villages
KILCULLEN

KILCULLEN, a parish, in the barony of KILCULLEN, county of KILDARE, and province of LEINSTER, 8 miles (S.S.W.) from Naas, on the mail coach road from Dublin to Athy and Carlow; containing 2918 inhabitants. This place, which since the erection of the new town of Kilcullen-Bridge, has been called Old Kilcullen, derived its name from the foundation of a church and monastery in the district of Coulan, of which St. Patrick appointed St. Isernine bishop, who died in 469 and was succeeded by St. Mactalius. The monastery and the town which grew up around it were plundered repeatedly by the Danes, between the years 883 and 1037; but after the English obtained a settlement in the country, the town was fortified and greatly increased in importance. Soon after the invasion, a castle was erected here by the Fitzmartins, which afterwards became the property of the Fitz-Eustace family, of whom Thomas Fitz-Eustace, afterwards Viscount Baltinglass, was created Baron of Kilcullen by Hen. VIII. Previously to the year 1319, the town was surrounded with strong walls and defended by seven gates, but Maurice Jaques having in that year built a bridge over the river Liffey, about two miles from this place, the town of Kilcullen-Bridge began rapidly to increase, and the ancient town to decline.

During the civil war this castle was garrisoned for the parliamentarians, in 1641, but was taken two years afterwards by the Marquess of Ormonde. In the same year, the commissioners appointed to treat for a cessation of hostilities assembled here, but afterwards adjourned to Jigginstown, near Naas, and in 1647 the castle was taken and burnt by the parliamentarians. In the disturbances of 1798, a large number of the insurgents posted themselves in the churchyard, on the summit of a very steep hill, and Capts. Erskine and Cookes, who advanced to dislodge them, were killed in the attempt, and their party repulsed. The insurgents afterwards assembled in great numbers on the heights above the town, from which they were driven with great loss by Gen. Dundas, who was stationed here, and several thousands of them subsequently surrendered to him on the hill of Knockawlin, about a mile distant, where they had occupied an intrenched camp. The town, which stood on a bleak eminence in a very commanding position, is now only an insignificant village; its market, which belongs by patent to the Rev. Thomas O'Moore, has been removed to Kilcullen-Bridge, but fairs are still held here on June 22nd and Oct. 3rd.

The parish comprises 6619 statute acres, of which more than four-fifths are in tillage, and the remainder, with the exception of a small portion of woodland and exhausted bog, is in pasture. The soil is fertile, and the lands are in a high state of cultivation; the system of agriculture has, within the last 15 years, been very greatly improved, and the surrounding scenery is pleasingly diversified. Castle-Martin, the elegant residence of W. H. Carter, Esq., occupies the site of the ancient castle of the Fitz-Martins, near Kilcullen-Bridge: the present mansion was occupied by the king's troops as a barrack, in 1798; it is surrounded with a highly improved and richly wooded demesne. Halverstown, the seat of P. Purcell, Esq., is finely situated in the midst of extensive and thriving plantations, which, covering an elevated part of the demesne, are a great ornament to a large tract of country around. The living is a vicarage (otherwise called a perpetual curacy), in the diocese of Dublin, united, in 1833, to the impropriate curacies of Davidstown, Giltown, and Brannickstown, together forming the impropriate or perpetual curacy of Kilcullen; the rectory is partly appropriate to the precentorship, but chiefly united to the half rectory of Glasnevin, together constituting the corps of the chancellorship of the cathedral of Christchurch, Dublin, in the patronage of the Crown. The tithes amount to £332. 6. 10., of which £37. 6. 6. is payable to the precentor, £197. 6. 5. to the chancellor, and £97. 13. 11. to the perpetual curate. The church, for the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £1000, is undergoing an enlargement, which will render it cruciform, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners having granted £238. Divine service is also performed during the summer in a school-house at Calvertstown.

The glebe-house is a neat building, and the glebe comprises 20 acres. The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church; there is a chapel at Gormanstown, and also at New Abbey; the latter stands within the cemetery, and is built partly with the materials of the ancient abbey, some of the ornamental sculptures of which are preserved in the present building. About 430 children are taught in five public schools, of which one was built by a bequest of £100 from the Rev. Kildare Burrowes, and is aided by donations from the Rev. J. Burrowes and Mrs. Purcell; and there is also a Sunday school. There are still some remains of New Abbey, founded in 1460 for Franciscans of the Strict Observance, by Sir Rowland Fitz-Eustace, many years Lord Chancellor and Treasurer of Ireland. After its dissolution it was granted, in 1582, by Queen Elizabeth to the poet Spenser; and though the tower fell in 1764, and a great portion of the materials was used in building the R. C. chapel, the ruins are still highly interesting.

The tomb of the founder and his lady are still visible in the churchyard, but so deeply sunk in the ground that the inscription, ascribing the foundation of the abbey to Rowland Fitz-Eustace, who died Dec. 19th, 1496, can with difficulty be read. In the churchyard at Old Kilcullen are the remains of a slender circular tower, and the erect shaft of an ancient cross divided into compartments, each containing an emblematical sculpture.

Return to Towns & Villages