Blessington

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Blessington
Baile Coimín
Town
Blessington, wicklow.jpg
Marquess of Downshire's Memorial, Blessington
Ireland adm location map.svg
Red pog.svg
Blessington
Location in Ireland
Coordinates: 53°10′12″N6°31′59″W / 53.170°N 6.533°W / 53.170; -6.533 Coordinates: 53°10′12″N6°31′59″W / 53.170°N 6.533°W / 53.170; -6.533
Country Ireland
Province Leinster
County County Wicklow
Elevation
223 m (732 ft)
Population
 (2016) [1]
   Urban
5,520
Irish Grid Reference N976142
Saint Mary's Church and Monument. IMG Blessington5540w.jpg
Saint Mary's Church and Monument.
Gold lunula (2400 BCE - 2000 BCE) found in Blessington and now in the British Museum Blessington lunula.BM.WG.31.jpg
Gold lunula (2400 BCE - 2000 BCE) found in Blessington and now in the British Museum

Blessington, historically known as Ballycomeen (Irish : Baile Coimín, meaning 'town of Comyn', from the Irish surname Ó Coimín), [3] is a town on the River Liffey in County Wicklow, Ireland, near the border with County Kildare. It is around 25 km south-west of Dublin, and is situated on the N81 road, which connects Dublin to Tullow. [4]

Contents

History

Prehistory

Evidence of Bronze Age activity in the area is demonstrated by the spectacular Blessington gold lunula, now in the British Museum. [5] The nearby Rath Turtle Moat was occupied from the 12th century onward by Norse Gaels and Normans.

Medieval period to 1900s

Blessington was previously called Munfine, and in the Medieval period was part of the lordship of Threecastles. In 1667, Michael Boyle, Church of Ireland Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, bought the lordship, previously the property of the Cheevers, for £1,000. Archbishop Boyle received a Royal Charter to establish the town of Blessington, in the townland of Munfine, as a borough.

Construction of Blessington House was begun in 1673 and afterwards St Mary's Church in Blessington, which was completed in 1683. On Archbishop Boyle's death in December 1702, his son, The 1st Viscount Blesington, inherited the Blessington Estate. Lord Blessington's son, Charles, 2nd Viscount Blesington, died in June 1732 without an heir, and the estate was inherited by his sister Anne, then her son, The 1st Earl of Blessington and Baron Stewart. The earl died in August 1769 without an heir and the estate passed to Charles Dunbar, a great-grandson of The 1st Viscount Blessington, who also died heirless in 1778, when the estate passed to The 1st Earl of Hillsborough, whose seat was Hillsborough Castle in Hillsborough, County Down, a great-great-grandson of Archbishop Boyle. Lord Hillsborough was created as the 1st Marquess of Downshire in August 1789. The Hills held the estate until 1908.

The main road of the town is an example of a planned improvement of towns and villages associated with estates in the late 1700s and early 1800s. [6]

Russborough House, situated 5  km south of Blessington, was built by the Leeson family, Earls of Milltown, and became the home of philanthropist Sir Alfred Beit (1903–1994), before becoming a museum.

Above the nearby village of Lacken in the early hours of 18 April 1941, an RAF Handley Page Hampden aircraft (Registration AD730) [7] [8] got lost in bad weather and crashed on Black Hill (Kilbeg) [9] killing its entire crew of four. The airmen were brought to Blessington and buried with full military funerals on 22 April 1941 at St. Mary’s Church by order of the Irish Government. [8] The Irish Times the day after reported that “During the funeral all shops in Blessington were closed and blinds drawn on windows.” [8] A memorial stone was unveiled at the crash site on 18 April 1991. [10] [11]

Modern development

Since the turn of the 21st century, Blessington's population has increased substantially, more than doubling from 2,509 at the 2002 census, to 5,010 by the time of the 2011 census. [12] The majority of housing estates were constructed on the western side of the town, off the R410, which is the road to Naas. A new inner bypass has also been opened that alleviates traffic on Main Street to some degree.

Infrastructure improvements since 2005 include a playground, fire station, a central retail development, including a Dunnes Stores outlet and a public library (opened in 2006) above it, expansion of a SuperValu supermarket, and addition of an ALDI supermarket. [ citation needed ]

Amenities

Pubs

The town has a number of pubs, including Hennessy's, Miley's, Murphy's and the West Wicklow House.[ citation needed ] An event venue by the lakeshore, named The Avon (previously Avon Rí Adventure Centre), is also a licensed premises.[ citation needed ]

The Reid family ran another pub, named Mick Reid's, for several decades before closing in December 2018. A planning application was submitted to Wicklow County Council in 2022, seeking permission to build a veterinary clinic on the site of the pub. [13]

St Mary's Church

St Mary's Church is situated in Market Square, in the middle of the town. It was built around 1683, having been financed by Archbishop Boyle. While most of the church was rebuilt in the 19th Century, the tower of this old church remains at the west end. [14]

The church is well known in the bell-ringing community for housing the oldest complete set of bells in Ireland. The six bells date to 1682 and were cast by James Bartlet, who was the master founder of Whitechapel at that time. The money for these was also given by Archbishop Boyle. They are still rung twice a week, for Sunday morning service and on Saturday nights, for ringing practice. [15] [16]

While it holds the oldest peal of change-ringing bells in Ireland, the oldest bells hung for change-ringing in Ireland are found in St Audoen's Church in Dublin city centre. Three of the bells (the 3, 4, and 5 of the 6 bell-peal) date to 1453, and were cast in York. [17]

Poulaphouca Reservoir

Also known locally as the Blessington Lakes, the reservoir was created when the waterfall at Poulaphouca on the River Liffey (which flows from the Wicklow Mountains to Dublin) was dammed by the ESB for a hydroelectric plant which is still in use today. The valley was flooded and the resulting lakes extend over approximately 5,000 acres (2,023 ha). A small village called Ballinahown was submerged by the damming of the waterfall, and the remains of roads can still be seen leading down into the lake.

In addition to electricity, the lakes also provide water for the locality and the Dublin region as well as provide a leisure resource. There is now a lakeside luxury hotel complex in the Blessington area, with its own helipad, and lakeside facilities which have helped to develop tourism in the area. The lake is also extensively used by boatmen and fishermen, and is a training location for the Irish Air Corps HQ divisions from Baldonnel, 15  km north of Blessington, and also Local Civil Defence Water rescue teams.

Blessington Greenway

The Blessington Greenway is a 6.5  km walking trail that links Blessington with Russborough House. [18] The trail starts in Blessington and leads south to The Avon activity centre at the southern edge of the town where it then follows along the lake shore, crossing a medieval ringfort, and uses the footpath along part of the N81 road before turning back into the forest at Burgage Moyle lane. It then crosses the Valleymount Road (R758) and makes its way to Russellstown Bay adjacent to Russborough House. A second phase for the greenway, laid out in a planning submission by Wicklow County Council in early 2022, is proposed to expand the trail to include a 33  km loop surrounding the lake, taking in the villages of Lacken, Valleymount and Ballyknockan. [19]

Transport

In 1888, the Dublin and Blessington Steam Tramway service commenced from Terenure to Blessington via Tallaght, linking with the horse trams from the city. [20] This service ended at the end of December 1932 and was replaced with a conventional bus service, Dublin Bus route 65. Lacking a train station in the town, this service continues to operate as the main public transport connection between Blessington and Dublin city. [ citation needed ]

Blessington is on the N81 national secondary road, and is connected via the R410 regional road with Naas. The latter starts in the south end of the town heading west and proceeds through a natural gap in the hills of Glending Forest and Eadestown. The route is treacherous during heavy winter snowfalls, and is sometimes closed in severe conditions.[ citation needed ]

Since August 2021, Blessington has been served by route 884, a Mon-Fri public bus service operated by TFI Local Link Kildare South Dublin, which connects the town with Naas and Sallins railway station. The arrivals at the railway station are scheduled to link in with departures to, and arrivals from, Heuston railway station in Dublin. [21]

Dublin Bus route 65, starting at Poolbeg Street in Dublin City Centre, takes approximately 1 hour 15 minutes and passes through Rathmines, Terenure, Templeogue, Tallaght, and Brittas on its way to Blessington. [22] A limited number of daily services on route 65 are also extended to Ballyknockan and Ballymore Eustace. [22] The Ballymore service routes via the N81, as does the Ballyknockan service. [22]

Bus Éireann route 132 (Dublin-Bunclody) routes via Tallaght Hospital, Blessington, Baltinglass and Rathvilly en route to Bunclody. One journey is extended weekly to Wexford and Rosslare Europort. [23]

The Downshire Hotel, a landmark on Main Street, is now closed IMG BlessingtonDownshire5536c.jpg
The Downshire Hotel, a landmark on Main Street, is now closed

Education

The town and its hinterlands are served by several primary schools and one secondary school.

The local primary schools include St Mary's National School, a Roman Catholic national school, which comprises St Mary's Junior National School (infants to 2nd class) and St Mary's Senior National School (3rd to 6th class). As of 2019, the combined coeducational school(s) had over 600 pupils enrolled. [24] [25] The local Church of Ireland national school is known as Blessington Number 1 National School, and had approximately 200 pupils enrolled in 2018. [26]

Gaelscoil na Lochanna (School of the Lakes) is a gaelscoil which was founded in 2006 to cater for those in the area who wished to educate their children primarily through the Irish language. As of 2018, it had 215 pupils enrolled. [27] A nearby Educate Together national school was founded in 2006 on the site of a long-standing school and has a large sports field. [28]

The only secondary school in Blessington, Blessington Community College, is on the Naas Road and had an enrollment (in 2019) of over 500. [29]

Notable people

Former or current residents of the town have included:

See also

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Further reading