For this Memory Lane edition, we are taking our first visit to a part of Leinster just outside of Dublin. Hopping on an Arrow train at Heuston and travelling to the sixth station on route – Newbridge
. The town of Newbridge was first served by rail in August 1846, when the great Southern & Western railway opened their line from Dublin to Carlow.
The 1840s station buildings are typical of the type built by the GSWR on the line towards Carlow, which feature Tudor style architecture. The main buildings, including the large Water Tower, are located on the down side, while on the up is an attractive GSWR canopy. The first known mention of Newbridge in the written form was by traveller and bookseller, John Dunton, in 1698. A mass house (Roman Catholic Chapel) was built beside the bridge about 1730 and a hostelry, the New Bridge Inn, was in existence in 1750. The first bridge was destroyed by floods in 1789 and William Chapman, an engineer on the Grand Canal Project, was employed to rebuild it the following year.
The origin of the modern town lies in the establishment of Cavalry Barracks (1815-1819) on land purchased from 3 local landlords: Eyre Powell of Great Connell, Ponsonby Moore of Moorefield and William Hannon of Kilbelin. The barracks were located alongside the River Liffey and extended to Cutlery Road, from Main Street to Military Road. Only a small part of the old walls and gateways of the Barracks still exist to this day.
The Barrack’s was occupied by the British Army until 1922, it was then used as an internment camp by the national army during the Civil War. However, it was not required as a military barracks by the new Irish army, and was closed following the Civil War.
St. Conleth and St. Brigid
It is said that the town owes its inception to one Saint Conleth, whom the Cathedral and GAA Stadium have been named after. Conleth was a hermit who lived along the River Liffey, at Old Connell. The renowned Irish Abbess, Saint Brigid, upon meeting Conleth, was so impressed by him that she subsequently persuaded him to become the governing Bishop of her monastery at Kildare. A gifted copyist and illuminator of manuscripts, Conleth was likewise skilled in metalworking. A crosier kept in a museum of the Royal Irish Academy is said to have been made by the now Saint. While living in seclusion at Old Connell on the River Liffey in what is now Newbridge, Conleth was persuaded by St. Brigid to make sacred vessels for her convent. Conleth then became head of the Kildare school of metal-work and penmanship.
Conleth died when he was attacked by wolves in the forests of Leinster on pilgrimage to Rome on 4 May 519 and was buried nearby. In 799, his relics were transported and laid beside Brigid's in Kildare Cathedral. His relics were finally laid to rest in Connell in 835 to protect the inhabitants from invading danes.
The gothic style Saint Conleth’s Church was built in 1852 and contains many beautiful carvings inside, a testament to the many fine craftsmen who lived in the area at the time. The structure has a tower like frontage which can be seen from many vantage points in the town. There is a beautiful garden in the grounds containing benches, should you wish to sit and gather your thoughts. On your next trip to Newbridge, be sure to download our free location app here
to find this magnificent church and garden.
Also bearing the name of the famous saint is the local GAA Stadium, which is the county ground for the Kildare GAA football and hurling sides. Greyhound Racing took place at the stadium from 1948 to 1968, but since it reopened in 1972, the stadium has been exclusively used for GAA activities.
The stadium originally had a capacity of 13,000, but due to health and safety concerns, deteriorating parts of the ground had to be shut and the capacity was reduced to 6,200. On occasion the implementation of temporary seating has brought the capacity back up to just over 9,000.
One such occasion the temporary seating was used was on Saturday June 30th
2018, a day that will live on long in the memories of Kildare GAA fans. For it was on this day ‘The Lilywhites’ sensationally knocked Mayo out in the All-Ireland Football Championship, a team tipped to win the Sam Maguire Cup by many. Such was the rocking atmosphere when the final whistle blew with the scoreboard reading 0-21 to Kildare 0-19 to Mayo; locals not at the match must have thought an Earthquake had hit.
Shopping in Kildare
Next door to the stadium is a more recent addition to the town, the Whitewater Shopping Centre. First opened in April 2006, the centre has played an important part in keeping Kildare folk shopping inside the county, rather than make a trip up to Dublin. With over 70 units in operation, whether you’re looking for an intricate piece of jewellery or a new top for a long awaited night out post-Covid, this centre has it all. With 14 eateries and a 5 screen cinema to boot, you can be well fed and entertained after your spot of retail therapy. Find the location and opening hours of Whitewater Shopping Centre on our free app here
Of course it goes without saying that it would also be a shame to not take a stroll down Main Street and have a look at the other shops the town has to offer. This walk will also bring you to the acclaimed Riverbank Theatre which has played host to the cream of Irish talent and notable international acts over the years along with a host of plays and other productions by local performers.
However if its world-class entertainment you are looking for, turn the car around, head straight down Main Street and continue until you soon reach a roundabout and turn right; you are now a mere 1.2km away from the world renowned Curragh Racecourse.
It is here that the eyes of the world horse racing fraternity are transfixed during the prestigious Irish Derby Festival. If you want to experience the exhilarating thrill of some of the best horses in the world going head to head for some of the biggest prizes in the sport; the Curragh has it all. And if you have a horse of your own, there is a superstore with such an array of items for sale, you might be wishing you had more boot space in your car.
Newbridge Visitor Attractions
To finish, no visit to Newbridge would be complete without a visit to the Newbridge Museum of Style Icons. Named as one of the top 5 free visitor attractions in Ireland
, this museum and contains dazzling pieces of clothing and jewellery that were once worn by the likes of Audrey Hepburn, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana and the Beatles, among others. It also hosts temporary exhibitions and has displayed items once worn by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor and Kurt Cobain.
You could then decide to take in a tour of the Newbridge Factory itself and get a glimpse of how the world famous glass wear and jewellery are created. Many would also head to the Newbridge Silverware Factory Shop before or after their visit to the Museum, especially when one of their famous sales are taking place!
Being just an hours’ drive from O’ Connell Street or 50 minutes by train from Heuston Station and with lovely places to walk, eat and drink galore; Why not plan your post-Covid trip to the town of Newbridge? Download our free award-winning location app here
to plan your visit and find all the top things to do during your stay.
If you enjoyed this blog, you may be interested in our trip down Memory Lane through Kilkenny City.