The town of Rathdrum stands in the foothills of the Wicklow Mountains.  Ancient tradition maintains that Rathdrum was once the site of a hill fort, strategically placed to control the gateway to the mountains and the river crossings.  Rath Dromadh translates as ‘Ráth on the Ridge’.  The origins of town are from the medieval period.  In the late 18th and early 19th centuries Rathdrum was an important centre for the woollen trade, particularly flannel, based on sheep farming in the locality and spinning and weaving as cottage industries.  Rathdrum used to be a market town, with two breweries and a flour mill.  The transport links to the town were improved in the 19th century with the construction of a coach road, while in the mid-19th century the railway arrived.  Today the town is undergoing major transformation with a big increase in commercial and residential development.

Points of Interest in Rathdrum

Masterful example of Victorian civil engineering, the railway viaduct spans the Avonmore River and forms a dramatic landmark in the townscape of Rathdrum.  The Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway reached Rathdrum in 1861.  In 1861, the station serving the train from Wicklow was located at Kilcommon.  On completion of the viaduct in Rathdrum, the line to Avoca was opened on 18 July 1863, with the present Rathdrum station taking over from Kilcommon.

The park was created by Rathdrum Development Association in memory of Charles Stewart Parnell in 1991.  The 5.5 acre site was hired by the Church as glebe land with old gardens.  In Parnell’s day there was a viewing platform called the Round House located in the centre.  Several monuments were erected recently in the park, among the most important are Parnell’s bronze statue overlooking the park and a deer which commemorates the 400th anniversary of Wicklow.

This five-arch bridge was constructed by a County Wicklow bridge builder, John Braddel of Carnew in 1754.  The bridge was remodelled and strengthened several times over the past 250 years.

Milling of flour commenced in the 1750s when William Tomlinson obtained a lease on the mill.  In 1837 the mill was taken over by James Comerford.  He was a creative flour miller and the Comerford family continued to produce flour until the mid 1950s.

Evolved throughout the 18th and 19th century, mostly as a cluster of small dwellings serving the mill workers.  There is a distance of more than 200 metres between the Lower Town and Main Street.

The church, built in the 1860s, is located majestically overlooking the river and valley.  Famous architect J.J. McCarthy designed the church largely in Gothic revival style while incorporating certain features inspired by the monastic city of Glendalough.

It was the first purpose-built post-Reformation Catholic Church in Rathdrum.  Up to 1988 a convent of nuns was situated beside the church.  The old convent building was accidently burned in 1988.

Market Square has long been a focal point of the town since as early as 1720.  The width of the Square allowed horse transport to pull in and park for livery.  Most premises in the Square and the Main Street have archways leading to yards outback, attesting to the time when the horse was essential.

In 1824 there were two hotels at the Square and the town was a recognised place from which to savour the ruins of Glendalough or the solitude of Glenmalure.

The Square has long served as a place for political meetings.  Parnell made his first speech here.  Tradition claims that he addressed the crowd from the top of a beer barrel.  The Square has been the setting for many films including Michael Collins, Durango and Love Divided.

The street follows the road from the 17th century and retains a very ‘old world charm’.  The houses are of typically Irish market town façade.  Granite abounds in the street landscape and this durable stone forms most doorsteps.  Ornamental rain gutters set into the footpath assert the neat workmanship of Wicklow stone-wrights.

On location in Ireland, the making of Michael Collins was amajor news event in the summer of 1995.  Posters went up on lampposts all over Dublin for unpaid extras to volunteer for the big crowd scenes.  The response was tremendous with trousands of people turning up to relive the history of their country.

In the town of Rathdrum nearly everybody became involved in the film in one way or another.  The scene where Michael Collins addressed a large crowd took place in the square in front of The Railway Bar.  This scene simulated an actual public meeting of nationalists who listened to a public appeal by The Big Man in favour of a war-ending treaty with Great Britain in Granard in 1922.

Upstairs in the pub ‘The Woolpack’ the love scene between Liam Neeson and Julia Roberts was shot.  Rathdrum’s Market Square was carefully transformed by filmmakers to suit the period while hundreds of Wicklow men dressed in attire of the 1920s.  The ambush in which Michael Collins was fatally wounded, which originally took place in Beal na Blath in West Cork, was re-enacted in the Hollywood Valley.

Twelve fairs were held annually on the Fair Green. Cattle, pigs, horses, fowl and especially sheep were bought and sold there. In due course humble buildings sprang up around the Green where several small artisans, i.e. Saddler, Cobbler, Blacksmith and Tinsmith, plied their trade to the visiting farmers.

‘The Flannel Hall’ was known as the ‘County Wicklow Woollen Exchange’. The hall was erected in 1793 and merchants and dealers of wool and flannel exhibited and traded here. During the rebellion of 1798, the building was taken over as a military barracks and headquarters of Rathdrum Yeomanry Corps. A part of the building was used by the Roman Catholic Church from 1803-1860. It was also used as a Court House. In 1890 a large part of the Flannel Hall was destroyed by fire. All that now remains of the building is a much-modified east wing. Today the hall is known as the Rathdrum Development Association (R.D.A.) Hall.

Charles Stewart Parnell was born at Avondale on the 27th June 1846. In 1875 he was elected M.P. in the British House of Commons and he worked tirelessly to achieve Home Rule for Ireland. With his untimely death in 1891 at the young age  of 45 Ireland lost the one man who could probably have delivered this for his native country. In his short life time he became known as the ‘Uncrowned King of Ireland’.

This neoclassical house was designed by James Wyatt and built by Samuel Hayes in 1779. It was the birthplace and home of Charles Stewart Parnell (1846-1891), one of the greatest political leaders of Irish history. The museum is now a museum to his memory; open daily March-October (11am-6pm) and on Bank Holidays.

A magnificent forest park with an extensive collection of trees and shrubs from around the world surrounds the house. Six walks of various lengths run through the park. The forest park played an important part in the development of forestry in Ireland. It is home to common woodland animals including red squirrel, badger, hedgehog, stoat, fox and deer. Rabbit and hare are occasionally seen. The park is rich in bird life with over 90 species recorded here.