Shillelagh

Shillelagh

Shillelagh comes from the Irish place name of Síol Éalaigh, meaning ‘Descendants of Éalach’. The village was originally laid out by the Earls Fitzwilliam as an estate village for the nearby Coollattin House and Park.

Under the Fitzwilliams, in the 1830’s the Coollattin Estate was the largest single landholding in County Wicklow with over 90,000 acres covering one-fifth of the county of Wicklow and home to 20,000 tenants.

During the Great Famine in the mid 19th century, Lord Fitzwilliam embarked upon an ‘assisted migration’ programme whereby upwards of 6,000 tenants were cleared from the land and given passage to North America, in particular, to the Canadian province of Ontario.

In recent years, many ancestors of these families have returned under happier circumstances to visit where their forefathers lived. There are a large number of records detailing the lives of former tenants now digitised and available on the Coollattin Lives website. www.Coolattinlives.ie

The village housed many estate workers and was purposefully designed in an attractive picturesque style, creating an attractive streetscape with antique and Tudor style architectural detailing and incorporating natural features and landscaping.

At the core of the village is a large village green, now containing a playground, Shillelagh Stick sculpture and a fountain which was originally the centrepiece of the walled garden which served Coollattin House. Shillelagh represents over two centuries of developments in the areas of social, natural, political and industrial heritage.

For further information please visit: www.shillelagh.ie

Points of Interest in Shillelagh

Built between 1803 and 1807, Coollattin House was the centre of the Fitzwilliam Estate in Ireland. The original building, named Malton House built c.1730, was destroyed by fire during the 1798 rebellion.

The estate itself, comprised of over 90,000 acres having been originally established by a Thomas Wentworth (Black Tom) in the 15th century. The house and estate were inherited by the 4th Earl Fitzwilliam (Milton Hall) in 1782, following the death of his uncle, the 2nd Marquis of Rockingham, who had twice held the role of Prime Minister of Great Britain.

The Fitzwilliams were seen as progressive and liberal landlords, developing infrastructure and industries, along with supporting social projects such as churches, halls and schools (a total of 31 were built on the estate).

In 1903, over 85,000 acres were sold off to the tenants as part of the Wyndham Act. The last Earl to have an active role in the management of the estate, was Peter Wentworth-Fitzwilliam, the 8th Earl Fitzwilliam, who died in a plane crash in the south of France in 1948. Also on board the fateful flight, was Lady Hartington, Kathleen ‘Kick’ Kennedy – sister of the future US President, John F. Kennedy and widow of Billy Cavendish of Chatsworth House, who perished along with the two crew members. Lady Juliet Fitzwilliam (now Tagdell), daughter of Peter Fitzwilliam, sold the remainder of the estate in 1977 and donated a number of properties to the people of the village of Shillelagh.

The historical home to the Fitzwilliam family, is Milton Hall near Peterborough, England, dating back to the 15th century and their association with the estates of Wentworth and Coollattin beginning in 1782. The family derived great wealth from coal seams on the Wentworth Estate in South Yorkshire, England, making it one of the wealthiest and most influential at the turn of the 20th century. Considered to be the largest private residence in the United Kingdom, the Georgian Country House Wentworth Woodhouse, and the adjacent Wentworth Village, are now both held in trust. The bulk of the estate is currently under the control of Sir Philip Naylor Leyland.

Built in 1834 and principally funded by the Board of First Fruits, this Church is a well-preserved example of Gothic style architecture. The transepts and chancel were added in 1888. It has distinctive and impressive corner buttresses constructed of cut granite and an octagonal church spire. The church is set in a striking location donated by the 5th Earl Fitzwilliam on a rise overlooking the village.

A mature cork oak tree, which features in the Tree Register of Ireland as a rare specimen, can be found in the graveyard. Frank Brooke is buried on the village side of the graveyard.

The Barracks was built c.1871 for the use of the Royal Irish Constabulary before being destroyed by fire in 1922 during Irelands turbulent civil war. Many of the original features were saved including the impressive granite and field stone walls and the building reopened in 1925. It is now used by An Garda Síochána. (the police service of the Republic of Ireland)

In 1905, Shillelagh village received electric light with the use of a dynamo driven by an oil engine. A 25 hp hydroelectric plant was built in 1914 on the Tinahely Road. The plant was fed by a pond that also fed the train station’s water tower.

In 1926–27, a second 55hp hydroelectric plant was set up in Cody`s Wood (half mile further out towards Tinahely). This was fed by the Old Millrace that ran for 3 miles to a hand dug pond providing water for farmland as it travelled. Sluice gates controlled the flow while large glass batteries stored the power.

Ardeen House was built in 1876-1877 for the estate’s agent, Captain McNeill. It became the residence of Frank Brooke in 1887 and it was he who oversaw the sale of 85,000 acres to the estate’s tenants in 1903 as part of the Wyndham Act. Brooke later went to work for the Dublin and South Eastern Railway and was assassinated in July 1920 by Michael Collin’s ‘Squad due to his links to Lord French.

Lady Olive Fitzwilliam donated the house to Captain Leonard Cheshire (an official witness to the bombing of Nagasaki in 1945) to enable him to set up his first Cheshire Home in Ireland in Shillelagh in 1962.

Following the Poor Law Act of 1838, the Shillelagh Workhouse was built in 1840 – 1841 on a six-acre site. Costing £7,394, it was designed for 400 people, however, this quickly rose to over 800 in 1851 following the devastation of the Great Famine.

A fever hospital was set up on the site to replace the one in Carnew in 1848. The Workhouse was closed in 1921 and subsequently demolished in 1947 with the exception of the dining room and chapel. The chapel was consecrated in 1948 and a commemorative grotto was built in 1954. Many of the workhouse records have now been digitised and are available for viewing on the county community heritage archive at www.countywicklowheritage.org.

The Shillelagh to Woodenbridge branch rail line was built 1863 – 1865 and became known as the Fitzwilliam Line due to the 6th Earl donating much of the land needed for its construction. Its main purpose was the transport of goods but it also served a recreational purpose too. At Woodenbridge Station, the line met with the Wexford to Dublin train, which terminated at Dublin’s Harcourt Street Station (designed by George Wilkinson).

The line ceased operating in 1945 as a result of coal shortages due to World War 2. A proposed Greenway recreational trail would utilise the former line, linking Arklow to Shillelagh once again.

Originally opened to cater for students of all religious persuasions, School No.1 was built in 1820-21 following a design by the estate architect, Christmas Johnson. Known today as the Shillelagh School No.1 National School, it operates as a Church of Ireland primary school.

Billy Fitzwilliam became the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam in 1902 and commissioned a separate school for students of a Catholic ethos on the site of a former flour mill on the Tinahely Road. Once completed in 1903, it became known locally as School No 2. This was replaced in 1982 by a new school, ‘Scoil Mhuire na nÁrd’, past Quarry Street on the Tinahely Road.

Throughout their time in the area, the Fitzwilliam`s built a total of 31 schools on their Coollattin Estate.

Designed by a Mr. Fieldsen, the Town Hall (also used as a courthouse until 2001) with its decorative clock tower, was constructed between 1893-1894

As one of the villages most attractive buildings, the New Hall as it was initially known by, was built to provide a place for meetings and dances. One such event held in 1956, was the 21st birthday celebration of Lady Juliet Fitzwilliam (now Tagdell). A section of the building was also used as a bank and following restoration works in 2007, it is now enjoyed as a centre to host community events.

Coollattin Golf Club was set out in the 1920s as a nine-hole course by the 7th Earl Fitzwilliam. This added to other recreational activities available in the area such as tennis, cricket, hockey and hunting. The facility was extensively redeveloped in the 1990s, resulting in an 18-hole Par 72 course being designed.

Originally part of an arboretum, the stunning parkland has a combination of specimen trees, rhododendrons and azaleas, some of which date back to the 17th century. The signature hole is a 120 yard Par 3 set in the confines of the Walled Garden and is inspired by the famous ‘Postage Stamp’ hole at Royal Troon.

The area boasts a wide selection of recreational activities including the Shillelagh Heritage Trail which celebrates and exhibits Shillelagh’s rich heritage with an interpretative panel, map and information panels at the various sites featured on the trail. The Wicklow Way is a world famous 131 km long-distance trail from Dublin to Clonegal, which is accessed at Stratnakelly Cross Roads (‘The Dying Cow Pub’), just 5km from the village centre.

Tomnafinnoge Woods offers a variety of stunning walks through its woodland and thriving wildlife. Take the Railway Walk towards Tinahely, where a number of looped walks and more links to the Wicklow Way can be found.

Nearby Rathwood offers a host of family-based activities including its Express Train woodland trails and seasonally themed events.

A proposed Greenway between Shillelagh and Arklow will link with many of the trails and villages in the area.

Made from a single solid piece of Irish Oak, the 2 metre tall Shillelagh Stick Sculpture can be found in the Village Green. Carved by renowned sculptor Joey Burns in 2018, it stands alongside an interpretative panel detailing the history of the Shillelagh ‘Fighting’ Stick.

Traditionally used as a weapon, the stick enjoys international status as a walking stick, parade regalia for military and its long association with Irish folklore.

Located in the Shillelagh Village Green, the Victorian era fountain was once situated in the walled garden about 500 yards from Coollattin House. The construction of the garden had taken place in 1852–1853 during the time of the 5th Earl Fitzwilliam. The fountain had formed the centrepiece of the garden, with paths leading to it from all four sides. The garden provided the house with a range of fruits and vegetables throughout the year using glasshouses fitted with heating pipes.

The fountain was gifted to Shillelagh Village by Mrs. Annette Wardrop in 1993.

The woodland surrounding the village, was historically one of the largest native oak woodlands in Ireland, and was prized as such and declared a Royal Forest in 1224.

The timber was extensively harvested in the 16th and 17th centuries, most famously used for ships of the British Fleet, pipe staves, the roofs of Westminster Abbey, London, Kings College, Cambridge and St. Patrick’s Cathedral and Trinity College in Dublin.

The Derry River flows through the woods and as you stroll, look and listen out for the distinctive ‘drumming’ of the Great Spotted Woodpecker, a recently colonised bird in Ireland that has a stronghold at Tomnafinnoge.

Also of note, is the stunning carpet of bluebells on show in early summer and the chance of spotting the elusive red squirrel or an otter.

Shillelagh