Building of the Month
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Delighted to announce our ‘Building of the Month’............

We have some beautiful buildings scattered around the county and what better way to showcase them than to pick one each month so we can tell you a little bit more.  Some you will hardly know existed and some you will be very familiar with, perhaps even more so than us, consequently  we would like you to impart any local knowledge you may have of our chosen building and this will help us to continue to do what we do best – promote and protect our built heritage in Kildare.

Building of the month March - The Courthouse Kildare Town

Where to find it?  Beside the entrance to the Silken Thomas car park, on the north side of Dublin Street right in Kildare Town.

What is there today?  Built circa 1840 designed by John Hargrave, contractor was Denis Hays. Many original features are still visible including four octagonal shaped limestone pillars at the front of the building, plastic cornices in the offices to the rear, timber panelling in the main area, cast iron guttering, timber sash windows and slate roof with clay ridge tiles.  Some restorative work on the roof was carried out mid 2016 with the aid of the ‘Structures at Risk Fund’ under the watchful eye of Laura Bowen, Conservation Architect who is based in Kilcullen.  Once inside the doors the courthouse opens into an open plan two storey or double-height courtroom complete with jury box and offices beneath barrel-vaulted cells.

What was it used for?  As a local courthouse or ‘petty sessions’ with holding cells where court was in session every alternate Thursday and periodically when the district or county courts were held with magistrates and jurors chosen from gentry, landlords and businessmen of the locality.  Often it was used as a dancehall or concert venue and in March 1916 there was a dance for the County Kildare Prisoners of War.  It was also use as a polling station for the new Free State, a meeting place for organisations such as Workers Unions and Tenant Leagues and Social Welfare / County Council offices over time.

Interesting facts about the building:  

Through the gates and on the right hand side of the courthouse may have been a short exercise yard as there is a crudely carved figure above the entrance to the cells, possibly carved by an inmate awaiting the administration of justice.

The bodies of the executed republicans (Dec. 1922) who were re-interred after the Civil War at Grey Abbey (1924) were probably waked here overnight before the burial – some stories suggest the Town Hall (De La Salle School) but it was more likely the courthouse.  There is a monument commemorating these men on the Market Square and another at Grey Abbey.  It was the single largest execution during the Civil War and six of the young men were from Kildare Town and the surrounding districts.  A photograph survives showing the coffins laid out in two rows, each draped with an Irish Flag.

(Material used with kind permission of Mario Corrigan)