Sunday, January 6, 2013

The Wonderful Barn, Lexlip Co. Kildare

This weekend I paid my first visit to The Wonderful Barn near Lexlip in County Kildare, and as you can see from the image the name does do it justice! This bizzare construction was built in 1743. The work was commissioned by Katherine Connolly, widow of William 'Speaker' Connolly. He had made his fortune from land transfers, following the confiscations by the Crown of lands belonging to supporters of James II after the Williamite War ended. He had the first Palladian Mansion built in Ireland - Castletown House near Celbridge in County Kildare.

William Connolly died in 1729 and was said to be the wealthiest man in Ireland at the time of his death, leaving Katherine as his widow. She had The Wonderful Barn constructed in 1743 not only as a functional grain store, but as an unusual architectural feature which undoubtedly catches the eye. It is said that she also had philanthropic motivations for constructing this complex building. 

There had been a severe famine in Ireland in 1740-41, she kept the local people employed working on projects like The Wonderful Barn and the 42 metre tall Connolly Folly which she had constructed in 1741. 

The Wonderful Barn itself stands approximately 22 metres in height, and has a tapering cone, circled by a cantilevered staircase with a crow’s nest viewing gallery.
The Wonderful Barn is certainly worth a trip out, and is a fine (and unusual) setting for a stroll. There are a number of allotments on the lands today, the site itself is reasonably easy to access with paths running around the main features. To get there follow the Celbridge Road out of Lexlip, when you pass a large housing estate on the outskirts of Lexlip called Elton Court on your right hand side drive on around 50m and the gate leading  into The Wonderful Barn will be on your right.

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