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Clondalkin - History

Clondalkin - Cluain Dolcain - Dolcan's Meadow is located on the banks of the River Camac.  Situated on the heights over the estuary of the River Liffey it guards the inland pass between the mountains and the river. This advantageous location first attracted Neolithic settlers around 7,600 years ago. The presence of the Celtic tribe of Cualann, who settled in this area, is recorded by the many mounds and raths which they left behind.

Christianity came to East Leinster in the 5th century. Its foundation at Clondalkin is ascribed to St. Cronán also known as Mochua. The monastery was situated where St. John's Church now stands and as was the practice it was surrounded by a protective fosse, the outline of which can be followed in today's village streetscape. Orchard Road, with the gardens sloping up from road level, formed the boundary on one side. Continuing along the Main Street it then curved to the west of the Round Tower.

Saint Cronán Mochua died in 630 AD. His feast day is celebrated on the 6th of August. Evidence that the foundation continued after St. Mochua's death is confirmed as the names of Abbots and the Bishops of Clondalkin were recorded until 1080 AD.

Visible from all directions, the dominant feature of Clondalkin Village is its Round Tower.  Unfortunately no records exists which indicate when it was built. The purpose of Ireland's round towers has long been a matter of debate. In 1725, the first historian to concentrate on these towers was Dr.Thomas Molyneaux. He argued that they were of Danish origin. However in 1833, George Petrie, in an essay for the Royal Irish Academy, refuted these suggestions stating that the towers were the symbolic central feature of the early Celtic Church. It is now accepted that a round tower - Cloig Theach in Irish, was used as a Bell Tower and to safeguard the relics of a monasteries founder.

The Annals of Ulster record that the relics of St. Kevin and St. Mochua were taken on tour in 790 AD. It is thought that the Clondalkin Round Tower was built around this period. Certainly it is of a very early type with rough calp limestone used in its construction. There are no signs of any of the stones being shaped by a mason. The door and window frames are formed from Leinster granite erratics.

The Clondalkin Round Tower is 27.5M high and is complete with its original cap. With a circumferences of 12.7M above the buttress, it is the most slender of all Round Towers. The buttress at the base is not original and there is no record to indicate when it was added. This buttress appears in a 1725 drawing by Samuel Molyneaux.

Norsemen invaded in 832, 1071, and again in 1076 AD when they settled in the area. They built a fortress and named it Dun Amhlaeibh after their King. The village came under the control of the Archbishop of Dublin and by the 13th century Clondalkin was described as a town with many inhabitants. The town was ruled by a bailiff and in 1276 we know that a Robert Beg held this position. There was also a weigh master in the village. This was due to the importance of trade.

From an inquisition, regarding property assigned in 1393 to the Church of Clondalkin by one John Shillingford, we know that there were at least five streets in the village namely: Mahow Street; Mill Street; New Street; Steeple Street and Pope Lane.

Clondalkin was established as a borough in 1300 and in 1547 it was recorded that:
"Clondalkin is among the walled and good towns of the County"

The present St. John's Church was opened in 1789. It had an open belfry and 12 seats. Restoration, which started in 1834, gave us the Church of Ireland structure we see today. The medieval church which stood on this site was demolished in 1787 to allow work to start on a new church. There are no records stating when this church was built yet according to Dr. Petrie it was a church of considerable architectural importance and was probably built during the 13th Century.

The earlier church measured 120 feet long and 50 feet wide. The church was dedicated to St. Mochua and contained three altars honouring Mary the Blessed Virgin; St. Bridget and St. Thomas. All that remains of this earlier church is a column of stonework in the churchyard.

There are two early crosses in the graveyard, a larger granite cross which was possibly a boundary cross for the Barony of Uppercross, of which Clondalkin is a part and a smaller carved cross. Another item of note is a large baptismal font carved out of a granite erratic.

St. John's graveyard was the village graveyard where burials from all denominations occurred for a long period. There are many interesting tombstones within the graveyard including those of two Catholic Parish Priests along the back wall.

On Sunday the 8th of March, 1857, the Parish Priest Fr. Moore held a parochial meeting in the Chapel House. He proposed the erection of a new church. It is recorded that his suggestion was responded to "in a manner unprecedented in the Annuals of Chapel building in Ireland". Certainly a large sum of money was pledged with many parishioners subscribing £50 to £100 each.

The Church of the Immaculate Conception was designed by F. W. Caldbeck in the Gothic style and the foundation stone was laid on Sunday the 5th of July 1857, by His Grace the Most Rev. Paul Cullen, Archbishop of Dublin. In a container placed under the stone were coins of Pope Pius IX and of Queen Victoria, along with an inscribed parchment. The church organ was installed by Messers Telford and first played on 12th May 1867. On that occasion, the organist was Professor Glover, organist in Dublin's Pro-Cathederal. The choir comprised of the Pro-Cathederal choir with the principal singer Madame La Vega Wilson and the Presentation Convent Choir.

Clondalkin is regarded as a centre for the Irish language and culture.  Munitir Cronáin was founded in 1972 to further the use of the Irish language through educational, social and cultural activities.  For many years Muintir Cronáin operated from members' houses and various halls around the village. In May 1989 they purchased Orchard House in the centre of the village and renamed it. Áras Cronáin opened it as a cultural and heritage centre.

In 1975 and again in 1988, Muintir Cronáin was awarded the Glór na nGael National Trophy in recognition of its efforts to promote the Irish language. In 1991 they were chosen to host An tOireachtas - the yearly National Cultural Festival.

More recently, in the mid 1990s the opening of the Mill Centre on the site of the old paper mills and the offices for South Dublin County Council have provided a new focus and purpose to Clondalkin.