Blessington is a pleasant tree-lined estate town steeped in heritage. Blessington’s founder was Michael Boyle, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who in 1667 was given a charter to establish the town. A century later, the estate was inherited by Wills Hill, Earl of Hillsborough, Co. Down later known as the first Marquis of Downshire.
Archbishop Boyle built Blessington House in 1673, at the time it was surrounded by a demesne, deer park and formal gardens, which included grand avenues, ponds and canals. The house was burnt during the rebellion of 1798 and never rebuilt, the gate piers at the town square being the only visible clues today to its former glory.
St. Mary’s Church of Ireland
St. Mary’s Church of Ireland has been in regular use since it was dedicated in 1683. The 17th century church tower contains the original bells, which bear Archbishop Boyle’s coat of arms as well as what is believed to be the oldest working turret clock in Ireland. The adjoining churchyard is the burial place of the nineteenth century diarist, Elizabeth Smith, who lived in Baltyboys House, and is the final resting place of Sir Alfred and Lady Beit of nearby Russborough House. The four British airmen who lost their lives when their plane crashed on Black Hill in April 1941 are also interred in the graveyard, they are P/O J. K. Hill, Captain; Sgt. J. T. Lamb, Navigator; Sgt. S. Wright, Wireless Operator/Air Gunner; Sgt. F. H. Erdwin, Air Gunner .
The Downshire Hotel
Next to St. Mary’s church is the Downshire Agent’s House, (The Downshire Hotel). Built around 1820, the Marquis of Downshire’s agent lived here; he looked after the estate, collected the rents from the tenants and sent regular reports back to headquarters in Hillsborough.
Across the street is the Four-Stone Tree, a lime tree surrounded by four round granite stones which originally were at the entrance to St. Mary’s Church.
Market house and Courthouse
In the square is Credit Union House which was built as a market house and courthouse at the end of the 1830’s. Stones from the ruins of Blessington house were used in the foundation.
The Downshire monument commemorates the coming of age in 1865 of Arthur Hill. He inherited the estate on the death of his father and became the fifth Marquis of Downshire.
The Ulster Bank was built in 1830 and used as an Inn, while around the corner on the Kilbride road was the Parish Schoolhouse, now the Grangecon cafe, originally built around 1820 by the third Marquis of Downshire as a girl’s school.
The Toll House
The Toll House is a well-preserved late Georgian building. Toll houses were an integral part of road networks at the time. Blessington being situated on one of the main roads from Dublin to the southeast.
Among the other heritage features of interest on main street is the Horseshoe Arch, marking the entrance to a blacksmith’s forge, while the tram marker stone commemorates the Dublin- Blessington Steam Tram which connected the Town with the capital for some 44 years up until 1932.
St. Mark’s Cross
St Mark’s Cross now situated in the cemetery was relocated from an early Christian settlement at Burgage More outside the town when the reservoir was created in the 1930s. The reservoir, also referred to as Blessington Lake, was a major feat of engineering, created as a water supply for Dublin and to generate electricity.
The location of Blessington, on the northern end of Poulaphuca reservoir, means that this historic town is the gateway to the mountains and valleys of west Wicklow, and is the ideal base from which to explore the natural beauty and leisure amenities of the area.
For more information about Blessington and to download a brochure of the Heritage Trail visit http://blessington.info/