Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Connolly's Folly Co Kildare

                                    Above & Below Images: Pineapples and eagles

                             Above Image: Photo from Autumn 2017 for comparison

This unique and imposing structure can be found along a very narrow laneway not too far from Leixlip. To be honest unless you were deliberately looking for it you would never know it was there.
Following a bitter winter and a hard hitting famine in 1740  Katherine Connolly, the widow of the famed William “Speaker” Connolly, who was of a very humanitarian disposition commissioned the renowned architect Richard Cassels whose work has included Leinster House and Powerscourt House to design an elaborate structure that would also serve as a rear entrance gatehouse for Castletown estate. The locals could then be employed to construct it thus giving them a source of income to navigate the hard times.
The structure when completed cost a hefty £400 and stood 140 feet in height. It is composed of several arches and a very tall obelisk stretching skywards. There are adornments of eagles and of pineapples. The inclusion of pineapples represents at the time a sign of affluence as this fruit was exotic and much sought after. The actual position of the structure left it actually in the end not on Castletown estate but on the adjoining lands of Carton House thus it became known as Connolly's folly. Nonetheless this incredible monument has stood for nearly 300 years but did over time fall into disrepair. To prevent it becoming ruinous it was acquired and eventually restored in 1965 by the Irish Georgian Society and it is now under the auspices of the OPW.
Unfortunately these days it is surrounded by an ugly looking fence with a large padlock but it still does not deter from the majesty of this monument. There are rails visible above the main arches and I wonder are they merely an adornment or was there actually access inside to reach these. Standing at the base and looking up you really feel dwarfed by it. I visited briefly last Autumn but on this visit recent snowy conditions really brought definition to the structure.
Katherine Connolly also commissioned another folly on Castletown Estate known as The Wonderful Barn. You can see my previous post here Thanks to Karine Demeure for suggesting a visit to Connolly's folly.
To find the folly take the M4 heading West and exit at Junction 6 for Leixlip. At the top of the exit ramp follow the roundabout around to the right and take the exit for the R449 again for Leixlip. Continue on this road and on the second roundabout encountered turn left onto the R148. Drive through two sets of traffic lights and after the second take the small laneway on the left signposted as the L81206 (Obelisk Lane). About halfway down this long lane you will reach a fork in the road. Keep to the right hand lane and continue on for approx. 1.7KM until the road bends sharply to the left. The folly is approx. 100m along on the left. You can park at the gate which though locked has a small pedestrian entry point to the right of it.

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