This week I’ve been working over in Naas, County Kildare in Ireland.
The Irish language name for Naas, Nás na Ríogh means "The meeting place of Kings", as in the distant past the pre-Norman Irish kings from the Kingdom of Leinster used to meet here. After the Norman invasion of Ireland in the 12th Century some meetings of the Irish parliament were held here and In the Middle Ages, it became a walled market town. So it’s got a long history. However, there’s very few traces of that in the modern town.
Today, being only 20 or so miles from Dublin, it’s essentially a dormitory town with a large proportion of it’s residents commuting into the capital. It also has two racecourses; Naas racecourse, which close to the town centre and Punchestown (also the venue for the annual Oxegen music festival) which is only a few miles outside the town.
Despite it’s history there isn’t much in the way of old buildings or monuments. The town has laid out a historic trail which is well signposted which passes all the places of historic interest and some sections, particularly along the canal, make for a pleasant walk through the countryside close to the town centre.
One thing different about the town centre was the relative lack of the usual chain stores that dominate just about every town centre in Britain. There was a small Marks and Spencer food shop and a small Tescos (they get everywhere – and the largest Tesco superstore in Ireland has been built on the edge of the town near the motorway) – but the majority of shops were small independents. There’s also a number of very Irish pubs and bars.
The oldest building in Naas is St David’s church. This is set back off the main road in the centre of the town in a small courtyard. It’s a Protestant church belonging to the Church of Ireland, originally established by Norman invaders who came over from Wales – hence the dedication to Dewi Sant. It’s built on the site of an earlier Irish Celtic church. The building has been modified and renovated over the years.
Nearby is the neo-gothic Presbyterian chapel, build in the 19th century
The is the town hall, which stands in the middle of the town centre just across from St David’s. Originally built as a Jail in 1796, it was renovated and the facade remodelled in 1904 when it was converted for its current use.
This neo-classical building, just down the high street from the town hall, is the Naas courthouse. Built in 1807, the four columned portico was added in 1860.
The North Moat, located a short distance behind the town hall is a defensive earthwork which together with the South Moat – there isn’t much left of that now – were the dominant defensive features of Dún Naas, an ancient fortress pre-dating the Norman invasion. The North Moat earthwork is ten meters high with a diameter of almost a hundred meters at the base. It’s the oldest structure in the town.
This is the neo-classical Lantern Building which stands opposite the County Council offices. It’s all that’s left of the old barracks, built in 1813 to house British troops.
This striking modern building, located opposite my hotel, is the headquarters of Kildare County Council.
Designed by Heneghan Peng architects, it was built when the Irish tiger economy was booming and there was a lot of money was spent on prestigious projects. We’re in different times now.
According to the e-architect site
(the) project is formed around the public space of the people, the civic garden. A slowly inclined ground plane gradually ascends from the street creating a civic amphitheatre for Naas. The sloped amphitheatre is an “event surface” expanding the public realm of the town and opening up the entire site to the town.
Above image from the Open Buildings website.
The weather wasn’t too bad while I was over in Ireland and one evening I went out for a walk along the Naas branch of the Grand Canal which cuts a green corridor out from the centre of the town.
This is the “harbour”. A grand name for the small quay where the canal boats would have been loaded and unloaded. The old warehouse has been converted into offices
This little graveyard was by the side of the canal.
There were lots of small, rough-cut headstones. None of them had any names or information carved on them, which I found quite curious. I couldn’t find out why this was the case. Comments on this to enlighten me would be very welcome.
There isn’t really anything significant in Naas to make it worth “a diversion” as the Michelin guide would put it. But it’s is a pleasant enough town.