After the Norman invasion Wicklow was granted to Maurice FitzGerald who set about building the 'Black Castle', a land-facing fortification that lies ruined on the coast immediately south of the harbour. The surrounding County of Wicklow is rich in bronze age monuments. The oldest existing settlement in the town is the Franciscan Abbey, located at the west end of Main Street, within the gardens of the local Roman Catholic parish grounds.
Town: Wicklow Town
Scene : St Mary's Convent
Date: circa 1910 (estimate)
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Read about Wicklow Town below
Wicklow (Cill Mhantáin in Irish) is the county town of County Wicklow in Ireland. Located south of the capital Dublin on the east coast of Ireland, it has a population of 6,835 (according to the Census 2006 preliminary report). Including rural population, the figure becomes 12,675. The town lies along the N11 route between Dublin and Wexford. Wicklow is also connected to the rail network with Dublin commuter services now extending to the town. Additional services connect with Arklow, Wexford and Rosslare, a main Ferry Port. There is also a commercial port, mainly importing timber.
Local history contends that the town of Wicklow was founded by the Vikings, probably around 870 AD. The name 'Wicklow' comes from 'Vikinglow', meaning 'meadow of the vikings', or more likely 'Wykynlo', meaning 'Viking Loch'. However, given the town's natural harbour and rich agricultural surrounds, it is not surprising that the area was an established settlement prior to the 9th century.
The Irish name Cill Mhantáin has an interesting history of its own. St. Patrick is said to have attempted to land on Travailahawk beach, to the south of the harbour. Hostile locals attacked the landing party causing one of the Saint's party to lose his front teeth. Manntach (toothless one), as he became known was undeterred and returned to the town, eventually founding a church. Hence 'Cill Mhantáin', meaning 'Church of the toothless one'. There is however no evidence, material or written, that such a local holy man ever existed and the name Cill Mantain could in theory be assigned as a toponym, suggesting a chapel overlooking the rather gap-toothed topographical shape of the local harbour.
The English-language 'Wicklow' placename bears no relation to the original Irish Cill Mhantáin ('Church of Mantáin'). The Normans who came to dominate the area, preferred the non-Gaelic placename. The Norman influence can still be seen today in some of the town's place and family names.
After the Norman invasion Wicklow was granted to Maurice FitzGerald who set about building the 'Black Castle', a land-facing fortification that lies ruined on the coast immediately south of the harbour.
The surrounding County of Wicklow is rich in bronze age monuments. The oldest existing settlement in the town is the Franciscan Abbey, located at the west end of Main Street, within the gardens of the local Roman Catholic parish grounds.
Other notable buildings include the Town Hall and the Gaol, built in 1702 and recently renovated as a heritage centre and tourist attraction. The East Breakwater, arguably the most important building in the town, was built in the early 1880s by Wicklow Harbour Commissioners. The architect was William George Strype and the builder was John Jackson of Westminster. The North Groyne was completed by about 1909 - John Pansing was the designer and Louis Nott of Bristol the builder. The Gaol was a place of execution up to the end of the 19th century and it was here that Billy Byrne, a leader of the 1798 rebellion, met his end in 1799. He is commemorated by a statue in the town square. At Fitzwilliam Square in the centre of Wicklow town is an obelisk commemorating the career of Captain Robert Halpin, commander of the telegraph cable ship Great Eastern who was born in Wicklow in 1836, and arguably the most important mariner in global 19th century maritime history.
Wicklow town occupies a rough circle around Wicklow harbour. To the immediate North lies 'The Murrough', a popular grassy walking area beside the sea, and the eastern coastal strip. The land rises into rolling hills to the West. The dominant feature to the south is the rocky headland known as 'Wicklow Head', the easternmost mainland point in the Republic of Ireland (technically the easternmost point in the Republic is on Lambay Island off Co. Dublin).
To the south is a string of sandy beaches extending almost as far as Arklow. These beaches are clean and well managed and are popular with bathers and anglers alike, with numerous caravan parks adjacent to them. The best known is Brittas Bay, a 2km stretch of soft, powdery sand. Sand dunes and tall beach grass provide some protection against erosion, which is a considerable threat to this stretch of coast. Brittas has an EU Blue Flag recognising its clean water.
A changing town
Since 1995, the town has undergone significant change and expansion reflecting the simultaneous growth in the Irish economy. Considerable residential development has taken place to the southwest of the town along Marlton Road. More recently, housing developments have been concentrated to the northwest of the town towards the neighbouring village of Rathnew. The completion of the Ashford/Rathnew bypass in 2004 has meant that Wicklow is now linked to the capital, Dublin, lying 42km to the north, by dual carriageway or motorway. These factors have lead to a steady growth in population of Wicklow and its surrounding townslands while its importance as a commuter town to Dublin increases.