The parish of Cruagh, situated near Rathfarnham, appears in the 18th century as containing the town lands of Cruagh, Glendoo, Jamestown, Newtown, Orlagh, Tibradden, Woodtown and Killakee. Today Cruagh is just a townland, after the parish was united with Whitechurch and Tallaght.
It is likely that St. Dalua, a disciple of St Patrick, founded a church that today is a ruin in Cruagh cemetery. Built around 580 AD, it was served by the vicar of Tallaght until the end of the 17th century, when turbulent times in Ireland led to the church falling into lay hands and finally disuse. A round watchtower was built c. 1820 on the site of the former church. It was constructed as an observation post so that a sentry could protect the cemetery from body snatchers.
1656 Map of Cruagh Parish
A map showing principal industries in 1840 shows 7 mills on the Owendoher River. Millmount Mill had been operating since at least 1773 , it closed down in 1899. Edmondstown School is built on the site of Newtown Great Paper Mill, founded early in 19th century, and when in full work, employed over 600. Behind are the remains of Newtown Little Paper Mill, which had been operating since at least 1757.
Further up the road is Tibradden where there is a stone where Daniel O’Connell gave an address to the locals as they celebrated an annual day of pilgrimage in 1843. Also situated here is Tibradden House, which was constructed in 1859 as a wedding present for Mary Davis, whose descendants occupy the house today. Close to the summit of Tibradden Mountain is a 4000-year old chambered cairn. It was excavated in 1849 by the Royal Irish Academy who found a stone-lined cist containing a pottery vessel and cremated remains.
In nearby Killakee, the building now known as the Hell Fire Club was built around 1725 as a hunting lodge by William Conolly. The house as built had a parlour, drawing room and hall on the upper floor. On the ground floor was the kitchen, off which were the servants’ quarters. Members of the Irish Hell Fire Club, which was active in the years 1735 to 1741, used Mount Pelier lodge as a meeting place. The club’s activities at the lodge is often associated with a black cat. By 1799, the house was found to be in disrepair and today, the building is maintained by the state-sponsered company Coillte. Also nearby was Killakee Estate, which is talked about in a previous article on this blog.
18th Century Drawing of the Hell Fire Club
On the northern slope of Mount Pelier, just below the ruins of the Hell Fire Club, lies the house now known as Orlagh. It was constructed in 1790 and was sold to the Augustinian Order in 1872. Eoin MacNeill was given refuge and slept in the college for the first few days of the Easter Rising. Famous visitors to the house include Patrick Pearse and Daniel O’Connell. Today, it is a retreat and conference centre run by the friars. In a field opposite is a famous well of the area that was unveiled in 1920. Crowds of people came to the opening, which included a drum band and banners.
Finally in the parish of Cruagh we find Woodtown. With a history dating back to the 16th century, it is home to two historic buildings; Woodtown Park and Woodtown Manor. Woodtown Park was built around 1700 as a farm house. In 1896 the Reverend Walter A Hill started a school here that was the first boarding school in Ireland which kept boys only up to the age of thirteen. It was once a residence of the MacNeill family and it is believed that final plans for the 1916 rising were drawn up here. On the opposite side of Woodtown Park is Woodtown Manor. Believed to have been built around 1720, an 1806 map of the Woodtown demesne shows the estate to have consisted of 132 acres, including a deer park.
This is an extract from John McManus’ book The History of the Parish of Cruagh: An illustrated account from the 6th to the 20th century which can be read in full on his website.