History of The Market House (Kildare Town Heritage Centre)

The Kildare Town Heritage Centre is an exciting visitor attraction situated in the picturesque town of Kildare. The centre is an ideal point of departure from which to explore the ancient treasures of the town. It is housed in the restored and refurbished nineteenth century Market House, which is situated in the hub of Kildare town. This unique historic building, with its vista of windows, designed to oversee the market place, has been given a new lease of life and is an impressive addition to the heritage assets of the town.  The Heritage Centre was formally opened on the 17th September 2001 by the then Minister for Finance and T.D. Mr. Charlie McCreevy.

Kildare Town Heritage Centre

The building has a long and varied history. According to the Statutes of Henry VI (1458) a market had been held in Kildare ‘from time whereof memory runs not,’ and an official weekly market, to be held on Thursdays, was authorised by Henry VIII in the Charter of Kildare of 1515. A survey of the Earl of Kildare’s estate in the town by Emerson in 1674 mentions a town hall but not a Market House. Since the location of the Town Hall cannot be determined we might suggest it was situated here, centrally in what became the Market Square and the focus of activity in the town. Reference to the ‘Market Place’ can be found in the Registry of Deeds Office in 1726 and 1751 and although the recognisable triangular area of the modern ‘Square’ is unnamed in John Rocque’s Map of Kildare of 1757 it was designated the Market Square’ in Thomas Sherrard’s Map of Kildare of 1798 and subsequent maps.

Rocque however does identify ‘The Market House,’ in the centre of what is later known as the Market Square on the site of the modern Heritage Centre. According to Rocque it consisted of three adjoining buildings with a yard in 1757. If we accept Emerson made no mention of a Market House in 1674 because it did not exist, then the Market House was built sometime between 1674 and 1757 (however he may not have mentioned it because it was not part of the Earl of Kildare’s estate, or because the town hall and market place fulfilled the same function at that stage). By 1798 (Sherrard) it had developed into a singular rectangular building on the same site with another section to the Cathedral or western side. This projection had disappeared by 1817 but a small northern (facing Nugent Street/Station Road) projection could be noticed on the 1838 Ordnance Survey Map of the town. Interestingly a well was noted by Rocque in 1757 to the east (Dublin side) of the Market House, a pump in 1817 and a fountain in 1838; presumably referring to the same feature, a water source for the town’s inhabitants. A pump was used on the Market Square until the early 20th century but was eventually removed. In 1973 an ancient well was discovered on the Market Square but filled in for safety reasons. It was re-discovered in 2003 and, now restored, has become a permanent feature on the Market Square.

According to Niall Meagher, former Co. Architect, while it may have incorporated an earlier structure, the present building dates from the nineteenth century. In 1838 the Market House was clearly identified as a public building. Valued at £5 in 1844, it was exempt from rates. Not only was the Market Square a centre of economic activity it provided a space/forum for town gatherings and meetings. This was captured by the ‘Illustrated London News’ on the 8 January 1881 in a drawing of a Land League Meeting, with the Market House in the background, showing leases of the Duke of Leinster being burned on the end of a ‘98 pike. Originally it may have been a single storey building but by the mid-nineteenth century at least it had been re-developed with an upper level. By the mid-1880’s a water tank had been placed in the roof of the Market House as a receptacle for water being pumped from St. John’s Well at Tully.

By the mid-twentieth century the Market House had fallen into disrepair and was bought for £300 by Kildare County Council. It was carefully reconstructed in the early 1970’s and a bus shelter, public toilets and small museum were incorporated into the new building. The cast-iron water gauge dated 1885 was retained on the outside of the building as was a plaque celebrating the completion of the Kildare Waterworks in 1886. It won an An Taisce Award in 1973 because of the improvement it made to the appearance of the town.
A Heritage Project Committee representing the three second-level schools was formed in 1992 to campaign for Heritage Status for the Town of Kildare. The designation of Heritage Town provided an impetus for the reinvigoration of the Market House. The European Development Fund provided £230,000 towards the project with additional funding coming from Kildare County Council (£50,000) and local contributions. Once building began the reconstruction and refurbishment took a little less than 2 years and Kildare Town Heritage Centre was officially unveiled in September 2001.

The Heritage Centre contains a multi-media exhibition centre telling the story of Kildare, past and present, combining attractive fixed panels with a video trail where your host Cogitosus, a 7th century monk will take you on a historic journey from the time when St. Brigid established her church in 480. A.D. This video presentation lasts approximately 12 minutes. The visitor can catch a fascinating glimpse of the past before visiting the many other attractions, which include the Japanese Gardens, the Grand Canal the National Stud and the Curragh racecourse. The Centre is the Regional Tourist Office for local and county-wide tourist information. It also has a vibrant shop where visitors can purchase souvenirs and jewellery.

By: Mario Corrigan

Tom McCutcheon is the Manager of Kildare Town Heritage Centre

Mary O' Connor is Chairperson of Kildare Town Heritage Committee.

Kildare Town Heritage Centre
Market Square, Kildare Town
Tel: 00353 45 530672
E-Mail: info@kildareheritage.com

Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park


To find out more about Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park call, +353 (0)45 870 238.

Lullymore Heritage & Discovery park prides itself on being one of the top family attractions in Ireland. The Parks unique rural scenic location and its state of the art play areas make for a refreshing and safe place for families to enjoy a day out together.

There’s no time limit on your stay and families can enjoy great indoor / outdoor play areas, pet farm, treasure hunts and train trips at their leisure. The Park also has 60 acres of meandering trails through peatlands, lakes and ancient woodland with lots of fascinating exhibitions to visit along the way.

There is a large cafe / shop  on site and lots of picnic areas for outdoor dining and parking is free.

The average visit duration for families is 3-4 hours and all activities are included in the admission (no hidden costs).

Lullymore…….. an ideal venue for families looking for a value for money, educational and fun day out!

Find out more about Lullymore Heritage & Discovery Park here


Kildare Farm Foods


To find out more about Kildare Farm Foods call, +353 (0)45 526 774.

Kildare Farm Foods is a wonderful day out for all the family. Entry to this third generation, family run farm is FREE and it provides a family friendly, buggy and wheelchair accessible destination. Visitors to Kildare Farm Foods will see a wide variety of animals, such as; Alpacas, Ostriches, Sheep, Cows, Black Swans, Turkeys and Guinea Fowl, in a natural and relaxed setting.

The shop at Kildare Farm Foods offers a wide variety of fresh farm product. The farm operates from their own purpose built premises comprising production facilities, ambient, fresh and frozen storage so shoppers can be sure of the freshest possible products, they've just come across the yard!

This brilliant amenity, right on Kildare Town's doorstep also includes:

  • a café/restaurant
  • train rides around the farm
  • indoor crazy golf course
Find out more about Kildare Farm Foods here

Complete list of Golf Clubs & Courses in Co. Kildare

Name Website Phone
Athy Golf Club, Athy www.athygolfclub.com 00 353 59 863 1729
Carton House, The O’ Meara Course, Maynooth www.cartonhousegolf.com 00 353 1 505 2000
Carton House, The Montgomerie Course, Maynooth www.cartonhouse.com 00 353 1 505 2000
Castlewarden Golf Club, Straffan www.castlewardengolfclub.com 00 353 1 458 9254
Celbridge Elm Hall Golf Club, Celbridge www.celbridgeelmhallgolfclub.ie 00 353 1 628 8208
Cill Dara Golf Club, Little Curragh www.cilldaragolfclub.com 00 353 45 521 295
Craddockstown Golf Club, Blessington Road, Naas www.craddockstown.com 00 353 45 897 610
Golf Vacations Ireland, Leixlip www.golfvacationsireland.com 00 353 1 624 6366
Highfield Golf & Country Club, Carbury www.highfield-golf.ie 00 353 45 973 1021
Kilkea Castle Golf Club, Castledermot www.kilkeacastlegolfresort.ie 00 353 59 914 5555
Killeen Golf Club, Kill www.killeengolf.com 00 353 45 866 003
Knockanally Golf Club, Donadea www.knockanally.com 00 353 45 869 671
Millicent Golf Club, Clane www.millicentgolfclub.com 00 353 45 893 279
Moyvalley Golf Club, Balyna Estate, Maynooth www.moyvalleygolfclub.com 00 353 46 954 8080
Naas Golf Club, Kerdiffstown, Naas www.naasgolfclub.com 00 353 45 874 644
Newbridge Golf Club, Newbridge www.newbridgegolfclub.com 00 353 45 486 110
Palmerstown Stud Golf Club, Johnstown www.palmerstownhouse.ie 00 353 45 906 901
Royal Curragh Golf Club, The Curragh www.curraghgolf.com 00 353 45 441 238
The K Club, Palmer Ryder Cup Course, Straffan www.kclub.ie 00 353 1 601 7200
The K Club, The Smurfit Course, Straffan www.kclub.ie 00 353 1 601 7200
Woodlands Golf Club, Coill Dubh https://golfshot.com/GolfCourses/IE/ALL/Woodlands-Golf-Club-Droichead-Nua 00 353 0 45 860 777



Barretstown Castle


Barretstown Castle, Ballymore Eustace

Situated to the north of the town of Ballymore Eustace is Barretstown Castle. The core of the castle is an old Eustace tower house of The Pale. The Eustaces were one of the most distinguished of the names that came to Ireland at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion. While not multiplying to the same extent as the Burkes, Butlers, FitzGeralds or other great Hiberno-Norman families, the Eustaces were numerous enough to be classed in Petty's 'census' of 1659 among the principal Irish names in four baronies of Kildare. The town of Ballymore Eustace was called after the Eustaces.


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Upcoming Events

  1. Collector Market Fair - Newbridge Town Hall

    July 9 @ 11:00 am - December 17 @ 4:30 pm
  2. Cill Dara Historical Society Monthly Talk

    October 4 @ 8:00 am - 5:00 pm
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    November 8 @ 8:00 pm - 9:00 pm

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Contact Info

Kildare Town Heritage Centre, Market Square, Kildare Town, Co. Kildare, Ireland.

Tel: +353 45 530 672
Mobile: +353 871900945
Email: info@kildareheritage.com

Opening Hours

(Lunch 01:00-02:00pm Daily)

Monday 09:30am - 05:00pm

Tuesday 09:30am - 05:00pm 

Wednesday 09:30am - 05:00pm

Thursday 09:30am - 05:00pm

Friday 09:30am - 05:00pm 

Saturday 09:30am - 05:00pm

Sunday Closed