The following is a history on the village of Ballinakill…

The Square: The old name for The Square was The Market Square and the origin of the name lies in the presence of the market house which is a dominant landmark in the town. It was built in 1780 and is an integral part of the built heritage of the town. It has been maintained in excellent condition by all the parish priests and was in the past used to produce plays and concerts especially in the 1950s. Today it is used by bingo enthusiasts. The other imposing structure on the square is the 1798 monument (see picture) honoring the six men whose names are inscribed on it: Comerford, Crennan, Geoghan, McEvoy, Fagan and Fox.

Ballinakill Castle: Sir Thomas Ridgeway built the castle between 1606 and 1612. Ridgeway is reputed to have invested £10,000 in iron works located in Ironmills and would have played their part in the defence of the castle, but also were important  because they received, by royal patent, a monopoly to produce iron ordnance in Ireland. There is also historical evidence of people from Belgium operating the foundry in the 1630s. Ballinakill Castle was garrisoned by the Irish who held it until one, Oliver Cromwell, arrived in Ireland on the 15th of August 1649. During his brief stay in the country he managed to visit the area en route to Clonmel. General Fairfax  cannonaded the castle, it is presumed, from the Warren Hill in Chapel Street.

The castle is today is an impressive structure. The north gable survives in a farmyard on the east side of Market Square. Only three floors can be distinguished but it is evident from a late nineteenth century photograph that there were five floors originally. An archaeological report on the 1970’s  noted that ‘there is no mention of town defences in any of the seventeenth century sources but it is unlikely that Ballinakill risked the troubled decade of the 1640’s without some form of earthen defence.’

Chapel Street: Chapel Street or Chapel Lane, as it would be known to the older residents of Ballinakill, is without doubt  steeped in the history of the town. The street gets it’s name from the earliest site for a chapel in the town. In O’Hanlon’s and O’Leary’s “History of the Queen’s County ” it is stated that there were at least nine Massing places in the parish during the Penal times and the first in order was the site on the Mass Lough which is accessed from Chapel Street. No traces remain of the structure.

St Brigid’s Church: The present Parish Church as it stands today was built in three stages over a long period of time by three different parish priests. The first building used for mass was a thatched chapel located at the Warren Hill directly behind Barry’s house. From this location, the nearby lake, the Masslough, took its name. This thatched chapel was built in the early 1700s by Father Conal Moore. According to Daniel  Delaney Roman Catholic Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin in 1800, the parish of Ballinakill had at this time a population of 15,000 with five chapels.

All Saints Church: Standing beside St. Brigid’s Church in Church Street, Ballinakill, is the ‘All Saints Church’. An inscription on a plaque on the outside of the church states that the church was rebuilt and renovated in 1821 during the vicarship of Rev. Sewell Stubber. But the church is much older than that claimed by the history books. A chalice used in service at the church is dated 1700 and has the inscription ‘The Parish of Dysert Galen. Mich. Clenaghan Rect.& Vicar.’ In the vault in the church grounds inside the entrance gates rests five coffins and these contain the remains of Sir William Compton Domville who died in 1884, his wife Lady Caroline who died in 1890 and their two daughters, Helen Maud who died in 1865, aged two and a half  years and Evelyn who was twenty when she died in 1884. The fifth coffin holds the remains of Sir William’s nephew, Sir Hugo Poe who died on July 25th 1959. He resided at Blackhill, Abbeyleix. Sir William Compton Domville’s parents, both aged ninety years, are entombed in the Black Church, the Mausoleum in the wood beyond the Masslough lake.

Dysartgallen Glebe House: This fine structure  was built in 1810 at a cost of £854-12-11, £92-6-1 presented as a gift, £507-13-10 as a loan by the late Board of First Fruits and £254-12 -11  was supplied out of the private funds of the builder. It is now owned by Mr. and Mrs Humphrey Dowling.

Toll Gates: Further up along Church Street are the two trees which are probably the most enduring landmarks of our charter town. They are marked on the Skinner and Taylor maps of Ireland produced in the late 18th Century. The Huguenot Lodges on Church Street lead to the swimming pool. They were built by the Trench family and are unique in that there is no entrance to the houses from Church Street but rather in the Huguenot tradition of locating the entrance inside the estate.

Coatch Road: This  is the road that leads off Church Street and connected the town of Ballinakill to the Heywood estate. In 1606 Sir Thomas Coatch, proprietor of the Manor of Gallen, was granted the right to hold a market and fair there. He gave his name to the old name for the back drive to Heywood House.

Gills Pond: This lake gets it’s name from the Gill family who lived in one of the Huguenot Lodges on Church Street. It is the local name for the lower lake of the old Heywood (see picture).

Castle Lane: This lane is between John and Teresa Dunne’s house on Stanhope Street and the unoccupied house beside the Garda Station on The Square. It is called after the castle built by  Sir Thomas Ridgeway between 1606 and 1612.

The Stanhope Street: A glance through the list of immediate lessors in Griffith’s Valuation for Ballinakill reveals that a major landowner in the area was the Earl of Stanhope. The total land owned by the Earl was in excess of 1500 acres and was held in different townslands in the parish. The legacy of the name is still with us in the street name and the original name for the only hotel in the town was The Stanhope Arms Hotel which was sited on The Square.

The Stanhopes were an English family and their  principal residence was at Chevening, near Sevenoaks in Kent where the family had 4,313 acres in Kent; 5,186 acres in Devon; 2,583 acres in Derbyshire and 2,129 acres in the Queen’s County. They derived their name from the township of Stanhope in County Durham. In Slater’s Directory the entry for 1824 states that the town of Ballinakill was built on land belonging to the Earl of Stanhope.

Quaker Cemetery: This located on the Kilkeeny road or Graveyard Street as it was known in the past. In Ballinakill the O.S. map of 1841 shows clearly the location of the Quaker cemetery. There is evidence that Ballinakill was settled in 1660 and discontinued between 1851 and 1860.

Kilcronan Cemetery: Kilcronan translated means the church or monastery belonging to a Saint Cronan. St. Cronan was a native of Munster who died between 613 and 626AD. It is marked on the 1563 map of Laois . It was almost levelled in 1907 but traces of the wall foundations were visible. It measured 42 feet in length by 17 feet in breadth while the walls were 3 feet thick. Part of the graveyard was washed away by floodwater and according to the historians O’Hanlon and O’Leary “coffins and bones protruded in thick layers”.

The Academy: Geographically it is not in the town but being so close it would be remiss of us not to include a brief reference to it. For a more detailed history we suggest the reader consult Dermot Dorgan’s excellent book on Attanagh. An archway still stands today as a reminder of the area’s brief but glorious contribution to education in the Ballinakill and Ballyouskill area.

Jacob’s Lane: At the bottom of Stanhope Street between the Post Office and Gormans house is Jacob’s Lane. The Jacob name probably comes from a family very prominent in the town in the 18th century.