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Conservation The Wonderful Barn, Leixlip, Co. Kildare

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The Wonderful Barn was built in 1743 as a famine relief scheme by Katherine Conolly of Castletown, widow of William ‘Speaker’ Conolly. Described as ‘arguably one of the finest follies to be found in Ireland’, it was conceived not only as a functional grain store but as an architectural eye-catcher which would provide an eastern terminating vista from the grounds of Castletown.

The eccentrically designed barn, which rises to a height of 70 feet in a tapering cone, is encircled by a cantilevered staircase with a crow’s nest viewing gallery. It is adjoined by a courtyard area in which two conical pigeon houses are found and also by Barnhall House which was constructed shortly before the barn complex.

Today the Wonderful Barn stands sandwiched between the M4 Motorway and a housing estate and, with its associated buildings, is in direly in need of a vision and a plan to secure its future. Sadly Barnhall House was badly damaged in a fire in recent years however, Kildare County Council with support from the Heritage Council has undertaken considerable works to repair and restore the Wonderful Barn and is actively seeking new uses for the buildings in association with third parties including the Irish Georgian Society, the Irish Landmark Trust and the Castletown Foundation.