Extract from ‘Curragh
Camp and District. Illustrated & Described.’
Chapter entitled ‘Military’, pp.7-16.
Published by Eason, Dublin c.1910.
Copy held in National Library of Ireland, Dawson
Street, Dublin. (Ref: lr91435c6)
Transcribed by Sue Rowbotham
has possessed some sort of Military history from a very remote
period. An important battle was undoubtedly fought on it in 781,
while from its proximity to the town of Kildare, which was plundered
and taken by the Danes on not less than fifteen separate occasions
between 833 and 1016, it must have been the scene of many a
The earliest date, however, from which there is any definite
Military information is 1234, when Richard Marshall, Earl of
Pembroke, and Earl Palatine of Leinster, in arms against the
Viceroy, fought a battle on the Curragh in which he was defeated and
It is probable that this locality had its share in some of the many
conflicts which took place in the County during the Rebellion of
1641, when the famous Earl of Ormonde defeated an army of 15,000 men
under Lord Mountgarret, at Kilrush.
On 28th March 1798 some 2,000 rebels assembled on the
Curragh, under arrangements by which they had agreed to surrender.
Major-General Sir J. Duffe went with 600 men to the Gibbet Rath to
accept the surrender, but some stray shots seem to have been fired
by the rebels, on which the order was given for the troops to opn
fire, while Lord Jocelyn’s Mounted Fencibles charged and pursued the
unfortunate Irish, of whom not less than 200 were killed.
The first approach to a Military occupation in the vicinity was in
1643, when the Town of Kildare was made a garrison post, under the
Earl of Castlehaven.
About 1805, during the Napoleonic scare, an extensive camp was
formed on the Curragh, but fifty years later no record of the
details was extant, though the site was shown on the Ordinance Map,
and could still be traced on the elevated ground, known as Long
Early in 1855 when, in consequence of the operations then taking
place in the Crimea, it was found necessary to afford facilities for
training men in large bodies, and when also the embodiment of the
militia necessitated a large amount of barrack accommodation, orders
were issued by general Sir John Burgoyne, Inspector-General of
Fortifications, for the construction of a hut encampment on the
Curragh to accommodate 10,000 Infantry.
Some difficulty was experienced in selecting a site, as at the time
the instructions were received the ground was covered with snow, but
the work was pushed on, and by the 9th July, 1855,
accommodation for 5,000 men was ready for occupation. The work was
completed the same year; the huts, each measuring 40ft x 20ft, being
arranged in 10 separate squares, 30 yards apart, each square
accommodating 1,000 men. The Officers’ Quarters were placed on a
line 120 yards in front; the general lie of the Camp being from East
to West, facing the North, and having in front a fine general parade
ground, nearly level, and about a mile in length.
The left division occupied the site of the old encampment of fifty
years earlier, and between this and the right division were
constructed the Staff Officers’ Huts, Offices, Churches, Clock,
Water Tower, etc. The Huts for the General Commanding and
Headquarters Staff were placed on a gentle elevation about 300 yards
from the right of the troops, commanding a view along nearly the
whole line of front.
Roads were also formed towards Newbridge on the North; Athgarvan and
Kilcullen to the East; Brownstown and Athy to the South, and Kildare
to the West.
The measure for obtaining an adequate supply of water for so large a
force were naturally of the first importance, especially as it was
known that the want of an adequate supply of water had led to the
abandonment of the old Camp of the early part of the century. After
much deliberation it was decided to sink a trail well, with the
satisfactory result that, at a depth of 54 feet, a flow of water was
obtained which overcame the pumps and steam power employed in the
progress of the work, and has continued to furnish an abundant and
inexhaustible supply of pure water ever since.
At the conclusion of the Crimean Campaign it was decided to continue
the Curragh Camp as a Camp of instruction, where Infantry could be
trained and manoeuvred in conjunction with Artillery and with the
Cavalry at Newbridge (for whom extensive barracks had been
constructed as early as 1816), and the Headquarters of one of the
Three Military Divisions, into which Ireland was organised, was
fixed at the Curragh Camp.
This township of wooden structures remained for many years a
monument to the skill and foresight of the generation who engineered
the scheme under the hasty circumstances which called it into being
half a century ago. Remote from the public eye and knowledge, except
as a silhouette against the distant skyline seen from a passing
train, the experimental training camp which arose out of the
experiences of the Crimea, has served its purpose, and even now many
of the structures are still fulfilling the objects for which they
were first erected. The headquarters Establishment, situated
slightly apart to the north-east, still remains a most attractive
and commodious group of bungalows. The huge wooden churches, too,
perched in the centre of the Camp ridge, are scarcely dwarfed by the
more modern surroundings, which will next be described.
The Camp, as it is still called, has, until a dozen years ago, been
of slow growth. As the individual requirements of its various
barracks and departments increased, its retention in its old form
became, in the course of years, impossible, and the consequent
erection of structures of a more permanent character, suitable to
modern requirements, was seen to be inevitable.
The first important change had already been made by the replacement
of the wooden huts constituting the infantry barracks, long known as
C Square, by buildings of a slightly more pretentious kind,
constructed of concrete, but otherwise on more or less similar lines
to their predecessors. As time went on this group was brought into
line with still more modern requirements until its buildings, apart
from the barrack rooms proper, became as they are now, as well
equipped as could be desired; the officers’ Mess recently completed
being now one of the most imposing structures on the Camp.
In treating of this latter we anticipate we anticipate somewhat the
chronological order in which the reconstruction of the Camp has been
brought to its present state – the greater part of the present
Beresford barracks having been built before an Act of Parliament of
some twenty years ago. By this Act a standing fund was voted for
the reconstruction of barracks throughout the kingdom on a scale to
meet modern requirements, such as was impracticable on the ordinary
principle of annual allotments of public money.
Thus it appears that within a dozen years has sprung up the great
group of imposing buildings, now to be seen on the Curragh ridge by
any passer by on the Great Southern and Western Railway, or by
visitors to the Curragh Races, and a short walk or drive from either
Newbridge or Kildare, or from the Race Course, will repay the
traveller for his trouble.
Entering the Camp from Kildare end the visitor passes two fine
cavalry barracks, known as the Posnonby and Stewart Barracks – first
leaving on his right the military prison of the district. These
barracks each give accommodation for a Regiment of Cavalry and
Corps, through whose lines the visitor passes.
Leaving Stewart barracks, the Infantry barracks, before alluded to,
are passed, and will be recognised by the more or less primitive
concrete huts on one side and by the important Officers’ Mess
building, already mentioned, on the other.
The Army Service Corps Lines are next entered, with their expansive
parade ground; the Barracks proper being set back to the sough. Here
at intervals can still be seen the remnants of the old wooden camp,
a line of self-contained huts, which are occupied by the Officers,
but now only await the fate of those formerly existing in the three
barracks just passed, before being replaced by structures more in
keeping with their present surroundings.
Leaving the Army Service Corps Barracks, those of the Royal
Engineers are next entered, in their main lines almost identical
with the former. Facing the parade will be noticed to the east a
long line of concrete buildings consisting of the various
administrative offices of the 7th Division, of which the
Curragh is the headquarters, the Headquarters Offices of the General
Staff being to the left of the road, under the shadow of the massive
tower, which dominates the landscape for many miles around.
In this tower and it appurtenances is installed the local Fire
Brigade, whose quarters are appropriately capped by the great high
level tanks which contain the reserve supply of water for use in
case of fire. Here, failing a natural gravitational supply of water,
is stored a reserve of 40,000 gallons at a height commanding every
building in the Camp, the water being obtained from the wells at the
two pumping stations, the overflow furnishing the ordinary water
supply of the entire station, stored in the two low level tanks
adjoining. This enormous pile replaces the historic ‘Flagstaff’, for
so many years the landmark to the main approach of the Camp.
A climb to the roomy concrete platform of the roof of the water
tower will well repay the trouble. The beauties of the Curragh
surroundings are lost to the ordinary wayfarer by the flatness of
the country, but from this height such an impression disappears, and
the fine point of vantage displays a superb panorama, rising to the
east and south to the Wicklow and Slieve Bloom Mountains; the
visitors is now six hundred feet above the level of the streets of
Dublin, and the Camp itself is mapped out at his feet like a Garden
City. Proceeding on the journey he finds himself in the centre of
the Military Settlement, where stand the huge Temporary Churches,
which were the crowning gory of the original wooden Camp. Here, too,
remains the only permanent remnant of the old Camp in the shape of
the Clock Tower, whose upper galleries were for so many years the
eyrie of military operations in the surrounding country.
Leaving the central group and proceeding to the right and south the
visitor will reach the group of Institutes which were erected by the
various religious denominations for the amusement and entertainment
of the soldiers, and which provide the freedom from the restraint of
barrack life so highly valued by those for whom they are intended.
The fine Post Office, too, stands here from which the Camp and the
country for miles around is kept in touch with the outside world.
Near this central group of buildings will be found the branch
establishment of Messrs. Eason & Son, Limited
Here on the north side of the road are the quarters of the Officers
of the Divisional Staff, picturesquely situated on the slope of the
Long Hill, with the prospect of the broad Curragh stretching
uninterrupted in front. In these and in most of the residences of
the officers of the Permanent Staff in Camp, from the
Commander-in-Chief of the Forces downwards, the old buildings are
still serving their original purpose. Descending Tower Hill
southwards the Market Square is reached, where the goods of the
outside world are on sale to the inhabitants of the Camp. The shops
here will shortly give place to structures more in keeping with
their surroundings. The road leaves the Camp here and forms the
County Road to Athy. On the right of its exit is the Army Services
Corps Compound, to be recognised by long rows of wagon sheds and
stables, faced by the Central Bakery worked by that Corps. On the
left are the new Ordnance Stores and Workshops, covering a large
area, and but recently completed. The Gymnasium, another notable
remnant of the old Camp, sands close at hand, wherein troops from
all parts of the country receive their thorough course of physical
training. Immediately adjoining is the fine Military Hospital, as
well equipped and extensive as any in the country. It covers a very
considerable area, and can provide accommodation for upwards of two
hundred patients. On the “South Road” to the right, are situated the
residences of the major-General Commanding the Division; of the
Commanding Royal Engineer and his Staff; of the senior Medical
Officers, Chaplains, Ordnance and A.S.C. Officers. The South Road is
the most sheltered avenue in the Camp, bounded by a pleasant belt of
foliage. To the south, and beyond the Rifle Range ground, is the
Sewage Farm, recently reconstructed on the most modern system of
sewage disposal which throughout the entire Camp has now replaced
the primitive system of former years. Adjoining the Military
Hospital and the Gymnasium are the Royal Engineer Workshops, Stores
and Offices. The road rejoins the North Road about this point,
having on the right the Rifle Ranges, the first of their kind to be
constructed in this country for the long range rifle now in use. At
the junction of these two roads on the right, a portion of the old
Camp is still standing, a derelict and dismantled area, whereon
stood the huts which until recently accommodated two battalions of
infantry, but of which only a few now remain to show the lines on
which the old Camp was laid out. Taking the turn to the left from
the junction, and catching a glimpse of the headquarter group of
huts before alluded to, their picturesque setting of trees, the
great area of Barrack Buildings most recently reconstructed will be
Gough and Keane Barracks are identical in all their details, and
embody all the most modern accommodation which has yet been provided
for the soldier. The barrack rooms have been laid out in such a
manner as to allow of each man having a small cubicle bedroom (when
completed), and the old system of messing in the barrack rooms in
which the men sleep is here abandoned, and replaced by cheerful and
roomy dining rooms, served from a central kitchen, all being in
communication under cover from the weather. With their fine
recreation establishments and general air of liberal provision it
can here be realised that the soldier’s life is made a pleasant as
circumstances will permit, his health and comfort being well cared
for – with hot baths, hot chambers for drying his clothes in wet
weather, well equipped reading rooms and regimental club rooms.
The Perry Soldiers’
The Perry Soldiers’ Home was built over 20 years ago by Mrs Perry, a
lady much interested in soldiers. When she died in 1899 she gave
this home to Miss Sandes, who had 31 similar Soldiers’ Institutes in
Ireland and in India.
The Soldiers’ Home is a rallying place for men from the Curragh Camp
and Newbridge. They use it as a Club, and as all soldiers are
honorary members, and pay no entrance fee or subscriptions, Miss
Sandes looks to the Public to help to maintain it.
The Coffee Room is open from 7a.m. till late at night. In the
Lecture Room voluntary services and meetings are held every night,
for the motive which constrains Miss Sandes and her Lady helpers to
give their lives freely to this work is the great desire that many
men in the Army should lay hold of the ONE ALMIGHTY FRIEND who wants
to save and help them. The Recreation Room is filled with plenty of
games, reading, and music. There are no rules or restrictions. The
men come in and out as they like, and bring their dogs and their
Wesleyan Soldiers’ Home
The present commodious building is the result of several
enlargements which were necessitated by the growing popularity of
the Home, and the efforts of the Methodist Church to provide the
best equipment possible in the interests of the Troops composing the
The first ‘Home’ was built in 1893, a New Wing was added in 1900,
and extensive internal alterations were executed in January, 1906.
It provides Recreation and Games’ Rooms, Library and Reading Room,
Boarders’ parlour, Coffee, Bar, Baths, eight Bedrooms for letting
purposes, Manager’s apartments, Assistant’s quarters, Kitchen etc.
There are many enterprises at work in the Home for the welfare of
the Soldier. These include Social Evenings, temperance Concerts,
lantern Entertainments, a Soldier’s Savings Bank, and Religious
meetings, among which is a branch of the Soldiers’ Christian
The Home, though under Wesleyan control and management, is open free
to all Soldiers irrespective of denomination, the greatest care
being taken not to interfere with the religious persuasion of any
who frequent it.
Church of England Soldiers; and Sailors’
Institute, Curragh Camp
The Church of England Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Institute is one of
many Institutes in the army worked in connection with the Soldiers’
and Sailors’ Institute Association.
It is free and open to all wear the King’s uniform, who can make use
of it without question or interference, without regard to religious
persuasion or conviction.
The Institute contains a Bar, where refreshments of all kinds are
served (except intoxicating liquor) at a moderate cost; also,
Reading and Writing Room, Library, Baths, Beds, Billiards.
There is also a Devotional Room, where prayers are said every
evening at 7.30, and other meetings are held.
The Garrison Branch, Royal Army Temperance Association, as well as
the Independent Order of Good Templars meet in the Institute.
The Secretary is Col. R. Bond, late R.E. Any further information can
be obtained from him, Address: Moorfields, Newbridge, or the Senior
Chaplain, the Rev. Dr Pentreath, Curragh Camp.
Catholic Soldiers’ Institute
This building, of which the first stone was laid by Lady Anne Kerr,
wife of major-General Lord Ralph Kerr, on 18th April
1896, was opened by Field Marshall Lord Roberts, V,C., on April 29th,
1897. The Institute consists of a large Reading Room, a Room for
games, a Dining Hall, sleeping accommodation, Chaplain’s Room, etc.
The three Large Rooms are so constructed that they can be converted
into one large apartment for Concerts and Social Gatherings.
Notice of above would be incomplete without reference to Rev. Joseph
Delany, late Catholic Chaplain to the Forces, Curragh. To his tact
and unflagging zeal the Catholic Institute owes its existence. One
fact may be mentioned. – that mainly by visiting the different
parishes of the diocese of Kildare and Leighlin. He obtained a
purely civilian contribution to the building fund, which defrayed
nearly two-thirds of the expenses. The aim of the Institute is to
provide for the material and social well being of the Soldiers.
Presbyterian Soldiers’ Institute
The existence of this Institute, which has the honour of being the
first built by any branch of the Prestbyterian Church, is due very
largely to the Rev. Stuart Gardiner, M.A., Minister of Kingstown. He
pressed upon the Church in Ireland the claims of the Army, and was
successful in obtaining a grant of £1,000 from the Twentieth Century
Fund. With this the Institute was built, consisting of a main Hall
and two rooms, the intention being to provide merely for meetings,
recreation , and reading, with a room for the Chaplain’s use. It was
opened 21st January, 1904, by the late Major-General de
C. Morton, Commanding 7th Division, on behalf of H.R.H.
the Duke of Connaught, the foundation stone being laid by Lady
Morton. The basis of working was broadened, and one room was given
over for refreshments. Later, an extension, finshed in May, 1906,
was built, providing a Dining Hall, Bedrooms, and Baths, thus
completing the place as a Soldiers’ Home.
The position of the Institute is central, being right opposite the
Post Office. Its windows look towards the south, and command a
magnificent view of the surrounding countryside, distant hills, and