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Palmerstown - History

The parish of Palmerstown has been known by this name since the twelfth century when the lands here were held by the Hospital of St. John the Baptist without Newgate, otherwise known as the Palmer's Hospital from the name of the founder Ailred the Palmer or Pilgrim. The lands were held as a grange or farm and in 1539, when the religious houses were being suppressed, they were granted by the crown, along with a castle and a water mill, to Sir John Allen the Chancellor. His two sons John and Matthew subsequently occupied the estate.

The House at Palmerstownwas held by Sir Maurice Eustace, who was probably a nephew of the Speaker but soon passed to Sir John Temple who held a mortgage on the property. His son who later held the title of Lord Palmerstown was the ancestor of the Prime Minister of that name. He disposed of the Palmerstown lands to Robert Wilcocks whose death occurred in 1711 and who left the property to his nephew. The next occupant was the Right Hon. John Hely-Hutchinson, later Provost of Trinity College and Secretary of State, who built the existing house about 1763. His son became Lord Donoughmore and the family continued to reside there up to the middle of the last century when the estate became the property of the Stewart Institute for people with learning disabilities. The buildings have since been greatly extended.

The village of Palmerstown has been, to a large extent, rebuilt in recent years but a few of the old features still survive. At the corner of Mill Lane are old coaching stables  where the mail coaches used to stop, now with the front entrance and windows blocked up. Within the enclosed yard there is an open arched area which gives the place a  quaint old world appearance.

The mills on the Liffey at Palmerstown were driven by a mill race taken from the river nearly 2 miles higher up, at the weir opposite to the well known hostelry named the "Wren's Nest". In the eighteenth century there were a number of mills here, the French Mill, the Linen Mill, the Plating Mill, the Longwood Mill and the big Skin Mill. At the time of the Union there were mills for printing works and for iron works, oil mills, a dye stuff mill, a skin mill, a coin mill and three wash mills. Thirty eight years later only lead and copper works remained. On the opposite bank below Knockmaroon is Mardyke where there were flour mills in which starch, blue and mustard were also made.

Overlooking the Palmerstown Mills is an ancient burial ground containing the  ruins of a church, recently restored by the local authority. This church is mentioned in 1220 as being in possession of the Prior of the Hospital of St. John the Baptist without Newgate but the building, which still survives, was certainly very much earlier than the foundation of this hospital. It is in fact a fine example of the earliest type of nave and chancel church built before the Norman invasion and probably dating from the tenth or eleventh century. The earlier name of this church was Stacgory.

Noticeable characteristics of this church include its small size, massive walls, narrow round chancel arch with squashed imposts and lintelled doorway in the centre of the west gable wall. Many alterations have been made to the building. The original doorway was blocked up and a new one opened in the south wall, a large window was opened above the lintel of the west door and a bell turret was placed on top of the gable. The chancel window which was originally high and narrow has been reduced in height. As in all churches of this period the jambs of the chancel arch doorway and windows incline slightly inwards towards the top. There is a similar early nave and chancel church at Killiney.

On a small round hill overlooking the church, known as the clump field, is a circular area 15 yards in diameter enclosed by a bank and hedge. In former times this site was treated with great respect, and cattle would not be allowed to graze within its bank. It was believed by many that this was a lios and that the fairies lived under the ground there. It seems rather small and slight for a ring fort and is probably a ring barrow which would enclose a prehistoric burial. A short distance west of Palmerstown in 1868 some men digging gravel found three fine burial urns, two of which were enclosed in stone cists.

A little upstream of the mills at Palmerstown there is a prominent white bridge crossing the Liffey at a great height above the road and river. This was built about 1881 by Lord Iveagh to convey water across the Liffey in order to supply his house Farmleigh near Castleknock. The water was pumped by a turbine to a tank located in a graceful stone tower in the grounds of Farmleigh