Ireland’s New Village: Coill Dubh, Kildare

Bord na Móna (whose partial merger with semi-state forestry company Coillte was announced recently) own over 80,000 hectares so have a huge role in our landscape. One of their (declining) marks is the brown expanses of peat extraction. Another is whole new communities.

In the early 1940s Bord na Móna (then called the Turf Development Board) advertised in local newspapers all over the country for workers to come to the midlands to harvest the bogs.

This led to a migration of thousands of people who lived in 14 specially built camps throughout the county which housed between 300 and 500 men. There was precedent – in the 1920s a camp housed hundreds during the construction of Ardnacrusha power plant.

The camps lasted to the end of the 1950s and were replaced by some new housing schemes designed by Frank Gibney (98 houses were built outside Rochfortbridge for example) and at least one totally new village, Coill Dubh, County Kildare which contained 160 houses, a school and shops. Other facilities such as a church, etc. were not originally planned for but arrived later.

Planner and architect Fergal Mac Cabe is excellent on the significance of these settlements and Gibney’s importance to Irish planning and urban design. Of Coill Dubh Mac Cabe notes:

The tower of the school lines up with the vista through one of the arched buildings. The skilful way the open space flows through this scheme, now expanding, now contracting, maintains constant interest and the large central space, with its axis and strong feature buildings give a high sense or urbanity and identity.

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