Discover the fascinating history of Avon Rί

Step back in time as you learn more about the history of Avon Rί and the Blessington Lakes

Back at the start of the 20th century, the site where Avon Rί would be built faced out over a natural valley formed by the River Liffey and the King’s River. When we saw these incredible views, there was no doubt that we’d found a unique place to create our resort. This is why we called it Avon Rί, a name partly inspired by the King’s River.

The Blessington Lakes

You might not know it to look at them, but the stunning Blessington Lakes are a man-made feature, sometimes known as the Poulaphuca Reservoir. They were formed back in 1944 when the valley was filled with water, created a striking landscape.

When we picked a site for Avon Rί by the lakes, we knew that the tranquil countryside would prove to be a big attraction. People love to come here to unwind and explore the wilder side of Wicklow, maybe take part in water sports or other outdoor activities, knowing that they can always expect a warm Irish welcome when they come to stay in our top-quality accommodation.

As a tribute to the history of the local area, we have a sprawling gallery of old black and white photos on display throughout Avon Rί’s main complex. Starting in the reception area and continuing in the hallway and upstairs by the staircase, you can browse a large array of images depicting the development of the Blessington area, including the creation of the reservoir and photos of locals who lived here long ago. It’s a fascinating journey through the past.

Click images to enlarge.

Blessington Town

Initially, Blessington was called Baile Coimín. There were three different churches here once upon a time – Kilmalum, Three Castles and Burgage. Archives tell us that there were two chaplains here in 1547, one at Burgage and the other based at Three Castles. There is evidence to show that this was an important ecclesiastical settlement during the dawn of the Irish Christian era, with the church building deliberately constructed in a dominant site overlooking the River Liffey.

In 1547, the area had its name changed to Burgage, which is likely to have come from the word ‘Buirghis’ (pronounced Burris), meaning borough. However, this was altered again in 1683 when the village was developed, and the settlement was called Blessington, the name it still has today. Historians think that this was derived from the word ‘Blessing’ and was a nod to the fact that the area was considered to be a prime location, a gift from God to the devout Christians.

Political history

Before the Union, Blessington used to elect two MPs to Parliament. When this number was reduced, the Marquis of Downshire was paid £15,000 in compensation for this blow to his reputation and standing, which was a massive amount of money back then.

In 1669, Charles II established the Manor of Blessington, which was given to Michael Boyle. Boyle was the Archbishop of Dublin at the time and also happened to be related to the First Earl of Cork, his cousin. Boyle expanded the village, which had been only one street up until then, and built the Protestant parish church.

Boyle was also responsible for the brick mansion that was in Blessington Demesne until a fire completely destroyed it in 1760. This was a real loss, as the building had been part of an imposing estate, set in 410 acres, 340 acres of which formed a deer park, with a brick wall running around the border.

In 1678, Boyle earned the distinction of becoming the last ecclesiastical Lord Chancellor of Ireland. His new role required him to move to Armagh, but Blessington always held a special place in his heart, so he often came back to visit the area. As was commonplace in those days, he set aside part of the estate for a church, and he paid for the construction of the building, including all furnishings. The church bells from this building are still in existence and are date-stamped 1682.

In 1798, tragedy struck the village of Blessington when dissidents raided the area and razed the village. However, there are still little signs remaining of the original village for those who care to look. For example, if you visit the graveyard, you can see St. Mark’s Cross, a 14-foot high granite cross that was rescued from the site of the early Burgage church before the valley was flooded. The site of the Cross’ original location is now deep underwater in the heart of the Blessington Lakes.

Watch this delightful video of Poulaphuca Reservoir (Blessington Lakes) to see how it looks today. Full credit to Martin Blake.