The Wonderful Barn, Leixlip. County Kildare         1742

This odd looking structure is The Wonderful Barn. It was commissioned as a famine relief project by Katherine Conolly. Katherine was the widow of William ‘Speaker’ Conolly of the Castletown Estate who was once the richest man in Ireland. It was built in the years immediately after the much ‘forgotten famine’ of 1740-41. It was reported that it was so cold for 4 months that large icebergs on the River Liffey destroyed cargo boats, street lights could not be lit and thousands of people literally froze in their beds or starved to death. Similar reports of this severe winter were recorded from all over Europe and meteorologists now say this was possibly the last kick of the ice age. The Irish described it as ‘The Year of the Slaughter’ and recent estimates have put the death toll at between 250,000 and 480,000! It rises to a height of 73 feet in the shape of a tapering cone and is encircled by a cantilevered staircase. It is sometimes described as a ‘folly’ which is a term used for ornamental structures. This building however was designed as a ‘multipurpose famine relief project’ for storing grain, shooting game and also for domestic purposes.