The Wonderful Barn was commissioned by Katherine Conolly widow of William ‘Speaker’ Conolly of the Castletown Estate. It rises to a height of 73 feet in a tapering cone and is encircled by a cantilevered staircase. It was built in the years immediately following the famine of 1740-41 which is described as the ‘year of the slaughter’. Recent estimates have put the death toll for this famine at between 250,000 and 480,000 people. There were reports from all over Europe of this severe winter and meterologists now say this was a last kick of the previous ice age. Stories in Ireland reported that icebergs floated down the River Liffey destroying cargo boats on their way, the street lights could not be lit and thousands of people literally froze or starved to death on a daily basis when the crops all failed. This building is sometimes described as a ‘folly’ which is a term used for an ornamental building however is now thought to have been a multipurpose famine relief project for domestic use, shooting game and also for storing grain (in case another famine occurred).

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