Dick Warner stands beside the Roman bath at Leixlip Spa.
Louisa Bridge, Leixlip Co. Kildare
LEIXSLIP SPA -
In 1793 a gang of laborers working on the massive earthworks of the aqueduct that would carry the Royal Canal across the Rye Water River unearthed a hot spring. Clear mineral water started flowing from the ground at a constant temperature of 23.9 degrees Celsius (75 degrees Fahrenheit). This exciting discovery came to the attention of William Conolly, a landlord and entrepreneur who lived near by in Leixlip Castle. He planned to develop the site as a fashionable spa, to rival Bath in England, and to make a fortune out of it. Bath was originally a Roman spa so he commissioned a Roman style bathing pool. The profits don't seem to have materialised but there is evidence that the warm water, which was supposed to have healing properties, did attract large numbers of visitors in the late 1700s and the 1800s. Apparently their horse-drawn carriages caused some parking problems in Leixlip and there were often queues to get into the water. But eventually the spa went out of fashion and by the 1960s the Roman bath had disappeared under mud.
The Kildare Branch of the Inland Waterways Association of Ireland, along with other voluntary bodies, then started excavating, pumping and restoring it. A body called the Leixlip Spa Committee was formed to safeguard its future, with representatives from Leixlip Town Council, Kildare County Council, An Taisce, the Office of Public Works and the National Museum. The Intel Corporation, which moved to a campus close to the site in 1989, also became involved and donated some funding. The Roman bath is now fully restored and in good condition, though it still attracts a lot of litter. It's a very rare example of its type, most similar baths in Europe are indoors, and the only example of spa of this period in Ireland. The area surrounding it is a Priority One EU Special Area of Conservation with rare fungi and snails and uncommon plants and butterflies. Intel have posted a video about the restoration of the spa on You-Tube.