9.3.3 Architectural Conservation Areas

Dúnta22 Nol, 2020, 09:00 - 12 Már, 2021, 17:00
9.3.3 Architectural Conservation Areas

Each development plan must include a policy objective to preserve the character of Architectural Conservation Areas (ACAs) within its functional area.  An ACA is a place, area, group of structures or townscape, taking account of building lines and heights, that is of special architectural, historical, archaeological, artistic, cultural, scientific, social or technical interest or that contributes to the appreciation of a protected structure, and whose character it is an objective of the development plan to preserve. 

The purpose of designating an area as an ACA is to manage change, affording greater control over the form of development and reducing instances of inappropriate development and demolition.  The character of an ACA is often derived from the collective value of an area’s buildings, their setting, landscape and other locally important features developed gradually over time.  It is usually an expression of our culture and identity and contributes significantly to the quality of our lives.

A general set of policies for all ACAs within the County and City is set out below. A statement of character has also been devised for each of these ACAs in order to identify the character that is worthy of protection.  Any works proposed to the exterior of a building within an ACA which would affect the special character of the area would not be considered exempted development. For example, replacement of timber sash windows with inappropriate alternatives (e.g. uPVC) would not be exempted development within an ACA.  Where applications are made for works outside an ACA which would have the potential to impact on the character of the ACA, these applications will be assessed using the criteria set out in the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines for assessing developments within the attendant grounds of protected structures (Section 13.8 AHPG Guidance on the criteria the planning authority will use to assess proposals for new development and proposals for demolition within an ACA are given in section 3.10 of the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines.

Implications for Planning and Development

The objective of the ACA designation is to protect the special character of an area through control and positive management of any changes made to the built environment.  Owners and occupiers of non-protected structures in any ACA should be aware that works which in the opinion of the planning authority would materially affect the character of the area as outlined here would require planning permission.  


9J            To ensure the preservation of the special character of each ACA listed in this Plan (See Table 9.2 and Volume 2 Heritage Strategy) with particular regard to building scale, proportions, historical plot sizes, building lines, height, general land use, fenestration, signage, and other appendages such as electrical wiring, building materials, historic street furniture, paving and shopfronts.

9K           To designate ACAs where appropriate and provide a local policy framework for the preservation of the character of these areas.

9L            To prepare and introduce a set of Shopfront Guidelines.

General ACA Development Management Guidance

  • To have regard to the Architectural Heritage Protection Guidelines and the Charter for the Conservation of Historic Towns and Urban Areas (Washington Charter 1987), when assessing proposals for development affecting the character of an ACA
  • To seek the retention, repair and maintenance of the buildings which make up the streetscape of the ACA
  • To ensure the retention, repair and the regular maintenance, rather than replacement, of original/early features in buildings which contribute to the character of an ACA such as chimney stacks, roof coverings, roof profiles, external wall treatments, doors and windows, shopfronts and pub fronts, while ensuring appropriate materials and repair techniques are used when repairs are being carried out.
  • To ensure that inappropriate materials for windows, doors and rainwater goods constructed in aluminium or uPVC are not introduced to buildings within ACAs.
  • To encourage high quality, contemporary design and materials where appropriate when new buildings are being introduced into an ACA and the retention of the historic scale and plot size.  In this regard new development should be of a very high standard of design, and should contribute to the visual enhancement of the area and respect the character of the ACA as set out in the statement of character.  New development should be appropriate in form and use to its corner, infill or backland location.  Established views to local landmarks should be maintained.
  • To ensure that new fascia boards inserted in the shopfront entablature are seamless without visible vertical joints or fixing materials. Hand painted fascia are encouraged and will be favoured over glossy, reflective signage.  
  • To ensure the preservation of the special character of the ACA when assessing proposals for advertising signage, to limit the number of projecting signs to no more than one on each commercial premises to avoid visual clutter, to control lighting and coloured lighting on facades.
  • To seek the retention of mature trees/significant planting (those in good condition) which contribute to the character of each ACA where appropriate. 
  • To retain historic items of street furniture where they contribute to the character of the ACA, such as, post boxes, benchmarks, gates, plaques, milestones, railings etc.,
  • To facilitate the removal of overhead cables throughout the ACA, and to assesses all further cable installations against its likely impact on the character of the ACA. The cumulative impact of wiring is seen as a particular negative impact on the character of ACAs
  • To ensure existing stone kerbs and paving, and or cobble stones are to be retained and refurbished, where new kerbs are necessary they shall be in a like for like basis so as to enhance the area’s character.
  • To ensure the embodied energy of the current building stock within ACAs are acknowledged when considering proposed developments, and to encourage the reuse of these building over demolition. Kilkenny County ACA’s

There are 13 ACA’s located within County Kilkenny, see Table 9.2.

Table 9.2: Architectural Conservation Areas, County Kilkenny

(excluding Kilkenny City)















There may be other ACA’s designated within the lifetime of this Development Plan.  The ACAs for Callan, Castlecomer, Graiguenamanagh and Thomastown are set out in the Local Area Plans for those towns. Ballyragget ACA

Description and historical Background

Ballyragget is the Anglicised version of Béal Átha Ragadh meaning mouth of Ragget’s Ford and it takes its name from Richard le Ragget, an Anglo-Norman landowner who held these lands in the 13th century. The layout of the town lends support to its Anglo-Norman origins.  The Square was originally laid out as a wide main street to accommodate markets and the famous ‘fair day’ which took place here right up to the 1960s when people bought and sold farm animals. In 1580, Richard Butler, Viscount of Mountgarret inherited Ballyraggett, the town becoming the principal seat of this junior branch of the Ormonds.

Older names of the settlement include 'Donoughmore' (Irish: Domhnach Mór 'Large Church'). There is some debate as to the meaning of Donoughmore. The very first Journal of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society "Old Kilkenny Review, Number 1 (1946–1947) January 1948" has an article about Ballyragget and its environs and states the belief that Domhnach Mór means Big Sunday and relates to the fact that thousands of people congregated at the now ruined church in Donoughmore for its opening on a Sunday and the name stuck.

The town has a rich archaeological past, represented by Ballyragget Castle, a 15th tower house, while the town is also recognised as a Historic Town, later post medieval activity is represented by the 18th and 19th century two and three storey residences. 

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.4 for ACA Boundary).

Ballyragget’s unique character is formed by:

  1. The urban street pattern, characteristic of a town rather than a village, with streets leading off the square in different directions and a complete urban block between the Square and the Fair Green.
  2. A generally coherent streetscape as a backdrop to the public realm, made up for the most-part of 18th and 19th century structures of consistent architectural scale, proportion and finish, particularly around the square.
  3. The contrast between the town’s principal open spaces of the Fair green and the central triangular shaped Main Square
  4. The well-contained space and triangular shape of the Square which allows attractive oblique views of the complete streetscapes from most vantage points.
  5. By contrast, the open nature of the Fair Green which allows long views to landmark buildings like the Church and Stephouse.

The characteristics as set out above combine to create an urban quality of very pleasant scale in Ballyragget and this gives the town a strong identity and a unique ‘sense of place’.

ACA Development Management Requirements based on assessment of special character

See policies in Section 9.3.3 relating to all ACAs

  • BACA 1: The roofscape of Ballyragget is part of its special character. Original elements and profiles should be retained where possible and repaired and reused rather than replaced.
  • BACA 2: To seek the retention of materials and finishes, massing, height, alignment, orientation and window proportions that reflect the existing character of the area
  • BACA 3: To seek the protection of the existing landscaping and features within the public realm that contribute to the character of the town
  • BACA 4: Carriage arch openings are a feature of many of the buildings around the square. These openings should be retained with planning permission required for alterations.
  • BACA 5: To protect the setting of Ballyragget Lodge and its 19th century masonry wall visible on approach to the village from Kilkenny from the N77. Bennettsbridge ACA

Description and Historical Background

Bennettsbridge is located on the main Kilkenny to Thomastown road (R700) which passes over the bridge, curving southwards towards the centre of the village.  The historic footprint of the village centres on the bridge and Gowran Road junction and then extends southwards in the direction of Thomastown.  The village is dominated by the presence of the river, the bridge and the mills on both sides of the river south of the bridge.  However, the heart of the village is located on the main street which turns its back on the river and runs parallel with it.

The village is recorded as being dedicated to Saint Benet from which it derives its name.  The early bridge is clearly delineated on the Down Survey map of 1654.  This bridge was washed away in the great flood of 1763 and replaced by the distinctive landmark bridge which exists today (See Section 9.3.8 Bridges).  The industrial origins of the village are evident in the two landmark mills situated on either bank of the river, and these have been in existence since at least the eighteenth century.

The village provided a significant local civic centre for the surrounding rural hinterland.  This is evident in the number of civic and public buildings marked on the first edition Ordnance Survey map (c. 1829).  The village is shown as being well established by this date with buildings such as the original school, the RC church, a police station situated to the west of the bridge, and two flour mills and a weir all downstream of the bridge.

Since the publication of the early OS maps the village has changed little.  A school was constructed in 1914 (now a community hall following the construction of a replacement school in the 1990s).  The church built in 1822 was replaced by a new structure in 1967 and residential development has continued over time, concentrated on the east side of the village.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.5 for ACA Boundary)

Bennettsbridge is located within a gently undulating landscape of fields dedicated to livestock grazing or tillage.  The historic heart of the village pivots on the riverscape, the mill buildings and the landmark structure of the bridge. These structures were responsible for the development of the village and provide it with its historical identity which is further expressed in the collection of vernacular buildings on Main Street, the undulating roof lines and modest vernacular detailing contributing to the character of the village.  Even though Bennettsbridge has expanded over time with an extension along Main Street to the south and further residential development to the east, the centre of the village has not changed and remains strongly linked to its origins.  The views of the river and the surrounding countryside are an important aspect of the character of the village.

Development Management Requirements based on assessment of special character

See policies in Section 9.3.3 relating to all ACAs

  • BBACA 1: To respect the pleasing visual aesthetic of 18th century bridge, and its visual link to the Nicolas Mosse mill. The Zone of Visual Influence (ZVI) of these two landmark buildings and their settings shall be maintained.  A series of wheel stones are also present on the bridge, and shall be retained.
  • BBACA 2: To retain, restore and repair historic items of street furniture and paving within this Architectural Conservation Area.
  • BBACA 3: No development shall be permitted that in any way negatively impacts on the Main street/Riverscape, including any proposals that would dwarf the street’s prominence, that would cause visual impacts or any development that would negatively impact on the current vibrancy and pivotal nature of the street in the town.


​​​​​​​ Freshford ACA

Description and historical Background

The square in Freshford was not laid out as a planned space but instead developed and evolved organically as an urban centre to facilitate the needs of the community.  Its appearance as a planned settlement is due to the work of the Eyre family of Upper Court Demesne and particularly, Thomas Eyre.

During the late nineteenth-century the landowner Thomas Eyre undertook a programme to formalise the centre of the village.  His ambitious plans included the construction of two schools, housing for his estate workers, a new Roman Catholic Church, installation of water pumps and construction of a new formal entrance to his property, Uppercourt House, on the south side of the square.

The two schools were realised.  Separate male and female schools were built and were officially opened by their patron, Thomas Eyre on 10th May 1876. These fine two-storey rendered buildings with tooled limestone dressings continue to flank the south side of the square.  It was Thomas Eyre’s intention to construct the new entrance to Upper Court House in the space between the schools.  This was never built and instead the void was gradually filled with extensions to the schools.  These buildings are now in use as a community nursing home called Prague House.

The town’s water pumps were installed by the same member of the Eyre family in 1878.  A large pump was installed in the centre of the Square with limestone slabs and drains around it.  Thomas Eyre’s patronage of the project was recorded on one of the limestone slabs.  The second smaller water pump is located on the west side of the square.

Thomas Eyre also undertook the construction of estate workers’ cottages on the west side of the square.  He was responsible for the first four to six cottages at the south end of the west side of the square known as ‘New Row’.

By the late nineteenth century, the formalised square had become the central focus of the town, accommodating schools, the doctor’s house and the town’s dispensary, the constabulary barracks, the canon’s house, local shops and public houses. In c.1910 Emma Browne Clayton built a town hall and donated it to the community.  Located on the north side of the square, it is the only three-storey structure on the square.

In c.1913 Stanislaus Eyre planted the horse chestnut trees around the green.  These trees formalise the square’s character and contribute greatly to the setting of the architecture.  In the past the square was used as a public meeting area, recreational grounds and fair green.  Charles Stewart Parnell delivered his speech from the steps of Dr. Hourigan’s house (a large detached house on the east side of the square) when he visited Freshford in 1890.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.6 for ACA Boundary)

Freshford is arranged around a tree-lined square.  The Square forms not only the physical centre of the town but also its social and commercial heart.  It is the hub from which all local roads radiate, bringing life into the community.  The green is surrounded by nineteenth-century terraced houses, the Roman Catholic Church, a community hall and various shops and public houses.

The square is flanked to the east by a long wide road leading to the Catholic Church and to the local primary school located to the rear of the Church.  The entrance to Uppercourt Demesne is located further out this road.  The west side of the square consists of a terrace of eleven two-storey houses and the south side consists of the former girls’ and boys’ school, now Prague House, a community nursing home.  The north side of the square has a predominantly commercial character and forms a thoroughfare west out of the town.

ACA Development Management Requirements based on assessment of special character

See policies in Section 9.3.3 relating to all ACAs

  • FACA 1: The roofscape of Freshford is part of its special character. Original elements and profiles should be retained where possible and repaired and reused rather than replaced
  • FACA 2: To seek the protection of the Square in Freshford, and maintain its importance as natural amenity.  No development shall be permitted that in any way negatively impacts on the pivotal nature of the square in the town.
  • FACA 3: To maintain the height lines of the structures particularly the relationship of the Community Hall to its surrounds to the north of the square.
  • FACA 4: To seek the protection of the existing landscaping and features within the public realm that contribute to the character of the town. To retain the horse chestnut trees around the green.
  • FACA 5: To seek the retention of materials and finishes, massing, height, alignment, orientation and window proportions that reflect the existing character of the area


​​​​​​​ Gowran ACA

Description and Historical Background

Gowran developed as a settlement in Norman times.  It was granted a charter by Theobald Fitzwalter in 1206.  It was one of County Kilkenny’s walled towns, having defences with stone gatehouses by the early 15th century.  The principal evidence of medieval Gowran lies in the ruins of the collegiate church of St. Mary’s in the centre of the town which was built in 1275.

Gowran continued to grow in the 18th century in a typical urban linear pattern with the construction of single and two-storey buildings.  The Fair Green is in effect a small Georgian Square and other contemporary structures such as Byrne’s opposite the green and Loughlin’s at the junction for Kilkenny attest to the prosperity of the town at the time.  The influence of the benevolent landlord of Gowran Demesne is also in evidence in the former Alms-houses at the top of the town and later in the estate cottages and picturesque semi-detached houses dispersed along Main Street.  The result is a streetscape which unfolds in an interesting and distinctive way as one passes through the town.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.7 for ACA Boundary)

Gowran derives much of its special architectural interest from a curving streetscape with a significant change in level from high ground at its eastern entry point to its lowest level where it crosses the river at the western end of town.  This combination of curving streetscape and change in levels brings a lively dynamic of movement and drama to the streetscape as the visitor proceeds from east to west or vice versa.  The influence of its topographical setting is enhanced by the four nodal points in the town which encourage the visitor to linger before moving on;  these points are:  (i) the entrance to Gowran Demesne, (ii) the medieval church of St. Mary’s and formal 18th century square with mature trees opposite (Fair Green), (iii) the interesting grouping of curved and corner buildings at the Kilkenny Road junction and (iv) the formal quality of the entry point at the western end of the town.

The streetscape is composed of mostly vernacular buildings principally two storeys in height, rendered and painted with classically proportioned window openings and wall to window ratio.  Timber sash windows, classical timber doors, external painted render, natural slate roofs and early timber shopfronts are significant details which contribute to the character of the area.  There are a small number of buildings which depart from this vernacular including the formal stone building beside the entrance to Gowran Demesne (the former Court House), Gowran Castle gate lodge, the Tudor Revival former Curate’s House, and several terraces of both single storey and two storey estate workers’ houses built by the local Big House owner.  The sinuous streetscape and interesting unfolding of buildings is framed within the rich agricultural setting of the County Kilkenny countryside.

An area separate to the main streetscape in both location and character is the grouping of ecclesiastical and educational buildings on the western fringe of the town to the north of the river’s flood plain.  The school, Catholic Church and presbytery are characterised by their relative isolation on the western edge of town and derive much interest from the sense of open parkland which characterises their setting.

The designation of the area as an ACA is further justified by the special historic interest of the town which retains a very representative collection of buildings spanning the centuries.  This includes the 13th century Church of St Mary, a classical courthouse, an urban vernacular streetscape dating to the 18th and 19th centuries, reflective of the prosperity of the area due to the richness of the surrounding agricultural landscape, and picturesque examples of estate village houses indicating the benevolent influence of the improving landlords of the 19th and early 20th centuries.

Development Management Requirements based on assessment of special character

  • GACA 1: Where roofs are being repaired/replaced natural stone slate only should be used.
  • GACA 2: The creation of visual clutter should be avoided when making proposals for street signage, advertising, street furniture etc.
  • GACA 3: New development should make use of good contemporary design and a strong emphasis should be placed on sensitive integration into the existing character of the area.
  • GACA 4: There is a significant overlap between the ACA and the historic town, therefore all groundworks within or proximate to archaeological monuments as identified in the RMP shall require archaeological assessments
  • GACA 5: Stone walls, especially those on Mill lane and Mill Road must be respected when assessing development proposals
  • GACA 6: All future development proximate to the Tower House on Mill Road must acknowledgment the building’s zone of visual influence. 


​​​​​​​ Inistioge ACA

Description and Historical Background

Inistioge may have originated as a Viking settlement as it is located at the lowest crossing point of the River Nore and we know that the Osraige defeated Olaf Cuaran, King of Dublin, at Inistioge in 964.  The area was granted to Thomas FitzAnthony in 1169 and he established the Augustinian Priory in 1206. The priors developed the settlement but Inistioge declined after the dissolution of the Monasteries in 1540, and in 1566 the Priory lands were granted to Sir Edmond Butler.

Inistioge was incorporated as a town by James 1st in 1608 and weekly markets on a Friday and an annual fair on December 13th were established. In 1649 the town was besieged and captured by the Cromwellians.  Much evidence of medieval Inistioge can still be seen today.

  • The vestibule of the Church of Ireland was part of the original priory and fragments from the cloister have been incorporated into the north and east wall of the Catholic Church. 
  • The Black Castle in the churchyard behind the Church of Ireland was part of the Augustinian Priory and is now the Tighe (Woodstock Estate) family mausoleum.
  • The motte of Thomas FitzAnthony’s first fortification is located behind the houses halfway up the hill from the Square and survives to a height of 10 metres.  The ruin of a three-storey fortified town house can be seen on the west side of the Square and between the Square and the river is another two-storey medieval structure.  The upper level is a later remodelling on the original base and we know this building was used as a courthouse during part of its history. 
  • St. Columbkille’s Holy Well, tucked away in the north-east of the village has an elaborate entranceway incorporating a number of 16th century carved stone panels which were probably salvaged from the priory.  There is mention of a town wall in the 1608 charter but knowledge of the line of the wall over most of its length has been lost, although Avril Thomas gives an indicative line of Inistioge Town Wall in Walled Towns of Ireland Volume 2. This line closely corresponds to the masonry wall found on the southern side of the village, located to the rear of the current houses which face onto the Square, and, also a wall to the west, visible from Poyntz Lane. There also appears to be remains incorporated into the boundary walls of the houses running south from the fortified houses of the square.

Inistioge prospered in the 18th and 19th centuries and its development was intertwined with that of the Woodstock Estate.  Woodstock was built by Francis Bindon in the late 1740’s for the Fownes family and although the House is remote from the village, the main approach to Woodstock, the River gate, lower avenue and lodge and the alms-houses on the Square all attest to the importance of the Estate in the development of the village.

The combination of the steep hill and the earlier medieval walled settlement pattern resulted in a dense concentration of buildings by the end of the 19th Century with a high proportion of fine two and three storey structures.

The relative density and elegance of much of this development gives Inistioge an urban quality which is unusual in such a small town and the concentration of public buildings set out informally round a sheltered space away from the River would be more typical of pre-renaissance Italy.

The Catholic Church was built in 1836.  The Church of Ireland Church incorporates sections of the mediaeval Augustinian abbey, with a belfry and clock donated by William Tighe, the local landlord, in 1876.  With his wife, Lady Louisa, he is more famous for the development of the 19th century Woodstock Gardens and Arboretum now restored and managed by Kilkenny County Council.  The influence of Woodstock estate is visible in the village today: the formal Square with Georgian house, the Tighe Memorial, the former Alms Houses, and the impressive Inistioge Bridge are all connected to Tighe family of Woodstock.

Inistioge Bridge required repair following extensive damage from floods on the River Nore in the mid-18th century. The repair works, undertaken by the Inland Navigation Corporation, resulted in an impressive, internationally influenced southern elevation works which included: granite Ionic pilasters, classical horizontal entablature with moulded cornice, with triangular cut waters also present. It is likely that the repair work which resulted in the Classical design of the southern facade of Inistioge Bridge were supplemented by the Tighe family, who owned Woodstock House and Gardens at the time, hence only the southern side was of such high international design.

Inistioge Bridge is part of a distinct group of bridges “Kilkenny Group”: Ruddock commented on the similarity between Inistioge Bridge and it and Mylne’s 18th River Thames Blackfriars Bridge when it described it as being directly derived from Mylne’s Blackfriars Bridge design (See Section 9.3.8 Bridges).

Inistioge is identified as a National Monument due to its rich archaeological heritage and is protected under Section 12 of the National Monuments (Amendment) Act, 1994. Buildings within the village are made of shale, sandstone and conglomerate, while granite is used in the more important buildings.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.8 for ACA Boundary)

Inistioge is a settlement which has prospered down through the ages. Located on the river, once a major thoroughfare and source of fresh water and sheltered by hills into which it nestles, its topography is a key contributor to its success as a settlement and to the sense of place which it retains to this day.  The unique character of Inistioge is formed by its siting as a compact urban settlement in a panoramic landscape, allowing Inistioge to be viewed as an entity from the surrounding hills.  The rectilinear street pattern of the village and the numerous sharp turns provide shelter from the elements within the settlement but also frame beautiful and unexpected views out to the surrounding landscape.

The urban quality of Inistioge is founded in part on a remarkable hierarchy of public open space.  The ready perception of the surrounding landscape, the open but gentle river front and bridge of international influence, the formal urban streetscape round the square, the effective civic core at the bottom of the hill sheltered and surrounded by public buildings, churches, restaurants and public houses, the more informal townscape of the rising streets with miniature gardens and picturesque porches.  The incidence of such a variety of urban space, contained so neatly within a small settlement is rare indeed, almost as if a city in miniature had evolved on the historic crossing of the River Nore. The mix of medieval and Georgian architecture enlivens the setting of this small rural urban area, which is markedly different from similar sized medieval settlements, which would have developed organically and in an informal way. 

ACA Development Management Requirements based on assessment of special character

See policies in Section 9.3.3 relating to all ACAs

  • IACA 1: The roofscape of Inistioge is part of its special character.  Original elements and profiles should be retained where possible and repaired and reused rather than replaced.
  • IACA 2: To seek the retention of materials and finishes, massing, height, alignment, orientation and window proportions that reflect the existing character of the area
  • IACA 3: To seek the protection of the hierarchy of public open spaces within Inistioge.
  • IACA 4: To seek the protection of the existing landscaping and features within the public realm that contribute to the character of the town
  • IACA 5: To maintain front garden walls and railings.  Proposals to convert front gardens for use as off-street parking will not be looked on favourably.
  • IACA 6: To ensure that all works on, or proximate to the 18th century Inistioge Bridge acknowledges the importance of the structure, its regional identity and international influence, while ensuring the setting is respected. 
  • IACA 7: To protect stone walls on the approach roads to the village, and to ensure they are retained and conserved in line with recognised conservation practices, and are not unduly impacted on by development.
  • IACA 8: To protect historic cobbles and kerbing in the ACA
  • IACA 9: Vistas of the village from L-4216-6, between High Street and Woodstock entrance shall not be negatively impacted on by any future development, see Section 9.X Views.  


​​​​​​​ Johnstown ACA

Description and Historical Background

Johnstown is so-called from John Hely of Foulkscourt who laid the first foundations of the town in about 1770.  Previous to this date there was not even a small village here and previous to the building of the town the site was known as Hely’s crossroads (Carrigan II, 299-300).  Johnstown or Baile Sheáin and traditionally Foulkscourt or Cúirt an Phúca, is characterised by four roads converging on a formally laid out square at the cross-roads. The town has changed little since it was mapped in the first half of the 19th century by the Ordnance Survey.  This 1st edition OS map shows such landmarks as the Church of Ireland Church, the Roman Catholic Church, the formally laid out square, and a grouping of several country houses and their grounds occupying the fields on the southern approach to the town.  By the turn of the century when the second edition OS map was published, a smithy and two schools had been added to the town’s infrastructure and the pattern of development that had begun in the late eighteenth/early nineteenth centuries had been consolidated.  The 25” OS map dating to the early part of the twentieth century shows the addition of a courthouse, constabulary barracks and hotel to the square, and a post office, dispensary and a further smithy to the town.  The town was known for its health-giving spa waters during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, Ballyspellan spa well having been visited by the famous Dean Swift in 1728.

The extremities of the town as they existed on the 2nd edition Ordnance Survey map have been chosen as the boundaries for the ACA and include the grounds of Ellen Ville and Melrose House forming the southern entrance to the town and the Church of Ireland Church which formed the boundary to the eastern approach.  Canal Road which forms the western approach has been included as far as the junction with the Rathdowney Road and the boundary on the northern approach route to the town, Chapel Street, has been taken as the point at which development had reached by the time the 2nd edition OS map was published.  Along Church Street (approach from Kilkenny) the ACA boundary extends as far as St. Mary’s Church and graveyard.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.9 for ACA Boundary)

The town is characterised by the essentially two-storey, late eighteenth-century principally residential structures which line the four roads converging on the formally laid out octagonal square.  The houses on the square are for the most part in the classical vernacular style, their character imbued by their rendered and painted facades with simple classical window and door proportions which at one time would all have been enhanced by timber sash windows and solid timber doors.  The roofs are simple pitched roofs often gable-ended but sometimes hipped, and traditionally covered with natural slate.  The approach from the south, Urlingford Road, is characterised by open fields which form the semi-formalised grounds of a number of middle-sized classical country houses, set well back from the road and symbolising the level of prosperity derived from the rich agricultural hinterland.  The approach from the east, Church Street, is dominated by the presence of the Church of Ireland Church, a Board of First Fruits design set in its own grounds back from the road and on a slightly raised piece of ground.  The views from the Square to this Church make an important contribution to the character of the town.  The approach route from the west, Canal Road, is much less formal and retains more modest vernacular buildings associated with less well-off occupants.  The commercial end of the town lines the principal thoroughfare which is the route to the north of the square, and as its name, Chapel Street, suggests, forms the setting for the impressively sited and scaled Roman Catholic Church on its east side, set well back from the street and also on higher ground.  Chapel Street is characterised by more two-storey rendered structures, often with a commercial element in the form of a shopfront at ground floor and often with a carriage arch leading to stable yards and other ancillary buildings to the rear.

ACA Development Management Requirements  based on assessment of special character

See policies in Section 9.3.3 relating to all ACAs

  • JACA 1:  The roofscape of Johnstown is part of its integral special character.  Original elements and profiles should be retained where possible and repaired and reused rather than replaced. Removal or alteration of roofing materials or features of the roofscape requires planning permission.
  • JACA 2: To retain, restore and repair historic items of street furniture and paving and features within such as wrought iron gates within this Architectural Conservation Area.
  • JACA 3: To retain Carriage arch openings around the square in the event of any development proposals.
  • JACA 4: New development should be appropriate in form and use to its corner, infill or backland location.  Established views to local landmarks should be maintained. The view from the Square towards the Church of Ireland church on Church Street is of significance in Johnstown.
  • JACA 5: To protect the masonry wall connected to the former Foulkscourt House, along the road R435.


​​​​​​​ Kells ACA

Description and Historical Background

The village of Kells has developed adjacent to the floodplain of the King’s River, on its south side. The surrounding landscape is undulating, with a mix of tillage and grazing lands.  Kells village is bounded to the north and west by the Kings River and to the east by the twelfth-century Augustinian Priory.

Kells, known as Ceanannus in its original Irish form, was the site of the 12th century Priory and associated town founded by Strongbow’s seneschal of Leinster, Geoffrey FitzRobert de Monte Marisco. The Priory was built in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary for the Canons Regular of Saint Augustine. Four monks were brought from Bodmin in Cornwall to establish and run the new monastery, which was richly endowed, receiving tithes from many parishes in the neighbourhood. When the Priory was founded in c.1192, most of the town activity was centred on it. FitzRobert’s also constructed a castle on a small island between the site of the current town and the Kings River. The is also the site of the motte and bailey. With the Dissolution of the monasteries in 1540, and Cromwell’s confiscation of the Priory in the mid-17th century the site declined and the village core was relocated further west.

Kells village today stands as a predominantly mid- to late nineteenth-century village clustered around a crossroads south of Kings Bridge and west of Kells Priory. The village enjoyed a boom-time during this period with the building of the new Hutchinson Mill and the construction of the fine Roman Catholic church, north of the village, and the impressive Church of Ireland church and rectory to the south-east. The heart of the industrial area of Kells village is located along the Kings River. The earliest mill was established on the site of Mullin’s Mill in the late twelfth century. The mills are landmark buildings and significant features located on the outskirts of the village. They contribute significantly and positively to the landscape and more particularly to the riverscape. Sixteen mills were once operational along the Kings River between the village of Callan and Ennisnag, indicating the economic and social importance of the milling industry to this region of County Kilkenny.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.10 for ACA Boundary)

The impressive limestone bridge over the King’s River is a two-phase bridge, the western and earlier side of the bridge dates from the 17th century, and consists of 8 round-headed arches with a further flood arch to the south. The bridge was widened, to the east, in the 18th century, with three large elliptical-headed arches overlapping the central arches of the earlier bridge, while the two outer arches are flush with the original arches.

Moving from the bridge southwards, a small group of two storey buildings and the 19th century Catholic Church of Saint Michael the Archangel are visible on the right side of the street, these buildings conceal the site of the early motte and bailey constructed by Geoffrey FitzRoberts in the 12th century. This area is separated from the main village core by a small stream, while the absence of development between it and the village core also heightens a strong sense of enclosure here.

The village core comprises predominantly of nineteenth and early twentieth-century terraces of two-storey rendered structures with pitched slate roofs. The mixed-use character of the village is an interesting combination of residential, commercial and social use. In recent years, there have been some residential housing schemes developed within this basic frame provided by the crossroads, consisting of infill development and backland development, close to the village core.

Development Management Requirements:

  • KACA 1: Established views to local landmarks shall be maintained, while the zone of visual influence connected with Kells Priory shall be acknowledged when assessing development proposals. 
  • KACA 2: To ensure that all works on, or proximate to the early Kells Bridge acknowledged the importance of the structure, its regional identity and influence, while ensuring the setting is also respected. 
  • KACA 3: To protect stone walls on the approach roads to the village, while ensuring they are retained and conserved according to recognised conservation practices, and are not unduly impacted on by development.


​​​​​​​ Piltown ACA

Description and Historical Background

Piltown is located in the southwest of County Kilkenny, in the valley of the River Suir. Piltown is ringed by uplands, with Slievenamon to the northwest, an outlier of Slievenamon to the north and the Comeragh Mountains to the southwest. The River Pil, a tributary of the River Suir, runs through the centre of the town.

The name Piltown derives from an Anglicisation of the Irish name, Muilcann Bhaile an Phoill, meaning ‘Mill of the Town of the Hollow’. One of the earliest references to Bhaile an Phoill was in the Psalter of Cashel of a battle there in the mid-15th century, which the Earl of Desmond defeated Mac Richard Butler.

The development of Piltown was largely linked to the development of the Bessborough Estate (now Kildalton college), which was designed by Francis Bindon and built in 1745.  Piltown has many examples of 18th and 19th century buildings and structures, including Anthony’s Inn, the Garda Station, Belline House and Ponsonby’s Tower.  Piltown was established as an important location in transport through the use of Anthony’s Inn as a staging post for the famous 19th century Bianconi’s Stagecoach line.  It also had access to the waterway of the River Suir and barges transported the goods from the Creamery and mill downriver.

The pre-1940 development of Piltown took place almost entirely along the Main Street. In more recent years development has taken place on the periphery of the town.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.11 for ACA Boundary)

As is typical in a village context, there is a fairly low-density development along Main Street and there are several substantial gaps between the short terraces of dwellings which allow views into the agricultural lands which come right up to the street.  These gaps, in tandem with the gentle slope up from east to west means that the sides of buildings along Main Street are often as prominent as their fronts. These gaps in the streetscape add to the special character of Piltown and provide a strong visual connection to the surrounding landscape.

The town is bisected by the River Pil, and is quite spread out, containing a number of attractive vernacular buildings. The mix of these vernacular buildings combined with a number of picturesque buildings of unique design and detail, including the bow-fronted Anthony’s Inn, contribute to Piltown’s character.

One of the styles recurring in the town is the dormer style dwelling.  The unity and symmetry of these buildings, of which some are enhanced by a simple porch, make them extremely attractive. These dwellings are typically three bay and gable ended with wide based gables on the front with pitched roofs and are single, storey and a half or two storeys. This diversity does not disrupt the harmony of the townscape because of the consistency in the other elements. The roofs were traditionally of natural slate and are high pitched, single span with end chimney stacks. The variety of rooflines convey a feeling of diversity, but unity is provided by their common domestic scale and common characteristics.

Front boundary walls, railings and front gates are also distinctive features in Piltown.  These boundaries vary from the simple to the ornate, but are most successful when simple. One of the most effective is a low plastered wall and rounded coping.

Development Management Requirements based on assessment of special character

  • PACA 1: The design of any development in the ACA, including any changes of use of an existing building, should not negatively impact and/or detract from the character and appearance of the Architectural Conservation Area as a whole.  This includes ensuring the continuation of existing building lines within the centre of the town.
  • PACA 2: The Council will recognise the importance of the traditional elements of rough-cast rendering, brick and limestone walls, natural slate, vertical timbers sash windows, traditional chimney stacks, doors with fanlight, all which are integral to Piltown’s character. They reflect indigenous craftsmanship and resources. They often reflect the simplicity and modest scale used in the execution of finishes to buildings. Their importance should not be underestimated in their contribution to the make-up and aesthetic appearance of an ACA. The council will support the retention, repair and re-use of such materials.
  • PACA 3: The removal of street side boundaries to allow for the front to be used for parking detracts from the streetscape.  The sense of order and enclosure is affected, and the parking of cars obscures the buildings and their amenity.  The removal of such low street walls should be avoided.
  • PACA 4: The Council will ensure that new development proposed for the back lands and green areas within the village respect the character of the ACA by ensuring appropriate scale, composition and character, in size, scale and materials on new development.


​​​​​​​ Stoneyford ACA

Description and Historical Background

Stoneyford, known in Irish as At Stúin, meaning the Ford of the Stang, is situated approximately 11 kilometres south of Kilkenny City.  The village is set within a saucer like depression in the landscape. Two small streams run through the village – one to the west and the second to the north.  Both streams join to the north of the village and continue northwards as a tributary to the Kings River, which is less than 500 metres from the village.

Little is known about the origins of the settlement, but it may be linked to construction, in 1810, of the nearby Merino Woollen Mills on the Kings River, as many of the inhabitants of the village worked there. By the 19th century, the village had a Fever Hospital, a Dispensary, a Petty Sessions Court, a Police Barracks, a school house, Infants School, a Bank and Roman Catholic Church and graveyard.

Statement of Character (See Figure 9.12 for ACA Boundary)

The village is laid out in a linear fashion along a wide Main Street. A notable feature of the village’s plan is the uniformity of the plot pattern, with most of the traditional plots running to the same depth, with the notable exception of the traditionally more important Church. This would suggest that the village was laid out or planned at one particular point in time, as opposed to a slow or gradual evolution over a few hundred years.

A broad street with continuous building line runs along much of the street. Traditionally, a departure from standard or existing building lines was reserved for important civic and religious buildings and this is evident in Stoneyford in the siting of the Roman Catholic Church. It is set-back significantly from the street and in doing so, has positioned the Church on a more elevated portion of the site, thus enhancing its profile in the streetscape of the village.

There is good variation in building heights in the village with single and two storeys predominating with some three storeys also evident. Natural slate, timber sash windows in places, and small squat chimney stacks are evidence of early buildings on the main street, while new developments have taken place in the back lands, south of the Main Street, and to the north side of the Main Street on the southern extremity of the village. There are many notable roadside masonry walls, especially those on the R713, approaching the village from the south, which make a positive impression on character of the area.

Development Management Requirements based on assessment of special character

  • SACA 1: The design of any development in Architectural Conservation Areas, including any changes of use of existing buildings, should preserve and/or enhance the character and appearance of the Architectural Conservation Area as a whole. This includes ensuring the continuation of existing building lines within the centre of the village.
  • SACA 2: The Council will ensure that new development of back lands and green areas within the village respect the character of the ACA, by ensuring appropriate scale, composition and character, in size, scale and materials on new development.


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