Conolly's Folly

Coordinates: 53°22′08″N 6°33′38″W / 53.3690°N 6.5605°W / 53.3690; -6.5605
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The Conolly Folly
Baois Uí Chongaile
Conolly's Folly.jpg
Conolly's Folly as of May 2016
53°22′08″N 6°33′38″W / 53.3690°N 6.5605°W / 53.3690; -6.5605
LocationBarrogstown West, Celbridge, County Kildare, Ireland
DesignerRichard Cassels
TypeArch structure with Obelisk
Height42 m (138 ft)
Completion date1740[1]
Dedicated toWilliam Conolly
DesignationNational monument (ref 681)[2]

The Conolly Folly (Irish: Baois Uí Chongaile), a.k.a. The Obelisk, is an obelisk structure located between Celbridge, Leixlip and Maynooth in County Kildare, Ireland. It was built in the mid-18th century by the Conolly family, then owners of the Castletown Estate. It was restored in the mid-20th century by the Irish Georgian Society, and is now a national monument in state care.


The folly was built just outside Castletown Estate (containing Castletown House), which contains two follies, both commissioned by Katherine Conolly, the philanthropic widow of Speaker William Conolly. It was built at a cost of £400 to provide employment for the poor of Celbridge when the famine of 1740–41 was at its worst. The obelisk was built in 1740 after a particularly severe winter. As a folly, it could be seen from the back of Castletown some 4 kilometres (2.5 miles) away and it is built exactly perpendicular to the centre of the house. It was intended to mark the rear entrance gateway to Castletown house in conjunction with an avenue leading to the house.[citation needed]

The folly was built on land that was near to, but not on, the Conolly estate. It therefore belonged to neighbouring Carton, the home of the Fitzgerald family, Dukes of Leinster.[citation needed]

Designed by Richard Castle,[3] it is 42 metres (140 feet) high and is composed of several arches, adorned by stone pineapples and eagles, topped by a massive obelisk pillar.

It was restored between 1962 and 1965 by the Irish Georgian Society (IGS),[4] in what was the society's first major restoration project.[4] The organisation now uses an image of the folly on its emblem.[5] The folly, on its 5 acres of woodland, was acquired by the IGS in 1968 thanks to American donor Rose Saul Zalles.[6] The grave of the co-founder of the society, Mariga Guinness (1932–1989), is located at the folly.[7]

The site, which is designated as a "national monument in state ownership",[2] is now in the care of the Office of Public Works (OPW). The OPW has erected modern fencing to protect the structure by preventing direct public access.[8]

Tea towel of the Conolly Folly


The name Conolly is used, rather than the more common spelling Connolly, as it was the spelling used by William Conolly and by all his descendants. It derived from the Irish 'Ui Conghaile'.[9][10]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nolan W.; McGrath T., eds. (2006). Kildare : history and society. Kildare History and Society. pp. 327–348. ISBN 978-0-906602-57-7.
  2. ^ a b "National Monuments in State Care: Ownership & Guardianship - Kildare" (PDF). National Monuments Service. 4 March 2009. Retrieved 10 May 2022. Connolly Folly Folly/Obelisk [..] Ownership [..] 681
  3. ^ James Kelly, ed. (2018). The Cambridge History of Ireland: Volume 3, 1730–1880. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9781107115200. Richard Castle [..] designed arresting structures for his clients' demesnes, most notably the vast Conolly folly built by Katherine Conolly as a relief work during the famine year of 1741
  4. ^ a b "The Irish Georgian Society and Castletown". 22 April 2020. Retrieved 10 May 2022. the first active conservation project for the Society [..] was the 1962-5 restoration of the Conolly Folly
  5. ^ "Conolly's Folly, Celbridge, County Kildare". Retrieved 10 May 2022. The Obelisk was restored in 1965 by The Irish Georgian Society who uses it as their emblem
  6. ^ "Obituary". Washington Post. 17 May 1987. Mrs. Zalles, who often traveled to Ireland, established the Celtic Cultural Program at Georgetown University in 1981, and donated a 6,000-volume collection on Celtic history. She also was a member of the Georgian Society, an organization concerned with the restoration of Irish manor houses and castles.
  7. ^ "Guinness, Mariga". Dictionary of Irish Biography. Retrieved 10 May 2022. She was buried at the site of her first restoration triumph, the Conolly Folly, near Castletown House
  8. ^ "Kildare TD Asks Minister To 'Free' Conolly's Folly". Kildare Nationalist. 11 May 2021. Retrieved 10 May 2022.
  9. ^ "William Conolly". Dictionary of National Biography. Archived from the original on 30 September 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2007.
  10. ^ "The Conolly Papers]". Public Record Office of Northern Ireland. Archived from the original on 27 September 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2007.

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