Bray Head

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by John Power and Jared Egan of 6th class
One of the most famous landmarks in our area is Bray Head. With the Big and Little Sugarloaf it forms a chain of quartzite mountains on the north-east coast of our county. Today you can find people walking along its cliff walk , playing golf at its base or climbing to the Cross at its summit. Some farmers even earn a living by cultivating the fields that circle it. If you took the time to walk up on 'the Head' you would soon learn that people have been using it for centuries.


On the Greystones side of Bray Head lies the very old site of Rathdown. Flint tools have been found here from the Stone age or early Bronze Age as well as a stone quern for grinding cereals.


If you visit the site of Rathdown you can see the remains of the rath which is supposed to have been built by the early Irish settlers. In the Annals of the Four Masters it is said that Ireland was divided between two brothers with one of them, Erimon, building his fort at Rath Oinn , Rathdown.


A well on the Bray side of Bray Head was supposed to have been blessed by St. Patrick.


The land from Dalkey to Bray was known as ' the lands of the sons of Turchill'. He was a Dublin Viking merchant. A lot of placenames in this area are Viking , one of them being WINDGATES which is on the road from Bray to Greystones. It means 'a road' (gata) which might have linked the Vikings in Dublin with their settlements along the Wicklow coast.


There is a church ruins in Rathdown called St. Crispin's Church. Archaeologists believe that there was an earlier church on this site. Up on the north slope lies a little broken down church called Raheenaclig. The name means ' the little church of the bell'. It was given to the religious priests called the Augustinians, in the middle ages by the Archbolds who owned the land then.


At the time of the Norman invasion, the local Irish chieftain was Domnall Mac Giolla Mo- Cholmog.He lived in the rath at Rathdown but his descendant sold the land to a Norman called Nigel le Brun. The castle was supposed to have been built over the rath by the Normans in the 12 th. century. In 1430 the name for Bray Head was 'Caput de Bree' in letters to the King in England.


This area was taken over by Richard FitzGerald, the son of the Earl of Kildare in 1530.


When Cromwell invaded Ireland in 1649 he camped in a field at the base of Bray Head on his way south from the seige of Drogheda.


The census for the year 1861 showed that there was a townland on Bray Head called Ballynamuddagh. There were10 buildings with 61 people in an area of 470 acres.However the numbers had dropped by 17 since 1841 so maybe the famine was hitting this hamlet.


On July 10th. 1854 the railway line from Dublin to Bray was opened but the line to Wicklow was not opened until 13th. October 1855 because of problems building the line around Bray Head. The first important job was to cross a rAvine by an enormous embankment. The line then passed under a vertical cliff and then over a gap in the cliff called ' the Ram's Scalp'. Next came the first of three tunnels called ' the No. 1 or Brabazon Tunnel, the Brandy Hole Tunnel and the Cable Rock Tunnel. Blasting powder had to be used. Rock falls were a danger to the workers and a derailment in 1865 left two people dead and many injured.


The Earl of Neath , who owned Bray Head at the end of the 19th century built a carriage path around the top of the mountain from which to show important visitors the beautiful scenery.


Along the cliff walk you come to the remains of a cottage. The family who lived here would collect a toll (money) for Lord Meath as he owned the whole mountain.


Near the top of the Head is a field where the local R.I.C. used to practice their shooting.


Around the time of the First World War a field on Bray Head was used for a short time to house the soldiers. People called this the ' white city' because there were so many white tents to be seen.


During the Second World War Ireland was neutral but it had an army and a back up one like the F.C.A. today. It was known as the Local Defence Force (L.D.F. ) and they had a look-out post at the edge of the cliff walk to keep a lookout for war ships.


This was built in 1950 to celebrate the Holy Year. The materials for making the cross were taken up the mountain along the carriage way built by the Earl of Meath.


In the 1950's lots of tourists came to Bray on holidays. A cable car was built like that at ski resorts to bring visitors up part of Bray Head.


A builder has asked Bray Urban District Council for permission to build houses on some fields at the bottom of the 'Head'. Many local people think this will destroy the nature and history of Bray Head.
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