Built c1850, Portarlington Railway Station is a fine example of a mid-century station. It was designed by Sancton Wood (1814 – 86) architect to the Great Southern and Western Railway Company (GSWR). It retains its original cast-iron footbridge between the platforms and a later (c1890) cast iron pillar post box manufactured by A Handyside, Derby and London. Wood designed most of the stations between Monasterevin and Limerick.



In 1885 the Prince and Princess of Wales paused briefly at the station on their way from the south to Dublin. The station was handsomely decorated with evergreens, flags and suitable mottoes such as “Come back to Erin” and “A place in thy memory”. The band of the 4th Leinster Regiment (Queen’s County Militia) played the national anthem and “God bless the Prince of Wales”. A portion of the platform, at the point where the Royal carriage stopped, was covered with red cloth but the Royal party did not alight. The Earl of Portarlington greeted their Royal Highnesses on behalf of the large crowd, and the Princess of Wales was presented with a bouquet and some Mountmellick work. After a very short time, during which the Royal couple shook hands with some gentlemen nearby and conversed with Lord Portarlington, the train departed amidst loud cheers and the waving of handkerchiefs.


The family at Emo Court usually travelled by train from and to Dublin, and travelled by boat and train from Kingstown (Dun Laoghaire) to London.


Many houses in Portarlington are of architectural interest, dating from the 18th century with the heritage of a Huguenot settlement. The Milestone in Main St Portarlington is one of a pair (c1800), giving distances to Dublin and Monasterevin, the other to Mountmellick.  The Market House in Portarlington, built around 1740, was much altered around 1990. There are arcades on all four sides.


The Spire at Carrick Hill near the railway station in Portarlington is a “dramatic landscape folly” – a short circular tower with a tall conical roof, visible above the surrounding trees for many miles around. Its origins are uncertain but it is most likely that it is the remnants of an old windmill dating from the early to mid 18th century. It may have been built by Viscount Carlow.


St Paul’s Church in Portarlington was built in 1851, to replace the 1696 Huguenot church, and it possibly contains fabric from that church. The interior contains attractive oak-panelled box pews, and a range of commemorative wall monuments. In 1883 the 3rd Earl of Portarlington donated a plot of ground beside the church and expressed the hope that trees would flourish once again at the Square of Portarlington.


The Grattan Aqueduct on the canal near Vicarstown is made of limestone ashlar and carries the canal over the Glasha river. A plaque names Richard Evans as engineer of the construction in 1790.


William Caldbeck, the architect who in 1860 was commissioned by the Earl of Portarlington to finish the rotunda, the drawing room and the library at Emo Court, also designed the National Bank in Mountmellick (c1862). According to his Account Book in the National Architectural Archives, he designed many banks around the country for the National Bank. He also worked on the demesne church of St John the Baptist at Ballyfin.





Ballyfin House, built in the mid-1820s for the Coote family, was probably begun by the architect

Dominic Madden who was followed by William and Vitruvius Morrison. In 1855, Richard Turner, the designer of the glasshouses at the National Botanic Gardens in Dublin and of the Palm House at Kew Gardens in London, added the finely-wrought iron curvilinear conservatory. Turner had recently designed the conservatory at nearby Rath House, and also the ‘Golden Gates’ in the gardens at Emo Court where his inscription can be seen.


St Paul’s Church Emo was designed by JS Butler around 1870. The land for the church had been donated by the Earl of Portarlington whose wife Aline, a Roman Catholic, died in 1874 and was buried there. In the church there is a very beautiful Italianate tomb to her carved by Sir Joseph Edgar Boehm who was the Sculptor to Queen Victoria.


Shaen House, built c1810 and not far from Emo Court, was designed by the well-known Dublin architect William Deane Butler for the Kemmis family. William Caldbeck, who completed the building of Emo Court, was a pupil of Butler.  Shaen House reveals the influence of the Greek Revival in its Grecian Ionic porch. By contrast, the gateway, built 30 years later, is almost mediaeval and is an elaborately castellated structure. The two families at Emo Court and Shaen House were friendly, and exchanged regular visits.




             Portico, Shaen                                                          Gateway, Shaen