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It runs through Glen Of The Downs, Delgany, Charlesland and on to the sea, but what do we really know about this ancient little river…?

Well, here at GG, despite having grown up alongside it, feck all, we have to admit.

Which is why we were excited agus delighted when reader Brian Gurrin put together a potted history of Three Trouts River

Take it away, young Brian…

Most locals will know Three Trouts River; the small stream which flows southwards through the Glen of the Downs, then eastwards, south of Delgany, under the road bridge at Three Trouts Bridge, and under the Farrankelly Road, just north of Charlesland and Seabourne Apartments. The stream is shallow, narrow, and hardly noticeable. But more than 400 years ago it briefly marked the boundary between County Dublin and the original County Wicklow.

Although only about two metres wide, the River is the boundary between the barony of Newcastle and the barony of Rathdown, a large barony stretching from Donnybrook to Three Trout’s River. In the sixteenth century, before County Wicklow was created, the entire area, including the Wicklow Mountains, was in County Dublin. Back then Dublin stretched as far south as Arklow, which was then in County Carlow (Carlow had a sea boundary at that time). However, although in County Dublin, the area was controlled by the O’Byrnes, and the government had little control over it.

Before 1885 all counties, regardless of size, elected 2 MPs to parliament. Back then parliament did not sit regularly; parliaments were only called periodically, usually when the sitting monarch needed money. When a parliament was called, elections were held, MPs elected, and the new parliament was expected to approve taxes for the monarch, and pass a few other laws – then the parliament would usually be closed down. By the end of the sixteenth century parliaments might be called once a decade, or even less frequently. However, after the Reformation of the Church most of Ireland remained loyal to Rome, so parliaments tended to become embroiled by religious wrangles, and cause problems for the government.

In the late 1570s Queen Elizabeth was planning to call a parliament. In an effort to avoid a Catholic-dominated parliament emerging, the government created two new counties (in 1579) – County Wicklow and County Ferns. County Ferns was tiny; it was created out of small parts of north Wexford and eastern Carlow, and included the towns of Ferns and Arklow. County Wicklow ran from Three Trout’s River in the north, to near Arklow in the south, and encompassed all of the O’Byrne country, including the Wicklow Mountains. A few years later (1585) an election was held, and the two counties returned 4 MPs – all government supporters. The MPs for County Wicklow were Sir Henry Harrington and Edward Brabazon.

However, since County Wicklow essentially covered territory which was predominantly populated by Gaelic Irish, and contained no large Protestant settlements (the principal Protestant settlements in the area were around Bray, Delgany and Powerscourt, all of which are north of Three Trouts River, and so remained in south County Dublin) there were no trustworthy supporters to make the county function effectively. So, shortly after the election the two new counties were disbanded, and the old boundaries of counties Dublin, Carlow and Wexford restored. The new counties of Wicklow and Ferns only lasted about 7 years, but never really functioned, except for the purpose of electing the 4 MPs to the parliament. But for those 7 years tiny Three Trout’s River was the county boundary between Wicklow and Dublin. So when you travel along Farrankelly Road and pass over Three Trouts River or along Kilcoole Road and cross Three Trouts Bridge you are crossing from one county into another, based on the old 1579-1585/6 boundary.

Following the collapse of the two counties the area was restored to County Dublin where it remained until 1606, when a new (second) County Wicklow was created, with the borders that we know today (with some minor modifications). This time, however, it was recognised that the new county needed substantial Protestant settlements to function, so the new northern boundary of County Wicklow was plotted along the Dargle River, thereby transferring Bray, Powerscourt, Delgany and the Greystones area (Greystones town did not exist at that stage) into the new County Wicklow. County Ferns, of course, was never recreated.

The map shows the two counties; with Three Trouts River named as Delgne flue (Delgany River).

Find out more about your local history here, here, here, and here. And here. Oh, and here.


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  1. Brian O’Byrne says:

    There was a hotel apparently. Near the three trouts bridge almost a hundred years ago near where the house was recently demolished apparently does anyone have info.

  2. Martin says:

    Interesting history. It appears that the Three Trouts River also currently marks the southernmost boundary of the Dublin Metropolitan Area as defined in the Rergional Planning Guidelines for Greater Dublin.