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Bray town – a very modern creation

Reporter David Medcalf met conservation archaeologist Jason Bolton to learn how Bray, now the biggest town by far in County Wicklow, was a backwater for centuries and only kicked into life out of fear of Napoleon Bonaparte

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19th century church at junction of Seapoint Road and Main Street, now known as Cornerstone Church at the Well, which may stand on the site of an early wooden church called the 'Dearteach' in several Anglo-Norman documents.

19th century church at junction of Seapoint Road and Main Street, now known as Cornerstone Church at the Well, which may stand on the site of an early wooden church called the 'Dearteach' in several Anglo-Norman documents.

Archaeologist Jason Bolton. Photo: David Medcalf

Archaeologist Jason Bolton. Photo: David Medcalf

Two 17th-century graveslabs (Richard Whichil ob. 1697, Robert Burfield ob. 1700) beside the Cornerstone Church at the Well.

Two 17th-century graveslabs (Richard Whichil ob. 1697, Robert Burfield ob. 1700) beside the Cornerstone Church at the Well.

Former Martello tower, built 1804-5, now a private residence.

Former Martello tower, built 1804-5, now a private residence.

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19th century church at junction of Seapoint Road and Main Street, now known as Cornerstone Church at the Well, which may stand on the site of an early wooden church called the 'Dearteach' in several Anglo-Norman documents.

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Ask the expert. No better man to quiz on the history of ancient Bray than Jason Bolt, conservation archaeologist. Just one problem, though – Bray does not actually have much to boast of in the way of ancient history. The man who makes his living from looking after old structures reports little or nothing to attract his professional attention to Bray, greatly though he esteems the place. The town we now love was for many centuries a blank space on the map.

Standing at the modern-day harbour in Bray, Jason looks north across a choppy sea and points to Dalkey Island. His well-informed assertion is that, if you want to learn about Ireland in the time of the Romans, then Dalkey Island is a good place to start, certainly not Bray. Dalkey Island? It is no more than a few rocky windswept acres, with a population nowadays comprising a handful of goats.


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