From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
LEIXLIP, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of NORTH SALT, county of KILDARE, and province of LEINSTER, 12 miles (N. N. E.) from Naas, and 8 (W.) from Dublin: containing 1624 inhabitants, of which number, 1159 are in the town. This place was included in the grant originally made to Adam Fitz Hereford, one of the earliest of the English adventurers, who is said to have built the castle, which is situated on an eminence overlooking the river Liffey, and according to tradition was the occasional residence of John, Earl of Morton, while governor of Ireland in the reign of his father, Henry II. It was afterwards granted to the abbey of St. Thomas' court, Dublin; and by an inquisition in 1604 it appears that Thomas Cottrel, the last abbot of that house, was seized of the manor of Leixlip and the right of a flagon of ale out of every brewing in the town.
The castle and manor were subsequently purchased by the Rt. Hon. Thomas Conolly, Speaker of the Irish House of Commons, and are now the property of Colonel Conolly, of Castletown. This venerable mansion was the favourite retreat of several of the viceroys, of whom Lord Townsend usually spent the summer here; it is at present the residence of the Hon. George Cavendish, by whom it has been modernised and greatly improved. The other seats are Rye Vale, the residence of Dan. P. Ryan, Esq.; Leixlip House, of John D. Nesbitt, Esq.; and Music Hall, of Captain Hackett, R. N. The town is situated near the confluence of the Rye Water with the river Liffey, over which is an ancient stone bridge of three arches, and on the mail coach road from Dublin to Galway.
It consists only of one street; the houses are irregularly built, and with the exception of a few of handsome appearance, have generally an aspect of negligence and decay; the inhabitants are amply supplied with water from springs. The woollen manufacture is still carried on, though at present on a very limited scale, employing only six persons.
On the banks of the Liffey are rolling-mills for the manufacture of bar and sheet iron; and near them is a flour-mill; a mill race 40 feet wide has been constructed in the castle demesne, for the purpose of turning another mill, or for applying water power to some manufactory. On the Rye Water is the Rye Vale distillery, which produces more than 20,000 gallons of whiskey annually. The Royal canal approaches within half a mile of the town, and is carried over the river Liffey by an aqueduct nearly 100 feet high, affording facility of water carriage to Dublin. The market is on Saturday, and fairs are held annually on May 4th and Oct. 9th. There is a constabulary police station in the town.
The parish comprises 7974 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; a considerable portion of the land is in pasture for fattening stock for the Dublin, Liverpool, and Bristol markets, and the remainder is under tillage. The soil is good, and the system of agriculture slowly but progressively improving; there is neither waste land nor bog, and, from the consequent scarcity of fuel, the peasantry are dependent on such precarious supplies as they can find in the roads and hedges. Limestone is very abundant, and is quarried to a considerable extent, for building, and also for burning into lime for manure. The country around, though deficient in those striking features of romantic grandeur which distinguish the neighbouring county of Wicklow, concentrates much that is pleasing and picturesque in landscape. The surface is finely undulating and richly diversified with wood and water, and the view embraces the town with its ancient bridge, numerous elegant seats with highly cultivated demesnes, ancient and picturesque ruins, distant mountains, and a variety of other interesting features of rural scenery.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Dublin, united by act of council, prior to 1662, to the vicarages of Esker and Lucan, the curacies of Confoy and Stacumnie, and the denominations of Aldergh, Westmorestown and St. Catherine's, and in the patronage of the Archbishop. The tithes for the whole union amount to £600; the glebe-house was built by a loan of £562 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1822; the glebe comprises 28 acres of profitable land. The church, an ancient structure with a massive square tower, has been recently repaired by a grant of £291 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners.
In the R. C. divisions the parish forms part of the union or district of Maynooth and Leixlip; the chapel is a small edifice, situated on the banks of the Rye Water, and is about to be replaced by a handsome structure of larger dimensions. About 70 children are taught in an infants' school, and there are three private schools, in which are about 170 children. In the parish is a chalybeate spring of great strength and purity, which was in high repute towards the close of the last century; in winter the water is somewhat tepid; it is situated about half a mile from the town, by the side of the canal; the Rt. Hon. Thomas Conolly intended to build a pump-room and an hotel, but dying before they were commenced, the design was abandoned for the more fashionable spa of Lucan, which is nearer to Dublin.