The natural beauty created by the juxtaposition of well wooded fertile land and the abundance of clean fish-laden running water found here at the confluence of the rivers Erkina, Goul, Gully and Nore has attracted settlers and visitors all through history. This sylvan landscape from which our town takes its very name (Darmhagh Ua nDuach – the oak plain [in the territory] of Ui Duach) has favoured settlement from earliest times.
Evidence from the Archaeological Survey carried out by the O.P.W. in 1995, suggests that this area has been visited, if not inhabited, since as early as the Bronze Age. An urn-burial found on the lands of Moyne Estate dates roughly to the same period as those found at lronmills and Ballymartin (900-1400 B.C.) Fulachta Fiadh (early cooking sites) have been identified at Aharney and near Ballacolla. The numerous ring forts and other enclosures which dot the landscape point to a more permanent, if dispersed, settlement of the land by the Celts (500B.C.- 500A.D.).
The peace and tranquillity bestowed by such verdant surroundings as ours must surely have been a major factor in the establishment of the numerous religious settlements in the area which date back to the 6th Century. While the monastery founded by St. Fintan on the banks of the Erkina is perhaps the best renowned, documented evidence exists for other such establishments at Dunmore, Clonageera, Dereen, the Course wood, Tinweir, Ballinaslee, Tubberboe and Newtown.
The coming of the Normans in the 15th Century sounded the death knell for many of these Early Christian settlements and the lands were subsumed (despite heated objections from the Earls Marshall, who wanted it for themselves) into the Manor of Durrow – an Episcopal Manor for the Bishops of Ossory. Indeed, it was this development that sowed the seeds for the establishment of the town of Durrow as we now know it. In 1245, Geoffrey de Turville (Bishop of Ossory 1244-50), was granted permission from the King to hold a yearly fair at this manor for six days beginning on St. Swithin’s Day and a weekly market on a Thursday.
After the Reformation, the manor passed into the ownership of the Duke of Ormond and was eventually released on 19th February 1708 to “William Flower and his heirs, forever”. It was under the patronage of Flower and his descendants, the Lords Ashbrook, that the present town developed and prospered.
There have been many changes over the years in Durrow, but through all the changes the one enduring constant has been the great natural beauty of the countryside.