Newbridge in pictures: Rural Kildare town adjusting to restrictions during Covid-19

TheCity.ie’s Kim O’Leary presents a collection of her own photos from her hometown of Newbridge, Co Kildare, where big and small businesses are fighting to adjust to restrictions – cautiously optimistic that their beloved town will one day flourish again.

‘Newbridge or Nowhere’ became the town’s unofficial mantra following the summer of 2018 debacle, when Kildare rejected the choice of Croke Park as the venue for their All-Ireland qualifier round 3 match with Mayo. In the end the match was played in Newbridge’s St. Conleth’s Park and saw the Lilywhites emerge victorious over Mayo. This mural was painted to cement the landmark victory. (March, 2020)

The Covid-19 pandemic has changed normal life as we know it, with many local businesses bearing the brunt of changes to the economic climate. And for my small rural town of Newbridge in Co Kildare, the difference between Newbridge before and during Covid-19 is startling; shops are closed, people now wear masks and gloves to the supermarkets and the atmosphere of dread and fear is palpable in the air.

Newbridge Town Hall is located at the very heart of the town and the building has been used as a dance hall, a FÁS training centre, a bingo hall, a storage unit and it was also headquarters to the town commission and the community council. The first stone of the town hall (which is formerly a barracks chapel) was laid in 1859 by Lieutenant General Sir James Chatterton. (March, 2020)

Newbridge, officially known by its Irish name Droichead Nua, is a town in County Kildare, Ireland. While the nearby Great Connell Priory was founded in the 13th century, the town itself formed from the 18th century onwards. The town grew to include a military barracks which opened in the early 19th century, which continues to function.

The back-end streets behind Main Street in Newbridge are lonely during the Covid-19 pandemic, with many of the small shops and businesses closed. (April, 2020)

In the 20th century the town saw great expansion of local business, and Newbridge began acting as a commuter town for Dublin. Over the last twenty years, the town has seen its population soar to 22,742 in the 2016 Census – making it the most populous town in Kildare.

The newly refurbished post office in Newbridge opened earlier in the year, and it remains open during the Covid-19 pandemic to provide essential services to the town’s inhabitants. (April, 2020).

In many ways — with GAA being so popular — you’re either a Moorefield or Sarsfields fan, with downtown considered Sarsfields’s turf.

Like most places still open for business in Newbridge, strict ‘social-distancing’ practices are in operation inside the post office. Make sure to stay two metres apart. (April, 2020)

St. Conleth’s GAA Park is located downtown, so when these two rival sides come together to play GAA, it’s sure to an entertaining display of Gaelic football prowess. In October 2019, Sarsfields were declared Kildare Senior Football Champions for the 25th time in their history after they claimed a six point victory over Moorefield in St. Conleth’s Park.

People wear masks as they queue up outside the post office in Newbridge, adhering to the 2 metres social distancing rule. (April, 2020)
It’s not all doom and gloom for local businesses, with SPAR and Life Pharmacy among the essential stores remaining open during the pandemic. (April, 2020)
Judge Roy Beans restaurant on Edward Street is a must-see for burger lovers, with the American style restaurant crowned ‘Best Pub Burger’ two years in a row. Currently the restaurant is operating a takeaway service due to Covid-19 and its next door neighbour the EBS building society is open for business as usual. (April, 2020)
Whitewater Shopping Centre — located on Main Street in Newbridge — is one of the country’s largest shopping centres, with thousands of visitors flocking to it every year. At the moment, many of its non-essential shops have closed but its outdoor water features are still proving popular with families. (April, 2020)
Escalators have been powered down in the Whitewater Shopping Centre, with only a handful of stores open including the Marks & Spencer food hall. (April, 2020)
A blind man walking down Main Street in Newbridge during the Covid-19 pandemic over Easter weekend. (April, 2020)

The very top of the town is home to the larger supermarkets of Dunnes Stores and Tesco, as well as the newly opened skate park, and fast-food giants McDonalds and KFC.

For the first time in their history since opening in Newbridge, McDonalds and KFC on Moorefield Road are shut for business with empty carparks over the Easter weekend. McDonalds shut its doors on Monday, April 23 and KFC shut on Wednesday, March 25.
(April, 2020)
A solitary man eats outside KFC in Newbridge during Covid-19. (April, 2020)
The Dunnes Stores carpark in Newbridge is almost full as shoppers flock to gather their much-need food supplies. (April, 2020)
A female shopper dressed in mask and gloves for this shopping excursion. (April, 2020)
A woman visits the fish monger to collect her order. (April, 2020)
The popular skate park in Newbridge opened last April after 20 years of campaigning by skate boarding enthusiasts, but during Covid-19 the park is going mostly unused. (April, 2020)
One of the most iconic businesses located in Newbridge is of course Newbridge Silverware, which has spent over 80 years in the town. Its Museum of Style Icons features pop culture memorabilia from Princess Diana’s dresses to suits worn by The Beatles, and much more. (March, 2020)

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