Swords, the county town of the council area of Fingal, has a fascinating history. In early medieval times it was the site of a prosperous and prestigious monastic settlement. Then in Norman times, Swords Castle was built as an Episcopal palace for the Archbishop of Dublin. It served as an ecclesiastical and administrative centre. The archbishop could collect taxes, hold fairs and even conduct trials for most breaches of the law. Stocks and pillories stood outside its gate, and this public punishment was a disincentive to wrong doers and debtors. Swords’ importance waned a couple of centuries later as the archbishops made poor economic leasing decisions, and chose to spend more time at other ecclesiastical palaces such as that in Tallaght.
Prosperity returned in the era of the Celtic Tiger. New housing estates sprang up around the town and the population level soared. In 1961, the population of Swords was only 1,188, but it has grown to over 40,000 today. Then in 1994 Dublin County Council was broken up into three new local authorities. Swords became the county town of the new Fingal County Council. The name “Fingal” means “land of the foreigners” going back to the time of the Viking invasion. The Viking ship and raven on the FCC flag are Norse symbols.
Since the 1990s, FCC has instigated major projects to restore our local heritage sites. A Community Archaeologist was appointed to engage locals with heritage sites, particularly with Swords Castle, which had been closed to the public for decades due to its state of disrepair. In 2015, the council funded the production of an online audio guide app for iPhone and Android, which can be downloaded from Abarta Heritage. The Heritage Officer and Swords Historical Society were involved with this project.
Swords Tidy Towns members are proud of their local environment and its history. We have also produced a walking trail on our website featuring heritage sites dating from AD 560 to 1908.
In the following page, we will look at our involvement in heritage projects, and our efforts to enthuse other members of our community.