Unlike most towns in Ireland, which emerged and grew about a focal point such as a Church, Enfield's phased growth is paralleled with the various phases of transport history. Enfield has a long association with the hospitality trade as a stopover for the weary traveller.
Going back to Ancient Times, prior to and during the early part of the first millenium A.D., the Enfield area was situated on the route of the Slige Mór, the great East-West Highway between Dublin and Galway and one of the main roads to Tara, the coronation site and ceremonial seat of the High Kings of Ireland from the time of the early Celts until 1022 AD (shortly after the death of the last unopposed High King of Ireland Brian Boru who ended 200 years of Viking terrorisation at the Battle of Clontarf in 1014). Mael Sechnaill II of the Kingdom of Meath was restored to the High Kingship but he died in 1022. From then until the Norman Invasions, the Kingdoms of Ireland were politically divided.
Five Great Roads of Ireland
The Esker Riada is a collection of low lying hills and ridges left behind by a glacier 10,000 years ago. It stretches from Dublin to Galway and became known as An Slí Mór. It was a great highway over the bogs of the midlands. The Esker Riada and the River Shannon formed a natural crossroads for travellers, near Uisneach at the centre of Ireland.
Stage Coach Era
Canal Transportation and the Royal Canal Greenway
The Royal Canal construction began in Dublin in 1790 and this signaled the end of the stage coach era, as the canals were a cheaper and more efficient means of transport. The stretch from Dublin to Mullingar opened as a trade route around 1807 and the canal eventually reached the Shannon in 1817, though the company was heavily in debt. The decision by the Duke of Leinster to build a spur from the canal to his country residence, at Carton House, was one of the contributing factors which finally broke the company.
The Inland Waterways Association of Ireland was formed in 1954 with the aim of developing Ireland's rivers and canals. The Royal Canal Amenity Group was formed twenty years later and volunteer members along its route worked intensively (including a local group in Enfield) to save the canal and restore it as a public amenity. It was finally reopened for navigation in 2010. March 2021 marked the official opening of a 130Km Greenway along the banks of the Royal Canal from Maynooth to Cloondara in Longford, ideal for walkers, runners and cyclists with facilities such as toilets and bike rental available at the trailheads along the route.
It is only in recent years, that the potential of the Canal for tourism and as a natural amenity is being realised. The Office of Public Works took charge of it in 1986 and subsequent investment and significant restoration means it has great prospects of becoming popular again as a means of leisurely transport. The harbour area at Enfield has been completely restored and transformed into a beautiful leisure park.
Enfield in the 20th Century
The first Motor Cars were used in the area around the turn of the 20th century. During the 1940s, the Harris family had the dealership for Morris cars and Claas combine harvesters and operated a garage to the rear of Ryans's Newsagents, where WS Motors continues to operate today.