The Courthouse Arts Centre was formally opened on May 3rd 1996 by Liz McManus, Labour TD and Minister of State, Dept. of the Environment. It is the longest established Arts Venue in the County.
With support from Fás, providing part-time positions under its C.E scheme and the Arts Council, providing programming funds under annual funding, the Courthouse established itself as south Wicklow’s premier professional venue delivering a strong multi-disciplinary arts programme. During the first ten years the Courthouse was nurtured, developed and managed by Sharon Corcoran its first Artistic Director. Since then the venue has been managed by Shelly Hayes (2006-2010) Deryn O Callahan (2010-2013) and currently Maggie Gallagher (2014).
The courthouse in Tinahely was built in 1843, but by the 1950s it was used as much for community activities such as dances and movies as for court sessions. By the 1980s it had fallen into complete disrepair and disuse, and had become, moreover, a serious eyesore in the village. A local committee was formed to take on the task of restoring the building. With grant aid from FAS (the Training and Employment Authority) which enabled the hiring and training of local youths to carry out the work, and local fundraising for the cost of materials, the courthouse was restored and opened as a centre for arts, culture and heritage in January, 1996.
The Courthouse Arts Centre is now at the heart of the Tinahely community and an important geographical landmark in the county and a uniquely visible and valuable asset in the cultural landscape of south Wicklow, north Carlow and north Wexford.
The Village of Tinahely (Tigh na hÉille) is set amidst the rolling hills of South Wicklow in the valley of the Derry River, close to the borders of Co. Carlow and Co. Wexford. It is a village steeped in history, having been burnt to the ground in 1798 and either directly or indirectly involved in many historical events ever since.
As part of the Coolattin Estate which was owned by the Fitzwilliam family, it is a village full of character and folklore. Indeed, one of the village’s pubs bears the name ‘Black Tom’s’ for Thomas Wentworth who willed the estate of Coolattin to the Fitzwilliam family. For many years Tinahely was known far and wide as a famous market town and particularly for its annual 8th of May horse fair, second only to the one in Ballinasloe.
The main feature of the town is its triangular “Market Square” dominated by the imposing Market House. Until the mid 1950’s this house enabled local farmers to market their produce locally. The market house was purchased and refurbished by Tinahely Courthouse Ltd. with assistance from Wicklow County Council and the Department of Environment’s Conservation grants scheme. It is currently a public library.
Facing the Market House is the beautifully restored 19th century Courthouse which now serves as a vibrant centre for the arts with a regular programmes of exhibitions, concerts, films, and theatre productions.
Today, Tinahely is known nationally for the annual county show which is held on August Bank Holiday Monday and is one of the largest agricultural shows in Ireland, attracting up to 20,000 visitors and exhibitors.
There are a range of services in the village of Tinahely including banking/bureau de change, post office, two pubs, a hotel, and shops. Accommodation is plentiful in local B&Bs as well as self-catering cottages, guest houses and hotels.
Visitors can avail of numerous amenities including horse riding, golf, angling, and hill walking along the Wicklow Way. Tomnafinnoge Wood lies between Tinahely and Shillelagh, and is one of the last remnants of Ireland’s original oak woodlands which once blanketed south Wicklow. Within an hour’s drive of Tinahely are the magnificent monastic settlement of Glendalough, Powerscourt House and Gardens, Glenmalure, and the “Featherbed” uplands. Wicklow, known as the Garden of Ireland, boasts some of the most spectacular landscapes and vistas in the country, as well as a host of activities for visitors, whether their interests are sporting and outdoorsy, or cultural and artistic.