Dunlavin is a village with a rich and varied history. The name Dunlavin possibly refers to the Fort of Liamhán, who was a legendary princess of North Leinster. The Dunlavin area was settled from the earliest times and the stone circle at Castleruddery dates from 2500 BC. The early Christian period began in the area when St. Palladius established a church at Killeen Cormac, adjacent to Dunlavin. However, the area witnessed some unsettled times, two battles being fought at Dun Bolg in 598 and in 870. The site of the Battle of Glen Mama in 999, when Brian Boru defeated the Vikings, has been located in a valley near Dunlavin.
The Normans invaded Ireland in 1169 and in 1275 they fortified the area around Dunlavin against attacks from the Irish in the Wicklow Mountains. These continued into the 14th century and 80 people were burned in Fryanstown Church in 1332. Unsuccessful rebellions in the 16th and 17th centuries against English rule meant that the lands around Dunlavin changed hands several times. Sir Richard Bulkeley, owner of the land in the mid-17th century, established Dunlavin village and also intended building a university here but unfortunately it never materialised. Dunlavin became a market town and the Market House was built around 1740 by the new landlord, James Worth Tynte.
One of the most tragic events ever to occur in the village centred round the United Irish rebellion of 1798. Thirty-six men were shot on the village green and others were hanged at the Market House by forces of the crown. After the 1798 rebellion Michael Dwyer continued his resistance in the nearby Glen of Imaal until December 1803.
As relations improved in the 19th century, Dunlavin’s two churches were built around 1815. Famine stalked the region in the 1840s with the parish losing over 30% of its people. The post-famine years witnessed emigration which would continue to the 1950s. Local cleric, Fr. Frederick Donovan’s involvement in the National Land League and the National Federation meant that by the time of his death in 1896, Dunlavin’s farmers were on the way to becoming owners of the land they worked.
In the early 20th century Dunlavin lost many young in the First World War and in its aftermath came the War of Independence. The 1960s saw more prosperous times and in the early 21st century the population of Dunlavin has grown to nearly twice its 1901 number.