Take A Tour

1. St Mary's Church

The present Church was built by Rev. Canon Peter Farrelly P.P. between 1868 and 1873. It was dedicated in 1873 by Cardinal Cullen and the sermon was given by the famous Dominican Fr. Tom Burke O.P. on the 24th of September 1873. Cardinal Cullen was in attendance at the invitation of his friend and former secretary Dr. Conroy bishop of Ardagh. The distinguished guests were later entertained in the Manor House. The title was originally “The Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary”. The architect of the church was Mr. Colbe and on his death Mr. Hague. The next parish priest Rev. Daniel Gray completed the building and erected the present parochial residence. The final touches to the new church were carried out by his successor Canon Terence Martin who added the tower and steeple in 1909. The tower has a carved stone with the date A.D. 1872. The building is cruciform consisting of a porch as main entrance, nave, side aisles, sanctuary and a sacristy on either side. An earlier chapel stood between the present church and the grounds of the parochial house where the tombstone of its founder Fr. Thomas McCormick, who died in 1811, can still be seen. It was he who obtained the site from Richard Lovell Edgeworth and built the chapel in 1787. It succeeded a penal “Mass-house” where a strange accident was recorded in Faulkner’s Dublin Journal of 31st December 1749. It appears that during Mass some mischievous person outside cried “fire”. In the resulting confusion where people tried to get out, the wall gave way in several places and part of the roof fell in. One person was killed and 2 mortally bruised and upwards of 20 crushed and many severely hurt. The pulpit was also pitch pine and was a donation from the late Madame Edgeworth who was a catholic and died in Paris in 1928. She also gave a generous donation towards the erection of the tower and did not seek any publicity for her charity.

2. Edgeworth House

This historic house was originally built in 1672 by Richard Edgeworth. It had small windows, low wainscoted rooms and heavy cornices. The house was much enlarged and modernised after 1770 by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, the inventor and father of Maria Edgeworth.

The outside of the house originally had two storeys over the basement with two adjoining fronts with a prominent roof and detailed cornices. The entrance had a front of three bays between the triple windows in the upper storey and a doorway in a pillared recess between two shallow single-curved bows below.

In the Victorian period the right hand triple window was replaced by two windows and the right hand bow by a rectangular single storey projection. An adjoining front with three bay breakfront rises above the roofline as a pedimented attic. Richard Lovell Edgeworth inherited a 'tolerably good old-fashioned mansion' in 1782 and began to remodel it piecemeal almost as soon as he came into his estate. According to his daughter, the old house had been built on an inconvenient plan 'for the sake of preserving one old chimney that had remained from the former edifice'. Its rooms were laid out in a row as a suite of apartments, which she disliked as they lacked the advantage of any passages; and all were small and gloomy, with heavy cornices, little windows and corner fireplaces.

The remodeling was ingenious if externally a little incoherent. Most of the new building was completed by 1787, when the Rev. Dr D.A. Beaufort visited the house and noted its unusual plan. On the ground floor Richard Lovell Edgeworth enlarged the rooms by throwing them into single storey, three bay rectangular projections linked in the middle by an arcaded loggia. There is a very nice curved tip lib staircase in the centre of the house. Certain alterations, including a pair of flat-roofed extensions to the ground-floor rooms on the South, built to provide an extra space for the library, and a matching conservatory which opened off Mrs Edgeworth's dressing room, were not contrived until 1807, and it was only in 1812 that an oriel window was added to Maria's bedroom in the North West corner of the house. This gave a few feet in space with great additional light and cheerfulness', but was badly built and fell off well before the end of the century!

The Edgeworths' entrance faced East. A five-bay, two-storey front with a central recessed porch of Ionic columns in antis, and light single-storey canted bay windows on either side. A shallow dentil cornice with a low blocking course was set before a hipped roof, rather too high to be fashionable at its later eighteenth century date. On the south side, the house is longer, of seven bays, with widely spaced windows except at the centre, where three bays are set close together and rise by an extra storey to an caves pediment. On the West side the rectangular architectural idiom is changed, for here the centre of the front is broken by a slightly projecting and shallow-curved central bay, which adopts the classic mid-Georgian, Irish country-house pattern of superimposed tripartite openings, a Venetian window, a tripartite window and a Diocletian window, set one above the other.

The novelties of Richard Lovell Edgeworth's interior included some rooms with curved walls, particularly in the dining room in the centre of the South front, where a curved row of Scamozzian Ionic columns screened the N end of the room, and in the hall, which was originally oval. All of the new rooms had delicate understated cornices reminiscent of the taste of Thomas Cooley, though a room known as 'the Cabinet' and Mrs Edgeworth's dressing room kept their old-fashioned heavy cornices and high keyhole grates of the 1750s. The buoyant sense of the adventure in life and the delight in clever contrivance make Edgeworth comparable to another architectural amateur and inventor at the turn of the century, Romas Jefferson, whose home at Monticello, Virginia, was hardly less ingenious.

Rising from undulating parkland, with specimen trees, shrub roses and winding paths about the house, Edgeworthstown was once perhaps the perfect embodiment in Ireland of the taste of Humphry Repton. Dr Beaufort noted its 'unusual style of large windows with small piers', which made it 'very cheerful'.

Edgeworth's many inventions included leather straps to prevent the spring doors from slamming; a central heating system whereby warm air was admitted into the room from above the chimney pieces; and a pump in the farmyard which carried water to the cisterns in the house and at the same time dispensed coins to beggars in return for a given time at the handle.

The house was inherited in 1876 by Mrs. C.F. Mantogue, whose mother was Edgeworth. It was sold to a Mr. Bernard Noonan together with 50 acres of land, who gave it to an order of Nuns and it is now used as a Nursing Home.

The interior has been gutted and rebuilt and the exterior has also been greatly changed. It is now a building with beautiful lawns surrounding it and is a source of pride to all of Edgeworthstown.

3. Edgeworth Garden

At Edgeworthstown in 1782 the Edgeworths found a formal garden that had '... been originally laid out in humble imitation, on a small scale, of the frontispiece to Millar's Gardener's Dictionary, in the original Dutch taste'.

Richard Lovell Edgeworth set about replanting this as a landscape garden, with trees '... planted in side scenes'. One of the people who gave Maria plants was John Foster of Collon, an old school-friend of her father. He was a leading member of the (Royal) Dublin Society and played a

signal role in the founding of that society's botanical garden at Glasnevin, near Dublin. In I827, a Philadelphia nurserywoman sent seeds of forty different plants - herbs, shrubs and trees - including Convolvuluas and tiger lilies. Roses were among Maria Edgeworth's favourite plants. Some came from an American correspondent, Professor Jackson, in 1846. Other roses came from Irish sources; damask roses, 'everblowing' roses, 'Maiden's Blush', a 'Giant rose, otherwise called a Swiss rose', the yellow Scotch rose, 'Knight's new dark red everblowing',

pompom roses, a blush burnet rose, and the 'Rose des quatre saisons called by the common people the Quarter Session Rose.' Michael Pakenham Edgeworth, Maria's brother, began to send seeds from India to Ireland. In a letter to India, dated Io September I833, Maria reported that ... Mr Mackay is very grateful for the seeds which you sent my mother and she judiciously sent him - He is now delighting himself with a tour of the north of Ireland & Scotland & he wrote me word that last week he found near Sligo some rare Alpine plants on a mountain called Ben Bulben'.The flowering shrub Buddleia was first grown in Edgeworthstown and a genus of flower Edgeworthia is named after Michael Pakenham Edgeworth.

4. St John's Rectory

The rectory was built about 1732. It has important historical connections with the Edgeworth family and may have been originally constructed as a dower house associated with the family. Rev.Robert Edgeworth was the rector here during the mid-eighteenth. He later converted to Roman Catholicism and moved to France, where he was ordained a priest. The rectory was the birthplace of Henry Essex Edgeworth (son of Robert), L'Abbe Edgeworth De Firmont (1745 - 1807), vicar-general of the Diocese of Paris at the height of the French Revolution. The Abbe Edgeworth De Firmont attended Louis XVI on the scaffold prior to his execution and later fled with the remnants of the French Royal family to Russia. He died of the typhus there in 1807 whilst attending captured French soldiers in prison. This rectory forms an interesting pair of related structures with the associated church and it is an integral element of the built heritage and history of County Longford. The simple outbuilding to the rear and the rubble stone boundary wall to the road-frontage complete the setting and adds to this notable composition. This house was later home to an aunt of Oscar Wilde and it was here that his beloved sister Isola died in 1867.

5. St John's Church

Several buildings occupied this site and it is not known when the present church was built. The site of the parish church was the same when the Down Survey was made in the 17th century. It was the church of the Edgeworth family. The spire was built on the ground on an iron frame and covered with slates by Richard Lovell Edgeworth in 1811 and then brought to the top of the tower by a system of balancing pulleys. It lasted until 1935. A wooden gallery was erected about 1784 for the benefit of poor parishioners. This was removed in 1888 when further reconstruction was carried out at a cost of £450. Final repairs were made in 1957 after storm damage and dry rot in the timber. Inside are memorial tablets in memory of many of the Edgeworths – one mentions Admiral Beaufort who devised the scale to measure wind force which is used in weather forecasts to the present day. The adjoining cemetery contains some interesting graves apart from the Edgeworth vault. These include Dr. Thomas O’Beirne (1739-1747), Catholic Bishop of Ardagh, who may have been from Mullagh or Mostrim, and nearby are those of two Vicars General. One was Rev. Francis Ferrall, Pastor of Ardagh and Mostrim, the other being Rev. F. John O’Rorke, parish priest of Mostrim, a Franciscan of the old Friary of St. John Baptist. He died in 1793. Oscar Wilde's sister Isola is also buried here and though the old headstone has disappeared a new one was erected in 2013. The last person to be buried there was Conal O’Ferrall of Camlisk who died in January 1933. The cemetery was officially closed about 1896 when the present one was opened at Aughafin.

6. Edgeworth Schoolhouse

Edgeworthstown was known far and wide for its association with new ideas on education. Its most prominent figure Richard Lovell Edgeworth had personally sponsored a bill in the British Parliament some years earlier which had the stated purpose of setting up a public education system for poorer children in Ireland. An application for a school was submitted and the signatories to that application were Maria Edgeworth (the daughter of Richard Lovell, the world famous author and story teller) as well as C.J. Edgeworth, Esq. Thomas Gray PP and Laurence Reynolds. This was built on the Ballymahon Road oposite the Fair Green. There were to be two rooms 30ft x 20ft with the lower storey 12ft. high and the upper storey 10ft high. One early report on the school read 'The mistress taught school for the last eighteen years in this town under the patronage of Miss Honoria Edgeworth of the Edgeworth family. The school has been opened for boys on Monday 26th April 1841 and for girls on Monday 3rd May 1841. The children learning the first elements pay 1d a week and children more advanced pay 2d a week'

At the school examination on 3rd July 1855 there were 43 boys present out of an average enrolment of 132 with an average attendance of 54. In December 1891 the school closed in consequence of a serious illness and epidemic in the locality. A report in 1892 read “I certify that an epidemic of typhoid fever prevailed in this town and the neighbourhood during the last quarter of 1891 and the beginning of the present year. Signed - Joseph Langan, LRCSI, Edgeworthstown".

Richard Hyland, who had been assistant since 1st January 1911 now became principal on the 9th July 1911. In 1911 the manager Canon Martin applied for grant towards the cost of enclosing the extension of the site and erecting outoffices.

In 1952 a grant of £3925 was sanctioned towards cost estimated at £4775 to erect a new school including cost of site, furniture etc., to accommodate 80 pupils in two rooms, each of 40 pupils. This school was built further out of town, also on the Ballymahon Road and eventually amalgamated with St. Elizabeth's in 2001). With the opening of this school Richard Hyland retired on pension on 30th June 1953.

This building is now home to Edgeworthstown Community Development offices and is used for training and meetings.