Edgeworthstown is situated in eastern Longford just over the border from County Westmeath along the N4 national Dublin-Sligo route. The town is named for the Edgeworth family who first settled there in 1583. The most prominent members of this family were father and daughter Richard Lovell Edgeworth and Maria. Richard was a famous inventor and surveyor while Maria stands as one of the most influential novelists of the English language. Her work stands unmarred by the passage of time and she is best known for her novel Castle Rackrent.
The town has a railway station on the Dublin–Sligo railway line. Edgeworthstown railway station opened on 8 November 1855. Industries include animal feed processing and pet food manufacturing. The family estate of Henry Essex Edgeworth de Firmont was nearby. Edgeworthstown has expanded significantly in recent years with new housing estates and updated transport infrastructure
There are many buildings, places of interest and items of historical importance to visit in Edgeworthstown. Edgeworthstown is also known as Mostrim which is derived from the Irish name Meathas Troim meaning fertile ridge.
History of Edgeworthstown
Altered and extended beyond recognition, the former home of Maria Edgeworth is now Ox Ladys Nursing Home. Architecturally it must always have been a confusing house. 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’. All 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 remodelling was ingenious if externally a little incoherent.
Most of the new building was complete by 1787, When the Rev. Dr D.A. Beaufort visited the house and noted its unusual plan, but 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 Edgeworths dressing room, were not contrived until 1807, and it was only in 1812 that an oriel window was added to Marias 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 C18 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. Rising from an 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.
Today, with no protective belt of trees, no gardens, but concrete kerbstones and a tarmac drive, its charm has vanished almost beyond recall. The house is joined on the North by a succession of plain gabled ranges ending in a small irregular-shaped chapel of 1982 by Robinson, Keefe and Devane. Nothing except the general aspect of the entrance front now even suggests an early date. The novelties of Richard Lovell Edgeworths 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 have delicate understated cornices reminiscent of the taste of Thomas Cooley, though a room known as the Cabinet and Mrs Edgeworths 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, is hardly less ingenious. Edgeworths 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 ancestral home of the Edgeworths, which dates from the late 18th century, is now a nursing home. It is the most important building in Edgeworthstown and is situated on the N4 on the Dublin side of Edgeworthstown.
The Manor House
The Manor House is the most imposing building in Edgeworthstown and is situated on the N4 on the Dublin side of Edgeworthstown. In 1619 Frances Edgeworth was granted some 600 acres of land near Mostrim by King James I. However the family met with misfortune and ran up considerable debts. In 1719 Frances great grandson Richard took over the estate and paid off the debts. He built the Manor House in the 1720s, the house we know today. He was the author of the Black Book of Edgeworthstown, an estate record, which tells us much about the locality at the time. His son Richard Lovell Edgeworth was an inventor, author of an innovative book on education and father of Maria Edgeworth the author and the best known member of her large family. Maria helped her father run the estate and it was here that most of her books were written. At the time of the battle of Ballinamuck in 1798 the house was stoned and the windows broken because Richard was suspected of having rebel sympathies.
The house was occupied by descendants of the Edgeworths until 1935 when it was purchased by Mr. Noonan. The house and 50 acres were donated to the Sisters of Mercy who converted the house to a nursing home. Although much of the house has been changed, much also remains as it was in Marias day.
Buildings of Historic Interest in Edgworthstown
The Old School House (located on the N55 Athlone road) is one of the oldest schools in the country, having been built in 1840. It served as a national (primary) school until the early 1950s, and in recent years was acquired by the Development Association from the Edgeworth family. The school building retains many of its original features, such as the stone exterior staircase, and the narrow entrance gate, and it houses an Edgeworth Portrait Gallery and other memorabilia.
From here, proceed up Pound street, which derives its name from a Pound which was located here for stray animals and animals seized in lieu of debts. As you proceed down the Main Street, you come to the now derelict site (opposite the Market House/SuperValu) where a school run by the Reverend Patrick Hughes was located. It was here that Oliver Goldsmith received his early education. It was also the site of the Imperial Hotel - in the past, commercial travellers coming to the town lodged in the Hotel, and journeyed to outlying towns by jaunting cars provided by the proprietor. The building was also used by the Ancient Order of Hibernians, the Market Building opposite was used by the National foresters.
As you proceed east, you will note houses on your right with arched facades - these were reputed to be coach houses used by Bianconi as a staging post on one of his many transport routes. He established his business in 1815, and disposed of it in 1866. The building located at the end of the Main Street was once part of the Edgeworth Estate. It was known as the Porter House, there were coach houses each side of the arch, and Maria Edgeworth taught school in the upstairs room. As you move on, you will see St. Mary’s Roman Catholic Church, which was built on a site donated by the Edgeworth family.
The gate lodge located at the entrance to Edgeworthtown House has been preserved in its near original state, and is a listed building. From here the drive leads to the main house which was built by Richard Lovell Edgeworth in the 1720s. It was occupied by the Edgeworth family until 1935, when it was purchased by Mr. Noonan who donated the house and fifty acres to the Sisters of Mercy, who run a very successful nursing home. Over the years, the building has changed, but many of the original features remain. The house has welcomed many distinguished visitors, including Sir Walter Scott and William Wordsworth. You can proceed along the rear entrance which leads to the Granard Road, in the raised field opposite, the Rectory, can be seen. This has been the home of many distinguished Rectors, and Oscar Wildes sister unfortunately died here while on a visit. At the rear of the Rectory is St. Johns Church and Graveyard. The principal points of interest are the many 18th and 19th century headstones, altar tombs and recumbent slabs within the graveyard, and the wall memorials on both the exterior and interior of the Church. The Edgeworth vault and the 18th century tombstone, of the Camlisk branch of the O'Farrells of Annaly are the main focus of the churchyard.
Things to see & do in Edgeworthstown
Edgeworthstown Literary Trail
Discover 18th and 19th-century literary Ireland with a two-hour guided walk following in the footsteps of Edgeworth, Scott, Wordsworth, Goldsmith, and Wilde. Hear wonderful stories while visiting period houses and walled gardens, amongst other sites. For more information please visit their website here: Edgeworth Literary & Historical Trail.
The Station House
The Station House has served Edgeworthstown and a large area around it for many years and continues to do so. Although now mainly used for passengers and mail it once served farmers and businesses in the area, transporting cattle, bulk vegetables such as beet and grain and other heavy items now mainly carried by lorries. The station has won awards for its looks over the years.
The Maria Edgeworth Centre
The Maria Edgeworth Centre is located in the old technical school, located on the Athlone road (N55) is one of the oldest schools in the country. It was built in 1840 as a national school. There were no indoor toilets and no playground, the children played in the Fair Green. Richard Hyland taught in the school from 1910 to 1953, in the second classroom, Richards wife taught from 1933 to 1953. Master Forde taught in the school before 1933. In the 1940s the school was condemned. There were two pillars put in the centre of the lower half of the school to keep up the ceiling. Later they were removed and the building is still standing. During the war all town names had to be erased. The plaque which was at the front of the school with the name Edgeworthstown had to be covered with tar so nobody would recognise it. The building retains many of its original features such as the stone exterior, stone staircase and the narrow gateway. The vocational committee took over the school for night classes. Now the school is owned by the Development Association who acquired it from the Edgeworth family and has developed it into a Visitors Centre and a place of culture and recreation for the community. The old schoolhouse (located on the N55 Athlone Road) is one of the oldest schools in the country, having been built in 1840. It served as a national (primary) school until the early 1950s and in recent years the old schoolhouse was acquired by the Development Association from the Edgeworth family. The school and the adjoining fair green have been developed into a visitor’s centre and a place of culture and recreation for the community. The school building retains many of its original features such as stone exterior, staircase, and the narrow entrance gate and it houses an Edgeworth Portrait Gallery and other memorabilia. For local information please contact the Edgeworthstown Development Association at 00353 43 71801 or go to Maria Edgeworth Centre.
St. Johns Graveyard
St. Johns Graveyard is largely associated with the Edgeworth family who founded the Church that stands in the grounds. Although the Church is still in use today the cemetery has not been used since 1896 when Aughafin was opened but Conal OFerrall of Camlisk was the last person to be buried here in 1933. Isola Wilde, sister of Oscar is buried in St. John's Graveyard.
Closing the street at its South end is the markethouse, designed in 1829 by James Bell, a local builder and architect much patronised by the Edgeworths, who later became County Surveyor for Longford. It is two-storey, five-bay block with a hipped roof, harled, with limestone pedimented centrepiece bearing the Edgeworth arm. Simple and modest in scale, these buildings reflect the Edgeworths’ well-intentioned if unambitious patronage of the village. Like the Fosters at Collon, with whom they were friendly, the Edgeworths were not wealthy. Richard Lovell Edgeworth, who described himself as a middling country gentleman, had on his death in 1817 an income of £4,ooo per annum. A member of the Irish Committee on Education, he also involved himself in local and national politics, transport engineering, agriculture and architecture. From her father Maria Edgeworth inherited an absorbing interest in the lrish and their way of life, and her novels immortalise the vicissitudes of life on such small rural Irish estates in the early 1800's.