|St. John's Church (COI), Edgeworthstown, County Longford|
"At the request of the local Town Tenants' Association, the name of Edgeworthstown has been changed to Mostrim (in Gaelic, Meathas Truim) by the Longford County Council."
In fact, this name change of 1935 restored to the town of Mostrim the name by which it was known in 1619, when King James I granted to one Francis Edgeworth about 600 acres of land near Mostrim. Today the town of Mostrim is still widely known as Edgeworthstown, so named for the estate of the Anglo-Irish family of Richard Lovell Edgeworth (1744-1817).
For many people, the town name may sound familiar because of Edgeworth's second born child, the writer Maria Edgeworth (1767-1849). Although a prolific writer, Maria is probably best known as the author of Castle Rackrent, a novel thought especially noteworthy because it realistically depicts the lives of Irish peasantry. Maria Edgeworth was well respected in her day. Among guests welcomed at Edgeworthstown Manor were the Scottish historical novelist Sir Walter Scott and the famed Romantic Period poet William Wordsworth, both of whom greatly admired her work.
Maria's father Richard was an interesting character in his own right. He was an educational theorist, writer and inventor. He was married four times — Anna Maria Elers (d. 1773), Honora Sneyd (d. 1779), Elizabeth Sneyd (d. 1798 and Honora’s sister) and Frances Anne Beaufort (d. 1865) — and fathered 22 children, four of whom died in infancy. The eldest child was born in 1764 and the youngest in 1812. Just imagine having a half-sibling who is 48 years your senior.
It rained like mad on the day I made the 110 kilometre (about 70 miles) drive by myself from Ballsbridge, Dublin City to Edgeworthstown, County Longford. At around the 75 kilometre mark I was wondering if the trip had been a good idea. Nevertheless I plodded on, windscreen wipers at high speed. By the time I arrived in Edgeworthstown, though the rain had let up a fair bit, parts of the town seemed oddly deserted, and just for a moment I felt as though I had travelled back in time.
The original Edgeworthstown manor house was built in 1725 by Richard Edgeworth, possibly incorporating an earlier house. Between 1770 and 1787, it was enlarged in a sprawling and rather unattractive manner by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, in order to house his ever increasing family. Since 1939 it has served as a nursing home. Sadly, all of the landscaping and green space that once enhanced the manor — as seen in the image below — has long been paved over, giving way to a car park for the nursing home.1
|Edgeworthstown House, circa 1894.|
|One of the additions to the manor house,|
noteworthy because it bears the family coat of arms.
|Atop the addition, a figure of the Virgin Mary and the Edgeworth Family Coat of Arms.|
|Close-up view of the Edgeworth Family Coat of Arms.|
Their motto 'Constans Contraria Spernit' basically translates to
'The resolute man despises difficulties'.
|Just yards from the principal manor house is this pretty little gate lodge, built around 1880|
and believed to incorporate another gate lodge that was built circa 1725.
You may also be familiar with Edgeworthstown because of its sad association with the family of Oscar Wilde. On 23 February 1867, Wilde's beloved sister Isola Francesca Emily, then aged just over 10 years, died while staying at Edgeworthstown Rectory, the home of her aunt and uncle, Margaret and the Reverend William Noble. Isola is buried in the cemetery of St. John's Church, the same cemetery in which are interred Maria Edgeworth and some members of her family.
Previous residents of the rectory have an interesting history, one that played out long before members of the Noble family were denizens of the house.
It is said the rectory was originally built as a dower house for Edgeworth widows; however, in 1745 when Henry Essex Edgeworth was born here, it was a rectory and Henry's father Robert (first cousin of Richard Lovell Edgeworth) was Protestant Rector.
Only four years after the birth of his son Henry, in 1749 Robert Edgeworth, citing a 'crisis of conscience', converted to Roman Catholicism. Given the oppressive nature of penal laws then in force in Ireland, he shortly thereafter moved his family to Toulouse, France.
In 1769, Henry Essex Edgeworth moved to Paris, taking the vows of the priesthood and eventually becoming L'Abbe Edgeworth De Firmont.2 Henry served as vicar-general of the Diocese of Paris at the height of the French Revolution, heard the final confession of King Louis XVI, and attended Louis on the scaffold as the deposed king was executed by guillotine.3 Rather shocking for a boy born in the sleepy little village of Edgeworthstown.
|Edgeworthstown Rectory: built circa 1730: birthplace of Henry Essex Edgeworth, 1745;|
Home of Reverend William Noble and his wife Margaret in the mid-19th century.
Their niece, Oscar Wilde's sister, Isola Francesca Wilde died here 23 February, 1867.
|The rectory from an eastern perspective. The single story addition dates to 1830.|
To this day, the house is still occupied.
|On the way out of Edgeworthstown, I stopped at the train station, built in 1855.|
|Just over the stone wall from the train station is this lovely fellow, who obliged me by standing still for a photograph.|
1. The image of Edgeworthstown house is from The Life and Letters of Maria Edgeworth, Volume 2. It is in the public domain, and there is no known copyright.
2. 'De Firmont' means 'of Firmont': Henry was accorded this addition to his title as a nod to his ancestral estate at Firmount — also known as Fairymount — County Roscommon. Fairymount is approximately 46 kilometres southwest of Edgeworthstown, County Longford.
3. Henry Essex Edgeworth's original account of the execution of Louis XVI, which is written in French, is held by the British Museum, London, England.
References for further reading:
Butler, Harold Edgeworth and Harriet Jessie Butler. The Black Book of Edgeworthstown, and other Edgeworth Memoirs, 1587-1817, London: Faber & Gwyer, 1927. Print.
Lawless, Emily. Maria Edgeworth, New York & London: The Macmillan Company, 1905. Print.