Maria Edgeworth Centre

The Experience - Maria Edgeworth Centre

Using a combination of audio, imagery and interative displays the Centre tells the story of the Edgeworth family and the history of Early Education in Ireland. Audio and displays are in seven languages.

Visitors can view the poignant permanent exhibition ‘Scenes from a Disembodied Past by artist Bernard Canavan, it tells the story of emigration from Ireland in the 1950’s.

Please allow at least 1 hour to compete this tour.

Edgeworths and Early Education

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 Irish Parliament some years earlier which had the stated purpose of setting up a public education system for poorer children in Ireland. Following the passing of the 1831 Education Act, 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 in 1840 and now houses The Maria Edgeworth Centre 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.

Modern Times...

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.

The building has an historic past, it was one of the first schools built after the passing of the Education Act of 1831.

The hopes and dreams of many were realised when the Maria Edgeworth Centre opened in 2019. It was the culmination of many years of hard work by the society. The building has an historic past, it was one of the first schools built after the passing of the Education Act of 1831. This act, for the first time made provision for a government backed primary school system providing for the education of protestant and catholic children. Its building required the support of both religious communities and this school built in 1840 had Maria Edgeworth as one of its first patron. Incidentally, the contents of the act became, forty years later, the blueprint for a similar education system in England, Scotland and Wales which did not have a primary school system.

The Maria Edgeworth Centre interprets the life, times and works of Maria Edgeworth. She was a pioneer in the development of the modern day novel, she was also a pioneer in children’s literature , and a social commentator of the time. As a woman, she, under the law was not allowed to own land yet she managed the family estate on behalf of her brother Lovell after the death of their father. As well as interpreting their legacy the centre contains many books and artefacts associated with the family. It also houses the extensive Edgeworth Portrait Gallery and a permanent exhibition ‘Scenes from a Disembodied Past’ by artist Bernard Canavan, the exhibition depicts the story of forced emigration in the late 1950’s.