Follow in the footsteps of not just the intriguing Edgeworth Family but also discover their surprising links to well-known like-minded contemporaries, politicians, revolutionists and scientific minds.
Immerse yourself in a journey through Irelands intriguing past from rebellions to famine and discover the beginnings of Ireland’s first primary school system. A visit is a must for those interested in Irelands past and wish to experience it in a unique setting.
Opened in 2019 the Maria Edgeworth Centre is the culmination of the passions of local history enthusiasts. Therefore, it pays homage to the celebrated 18th century novelist Maria Edgeworth. She was considered a lioness by literary giants including, William Wordsworth, Sir Walter Scott, Lord Byron and Jane Austen.
The Centre is run on a ‘Not for Profit’ basis by local volunteers backed up by trained guides.
Additionally, 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 complete this tour.
Edgeworthstown was known far and wide for its association with new ideas on education. As a matter of fact, its most prominent figure Richard Lovell Edgeworth had personally sponsored a bill in the Irish Parliament some years earlier. Above all, it 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. That application was signed by Maria Edgeworth (the daughter of Richard Lovell Edgeworth) as well as C.J. Edgeworth, Esq. Thomas Gray PP and Laurence Reynolds. As a result, the school was built in 1840 and now houses “The Maria Edgeworth Centre”.
Two rooms 30ft x 20ft, with the lower storey 12ft high and the upper storey 10ft high, were built.
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, 43 boys were 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. The same year, the manager Canon Martin applied for a grant towards the cost of enclosing the extension of the site and erecting out offices.
In 1952 a grant of £3925 was sanctioned, towards cost estimated at £4775, to erect a new school including cost of site, furniture etc. Designed 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. Simultaneously with the opening of this school, Richard Hyland retired on pension on 30th June 1953.
Eventually, the hopes and dreams of many came true, when the Maria Edgeworth Centre opened in 2019. It was the culmination of many years of hard work by the Edgeworth Society.
Significantly, 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 at the time.
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. Furthermore, she was a pioneer in children’s literature , and a social commentator of the time. Above all, she, as a woman, was not allowed to own land, under the law. And 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 ancestral Edgeworth Portrait Gallery.