Where it all Began

Edgeworth Society

How a small rural settlement in the midlands evolved to a literary centre in Ireland. From English settlers to local visionaries. Until a legacy becomes alive by the Edgeworth Society.


... the first Edgeworths

Edgeworthstown takes its name from the Edgeworth family. In 1619, King James I confiscated land from the O’Farrells in Longford and granted it to Francis Edgeworth.

The Edgeworths were members of the landlord class and in the initial stages – certainly for several decades -they were mainly absentee landlords. 

a picture of Francis Edgeworth, member of the Edgeworth Family


... the Manor House was built

House of the Edgeworth Family where Maria Edgeworth spend her life
Painting of Edgeworthstown House

It was not until the early 1700s when Richard Edgeworth inherited the estate, that life began to change in Edgeworthstown.

He cleared the estate of all its encumbrance and built the Manor House in 1720s. It still stands to this day and now serves the community as a residential home for older people.

Richard Edgeworth had a son who was christened Richard Lovell. He, in turn, inherited the estate in 1782 and was very much a reforming landlord who had a particular interest in education. 

Richard Lovell Edgeworth married four times and had twenty-two offspring. His eldest daughter was the famous novelist, children’s writer and educationalist Maria Edgeworth

The family continued to live and prosper in Edgeworthstown and they improved the living and working conditions of their tenants until 1935 when the estate was sold.

The tenants thought highly of the Edgeworth family but, by the same token considered them as “occupiers”. Indeed, the great Irish Place Name scholar John O’Donovan, while reporting back to his masters in Dublin in 1837 wrote: 

“I find no authority for calling this place Edgeworthstown. We must adopt the name Mostrim if we do not wish to be laughed at, the name of Edgeworth will soon be forgotten”.


... founding of the Edgeworth Society

In the 1960’s a new manager Mr. Mc Elderry was appointed to the local branch of the Ulster Bank. His wife Myra had a great interest in history. Therefore, she could not understand how the community would not celebrate the town’s association with the Edgeworth family. For this purpose, she herself initiated the establishment of the Edgeworth Society in 1969. 

Vision of the Edgeworth Society

“Develop an enlightened interest in all aspects of local history, tradition, folklore and culture in friendly association with the Longford Historical Society. The Edgeworth Society envisaged the construction of a new library. Furthermore, the courageous and ambitious group also had plans to acquire a premises to house a permanent local museum. Firstly, of course, to honour the Edgeworth legacy and secondly, to display memorabilia and objects of local antiquity and local history.”

The Edgeworth Society thrived for a number of years. But with the transfer of the Mc Elderrys from the town, interest in the society waned, and the group disbanded. Nevertheless, a good foundation had been laid. 


... the Edgeworth Society was not forgotten

In 1995 a group of like-minded enthusiastic people came back together. On one hand, to rekindle interest in the project that had been started by Myra Mc Elderry. And on the other, to establish the first Maria Edgeworth Festival of Literature. The aim of this group was to keep the Edgeworth name alive locally.

Literary Festival 2020, organised by the Edgeworth Society

The Edgeworth Society's vision comes alive

The group acquired an old national school building which had opened in 1840 under the patronage of Maria Edgeworth.
In 2019 Failte Ireland grant aided the development of a museum and visitor centre in the school. The Maria Edgeworth Centre now houses many artefacts and memorabilia associated with the family and the area. Its collection of over two thousand books include many from the Edgeworth’s own collection. Not to mention, a first edition of ‘Practical Education’ from 1798 is also on permanent display.

The museum is now an inspiring interpretive centre, created by the curious for the curious! The Edgeworth Society hopes full heartedly to broaden its appeal to the general public by opening it up to visitors all year round.

Furthermore, it is worth noting, that one of the aims of the original society, beside the setting up of a museum, was the building of a library in the town. This aim was achieved when a new state of the art library opened in the town in 2021.

Explore more in the Maria Edgeworth Centre...