Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Co. Laois

Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary comprises of several counties, cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland. Here are From-Ireland.net’s records for Co. Laois.

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    MOUNTRATH is a market and post town, in the parish of CLONENAGH, barony of MARYBOROUGH WEST, QUEEN'S County, and province of Leinster, 6½ miles (N.S.W.) from Maryborough (Portlaoise), on the road to Roscrea (Co. Tipperary), and 47½ (S.W.) miles from Dublin; containing 2593 inhabitants. This place also called Moynrath, or the “fort in the bog” became in the beginning of the 17th century, the property of Sir Charles Coote, who, although the surrounding country as then in a wild state and overspread with woods, laid the foundation of the present town. In 1628, Sir Charles obtained for the inhabitants a grant of two weekly markets and two fairs and established a very extensive linen and Faustian manufactory, which in the war of 1641, together with much of his other property there was destroyed. His son Charles regained the castle and estate of Mountrath, with other large possessions, and at the Restoration was created Earl of Mountrath, which title, on the decease of Charles Henry, the seventh Earl, in 1802, became extinct. The present possessor is Sir Charles Henry Coote, premier baronet of Ireland. The town, which is 1831 contained 429 houses, is neatly built, and has been the seat of successive manufactures; iron was made and wrought here till the neighbouring woods were consumed for fuel, and on its decline the cotton manufacture was established; an extensive factory for spinning and weaving cotton is carried on by Mr. Greenham, who employs 150 persons in the spinning mills, and about 500 in weaving calicoes at their own houses; the average quantity manufactured is from 200-250 pieces weekly. Stuff weaving is also carried on extensively; there is a large brewery and malting establishment, and an extensive iol-lill; and the inhabitants carry on a very considerable country trade. The market is on Saturday; the veal sold here is considered to be the best in the country; much corn and butter are sold in it; the market house is a respectable building. There are fairs on Feb 17th, May 8th, June 20th, Aug 10th Sept 19th and Nov 6th. A new courthouse and bridewell are about to be erected. The parish church, a handsome structure, is situated in the town; it was nearly rebuilt and considerably enlarged in 1832, by a grant from the late board of First Fruits, and by subscription, and further alterations have been lately made by a grant from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. Mountrath is the head of a Roman Catholic union or district, comprising part of the parish of Clonenagh; there are two chapels, one in the town and the other at Clonad, the former a very large, cruciform building. There is a monastery of the order of St. Patrick, in which are a superior and eight monks, who superintend a classical boarding school for the middling classes, and another in connection with the Board of national Education. There is also in the town a convent of the order of St. Bridget, consisting of a Superioress, eleven professed nuns, and one lay sister; some of whom are engaged in the education of young ladies of the higher classes, and others in superintending a school for poor children in connection with the Board above mentioned; the average number of pupils in the latter school is about 200. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends and for Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists; and a dispensary is supported in the usual manner. The parochial school situated in the town, is under the patronage of Sir Chas. H. Coote and Lady Coote, who entirely support it; the average number of pupils is 100 f both sexes; the building which is large was erected in 1820, at an expense of £500, defrayed partly by subscription, and partly by donation of £230 from Sir Chas. Coote, who also gave an acre of ground for its site; it was enlarged in 1821, at an additional expense of £350, half of which was contributed by subscription, and the remainder from the Lord-Lieutenant’s fund. Ballyfinn house, the fine residence of Sir. Chas.H. Coote, Bart. Is situated in the centre of a demesne and pleasure ground laid out with the greatest taste, on sloping grounds overlooking a noble lake, and nearly surrounded by densely planted hills; the entrance to the mansion is by a portico of the Ionic order; the interior is fitted up in the most costly style and has a fine collection of painting, statues and busts, and a large and well selected library; the pavement of the great hall was brought from Rome. The saloon and ballroom are splendid apartments; many of the articles of furniture were executed for Geo. IV. When Prince of Wales, and purchased by the present possessor. The other principal seas in the vicinity are: Forest the residence of J. Hawkesworth Esq., Anne Grove Abbey of J. Scott. Esq. Springmount of Mrs. Ourne; Donore of W. Despard Esq., Scotchrath of R. White Esq., Roundwood of W. Hamilton Esq., Newpark of Jas. Smith Esq., M.D. formerly the residence of the late Earl of Mountrath; Westfield Farm of J. Price Esq., Laca of John Pim Esq., Castletown of Ewd. Palmer Esq., and Killeny of Edw. Maher Esq.