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Maynooth or Laraghbryan, Kildare

Historical Description

MAYNOOTH, or LARAGHBRYAN, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of NORTH SALT, county of KILDARE, and province of LEINSTER, 11 miles (N. by E.) from Naas, and 11¾ (W.) from Dublin; containing 2622 inhabitants, of which number, 2053 are in the town. This place obtained its ancient celebrity from having been at a very early period one of the principal seats of the Kildare branch of the Fitzgerald family, of whom John, the sixth Earl of Kildare, erected a magnificent castle here in 1426. Earl Gerald Fitzgerald, who died in 1513, founded a college adjoining the town for a provost, vice-provost, five priests, two clerks, and three choristers, which received the especial confirmation of William, Archbishop of Dublin, in 1518; the Earl also rebuilt the church of St. Mary, at this place. During the insurrection of Lord Thomas Fitzgerald in the reign of Hen. VIII., the castle was besieged by a considerable force under Sir Wm. Brereton, by whom it was taken through the treachery of that nobleman's foster brother, after a fortnight's defence. In the reign of Edw. VI. it was, with the other estates of that nobleman, which had been confiscated in the former reign, restored to Gerald, the eleventh Earl, soon after his marriage with the daughter of Sir Anthony Browne. In the reign of Chas. II. it obtained the grant of a market and two fairs; and in the last century the town was entirely rebuilt by its noble proprietor, the late Duke of Leinster. It is situated on a small stream called the Lyall water, which falls into the river Liffey at Leixlip Castle, about four miles distant; on the great north western road from Dublin to Galway, and in the centre of a rich grazing district, skirted on the east by the luxuriant plantations of the Carton and Castletown demesnes. The town consists of one principal street, at one extremity of which is the avenue leading to Carton, the magnificent seat of the present Duke of Leinster, and at the other the Royal College of St. Patrick, the area in front of which is ornamented on one side by the ivymantled tower of the parish church, and on the other by the stately ruins of the ancient castle. Although the situation is on a leading thoroughfare, the town is placed between the stages and consequently derives no benefit from it; and the only advantage resulting from the Royal Canal, which passes close to it, is the supply of coal for the inhabitants. The patent for the market is still in force, but no market is held; there are fairs on the 4th of May, Sept. 19th, and Oct. 9th, for cattle, sheep, and pigs. A constabulary police station has been established here; and the Christmas and Midsummer quarter sessions for the eastern division of the county are held in a neat court-house.

In 1795, an act was passed by the Irish parliament to remove the difficulty of procuring suitable education for young men intended for the Roman Catholic ministry, which had arisen from the entire suspension of all intercourse with their former places of study, in consequence of the breaking out of the late continental war. The trustees appointed under that act fixed upon Maynooth as the most eligible spot for the erection of a college, as well on account of its retirement, as of the liberal offer of the late Duke of Leinster of a house and 54 acres of land adjoining the town, on a lease of lives renewable for ever, at the annual rent of £72. In October, 1795, the college was opened for the reception of 50 students, and the Rev. Dr. Hussey appointed first president; the progress of the establishment was at first very slow., for want of sufficient accommodation, but in a few years the number of students was increased to 70, and soon after to 200. With a view of rendering the institution, which originally was intended exclusively for the education of the Roman Catholic clergy, more extensively useful, the trustees appropriated a portion of the additional buildings to the reception of lay students; but the different mode of discipline for the two establishments being found, after a few years, to make the latter an inconvenient appendage, it was discontinued in 1817, and that part of the building was assigned to an additional number of clerical students. Considerable additions have since been made to the buildings, and they are now capable of accommodating 450 students; which number, though much less than required for the Roman Catholic population of the kingdom, is still much greater than the funds at the disposal of the trustees will enable them to support and educate free of all expense. The college is principally supported by parliamentary grants, which for the first 21 years averaged £8000 per annum, and since that time have been £8928. Several donations and bequests have also been made for its support by private individuals, of whom the late Lord Dunboyne, formerly Roman Catholic Bishop of Cork, and who afterwards conformed to the Established Church of England, bequeathed the whole of his property to the trustees of this college for its further support; this bequest was afterwards a subject of litigation, but the suit was compromised, agreeably to the act of 1808, by the annual payment of £500 to the college. Thirty burses have been founded in the college, of which six, of £30 perann. each, were instituted by the late Dr. O'Sullivan; and others are temporarily established by the Roman Catholic bishops, to provide for the wants of their respective dioceses. The late Mr. Keenan also bequeathed £1000 for the foundation of a professorship of the Irish language. The parliamentary grants and private endowments being still inadequate to the gratuitous maintenance and education of so large a number of students, several are admitted as pensioners, paying for their entire board at the rate of £21 per annum, and also as half-pensioners, paying only half that annual sum; each free student pays also an entrance fee of eight guineas, and each pensioner four guineas, which several payments make up the deficiency. The number of free students is 250, of which the provinces of Armagh and Cashel send 75, and those of Dublin and Tuam 50, each, who are appointed by the Roman Catholic bishops, at yearly meetings of all young men in their respective dioceses who are intended for the ministry, and after due examination send such as are the best qualified to the college, where they are admissible at 17 years of age. This establishment, which is designated the Royal College of St. Patrick, Maynooth, is under the superintendence of seven visiters, of whom the lord-chancellor, the chief justices of the King's Bench and Common Pleas, and the chief baron of the Exchequer, are visiters ex officio; the other three, at present the Earl of Fingall, and the R. C. Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, are elected by the trustees: also a board of seventeen trustees, a president, vice-president, dean, junior dean, and bursar; and the literary departments are entrusted to a first, second, and third professor of dogmatical and moral Theology, a professor of Sacred Scripture and Hebrew, a professor of Natural Philosophy; a professor of Logic, Metaphysics and Ethics; a professor of Rhetoric and the Belles Lettres; a professor of Greek and Latin; a professor of English Rhetoric, and French; and a professor of Irish. The executive branch is confided to the president and the vice-president, who, in the absence of the president, has the entire inspection of the whole institution, assisted by the dean and junior dean, whose office is similar to that of the proctors in the English colleges; these officers, together with the three divinity professors, the professor of Sacred Scripture, and the prefect of the Dunboyne establishment, form the council, which is assembled by the president. The professors are elected by the trustees, after due examination by the council, who separately give their suffrages in writing to the president, by whom they are sealed in presence of the council and delivered to the trustees at their next meeting. The senior students, who are those on the Dunboyne foundation, are limited to 20, to be taken from the four provinces in the same ratio as the free students generally; they are appointed by the president and council, with a view to their becoming professors in the college, or holding important situations in the church; they receive each £60 per annum from the bequest of Lord Dunboyne, augmented by £646 per annum from parliament. The students wear gowns and caps both within and without the college. The buildings form three sides of a quadrangle, comprising various lecture-rooms, a refectory, library, and a chapel, with apartments for the president, masters, and professors. The library contains about 10,000 volumes, to which a considerable addition has been recently made by the late Dr. Boylan, formerly professor of the English and French languages in this college, and afterwards superior of the Irish college in Rome.

The parish comprises 7740 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the soil is in general a stiff clay, and very productive; a considerable portion of the land is in pasture for fattening stock for the Dublin market, and for exportation. Carton, the seat of the Duke of Leinster, situated about a mile from the town, is a spacious and magnificent structure, consisting of a centre with a handsome portico supporting a pediment, in the tympanum of which are the family arms, and connected with wings by an elegant corridor on each side; the interior contains many noble apartments, and in addition to numerous family portraits, a collection of paintings by the first artists. The park, which is very extensive, is beautifully diversified with scenery of graceful and pleasing character; in one part of it is a stately pillar, and in another a tower, from which a fine view is obtained of the surrounding country. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Dublin; the rectory constitutes the corps of the prebend of Maynooth in the cathedral church of St. Patrick, Dublin; both are in the patronage of the Duke of Leinster. The prebend was instituted by Archbishop Luke, in 1384, at the request of Maurice Fitzgerald, Lord of Ophaly, reserving to himself and his heirs the right of presentation. The gross income of the prebend is £55. 7. 8. per ann.; the tithes, amounting to £369. 4. 7½., are paid to the vicar. The church is an ancient structure, supposed to have been originally built by Gerald, Earl of Kildare, as an appendage to the college founded by him in 1516: it was thoroughly repaired and modernised in 1774 by the late Duke of Leinster; the massive square tower of the ancient church still retains its original character. In the R. C. divisions the parish forms the head of the union or district called Maynooth and Leixlip, comprising those two parishes and that of Taghadoe, in each of which is a chapel; that of Maynooth is a very plain building, but a new chapel on a larger scale has been commenced, which, when completed, will be a handsome structure. A dispensary is entirely supported by the Duke of Leinster. In the vicinity are the ruins of the old church of Laraghbryan.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840 by Samuel Lewis

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Land and Property

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