Ardagh Village Landscapes
Ardagh, Co. Longford, Ireland

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Ardagh Village - History and Information
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The village of Ardagh lies 10 km to the south east of Longford town just off the N4 (Dublin-Sligo road) between Longford and Edgeworthstown.

The Gaelic (Irish) name for Ardagh is Árd Archadh which means the "high field". The village is set on high ground with good agricultural lands. About a mile from the village lies a hill called Brí Leith, referred to locally as "Ardagh Mountain", which in very old times was a centre of pre-Christian religious worship. This "mountain" is not very high, since the Longford area is mostly flat, the highest point being Cairn Hill (Carn Clonhugh) which is 916 feet (279 metres).

ruins of St Mel's Cathedral In the fifth century Christianity arrived in Ardagh when St. Patrick founded St Mel's Cathedral and St. Mel became the first Bishop. The first catherdal on this site was constructed of wood. It was not until the eight Century that a stone building was erected and it is those ruins which can be seen today. St. Mel is reputed to be buried within its walls. St Brigid joined the monastery led by St. Mel and spent her early years as a nun in Ardagh. Later she established a monastery in Kildare. She was a very good person and her hospitality, almsgiving and care of the sick are well renowned among her recognised virtues. She died in the year 524 and over the centuries she has been much revered. She has enjoyed a special place as the second patron saint of Ireland. Her Saints day is on the first of February, where crosses made of rush are blessed in the local church and placed in peoples homes throughout the village.

The arrival of the Fetherston family to Ardagh in the early 1700s had a major influence on the life and character of Ardagh in the following years. Upon settling in Ardagh they built their splendid residence, Ardagh House. This is now a school of Domestic Science and is referred to locally as "the Convent". This house has been much modified over the years and it displays an early to mid-nineteenth century style. It was originally a three-storey building, but the top storey was removed after a fire in 1949. Such was the magnificance of Ardagh House that in 1744, a young Oliver Goldsmith mistook it for an inn. The Featherston family played along with this mistaken belief and pretended to be the servant girls. This adventure formed the plot of his most successful play "She Stoops to Conquer". The stable court at the side of the house was added during the nineteenth century.

Ardagh House
 
Ardagh House Gate Lodge

The estate walls surrounding Ardagh House were built mostly during the famine in the 1840s where they provided relief work for the local population. As you can see on the map of Ardagh there are two road entrances from the village into the grounds of Ardagh House. These enterances are beautifully constructed of Cut Stone and Wrought Iron Railings and there is a Gate Lodge at each one, which in bygone days controlled access to the estate.

Ardagh House and its estate were managed by Sir George Ralph Fetherston and his wife Frances Elizabeth Solly from 1819 to 1853. It then passed briefly to Rev. Thomas Fetherston and then to Thomas John Fetherston, his son. In 1862, Thomas John Fetherston who was Sir George's nephew employed the architect John Rawson Carroll to design and build much of the present village as a tribute to his late uncle. These buildings replaced the scattering of mud cabins and primitive housing in which the local population had lived. Ardagh is one of only a few remaining Model Estate Villages in Ireland. Due to its distinctive architecture as a planned estate village and the fact that it is so well preserved it has been designated as a Heritage Village. The Clock tower was built in 1862-3 by Frances Solly as a momument to her late husband Sir George.

In 1833 Sir Baronet G. R. Featherstone of Ardagh contributed to "A Topographical Dictionary of England" which contained conprehensive maps and very detailed descriptions of many English counties, cities and towns as well as the islands of Guernsey, Jersey, and The Isle of Man. This book contained a hugh wealth of information and was published by S. Lewis and Co., Aldersgate-Street, Bensley, England.

The village was constructed of cut stone housing placed around the Village Green. The focal point of the village green is the beautiful Clock Tower which was completed in 1863 and which commemorates Sir George Ralph Fetherston. A 'Travellers Rest' seat was built into the churchyard wall for use by passing travellers. In the centre of the green stands the village pump. The main inscription on the clock tower reads:

Clock Tower

 

1863

In Remembrance of Sir George Ralph Fetherston Baronet and of his Life Long Devotion to the Moral and Social Improvement of his Tenantry this Clock Tower and the Surrounding Buildings were Erected and the Site Wheron they Stand Purchased by Frances Elizabeth his Widow.

  Travellers Rest
Some of the Original Houses On the road leading from the village green stands three impressive houses. The first, next to the clock tower was the Village Courthouse/Royal Irish Constabulary barracks; the second was where the tenanats paid the rents to the landlord's agent and the last one was the old post office. (the first two are shown here)
  Beyond this are many houses of cut stone built for the local people working on the Fetherston Estate. Situated among these houses is the Demesne National School, which was built in 1892 and which is now the local Community Centre. the Community Centre

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Ardagh contains many other old and beautiful buildings

Situated futher down the village, directly opposite The Village Hair Salon, is the ruins of an old church. It is believed that a medieval church originally stood on this site. The tombs of some members of the Featherston family lie within its walls. Paddy Farrell, who was killed in the Battle Granard in 1798, is buried in the churchyard. Ruins of an Old Church
St Patrick's Church of Ireland Situated adjacent to the village green is St Patrick's Church of Ireland which was built in 1810. The entrance to the churchyard is marked by a Lych Gate where the coffins of the dead were traditionally met by a clergyman. The lych gate is a very unique feature of this building and is amongst one of the few surviving in Ireland.

Located in the field below the village green, is an Early 19th century Rectory Building. It was built in 1823 at a cost of £1,300 (€1,650) and is a very impressive three storey over basement L-shaped building with a central chimney stack. It features original ochre tinted lime plaster and sash windows. It was last inhabited in the 1970s.

St Brigid's Roman Catholic Church was built in 1881 to a design by William Hague and has a neo-gothic architectural style. It features beautiful Irish and German made stained glass windows. Beautiful carvings in Irish and Italian marble are incoporated in the interior, in particular the high altar and altar rail which were designed by William Hague and carved by James Pearse, father of Padraig and Willie Pearse. The nearby Parish Priests House was built some years later. St Brigid's Roman Catholic Church

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Ardagh is also noted for its more recent achievements:
Ardagh is a beautiful Village, as can be seen from the photographs on this website. It has won the National Tidy Towns Competition in 1989, 1996 and 1999. Ardagh also was awarded the "European Winner of the British Airways - Tourism for Tomorrow Environmental Awareness" Competition in 1998 and was Overall Winner of the "32 county Ireland's Best Kept Towns" Competition in 1999. It has also won several other Nation and European Awards. The village is always maintained in a beautiful condition with plenty of colour provided by flowers, shrubs and hanging baskets in the Summer months.

Ardagh Neighbourhood Park was created in 1990 and is planted with many native irish trees. In March 1990, the then Taoiseach (Prime Minister), Charles J. Haughey visited Ardagh and planted some sessile oak, which is the national tree of Ireland. Many other visitors to Ardagh, including the former President of Ireland, Mary Robinson, have planted trees here and at present the park contains over two thousand broadleaved native Irish trees.

A beautiful scuplture (left) by Eamonn O'Doherty stands in the park near the Ardagh Heritage Centre. It depicts the folklore tale of Etáin and Midhir which was first recorded in the Book of Leinster around 1150 AD. In this tale the princess Etáin was transformed into a dragonfly, later she was reborn as a human mortal and re-united with the God Midhir in the form of two Swans. This was the subjects of two plays: the wooing of Etáin (1955) and the Winning of Etáin (1967) which were both well received in their day.

Adjacent to the Ardagh Neighbourhood Park is Ardagh Heritage Centre. It was built in 1898 and served as the local National School until the new school was built, opposite St Brigid's Church, in the 1980s. It houses an exhibition of tools and farm machinery and other artefacts from Ardagh and the surrounding areas. It provides the visitor with an interesting insight into the lives of the people who inhabited this beautiful part of Ireland. Ardagh Heritage Centre

More Ardagh Info - en.wikipedia.org

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