Edgeworthstown House, Co. Longford

This historic house was originally built in 1672 by Richard Edgeworth. It had small windows, low wainscoted rooms and heavy cornices. The house was much enlarged and modernised after 1770 by Richard Lovell Edgeworth, the inventor and father of Maria Edgeworth.

The outside of the house originally had two storeys over the basement with two adjoining fronts with a prominent roof and detailed cornices. The entrance had a front of three bays between the triple windows in the upper storey and a doorway in a pillared recess between two shallow single-curved bows below.

In the Victorian period the right hand triple window was replaced by two windows and the right hand bow by a rectangular single storey projection. An adjoining front with three bay breakfront rises above the roofline as a pedimented attic. Richard Lovell Edgeworth inherited a 'tolerably good old-fashioned mansion' in 1782 and began to remodel it piecemeal almost as soon as he came into his estate. According to his daughter, the old house had been built on an inconvenient plan 'for the sake of preserving one old chimney that had remained from the former edifice'. Its rooms were laid out in a row as a suite of apartments, which she disliked as they lacked the advantage of any passages; and all were small and gloomy, with heavy cornices, little windows and corner fireplaces.

The remodeling was ingenious if externally a little incoherent. Most of the new building was completed by 1787, when the Rev. Dr D.A. Beaufort visited the house and noted its unusual plan. On the ground floor Richard Lovell Edgeworth enlarged the rooms by throwing them into single storey, three bay rectangular projections linked in the middle by an arcaded loggia. There is a very nice curved tip lib staircase in the centre of the house. Certain alterations, including a pair of flat-roofed extensions to the ground-floor rooms on the South, built to provide an extra space for the library, and a matching conservatory which opened off Mrs Edgeworth's dressing room, were not contrived until 1807, and it was only in 1812 that an oriel window was added to Maria's bedroom in the North West corner of the house. This gave a few feet in space with great additional light and cheerfulness', but was badly built and fell off well before the end of the century!

The Edgeworths' entrance faced East. A five-bay, two-storey front with a central recessed porch of Ionic columns in antis, and light single-storey canted bay windows on either side. A shallow dentil cornice with a low blocking course was set before a hipped roof, rather too high to be fashionable at its later eighteenth century date. On the south side, the house is longer, of seven bays, with widely spaced windows except at the centre, where three bays are set close together and rise by an extra storey to an caves pediment. On the West side the rectangular architectural idiom is changed, for here the centre of the front is broken by a slightly projecting and shallow-curved central bay, which adopts the classic mid-Georgian, Irish country-house pattern of superimposed tripartite openings, a Venetian window, a tripartite window and a Diocletian window, set one above the other.

The novelties of Richard Lovell Edgeworth's interior included some rooms with curved walls, particularly in the dining room in the centre of the South front, where a curved row of Scamozzian Ionic columns screened the N end of the room, and in the hall, which was originally oval. All of the new rooms had delicate understated cornices reminiscent of the taste of Thomas Cooley, though a room known as 'the Cabinet' and Mrs Edgeworth's dressing room kept their old-fashioned heavy cornices and high keyhole grates of the 1750s. The buoyant sense of the adventure in life and the delight in clever contrivance make Edgeworth comparable to another architectural amateur and inventor at the turn of the century, Romas Jefferson, whose home at Monticello, Virginia, was hardly less ingenious.

Rising from undulating parkland, with specimen trees, shrub roses and winding paths about the house, Edgeworthstown was once perhaps the perfect embodiment in Ireland of the taste of Humphry Repton. Dr Beaufort noted its 'unusual style of large windows with small piers', which made it 'very cheerful'.

Edgeworth's many inventions included leather straps to prevent the spring doors from slamming; a central heating system whereby warm air was admitted into the room from above the chimney pieces; and a pump in the farmyard which carried water to the cisterns in the house and at the same time dispensed coins to beggars in return for a given time at the handle.

The house was inherited in 1876 by Mrs. C.F. Mantogue, whose mother was Edgeworth. It was sold to a Mr. Bernard Noonan together with 50 acres of land, who gave it to an order of Nuns and it is now used as a Nursing Home.

The interior has been gutted and rebuilt and the exterior has also been greatly changed. It is now a building with beautiful lawns surrounding it and is a source of pride to all of Edgeworthstown.

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