ABBEYLEIX, a market and post-town, and a parish

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

ABBEYLEIX, a market and post-town, and a parish, partly in the barony of FASSADINING, county of KILKENNY, and partly in the barony of MARYBOROUGH-WEST, but chiefly in that of CULLINAGH, QUEEN'S county, and province of LEINSTER, 7 miles (S. S. E.) from Maryborough, and 47 ½ miles (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 5990 inhabitants, of which number 1009 are in the town. This place, called also Clonkyne Leix, or De Lege Dei, was the site of a monastery founded about the year 600, but of which there is no further account till the year 1183, when it was refounded and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin by Conogher or Corcheger O'More, who placed in it, monks of the Cistertian order from Baltin-glass, in the county of Wicklow, and was himself interred within its precincts. It maintained a high degree of reputation; and the town adjoining it, which took its name from the abbey, gradually rose to be the principal place in the territory of Leix, now Queen's county. In the 5th of Elizabeth, the abbey and some of its possessions, which were large, were granted to Thomas, Earl of Ormonde, and now form part of the estate of Viscount De Vesci. The town is situated on the mail road from Dublin, through Athy, to Cashel, and contains about 140 houses, of which the greater number are neatly built: the late Lord De Vesci caused the old town to be entirely rased, and laid out the present on a more eligible site.

There are two woollen manufactories; a large worsted-mill and factory has been recently established near the town, which affords employment to about 200 persons in combing, weaving, and spinning yarn; and on the river Nore, which passes near the town, is a boulting-mill. The market is on Saturday; and fairs are held on Jan. 26th, March 17th, May 5th, July 20th, Sept. 20th, and Nov. 4th. The market-house is a good building. The quarter sessions for the county are held in the town in June and December; petty sessions are held every Saturday; a court is also held by the seneschal of the manor; and here is a chief constabulary police station. The sessions-house is a commodious building, and a new bridewell has been erected. The parish comprises 11,974 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: there are about 400 acres of bog and 300 of woodland; the soil is in general light and sandy, and the system of agriculture is improving. Limestone of very good quality abounds, and is quarried for building and for burning into lime; there is also a curious freestone quarry, and excellent potters' clay is found here.

The gentlemen's seats are Abbey Leix, the residence of Viscount de Vesci, a spacious and handsome mansion, pleasantly situated in a demesne of about 1135 statute acres, embellished with thriving plantations and with timber of stately growth; Bellview, of W. Bell, Esq.; Thornberry, of Capt. Croker; Farmley, of — Roe, Esq.; Rathmoyle House, of E. B. Handcock, Esq.; and Oatlands, of J. Ferguson, Esq. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Leighlin, and in the patronage of Viscount De Vesci, who is impropriator of the rectory. The tithes amount to £507. 13. 10 ¼., of which £338. 9. 2 ¾. is payable to the impropriator, and the remainder to the vicar. The parish church, recently erected, is a very handsome building, in the later English style, with a vaulted roof of stone and an elegant spire: the old church, which has an endowment by Lord De Vesci, is not generally used. The glebe-house was built in 1810, for which the late Board of First Fruits gave £400; the glebe comprises 5 acres.

In the R. C. divisions this parish is partly in the diocese of Ossory, but chiefly in that of Leighlin; the former in the union or district of Ballyragget, and the latter the head of a district, comprising also the parish of Ballyroan, and containing a chapel in each. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. There are a parochial and an infants' school, a work school for girls, and another aided by subscription, together affording instruction to nearly 300 children: a school-house was erected for the parochial school by Lord de Vesci, at an expense of £250: there are also two pay schools. An almshouse for poor widows is maintained by Lady De Vesci; and a dispensary and an infirmary are supported in the usual way. The tomb of Malachi O'More, with an inscription, is in the gardens of Lord De Vesci, near the site of the old abbey. There is a fine chalybeate spring in the parish.

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