KILBEGGAN

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

KILBEGGAN, an incorporated market and post-town, and a parish (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the barony of MOYCASHEL, county of WESTMEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 15 miles (E. by S.) from Athlone, and 44 ¼ miles (W.) from Dublin, on the river Brosna and the road from Dublin to Athlone; containing 4039 inhabitants, of which number, 1985 are in the town. A monastery was founded here by St. Becan, son of Murchade, a cotemporary of St. Columb, about the year 600. In 972; a sanguinary battle was fought here between the Irish and the Danes, at a ford on the river, near the present bridge, since called Aghnaccan, or the "Ford of Heads," from the numbers of the slain that floated down the river. In 1200, the monastery, which had fallen into decay, was rebuilt by the family of Dalton, and dedicated to the Blessed Virgin; and some Cistertian monks, from the abbey of Mellifont, were placed in it. After its dissolution, the house and its possessions, which were very extensive, were granted to the Lambart family, of whom Sir Oliver, afterwards Lord Lambart, in 1606, obtained for the town the grant of a weekly market and an annual fair. In 1612, James I. granted the inhabitants a charter; and in 1620, Charles, son of Oliver, Lord Lambart, procured a grant of two additional fairs. During the disturbances of 1798, a party of insurgents was defeated near the town, after an obstinate engagement, by Colonel Blake, at the head of his regiment of Northumberland militia.

The town contains more than 300 houses, of which nearly one-half are neatly built and slated. It is improving; and a branch from the Grand Canal, which has recently been cut to it, holds out prospects of the increase of its trade. There are a large distillery, a brewery, and two mills for flour and oatmeal, one of which is extensive; and there is also a manufactory for tobacco and snuff. The market is on Saturday, and is a considerable mart for butter. Fairs for live stock are held on March 25th, June 16th, Aug. 15th, and Oct. 28th. The market-house is a neat plain building of limestone, erected by Gustavus Lambart, Esq., which contains also accommodation for holding the public courts. The corporation consists of a portreeve (who is a justice of the peace), 12 free burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, with a recorder, town-clerk, two sergeants-at-mace, and other officers. The freedom is obtained by favour of the portreeve and burgesses. The borough returned two members to the Irish parliament till the union, when it was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to Gustavus Lambart, Esq. A borough court of record, for the recovery of debts not exceeding five marks, is held; also a court of petty sessions every Saturday, in which the portreeve occasionally presides, with the county magistrates. A chief constabulary police force is stationed in the town.

The parish comprises 2975 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the land is generally of good quality, and the system of agriculture greatly improved; a considerable extent of exhausted bog has been reclaimed, affording excellent pasture, and a small quantity still remains for fuel; there is no waste land. The principal seats are Belmont, the residence of Barnard Maguire, Esq.; Meldrum, of Mrs. Clark: Correigh, the property of Colonel Hearn, but not inhabited; and Coola, the property of Gustavus Lambart, Esq., and in the occupation of J. Conolly, Esq. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Meath, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the rectory is impropriate in Sir W. Lambart Cromie, Bart. The tithes amount to £254. 0. 11., wholly payable to the impropriator. The church, originally part of the ancient abbey, was enlarged, and a square tower added to it, in 1818, towards which the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £200, and the Commissioners of the Loan Fund £400. The glebe-house, for the erection of which the late Board gave £100, was built in 1800: the glebe comprises 21 ½ acres, subject to a rent of £20 per annum. In the R. C. divisions the parish is united with that of Rahue; the chapel is a handsome edifice. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. A parochial school is supported by the perpetual curate, and there are seven private schools in the parish, in which are about 240 children, and a dispensary. There are numerous mineral springs, but none of them used medicinally. The remains of the ancient monastery are very inconsiderable. John Henry North, an eminent barrister, was a native of this place.

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