Richard Lowell Edgeworth

It is of course, Richard Lowell Edgeworth, together with his daughter Maria, who are most closely associated with the area still bearing their name. Richard was born in Bath in 1744 and taken to Edgesworthtown when he was three years of age.

He is best known as both an inventor, having had a particular fascination with telegraphy and carriage construction, and as an educationalist, having been educated at Trinity College, Dublin and Oxford. In fact Edgesworthtown House was one of the first buildings to see the fruits of his improving and inventive nature. Shortly after returning home from his schooling in Dublin and Oxford he carried out extensive repairs and renovations to the mansion built by his father.

Some renovations included enlarging the rooms on the ground floor by throwing them into single storey 3 bay rectangular projections, linked in the centre by an arcaded loggia. The house is also notable for the myriad of labour-saving devices he installed, including sideboards on wheels, leather straps to prevent doors banging, and even a water pump which automatically dispensed 1/2d to beggars for each half-hour they worked it. This was perhaps more successful than his attempt at building a wooden horse that would be able to jump over the stone walls of the locality!

It should also be noted that Richard was a landlord who constantly sought to improve his tenant's lot, often to his own detriment.

He reclaimed considerable tracts of bog and mountain land and so improved the value of his estate to the extent that even in the period of depression following the Napoleonic Wars his rents were always regularly paid.

He took drastic measures such as doing away with his middlemen, collecting rents himself, and making other concessions including eliminating feudal debts and duties as well as publishing a valuable report on the possible reclamation of some 34,500 acres of Irish bog.

Perhaps the act with which he will always be remembered is his voting against the Act of Union, despite being offered for his vote sums that would have made him financially independent. It is said that he was tempted with an offer of £3,000 for the loan of his seat while the Union was being carried, but refused as he realised that the result would be abhorrent to a vast majority of the population.

After his perhaps inevitable retirement from politics in the aftermath of the Act of Union Richard devoted himself mainly to the question of national education. He was somewhat fortunate to have found a like-minded soul in the Duke of Bedford, appointed Lord Lieutenant of Ireland in 1806. As well as being a liberal politician and a keen agriculturalist, he was also interested in art and natural history and was appalled by the state of education in Ireland with conditions for the majority little better than those endured in penal times.

In 1806 Richard Lowell Edgeworth became a member of a commission appointed to enquire into the system of national education. He also published a treatise on practical education written originally for the improvement of his own children (who incidentally numbered 25 from four marriages!).

Perhaps the most obvious result of his labours in this area is the literary success of his daughter Maria, believing as he did that women should be involved in practical affairs such as estate management and that gender, as well as religion, should not be an obstacle to education.

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