Monastereven, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of West Ophaley, county of KILDARE, and province of LEINSTER, 14 miles (W. S.W.) from Naas, and 30 (S. W.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Limerick; containing 4386 inhabitants, of which number, 1441 are in the town. This place derives its name from a monastery founded here, and made a place of sanctuary, by St. Abban, in which were afterwards placed monks from South Munster, by St. Emin, or Evin, in the seventh century.
According t o the book of Lecan, the forcible seizure of this religious house by Cearbhuil, was the cause of the war in 908, between that monarch and Cormac Mac Culinan, King of Munster, in which the latter was defeated. The monastery having afterwards become extinct, was refounded towards the close of the twelfth century, by Dermod O'Dempsey, King of Ophaley, with the consent of Muredach O'Conor; and though considered as just beyond the border of the English pale, was made a mitred abbey, and its abbot sat as a baron in the Irish parliament. At the dissolution, the abbey and the manor were granted to George, Lord Audley, who assigned them to Adam Loftus, Viscount Ely, and they are at present the property of the Marquess of Drogheda.
During the disturbances of 1798, a battle took place here between the insurgents and a party of the yeomanry, which terminated in the total defeat of the former, and the consequent interruption of their progress into Queen's county. The town is pleasantly situated on the eastern bank of the river Barrow, amidst the improvements of Moore abbey, from which it extends for about a quarter of a mile towards the Grand Canal, which passes its extremity. It consists of 214 well built houses, on one side only of the principal street, which is parallel with the river; the other side being left open and laid out in gardens and lawns sloping down to the water's edge. The street is intersected by the Dublin road; and a bridge of six arches over the Barrow was erected in 1832, in a direct line wi th the road, by which the former sharp and dangerous turn is avoided.
A new street has recently been laid out in a direction parallel with the back of the principal street, at the private expense of the Rev. Henry Moore; and great improvements have been m ade on the line of the Grand Canal by that company, among which may be noticed the construction of an elegant cast-iron drawbridge over the canal, in 1829, and the carrying of the canal over the Barrow by an aqueduct of three arches of 40 feet span, hands omely built of hewn limestone, and surmounted by an iron balustrade; a branch canal from this place has also been extended to the thriving town of Portarlington. The extensive brewery, distillery, and malting concern of Mr. Cassidy, whose dwelling-house is highly ornamental to the town, afford employment to many of the working class; and a small tobacco and a tobacco-pipe manufactory are also carried on.
The traffic arising from its situation as a great thoroughfare on one of the branches of the great southern road from the metropolis adds to the support of the town. Its situation in the midst of a vast extent of turbary affords eminent advantages for the establishment of manufactures; and its facilities of communication with Dublin, Shannon harbour, and Waterford, by means of the Grand Canal and the Barrow navigation, render it peculiarly favourable to the carrying on of a very extensive inland trade. The market is on Saturday, and is abundantly supplied with provisions of every kind at a moderat e pride; and fairs are held annually on March 28th, May 29th, July 31st, and Dec. 6th, for cattle, sheep, and pigs.
The market-house is a commodious building, but not remarkable for any architectural ornament. A constabulary police station has been established here; and petty sessions are held every Saturday. The parish comprises about 5000 statute acres, comprehending an extremely large tract of bog, which affords employment to many persons, who procure fuel not only for the supply of the bre wery and distillery and other uses of the town and neighbourhood, but also for the supply of the Dublin markets, whither it is conveyed by the Grand Canal. There are some quarries of good limestone, used for buildings in which hewn stone is not required, and also burnt into lime for manure.
Moore Abbey, the property of the Marquess of Drogheda, is a spacious mansion, erected on the site of the ancient conventual buildings, of which the only remains are some sculptured ornaments inserted into the gable end of the domestic chapel: in the entrance-hall, which is wainscoted with oak, Loftus, Viscount Ely, is said to have held the court of chancery in 1641; it is situated in an extensive and greatly improved demesne near the banks of the river Barrow. The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Kildare, and in the patronage of the Marquess of Drogheda, in w hom the rectory is impropriate: the tithes amount to £129. 5. 8.
The church is a venerable structure with a square tower overspread with ivy, and was recently repaired by a grant of £880 from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners; it was built by the Drogheda family, in lieu of one which was originally situated within their demesne. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Kildangan, Nurney, Donany, and parts of those of Lea, Ballybracken, Harristown, and Walterstown: the chapel is a plain cruciform structure. There are places of worship for Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists.
The parochial school, for which a good school-house, with apartments for the master and mis tress, was erected on an acre of ground given by the Rev. H. Moore, with £300 presented by the trustees of the Marquess of Drogheda' s estates, is supported by the incumbent, by a bequest of the late Viscountess Ely, and by a grant of £30 p er annum from the Marquess of Drogheda, who also gave £300 towards the national schools, and allows £30 per ann. to the master and mistress. An infants' school has been built and is supported at the sole expense of Lady Henry Cole.
About 360 children are taught in these schools; and there are also six private schools, in which are about 280 children; and a Sunday school. A bequest of £3 per annum for teaching 12 poor children, and of £4 for apprenticing a Protestant child, was made about 150 years since, by a member of the Loftus family; and £100 per ann. is given by the proprietor of the Drogheda estate to be distributed in acts of charity, at the discretion of the incumbent; as also is £3 per annum, late currency, bequeathed by the late Viscountess Ely.
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