The town of Monasterevin is located at the border of Counties Kildare and Laois. Historically the town can be traced back to Neolithic times and during the bronze age small farms were established which has been proven by the discovery of several earthen enclosures from the time. The town of Monasterevin was an important crossing point over the river Barrow.
With the arrival of Christianity to Ireland St. Abban of New Ross established a monastic settlement by the banks of the River Barrow at Rosglas and gave it into charge of his protégé Evin. St. Evin brought a number of monks with him from his native Munster. This gained the settlement the name Rosglos-na-Moinneach (the green wood of the Munstermen). Saint Evin secured special status for the Monasterevin area placing it outside the common law, making it a sanctuary. His famous bell was used for swearing oaths and was much in demand by tribes of the region for guaranteeing peace treaties. St. Evin also co-authored the “Tripartite life of St. Patrick”. Other writing by Evin survives including the “Cain Emhin”.
St. Evin’s monastery died out about the time of the Viking raids in Ireland. Its importance continued. In 903 AD the battle of Ballaghmoon was fought for the ownership of the church. The next religious establishment on the site was in the 12th century when the Cistercian Abbey was founded under the patronage of Dermot O’Dempsey. This began a long connection with Mellifont in Co. Louth the Cistercian motherhouse overall Ireland and Baltinglass in Co.Wiclow the motherhouse of Monasterevin. At this time the O’Dempsey’s were the rulers of the area, which was part of the territory of Clanmaliere. The O’Dempsey’s remained involved with the Abbey providing the last abbot in Monasterevin Hugh O’Dempsey.
Once again the importance of Monasterevin as a crossing point on the Barrow asserted itself and the town came under the opposing influences of the O’Mores of Laois, the Hiberno Norman Earls of Kildare and the English Pale. Abbots of Monasterevin therefore had to inherit St. Evin’s talent for politics. Abbots of Monasterevin held a seat in the Irish Parliament while assisting outlaws and rebels against the crown of England.
By 1427 Rosglas had fallen on hard times and in 1541 the Abbey was handed over to Henry the VIII of England as part of his reformation. He in turn leased it to his nobles. During the Elizabethan period there were several occupants including Sir Robert Devereaux, Earl of Essex after whom
Essex Bridge is named (commonly called the Pass Bridge because he passed over it on his way to his disastrous campaign against the native Irish in Munster. It is not recorded whether he passed that way again on his way to the headsman block in the Tower of London. King James I granted the Abbey and demesne of Rosglas at Monasterevin to Sir Adam Loftus in 1613. The Earls of Drogheda married into the Loftus family. Charles Lord Moore Earl of Drogheda married Jane Loftus in 1699. Their son Edward became the Forth Earl who sold the Mellifont estates and transferred the family seat to Monasterevin.
The coming of the Moores marks an important point in the history of Monasterevin. It’s rise as the “Venice of Ireland” was encouraged by the many improvement works undertaken by the family and the influx of a mixed Protestant and Catholic merchant class. Many of the place names in Monasterevin are named after the Moore family e.g Moore Street.
The First Earl had laid out the streets at the centre of Dublin, Drogheda ( O’Connell) Street Moore Street, Henry Street and Mary Street. His descendents continued this tradition of town planning by laying out the grid-pattern of the town with the parallel Main Street and Drogheda Street which were connected by several crossing streets and lanes some of which have disappeared. One such lane still is in existence at the end of West End called Whealan’s Row.
Monasterevin has an unusual number of Bridges giving rise to the appellation the Venice of Ireland. Arriving in 1786 the Grand Canal lends support to this name. Originally the spur connecting the main line the Barrow in Athy was carried down the bank by locks in to Barrow and up the other side.
The Grand Canal allowed the local distilling industry to flourish. The captains of this industry were the Cassidy Family who’s whisky and their St. Patrick Cross Pale Ale became world famous. The wealth they acquired gave them considerable influence in the locality.
On the 25th of May 1798 insurgents from the surrounding countryside marched on the town of Monasterevin in an attempt to capture it. The Battle of Monasterevin took place in the Main Street opposite St. John’s church, which had been fortified by local yeomanry and militiamen. A charge by the Monasterevin Yeomanry Cavalry routed the insurgents. Later in the year Fr. Edward Prendergast was arrested and condemned to death for administering to the insurgent in their camp in Iron Hill near Nurney. He was hanged in the garden of Monasterevin House and buried there. Captain
Padraig O’Bierne and a group of Derryoughter boatmen stole into the town under cover of darkness and removed the body to his home place of Harristown. The 19th century was marked by further improvements to the town infrastructure including the building of a new Town Bridge in 1832 and the arrival of the railway. The Great Famines of the 1840’s also left the area relatively unravaged. The houses along West End were built during the early to mid nineteenth century for the wealthy merchant middle classes many of them profiting form the arrival of the newly built canal and railway system.
Hibernian House, West End is a building of significance within the Architectural Conservation Area of Monasterevin. It has an important role in defining the character of the street it inhabits and on a larger scale the town of Monasterevin itself.
Located within a terrace of Georgian houses at West End Monasterevin Co. Kildare, these houses were built for the wealthy merchant class that arrived with the arrival of the grand canal and the railway line in the early to mid-1800s. The original building was constructed circa 1860s.
Further Reading Links
Local History Of Monasterevin - Kildare