Ladytown and Elm Grove

Captain Samuel Molyneux, chief Engineer of Ireland, purchased the parish of Ladytown, which was formerly a rectory of the Augustinian Priory at Great Connell, on the Liffey in 1671.

In January 1752 Faulkner’s Dublin Journal carried this advertisement: Elm Grove.

There is for sale for a term of years the large new-built house at Elm Grove, all well wainscotted and dome of it in the Corinthian order, has six rooms on a floor, and a large hall and some Italian marble chimney and Egyptian marble pieces, vaults under the house for all kinds of liquor, with all manner of convenient offices with two large stables and two coach houses, a garden about two and a half acres laid out in the best of taste and planted with the finest kind of wall fruit trees and with standards of all kind of fruit, and 116 acres of very fine land, may be made meadow in one year and all divided in 5 or 6 acre parks an quicked, the said house stands on a limestone gravel and has fine land prospect from the ground floor as in Ireland, situate in the County of Kildare 2 miles beyond Naas on the road to the Curragh. Enquire of Mr. Robt. Harison at his office in Skinner Row, or of the printer hereof or at the said house. That same year the newly published map of Noble & Keenan recorded the house as a Gentleman’s Seat, with a church (perhaps the Watch House) and a farmhouse near by.

But five years later the property was again up for rent, as the same journal announced: To be let and entered immediately the house and demesne lands of Elm Grove in the County Kildare, within 5 miles of the Curragh, wherein John Wilde, Esq., formerly lived and lately in the possession of Sir Ulick Blake, Bart. The house is three storeys high, entirely wainscoted in the genteelest manner, with complete marble chimney pieces, & c & c.

But it would seem that the Wildes did not in fact leave Elm Grove as in Taylor & Skinner’s Maps of the Roads of Ireland published in 1777 it is shown as the residence of Wylde Esq. William Wilde was a wealthy Dublin contractor, and the great-great grand uncle of the celebrated Oscar Wilde, and it has been suggested that it was William Wilde who in fact built Elm Grove, and probably also the Watch House in the graveyard.

By 1778 the property had been sold to the 5th Viscount Allen, of a family descended one John Allen, by trade a bricklayer, who was the agent of Dutch merchants trading in Ireland in the 17th century. Allen has been identified as “the builder of the remarkable house at Jigginstown, stated to have never been completed, and now a ruin, where his Dutch bricks may still be seen”. He purchased other lands in the county, including Puncherstown, Castle Dillon and Tipper. By 1814 the Elm Grove property was known as Ladytown, owned by Viscount Allen.

Ladytown remained in the ownership of the Allen’s until 1841 when, to quote the Journal of the Co. Kildare Archeological Society, “Ladytown became partially ruinous, so that when Mr. John Darcy, who died in 1841, became possessed of Lord Allen’s interest in the place, he found it necessary to pull the whole front. The present building, a small but comfortable farmhouse, still retains the original back wall, and some of the rooms have woodwork and mantle pieces dating back to the Allen occupation. There is still an old wine-cellar with vaulted roof, underneath the flower-beds in front of the house.”

In 1853 the major part of the estate was still owned by the Molyneux family, and Griffith’s Valuation of that year records that Sir Capel Molyneux, Bt., held most of the town land of Ladytown, over 1147 acres, including five houses, and the graveyard with its Watch House. This sturdy barrel vaulted little room has a fireplace and four loopholes for firing through. Local tradition was that for a couple of weeks following a burial, men from the family or neighbours kept night watch there to prevent the deceased from ‘being snatched’.

There was a demand from medical schools for the cadavers for surgical purposes until legislation was passed regulating the supply for dissection in 1832.

The earliest gravestones at Ladytown now to be seen are that of Giles Rigney alias Toole wife to David Toole who died 27 April 1734, aged 34.

Also four of her sons. Close-by is the monument to George Toole, Clergyman who departed 3 April 1784 aged 30 years.

During the ‘Troubles’ of the early 20th century it is said that the Watch House was used as a refuge by a man on the run, who was smuggled in food by the neighbours!

Courtesy of the Leisnter Leader