Blessington History Society


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The group was established in 1998
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The aim of Blessington History Society is to promote an interest in the history and heritage of the local area, including an interest in family genealogy. This aim is achieved through specialist lectures and exhibitions and in addition, the members produce books, pamphlets and articles which are available from the society or from Blessington Bookstore and the Tourist Office. These include:

- Manor Kilbride Graveyard Survey (Blessington History Society, 2009) by Janet Halligan gives an index of the names of those commemorated on headstones, as well as transcriptions of all the inscriptions. It explains some symbols found on the headstones and a brief history of the site.

- The Blessington Estate 1667-1908 (Anvil Books, 2004) by Kathy Trant records the history of Blessington’s landlords and tenants.

- The Four-stone Tree (s.p 2003) by Vincent Byrne, gives a history of the town with emphasis on the 20th century.

- Blessington Now and Then (Blessington History Society, 2002), contains articles researched and written by members.

- Booklet on St Mary’s Church (2006) researched, written and produced by members of the society for National Heritage Week.

- Blessington Heritage Trail brochure was researched and produced by members in 2006.

Restoration of Four-stone Tree.
Currently, preparations are in train to produce a journal. In addition, a video entitled A Journey through West Wicklow was produced in 2004 by Maureen and Julie Phibbs.

The society has always been concerned for the preservation of the heritage of the local area. For example, in recent years the society was associated with the restoration of St Patrick’s well and the cleaning and resetting of the granite stones around the Four-stone Tree, a longstanding Blessington landmark.

Manor Kilbride grave-yard survey.
To promote an interest in family history, a comprehensive survey of the old grave-yard in Manor Kilbride was undertaken in 2007-8. The results of the survey, which has been put on a database, augments previous work undertaken by memberson the transcription from the registers of births and marriages 1822-1852 and 1852-1900 for the Catholic parish of Blessington. The society has made available information from these sources to people (many of them outside the area) who were undertaking family research. Copies of the transcribed registers and the Manor Kilbride grave-yard survey can also be consulted in Blessington library. Members are currently recording the story of some of the older residents of the Blessington area.

Individual members researching family histories have used facilities such as National Library, National Archives, Valuation Office, Church Representative Body and the Downshire Estate Papers in the Public Records Office North Ireland (PRONI).

Gyves Shop.   Fair day in Blessington.

Mowing.
Archival material gathered and held by the society includes a collection of old photographs of local people, dwellings and farm machinery, while historical records include copies of maps and documents relating to the Downshire estate.

The society tries to forge links with other historical groups. In this context, a common link between three local history groups, Blessington, Edenderry and Lisburn, was found to be the Downshire family who were local landlords in the 19th century for all three areas. This link has resulted in reciprocal visits involving the three societies.

Similarly, the society is affiliated to:

• County Kildare Federation of Local History Groups: the Blessington area has much in common, both geographically and historically with east Kildare.
• National Federation of Local History Societies, which is a network of about one hundred societies, north and south.
• Council of Irish Genealogical Organisations (CIGO).

Outing to Hillsborough.
Society outings have been organised from time to time to places of national and local interest, such as Hillsborough Castle, home of the Downshire family, Newbridge House, Donabate, built by the Cobbe family, onetime landlords of Lacken and Ballyknockan, Ballylow townland, from where some eighty people were evicted by the Downshires in the aftermath of the Great Famine, and Ballynabrocky townland where a monument erected by the third marquis of Downshire commemorates the commencement in 1831 of Coronation Plantation.

The Committee, which meets at regular intervals throughout the year, elected at AGM each February.

There are 25 full members, Lectures can have an attendance of up to 50.

Five lectures by visiting speakers are held during the year normally on the third Thursday of month in St Kevin’s Community Centre.

How to join:
At any of our lectures or by contacting a committee member. Annual membership for an individual is €20 and €30 for a couple, which gives free admittance to lectures.

Contact:
Maureen Phibbs (Sec).
Click here to email Maureen

A descendent of One of Earliest Settlers in Blessington Pays Us a Visit

Michael Cooper and Janet HalliganRecently, Michael Cooper from Sydney Australia paid a brief visit to Blessington and met two of our members, Kathy Trant and Janet Halligan. Michael is researching his family history and particularly wished to obtain a lead on Austin Cooper or his immediate descendents. Of great interest to us was the fact that in the 1660s Austin Cooper, on the invitation of Michael Boyle, the founder of Blessington, came to work on the layout of the gardens attached to Blessington House. Austin Cooper was born at Hampton Court where his father held a position under Charles I and later he acquired property in Byfleet, Surrey, which he sold for £1,500 before coming to Blessington when he was about 40 years. He was married to a niece of Erasmus Smith, noted for his endowment of schools for the education of his Irish tenants. Austin Cooper had a family of seven boys, three of whom married and had families. Joseph was keeper of Richmond Park in London, while the other two acquired land in the Blessington area – Thomas held land near Drogheda as well as in Aghfarrel near Manor Kilbride, while Austin was based in Butterhill close to Blessington. The latter married Susanna, daughter of Ephraim Rainsford, whose family had a long association with the area and who operated the mill at Blessington into the 18th century. Samuel Cooper a son of Austin and Susanna, retained the land in Butterhill and had five daughters and three sons. One of these, Joseph, settled in Barn Hall near Leixlip and it is from this branch of the family that Michael Cooper, our recent visitor to Blessington, is descended.
We were able to tell Michael, that Thomas Cooper, a son of the first Austin to settle in Ireland, attended the dedication of St Mary’s Church in Blessington in September 1683. Another descendant was christened in St Mary’s in the early decades of the 17th century. Thereafter, the Blessington end of the story dies out.
We were pleased to welcome Michael to Blessington and his story corroborates the theory that many families were brought over from England by Michael Boyle to settle on his newly acquired Blessington estate.

Annual General Meeting

The AGM of the Blessington History Society was held on 18 February 2010. Officers elected were; Della Kyne returned as Chair- person. Seamus Balfe, Vice-chair. Secretary, Kathy Trant stepped down as secretary and Maureen Phibbs replaces her. Treasurer; Janet Halligan was returned as treasurer with Crena McGee assistant treasurer. Committee. Beth Halligan, Valerie Hamilton, Tom Murphy, Jim Corley and Kathy Trant.

We hold our monthly talks on the third Thursday of each month except between June and September or during December. Two of our members have commenced transcribing baptisms, marriages and deaths from the early register of St.Mary’s Church of Ireland which is held in the Representative Church Body Library in Churchtown, Dublin.

Anniversary of the flooding of the Valley

The community of St Mary’s Church and Church of Our Lady are inviting people to take part in an “Act of Remembrance” on Saturday 19 June by retracing the steps of those who carried their loved ones, from the old cemetery by the lake, seventy years ago, to the present Burgage cemetery. Assemble in Burgage cemetery at 3pm.

Summer Outing

Blessington History Society’s Summer outing will take place in late June/early July. Date and details to be finalised.

Forthcoming dates

Saturday 10th July: Lakeside Heritage & Naas Historical Society. Heritage trail. Meet Blessington Square at 2.30pm.

Sunday 31st July: Mass at the Cillin, (‘the children’s graveyard’) Lacken. Blessing of the graves in Templeboden after Mass

21-29 August : National Heritage Week. Events countrywide.Heritage walk around Lacken - more details from Seamus Tel: 045-865504

15-17 October: ‘Back to the Past’. Genealogy/History event in the RDS.10am-6pm each day Friday to Sunday.

Admission €5 daily. More details at info@slp.ie

21 October October Talk. (To be arranged). Thursday 21 October at 8pm.

To contact Secretary; email maureenphibbs@eircom.net


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