Friday, July 23, 1993

Kilmoroney House

As you pass on the road to Carlow cast your eyes across the Barrow Valley on the right hand side and see in the distance the crumbling remains of Kilmoroney House. It is a broken, roofless, derelict shell standing outlined against the Laois skyline. It's story is part of our heritage.

Kilmoroney House was built in 1780 by Stewart Weldon, son of Walter and Mary Weldon of Rahinderry, Co. Laois. Stewart was an only son and he married in 1777 Helen, sister of Henry, the 2nd Marquis of Coneygham. The house as originally constructed was a two storey, five bay Georgian house of grand proportions with a balustraded roof parapet. It was in time to have a lower two storey wing added.

Stewart Weldon died on the 2nd of January, 1829 and Kilmoroney House passed to his first cousin Anthony Weldon, son of Rev. Anthony Weldon of Athy who at 14 years of age had entered the East Indian Service. Inexplicably Anthony Weldon was not heard of for many years and believing him to be dead Kilmoroney was left to Rev. F.S. Trench and his wife Helena on condition that if Anthony Weldon ever returned the property should revert to him on Rev. Trench's death. Frederick Trench, Rector of Athy, and last Sovereign of Athy Borough Council was son of Rev. Thomas Trench, Dean of Kildare and his wife Helena was daughter of Lord Arden. The Trenches who had lived for 12 years at Bert moved to Kilmoroney House in 1832.

Mrs. Helena Trench was niece of The Honourable Spencer Percival, the British Prime Minister who was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons on the 11th of May, 1812. She had four daughters, the eldest of whom Helena later married Rev. Jeffrey Lefroy, third son of Thomas Lefroy, the Lord Chief Justice of Ireland. Even with this marriage the Athy connection was maintained as Thomas Lefroy, the Lord Chief Justice, as a young boy from County Longford attended Mr. Ash's classical school in Athy as a boarder with his brother Ben Lefroy in 1791.

Helena Lefroy, nee Trench, was 12 years old when the Trench family moved to Kilmoroney. The house, as remembered by her, was situated on a bend of the River Barrow and travelling from Athy the river had to be crossed one quarter of a mile from the house. There was no bridge across the river in the 1830's and a large float was used to carry carriages and horses across. From the river the ground in front of the house rose gently, the drive first passing a wooded area on the left.

The Trench family continued to live in Kilmoroney House until the unfortunate death of Rev. Trench following an accident in Offaly Street when his horse and gig collided with Preston's Gate, the last remains of the old medieval wall of Athy. Trench died on the 23rd of November, 1860 and the Gate was subsequently removed by the Town Commissioners of Athy. In his Will Rev. Trench left a bequest in favour of the poor of Athy and ever since a sum of money is paid each year to the Parish Priest of the town under the terms of his Will. A beautiful carved marble pulpit in memory of Rev. F.S. Trench is to be found in St. Michael's Church of Ireland Church on the Carlow Road.

The long missing Anthony Weldon who at 14 years of age had gone overseas returned after 30 years absence. On the death of Rev. Trench Kilmoroney House reverted to the Weldon family and in particular to Sir Anthony Cresdill Weldon, 5th Baronet Rahinderry, son of the West Indian adventurer who had died in 1858 having earlier succeeded to the Baronetcy of his cousin Sir William Bundett in 1840.

Kilmoroney House and the land on which it stood was to remain in the possession of the Weldon family until 1934 when the then Lady Weldon moved to Dublin following the death of her husband Sir Anthony Weldon in 1931. A public auction of the contents of Kilmoroney House was held that year and many of the valuable artifacts accumulated by generations of the Weldons were dispersed.

The property was then let on a ten year Lease to a Mountrath man but during the second World War Sir Thomas Weldon, the 8th Baronet who by then was living in England, found himself unable to take up residence again in Kilmoroney House. The Irish Land Commission took over the land and the magnificent Georgian House was allowed to fall into ruin.

The remains of Kilmoroney House are a visible and stark reminder of the social changes brought about in the Republic of Ireland in the years immediately following the Treaty.

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