The Barrow towpath walk day is still a few days away as I sit down to write this Eye on the Past. Will the weather, I wonder, permit those participating to venture as far a Kilmoroney House that gaunt ghostly roofless shell which stands proudly on rising ground overlooking the river Barrow?
How, by whom, and when, Kilmoroney House was built we cannot say with any degree of certainty. Suffice to say that the house did not appear on the Noble and Keenan map of 1752 but did appear in Taylor's map thirty one years later. Some time in between these two dates the fine two storey over basement buildings of five bays with a balustrade roof parapet was constructed. On the west side of the house identified as Sportland in Taylor's map there was a two storey wing of four bays.
It is generally known that Kilmoroney House was the home of the Weldon's who arrived in Ireland from England in or around 1600. Four brothers, Walter, William, Robert and Thomas Weldon acquired large estates in Leix and Kildare and it was Walter Weldon who settled in Athy. He was a Member of Parliament for Athy Borough in 1613 and his fourth son, William also served in that position in 1661. Both father and son held the position of High Sheriff of the County of Kildare during their lifetimes. Later still Walter Weldon from Rahinderry was a Member of Parliament for Athy having been ‘elected’ in 1745 at the age of 21 years. The lands at Kilmoroney were acquired by a Robert Weldon from the Graham family sometime in the middle of the 18th century and it is probably this Robert Weldon who built Kilmoroney House.
Several years ago I came across a book published privately in 1908 by two daughters of Helena Lefroy who was born the eldest of four daughters of Reverent Frederick Trench, Rector of Athy and his wife Lady Helena. The Rector's wife was the daughter of Lord Arden and a niece of Spencer Perceval, the British Prime Minister who was assassinated in the lobby of the House of Commons in 1812.
The Trench's lived in Bert for the first fourteen years of their married life before moving to Kilmoroney House. In 1816 Kilmoroney was held by Stewart Weldon whose half sister was Frederick Trench's mother. Anthony Weldon was heir to the property but at fourteen years of age he entered the services of the East India Company and was not heard of again for many years. His cousin, Stewart Weldon believing him to be dead let Kilmoroney House to Frederick Trench for his life on condition that if Anthony Weldon ever returned the house should revert to the Weldons on Trench's death. After an absence of thirty years Anthony Weldon did make contact with his family but the Trench's continued to live in Kilmoroney House until the death of the local Rector on the 23rd of November 1860.
The following extract is taken from Helena Lefroy's nee Trench's memoirs:-
‘Kilmoroney as I remember it was situated on a bend or wide loop of the River Barrow - - driving from Athy the river had to be crossed at about a quarter of a mile from the house and as there were no bridge in those days a large float was kept. On this the carriage usually drawn by two horses was driven and the float was the poled across the river and the carriage driven off the other side’.
The Levistown Canal cut was in place at that time and the driveway to Kilmoroney House passed over the canal cutting courtesy of a bridge constructed by the Barrow navigation company. Across from Kilmoroney House on the Carlow Road side of the Levitstown Canal cut is the site of Grangemellon Castle, once the home of the infamous John St. Leger. He combined membership of the Hell Fire Club with membership of the English House of Commons as Member of Parliament for Athy. St. Leger, who on occasions is believed to have hosted meetings of the Hell Fire Club in Grangemellon Castle, served as the Athy Borough Parliamentary Member for one year only. He was ‘elected’ in 1768 and died the following year. Interestingly St. Leger was replaced as M.P. for Athy by Walter Hussey, regarded as one of the finest orators of his time. Hussey was married to a sister of William Burgh of Bert House who was also an M.P. for Athy Borough.
After the death of Rev. Frederick Trench in 1860 Kilmoroney House came back into the possession of the Weldon's. Sir Anthony Weldon who was appointed Colonel in charge of the 4th battalion Leinster Regiment shortly before he died in 1917 lived in Kilmoroney. His funeral to St. John's cemetery Athy was a large military affair. He was succeeded by his Anthony who died in Co Donegal in 1971 and he was the last Weldon to be buried in the family vault in St. John's cemetery. Kilmoroney House was vacated over seventy years ago and the lands taken over by the Land Commission for distribution amongst local farmers.