History & Info
Ardagh is County Longfords most picturesque village with many historical and architecturally important features. The early history of Ardagh begins a short distance outside the village at Brí Leith. This forested hill was once a famous centre of pre-Christian religious worship, and is named after doomed lovers Brí and Leith . With the coming of Christianity in the 5th century religious worship moved away from Brí Leith to Ardagh itself and the village developed around a monastery founded here by Saint Patrick, the Patron Saint of Ireland. It was here during the 5th century that St. Patrick appointed his nephew St. Mel as one of the earliest Irish bishops and head of the Diocese of Ardagh. Saint Mel was also Abbott of the monastery in Ardagh and the revered Saint is said to be buried beneath the ruins of the church which now stands there. St Brigid also spent time in Ardagh before founding her famous monastery at Kildare. St Brigid – Mary of the Gael – is second only to St Patrick in the esteem of the Irish people.
While Ardaghs importance declined with the coming of the Normans, a change in its fortunes was to occur with the arrival of the Fetherstons who made Ardagh their new home. They built Ardagh House in the early 1700s. The enduring legacy of the Fetherstons is however the village of Ardagh itself. The village and estate were managed by Sir George Ralph Fetherston and his English wife Frances Solly from Essex. The heritage village as seen today was designed and built by the famous Victorian architect John Rawson Carroll, a friend of the fetherston’s, as a memorial to Sir George. Many of the buildings in the village were built at this time.
The story of Ardagh is one not only of religious and archetectural history, but also literature and storytelling due to its association with Goldsmith, Sir Walter Scott and Maria Edgeworth. The village features most significantly in Goldsmith’s ‘She Stoops to Conquer’. In was in 1744 that one of the most famous incidents in Ardaghs history occurred. This was the visit of a young Oliver Goldsmith who was fooled into mistaking Ardagh House for an Inn. His endeavors to court the Fetherston daughters in the belief that they were servant girls formed the plot of his most successful play “She Stoops to Conquer “, a comedy which explores the contemporary themes of sexual morality and double standards.
Ardagh Heritage Centre
The Ardagh Heritage and Creativity Centre is located in the old school house, built in 1898. This centre houses an interesting exhibition which outlines the history of this exquisite village, as well as incorporating a café and craft shop. The exhibition draws on the rich fabric of Ardagh life down through the ages, from the roots of the village in Irish mythology, to its development as an important early church site and its emergence as a model estate village. The Centre aims to use the enchanting heritage of Ardagh Village to inspire creativity and works of art amongst those who use it’s space.
Craft Gallery & Cafe
The Midir and Étain Cafe and Craft Gallery draws its name from the ancient mythological story of ‘The Wooing of Étain’ which is assosiated with the area, most particularly Ardagh Mountain- Bri Leith which was according to legend the home of Midhir, God of the underworld. The cafe provides a space for local arts and crafts persons to showcase their work while also offering a range of home baked goods, delicious soups and traditional breads to groups or parties which pre-book.
For further information on the centre contact: Tel: Annette Corkery & Ann Gerety Smith 00353 (0)86 3027602 http://creativeardagh.blogspot.ie/
Further information on County Longford can be found on the ‘Explore Longford’ App available to download for both Android and Apple Devices:
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