Abbeyleix – Irish Heritage Town
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Abbeyleix is a town with a population of 2000, situated in the midlands of Ireland. It was built in it’s present site in the mid 18th. Century. The old town of Abbeyleix was situated south of the town on low and marshy land. The local landlord Viscount De Vesci was concerned for the wellfare of his tenants and set about the construction of the new town as it is today.
Abbeyleix is a town rich in culture and heritage. It has some beautiful architectural buildings with many of them with a special story to tell. One of the first buildings a visitor to Abbeyleix will see is the beautifully restored Heritage House. It dominates the northern aspect of the town and is open all year around and well worth a visit. It was built in 1884 and formerly called The North School. It was taken over by the by the Patrician brothers in 1933 for the education of the Catholic boys of the area.
As one rambles down the town from Heritage, the tree lined street scape is very impressive.
Dove House and Sensory Gardens are situated on the site of the old Brigidine convent and school established in Abbeyleix in 1842. Dove House is now part of the Sisters of Charity of Jesus and Mary services for people with intellectual disability. Visitors are welcome to the adjacent sensory gardens which are an oasis of calm and tranquility.
The Church of the Most Holy Rosary dominates the eastern aspect of the main street. The present church was built in 1893. Once again the benevolence of Viscount De Vesci ensured that a church of this magnificence was constructed.
The local library situated in the square is a very historical building. It was built in 1836 as a market house by John, 2nd. Viscount De Vesci. It became the focus point for all kinds of commercial activity in Abbeyleix for many years.
Beside the market house is one of the many fountains in Abbeyleix. It was built by public subscription in the 1870’s and dedicated to Viscount De Vesci. It was built to commemorate the help given to the people of Abbeyleix by the De Vesci family during the famine.
One of the first houses to trade on the main street was Morrisseys, which opened as a general store in 1775. It is now an iconic pub still trading as Morrisseys and well worth a visit.
Further south along the Main street is Pembroke Terrace. This group of four impressively designed houses were built as part of a dowry by the 11th.Earl of Pembroke and Montgomery when his daughter Emma married Thomas De Vesci the 3rd. Viscount. At the turn of the century a constabulary barracks, an inspector’s house and the post office occupied Pembroke Terrace.
Preston House was once a secondary school, founded in Abbeyleix in 1896 and served as a school until 1966. It was aan endowed school, serving the needs of both religious traditions.
Abbeyleix House was the home of the De Vesci family for over 300 years. It is a magnificent building built beside the Nore and situated in a rolling pasture land of the estate. It is now in private ownership. The estate is rich in history with the ruins of the Cistercian Abbey and the tomb of Malachy, King of Laois in it’s grounds.