Ardagh House Former Convent
When you stand in the centre of Ardagh Village and look south, you get an impressive view of the former Ardagh House with also was a Former Convent, also known as St Brigid’s Training Centre. Originally, it was Ardagh House, home of the Fetherston family.
The house was built about 1730 by Thomas Fetherston and it remained the principal seat of his family until the early 1920s. It underwent alterations on a couple of occasions in the 1800s.
A north of England family, the Fetherstons arrived in Ardagh around 1700, having acquired a small amount of land here. They expanded their estate in later years and it was they who built Ardagh Village as it stands today.
Ardagh House was the scene of a famous episode in the youth of the writer Oliver Goldsmith (separate entry on Goldsmith). While travelling back to his home in Pallas from school in Edgeworthstown, he stopped in Ardagh to seek lodgings.
A local directed him to the ‘big house’, saying it was the local inn. The Fetherstons recognised him and ‘played along’ with his misunderstanding to the extent that a daughter of the squire waited on him. The next morning, Goldsmith was told the truth, and he later wrote the play She Stoops To Conquer or The Mistakes Of A Night’, based on the episode.
The last landlord, Rev. Sir George Fetherston was an Anglican clergyman who lived mainly in England. He died in 1923, but by then the estate had been broken-up, with most tenants buying their farms under the land acts. In 1922, the I.R.A. had attempted unsuccessfully to burn the house.
In 1927, the Sisters of Mercy arrived and soon established a training centre for domestic science. The course was modernised later and the centre – St Brigid’s – remained open until 2008. There was a serious fire in the convent in 1949 resulting in renovations that included the removal of the top storey.
Beside the house is a spacious coach yard, which was restored by the Sisters of Mercy in the early 1990s.
The house and grounds are private property and not accessible to the public.