Newtown and the Clogher Heritage Forge
This small dwelling is typical of those built in Newtown. The roof would have been thatched, but the rest of the house is fairly original.
Newtown is, or was, just that – a new town. It came into being when local landlord Major Andrew Crean-Lynch evicted numerous families from his estate in the first third of the 19th century. Those thrown out from their homes didn’t move far – just as far as this road junction, where they built a new community, a series of small cottages where they could restart their lives.
Some of the original Newtown buildings still stand. Local opinion is that this was always a shed, and probably so. The wider doorway would have allowed access for a small cart, such as would have been pulled by an ass.
The Major later fell into financial difficulty and had to sell off his considerable landholding. Perhaps he had time to reflect on his past misdeeds; one would like to imagine that was so.
In the centre of Newtown stands the cottage and forge that have become our visitor centre. The forge was in use until recently, and hopefully will be again. For now visitors can view it as it probably never was – free of smoke and straw, and quiet too, without the sound of hammering, horses, and old machinery.
Using tools both old and new, Tommy McEveny works at restoring a vintage plough.
The forge would have been an important focal point in the community. It was where horses were shod, where machinery and tools were made and repaired, and where local people would gather to discuss affairs of the day. Almost everybody would be dependent on the local blacksmith for everyday items.
There were a number of forges operating in the area. This one was in the ownership of the Staunton family for at least a hundred years and maybe much longer. The 1901 census lists Patrick Staunton as the local blacksmith. Patrick’s son Richard was also a blacksmith, and his own son John, who died in 1980, also worked as a ‘smith.
The blacksmith was a man skilled in his work, able to make a variety of tools as they were needed.
With Richard’s death the forge fell into disuse and disrepair. Restoration work was undertaken and thanks to the efforts of the local community and local employment schemes it is now a valuable heritage asset.
The forge contains a fine assortment of old tools, many of which were fashioned on site. Some of these remain as mystery objects. Perhaps you could shed some light on their purpose.
The 18th century style cottage, which now serves as a mini-museum, was built from scratch in 1993, by workers on the local Community Employment Scheme on land donated by Mrs. B. Cosgrave and her family.
Clogher Heritage Centre.
On entering through the red half-door visitors are often struck by the capacious fireplace and the ‘hag’, a sleeping compartment close to the fire. There were no proper bedrooms in most of the old labourer’s cottages, although this one does have a small room at the end of the main room. It also has a mezzanine, an upstairs and open sleeping area. The mezzanine was more commonly found on cottages built on better land, especially in the more southern counties of Limerick and Clare.
Traditional cattle breeds have been replaced by better performing types. Here, a Hereford/ Friesian cow and her continental cross calf take an interest in passers by.
The cottage is open to visitors on a daily basis, from 10.00 to 4.00pm through the week.
Visits outside these hours can be made by arrangement.