Built Environment

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Our small barony of Abbeyshrule could possibly claim more bridges per square mile than any other part of Ireland crossing both the River Inny and Royal Canal within its confines. The river bridges rebuilt over the centuries are, of course, of greater antiquity. Most of these were originally built circa 1668 by Cromwellian Planters.

The Royal Canal

In 1817 the Royal Canal came to Abbeyshrule and the economic life of the area was transformed. A thriving water milling industry existed on the River Inny during this era. Sadly, at the end of the nineteenth century, hundreds of canals and mills declined due to advancements in road and railway transportation and the area was somewhat forgotten. Navigators’ route into and out of the village through a series of named canal ‘bridges’, each with their own unique story and history. September 2010 saw the official re-opening of the Royal Canal from Spencer Dock in Dublin to Abbeyshrule. Officially opened in June 1996, it boasts its own slipway and amenity area.

The Whitworth Aqueduct

This magnificent large-scale aqueduct carries the Royal Canal and associated towpaths over the River Inny, a distance of 165 feet. It is arguably the single most impressive feature along the entire length of the Royal Canal and is the most important element of the nineteenth century engineering heritage of County Longford. It is robustly constructed in excellent quality limestone masonry, while the extensive ashlar and cut limestone trim adds substantially to the aesthetics and its architectural character. The bases of both the main elevations are battered in a concave curve to counteract the outward thrust, which creates a robust, but highly pleasing and elegant composition. This bridge survives in excellent condition, which is testament to the quality of the original construction and the skill of the stonemasons and engineers involved.

The stone used in the construction was reputedly quarried at Castlewilder, which is located a short distance to the northeast. This fine structure was built to designs by John Killaly (1766 – 1832), the engineer responsible for the construction of the Royal Canal between Coolnahay to Cloondara. Construction commenced in 1814 and it was completed in 1817. This fine aqueduct is a notable addition to the built heritage of Longford, and represents one of the most impressive features of its type in Ireland. It cost c. £5,000 to construct.

The Cistercian Abbey (Flumen Dei)

Abbeyshrule Cistercian Abbey was founded from Mellifont in 1150 AD by the Cistercians during the lifetime of their founder St. Bernard of Clairvaux and endowed by O’Farrell, Prince of Annally. It enjoyed large possessions west to Ballnamanagh, the Town of the Monks, and to the north the medieval chapel of Agharra. The Abbey was built on the site of an earlier Christian settlement whose ninth century abbots are recorded in the Annals. A surviving early Christian High Cross is preserved in the village. The monastery was ransacked on two occasions, by an army from the Pale and at a later period by Hugh Ruadh O‘Donnell. Suppressed during the reign of Elizabeth I and eventually confiscated by the Earl of Roscommon (Dillon). Some of the earliest stonework survives. The Cistercian obligatory water mill was powered by the River Inny. The actual site stretched to a large area before boundary walls were built around it during the last century. The tower house was a medieval watchtower used by the autonomous O’Farrell Clan.

It is estimated that at its pinnacle the monastery had 6000 acres in its possession immediately across the river to the west. Additionally a townsland known to this day as Ballinamanagh (town of the monks) show traces of an outer farming habitation connected to the monastery. This townland is beyond Colehill some 3 kilometres away. Like its sister Cistercian houses it operated a water mill on the Inny. This mill would have been an integral part of Abbeyshrule over many centuries and the last traces of it were erased by the river drainage of the 1960‘s.

In conclusion, it can be said that Flumen Dei is the finest surviving and is the last great monument to the O‘Farrell Clan and the region known as Annaly itself. Their other castles at Ardandra, Castlewilder, Tenelick, Cloncallow etc. on the River lnny are all but disappeared. This strategic location was home to an earlier monastic settlement which existed before the Cistercian foundation. Abbots of the tenth century are recorded in the Annals of the Four Masters. There is also the matter of surviving artefacts; the best known being the inscribed Early Christian Cross which expert opinion dates to the eighth or ninth century. The cross replica commissioned in 2011 is currently on display at the Abbey entrance.

Cleaniness & Tidiness

We implement the following policy regarding keeping Abbeyshrule clean and tidy throughout the year. Firstly, we have removed all litter bins from the village. There is ongoing monitoring of any potential litter or events where litter may be created. Twice daily litter patrols are organised by the committee, with certain members responsible for certain areas. Litter is safely and effectively checked for and removed from our waterways. Weed control is carried out on a weekly basis. We held our Spring Clean Day in April with good response from the local community and schools. Litter collected on the day was later collected by Longford County Council.

General maintenance and tidiness in the village ensures that signposts are painted and cleaned on a regular basis. Constant sweeping of footpaths and roads is carried out by certain committee members and volunteers. Field gates and railings are washed, painted and cleaned.

The mural at the rear of the Rustic Inn was repainted this year to enhance the canal bank area as one moores in Abbeyshrule.

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