Abbeyleix is the oldest planned estate town in Ireland. It inspired the architect Thomas Wyatt when he was commissioned to design a new town at Westport, Co. Mayo, in 1780. The museum in Heritage House tells the story of this town, from ancient prehistory up to the 20th century.
This story begins almost 4,000 years ago when Cashel Man was buried in a local bog, and continues through the arrival of Christianity in the area, with the building of early monasteries and ringforts. The Normans then arrived in 1167 and brought with them not only castles, but also large continental monasteries like the one from which Abbeyleix takes its name. The Reformation forced the closure of these monasteries and marked the start of a new story. One where the former Abbeylands eventually arrive in the hands of the Vesey family. They gain power and titles and then decide to recreate the area, building a great house and a new town. These development would continue through the arrival of the railway, and the opening of a simple carpet factory that was to tie the town forever to the loss of the ill-fated Titanic.
While different to the commonly told histories, the story of Abbeyleix still reflects the story of Ireland, though viewed through a different prism. This unique perspective gives us a new story to share with you.