Rochfortbridge, Co. Westmeath

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Rochfortbridge, Co.Westmeath, Ireland.
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Rochfortbridge, Co. WestmeathRt Hon George Rochfort

Rochfortbridge Community Website - Brief History of Rochfortbridge.

The village of Rochfortbridge lies on the “Slí Mór” on the northern side of the "Esker Riada", midway between Tara in Meath and Uisneach in Westmeath.
The pass of Kilbride as it was then known was heavily guarded in medieval times as the land on both sides of the village was impassable.
The first crossing of what is now the river Derry was beside the castle at Castlelost.
This crossing was a Ford crossing with no bridge.
Now don’t get confused by the word “Ford” it has nothing to do with the name of the village.

Fact vs Fable

The romantic fable that a dead beggar man was found at the crossing with enough money to build a bridge on his person etc. is just that, a fable that was told to newcomers to romanticise the village. There is absolutely no record of such a happening in any historical records. This story has been told and re-told and altered through time but the fact is that a beggar was employed by Robert Rochfort as he was the only qualified architect to be found in the area and his circumstances had demoted him to begging for a living. The "beggar" designed and oversaw the construction of the new bridge financed by Robert Rochfort, MP. the bridge was erected over the river Derry at Farthingstown. OK, some might say that the Derry river does not flow anywhere near Farthingstown.... well, before it was re-routed by Lady Cooper during the Great Famine... it did, and it was more "flood plain" than river. The facts have been altered from the original beggar man being paid handsomely to build the bridge to a beggar man having enough money to build the bridge through the passage of time and for the making of a better story. There are also romantic ramblings in some media that Robert Rochfort 1st Earl of Belvedere renamed the village from Beggars Bridge to Rochfortbridge in his own honour. Again untrue. The village was created by Robert Rochfort OK but it was the grandfather of the 1st Earl of Belvedere.

Birth of Rochfortbridge

The "Village" was set out in the year 1700 by Robert Rochfort, (1651 – 1727) MP for Westmeath. See the history of the Rochfort family to fill in the rest of his life. The wooden bridge at Farthingstown (already in place but in bad repair) was replaced by the newly designed "Bridge". The new bridge was called "beggars bridge"... not the village... (as there was no village as yet)... and it was called thus as it was indeed designed and built by a beggar (an unemployed craftsman).The new "Bridge" was also a toll bridge, with a toll of one farthing to cross either way, (the toll imposed by Robert Rochfort MP) This "toll" gave the town land of Farthingstown its name. The location of the first crossing at Farthingstown and the town land of Oldtown being the location of the first “transit” settlement was the first PostModern settlement and thus the first "Village" in the area. The "New" bridge was nick-named “Beggars Bridge” as not only was it built by a beggar but beggars often gathered there to beg from the wealthy.

(It was only the wealthy that used the bridge as the peasants crossed through the river with their wears in their bare feet.)

Robert Rochfort, MP. built the first stone "permanent" dwellings in 1700 and designed the street scape to give the settlement "Village" status. unfortunately none of the original buildings remain intact as the street scape was re-designed in famine times to its present state. the transit settlement at "Oldtown" and the toll bridge were both replaced by Josias Cooper as famine relief projects in the late 1840's

Lady Cooper of Dunboden re-routed the river as famine relief work. The Village as we know it today is as a result or her doings.

Rochfortbridge Today

At present the village has a growing young population with new housing developments bringing new residents out of the cities. The majority of the new housing estates are built to standard "Housing Estate" design. The Parish of Rochfortbridge consists of all the village of Rochfortbridge and its hinterland, The Village of MilltownPass and part of its hinterland and the Hamlet of Dalystown and the surrounding area. The Parish Roman Catholic Church is the Church of The Sacred Heart, Meedin, the village of Rochfortbridge and the village of MilltownPass each have a Roman Catholic Church. There are no other religious denonination churches/places of worship in use in the parish. The postal address for the village is Rochfortbridge, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath. The geographical address is, Village of Rochfortbridge in the town land of Rahanine/Castlelost in the barony of Fartullagh in the county Westmeath. The nearest major towns are Mullingar, Moate, Killbeggan, Tullamore(Offaly) and Edenderry (Offaly). The Village of Rochfortbridge has two national schools and one second level(secondary) school, MilltownPass has one national school and Dalystown has one national school, giving the parish a total of four national and one secondary schools. The villages of Rochfortbridge and MilltownPass are on the (old N6) while Dalystown is on the Mullingar - Tyrrellspass road.
Rochfortbridge village is one of the "newest" villages in the county, being pre-dated by its neighbours Tyrrellspass and Milltownpass, the village was established in 1700 by Robert Rochfort MP., to replace a shanty settlement that had developed around the river crossing.


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James Gibbs

Belvedere House architect - Richard Castles discounted as designer of Belvedere Lodge.
Belvedere was designed by James Gibbs pictured above with help from Lord Burlington.
The proof to follow soon.
Burlington and Rochfort introduce TURKEYS to Westmeath.
Gibbs visits Belvedere to plot out Belvedere House.
Lord Burlington, dies... Robert Rochfort attends funeral.
James Gibbs (renouned Scotish architect) housed in Mullingar By Rochfort.

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A Wedding in Gaulstown in 1728.
On a warm July morning in the year 1728 the guests were assembled in Gaulstown House near Rochfortbridge
for the wedding of Miss Anne Rochfort and Mr. Henry Lyons.

This was no ordinary wedding as the guest list is a who’s who of household names even today.
I will attempt to recreate the entire guest list and detail there present day relevance.

Here is just the top table seating.
Top table:
Bride Anne Rochfort.
Groom Henry Lyons.
Bridesmaid Thomasine Rochfort.
Groomsman Capt. John Lyons.
Mother of the Bride Lady Elizabeth Rochfort.
Mother of the Groom Elizabeth (Williams) Lyons.
Father of the Bride Rt Hon George Rochfort.
Father of the Groom Hon Charles Lyons.
Matron of Honour Lady Hannah (Handcock) Rochfort.
Celebrant of the Mass Dean Patrick Delaney.
Celebrant of the Mass Dean Jonathan Swift.
Special Guest of Honour Sir Charles Moore 1st Earl of Charleville (God father of the groom).
Special Guest of Honour John Rochfort (God father of the Bride).

In just the top table alone there are links to:-
Princess Dianna, Princess of Wales.
King George II King of England.
To mention just two.

With other links to household names like:-
Lyons Tea.
Charleville Castle Tullamore.
Belvedere House and Gardens Mullingar.
D.E.Williams Tullamore.
Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift.
East India Company Service (portrayed as East India Trading Company in the film “Pirates of the Caribbean”).

And this is before the other guests are vetted – stay tuned for the full guest list and its present day impact on our daily lives.
Rochfortbridge Exiles - more pictures

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