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PRIMATE GEORGE STONE AND LEIXLIP

 
Primate George Stone and Leixlip
by
JOHN COLGAN
After the introduction of the cannon gun (c1488), Leixlip Castle no longer served as a fortress with long-term prospects. It remained, however, a prestigious residence in a beautiful setting in the Liffey valley by the country’s most famous falls, and within commuting distance of the capital. The Castle attracted prestigious and egotistical tenants. Among the first was the Londoner, the Protestant bishop, George Stone (c1708-64). Stone was brought to Ireland as chaplain to the Lord Lieutenant from 1730 to 1737. It was government practice to appoint Englishmen as bishops and he rose rapidly to become Primate, archbishop of Armagh (1747-64). In 1743 he was appointed bishop of Kildare and dean of Christchurch Cathedral. As bishop he would have had a seat in the Irish House of Lords. By April 1747 he was a Lord Justice and member of the Irish privy council. He continued to pursue the English interest, that is, to appoint friends and relatives from England to bishoprics, etc. Stone’s long primacy belongs to the political history of Ireland. As a fellow cleric sarcastically remarked, the ‘beauty of his holiness’ belonged only to his handsome physique. In Stone’s own words, he ‘injured his constitution by sitting up late, and rising early, to do the business of government in Ireland.’ Ultimately he emerged for a time as the virtual ruler of Ireland from 1752 until his death in London on 19/12/1764. He was a master of finesse and tact, but of unbounded ambition.
Leixlip Castle was Primate Stone’s favourite summer residence from 1752 onwards. Here he took time out from his political struggles and amused himself playing cricket with General Conyngham. His neighbour at Carton, Emily (nee Lennox), Duchess of Leinster, visited him at the castle in April 1759. ‘The Primate was all complaisance, very easy and it was altogether more agreeable than I expected..’, she wrote. Although George was unmarried, some Stone family entourage (?) settled in Leixlip and his servants are mentioned. On 25/6/1758, a daughter of William McMullen, “belonging to the Lord Primate George Stone, archbishop of Armagh”, was baptised and on 10/9/1758; Thomas English, son of James English, a servant of Rev Dr Alex Bisset, chaplain to the Lord Primate, was baptised at St Mary’s, Leixlip. Anne Stone of Leixlip was buried at St Mary’s, 14/8/1796. Judy Stone was buried there in the Summer of 1809 and Thomas Stone, ditto, on the 20/3/1828. A George Stone was tenant at 1 Dublin Rd, opposite the Toll House, from 1878-85; George and Mary Stone appear at the corn workers’ cottages, 4 and 5 Mill Lane in 1850-8. Confey graveyard contains a memorial erected by George Stones [sic] of Leixlip in memory of his parents Thomas, d16/10/1848, aged 48, and Mary, d25/12/1873, aged 62, and his brother, Charles, d28/2/1875, aged 30 years. The Stone(s) had become RC: Michael, son of George Stone and Bridget O’Neill, was christened at St Mary’s RC Church, 4/6/1876 and Michael’s brother, Thomas, married Elizabeth Ardiff in the same church on 30/7/1881.
  
The reference notes have been omitted from this extract from John Colgan’s book, Leixlip, County Kildare, (2005), available from himself or bookshops in the locality.
 

Eoghan Corry’s article on Kildare’s Well-Connected Families mentions Archbishop Stone’s relationship with the Ponsonbys; John Colgan writes of Stone’s Leixlip connections in this adapted extract from his book, Leixlip, County Kildare (2005). Our thanks to John

 


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