Ballitore first developed during the late
17th century as a Quaker settlement after two Quakers, John Bancroft and Abel Strettel
established a farm in the area.
Ballitore takes its name from the Gaelic
'Baíle' meaning a town, and 'Togher' meaning a marsh.
The Quakers from Yorkshire who founded
Ballitore, transformed the valley into rich fertile farmlands, and developed the town as a
Quaker Settlement. In fact, Ballitore is the only planned and permanent Quaker
Settlement in Ireland.
Ballitore is home to several historical buildings, including The Meeting House,
which was built around 1708 and the Leadbeater house. It was the home of Mary
Shackleton Leadbeater the daughter of Abraham
Shackleton, who in 1707 opened a small boarding school which attracted pupils from all
over Ireland as well as overseas. Mary
demonstrated an early ability for creative writing and in 1791 married William Leadbeater,
former pupil and teacher at the school. Through Mary Leadbeater's 'Annals of
Ballitore' a very important historical legacy was left to the people of the village.
Within these writings, she describes the events and characters of Ballitore during her
During the rising of 1798 Ballitore
was pillaged and burned by both troops and insurgents. The Quakers played key roles
in restoring and rebuilding the village.
In 1841 the village had a population of 441. In 1986 the population was 290. Today, a small museum, numerous buildings and the old
village cemetery reflect the Quaker Tradition.
In 1975 the Meeting House of
the Society of Friends which had fallen into ruin was restored by Kildare County Council
and it has served as the library for the Ballitore area since then. The Museum,
which is incorporated into the library contains a selection of artifacts and memorabilia
of a mainly local nature.
Items of a Quaker interest
also feature and include a wedding dress and bonnet worn by Marian Richardson at Ballitore
In the entrance hall are the door and lintel stone from the original Shackleton home at
Harden in Yorkshire which was built in 1660. Also in the entrance hall is a ledger
dated 1807-1810 for the Shackleton mills at Lucan.
Amongst the Ballitore manuscripts on display are Shackleton letters, notebooks which
contain water colours by Mary Shackleton and the Ballitore Magazine for July 1809.
The majority of the original
Quaker buildings are now very much neglected. Mary Leadbeater's house is
situated on the corner of the village square. Her parents' house, known as the "Retreat", now houses the Avonmore Creamery Offices.
From one of the windows over looking the village square Mary Leadbeater witnessed
at first hand the cruelty of the 1798 Rebellion. Her accounts of what happened in
Ballitore represent one of the few independent descriptions of events in Ireland during
The house has been painstakingly restored, ensuring it's preservation and celebrating it's
place in the history of County Kildare.
For more information
on quakers visit The Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) in Ireland