Lady Allen and Arklow Charter School

Will of The Right Honorable, Lady Margaret Viscountess Allen, Dowager, PROB 11/841/433
National Archives (UK)

Charter Schools were mooted in 1730-1, in response to the growth of hedge schools and in 1733, the Incorporated Society in Dublin for promoting English Protestant schools in Ireland set up for business. Arklow Charter School was established in 1748. An inquiry into all schools, including Charter Schools in 1808 recorded that £15 was paid to the Master of the school by the Society, and Lady Allen provided £20 in annuity.

The school’s 45 girls consisted of 4 orphans, 11 of Protestant parents, 7 of parents one of whom was a Protestant, 18 of Roman Catholic parents, and 5 where the religion of the parents was not known. The school mistress, Mrs Eleanor Cullen, was there for twenty years by 1808, and she is also listed in the 1825 Education Inquiry. The children came from mostly from Dublin, and the rest from Wicklow, Mallow, Wexford, Waterford, Kildare, Longford, King’s County and Meath. It was usual for children to be “transplanted” to Charter schools far from their homes to prevent and Popish influences from their parents and to stop them running away. Summarising the awfulness of the place, Rev James Doyle told the 1825 Irish Inquiry:

From what I know of the Charter school in Arklow, the whole of the children were strangers, transmitted from other parts of the country; and that the feeling is, that they were the children of the poor Roman Catholics, put in through necessity, and in order more certainly to proselytise them, they were withdrawn from their parents, and were sent to a distant part of the country … this leads to the people having an utter abhorrence of them.

In a series of reports and travel writings, Lady Allen is connected with the Charter School at Arklow. For example, Pococke wrote in 1752 that he came to Arklow Charter School for 20 boys and 20 girls on Lady Allen’s estate. (The schools were initially co-ed but later became one for girls.) As late as 1823, Wright states that “there is a charter school in Arklow founded by Viscountess Allen, who bestowed upon it twenty acres of arable land and one of bog, in perpetuity; with a donation of 50l toward the erection of the school-house.” By 1837, Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary reports that the two girls schools “are aided by Mrs Proby.” Lady Allen’s time had passed.

So who was Lady (Viscountess) Allen? Mary Fitzgerald, wife of 1st Viscount Allen, died in 1742, so she is too early for the 1748 date. Elizabeth Allen, sister of the 3rd Viscount Allen, is suggested in the annotations to notes to Pococke’s travels in the UCC transcripts. She married John Proby and became Baroness Carysfort, but I don’t think she is right as she never had the title Viscountess Allen. Therefore it appears that Margaret du Pass, 2nd Viscountess Allen is the most likely candidate. She died in 1758, ten years after the opening of Arklow School. She is mentioned throughout the 1750s in Incorporated Society reports for providing support to the school annually.

To know for sure, the last will and testament of Lady Margaret Viscountess Allen, Dowager from 1758 is available to view, and I was delighted to find, buried within, a mention of “twenty pounds Irish money for the benefit of the Charter School at Arklow” (see image below). Margaret Allen, née du Mass, married Joshua Allen, 2nd Viscount, in October 1707. Joshua was, according to Swift:

Spiteful, peevish, rude, untoward,

Fierce in tongue, in heart a coward.

They lived at Stillorgan, but the family had estates at Arklow. After Joshua died in 1742, he left his estate to his wife for her life. She moved to London after his death and died there in 1758. Her eldest daughter, Elizabeth, married John Proby, future Baron Carysfort. This was a powerful match, consolidating estates and financial interests. As Elizabeth’s brother had died in 1745, Lady Allen left much of the wealth in this marriage. The Stillorgan/Blackrock and Arklow estates, with its rental of £2200 per annum, was settled on their son.

The remainder was to go to whoever would be the son of Elizabeth’s younger sister, Frances, on her marriage to Lord Newhaven. Unfortunately, the Newhavens’ son died in infancy, so the money reverted back to Elizabeth and John Proby, and more importantly their son, the 1st Earl of Carysfort, who benefited from both fortunes. Elizabeth and John would later live at Stillorgan for a while, and Carysfort Avenue still exists today.

In the context of all this, I think £20 annuity to receive honourable mention in countless reports and books is quite good value for money for Lady Allen!


Notes and Sources:

Pococke’s Tour in Ireland 1752: See for reference to Allen estate.

G. N. Wright’s Guide to the County of Wicklow, 1822, p. 85.

A. P. W. Malcomson, The Pursuit of the Heiress: Aristocratic Marriage in Ireland 1740-1840, p. 108.

Francis Elrington Ball (1898) Stillorgan Park and Its History, The Journal of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland, Vol. 8, No. 1, 21-34.

Will of The Right Honorable, Lady Margaret Viscountess Allen, Dowager, PROB 11/841/433, National Archives (UK).

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