Earliest stonecutters

The Receipt Books of Trinity College (the ‘Muniments’) record that in 1720 and 1721 the college paid for "Blessingtowne Stones delivered for ye new buildings over ye Cellars in ye College"


‘Blessingtowne Stones’ presumably refers to granite from the Blessington area, or from the Blessington Estate.


Trinity has records of payments to a ‘Will Reyli’ covering paver’s work in the years 1701, 1702, 1704, 1705 and 1707.  Some of this was for ‘repaving the boggs’ and on the 'brew house’, for which granite would have been ideal because of its high resistance to acid.  Although Reyli/Riley/Reilly is not at first sight a ‘Protestant’ surname, the registers of St Mary’s (the Church of Ireland parish church in Blessington) contain records of a family of this name from 1699 and on through the 1700s.


In 1709 and 1710, Trinity employed Nathaniel Spencer for painting and plastering. Could he be related to the Spence who obtained a lease for quarrying in the 1760s?


In 1712, when the Trinity library was being built, we find a Richard Osborne and a Robert Smith as stonemasons at Trinity. Osborne is well known at Ballyknockan and there were earlier Osbornes at Rathnabo (where they worked surface stone) and at Kilbride (presumably associated with Golden Hill quarry).  In the case of Smith, the earliest record in St Mary’s for a Smith is in 1703.


In 1712, Nathan Hall supplied transport for 11,363 loads of stone, charcoal for melting lead for the stonecutters, and slates.  St Mary’s register has many Halls, the earliest was in 1743.

The earliest granite quarries are at Woodend, in a spot known locally as White's Hill.  Whites first appear in St Mary’s register in 1722, but branches or descendants of the family later became Catholic and appear to have migrated from Woodend to Threecastles to Golden Hill and finally to Ballyknockan, where the female line continued until the 1960s.  Another branch migrated to Ballynabrockey.  A series of gravestones of the Whites is in Kilbride cemetery (RC) dating from 1724.


The families named above are most likely provided granite for the very earliest granite cut-stone buildings in the area, such as Dunlavin Courthouse, (originally a Market House on the Tynte Estate) which dates from circa 1740, and Russborough House, built by Joseph Leeson, where construction commenced around 1745.


Interestingly, the address of the Reyli/Riley/Reilly family up to 1764 is Burgage, but from 1766 it is Glashinna, which is just north of Russborough House.  Could their move have been associated with the construction of Russborough?  The Reilly surname continued in association with granite quarrying at Ballyknockan, where they were Roman Catholic.


Created February 2013.