Back to School


The former National School at Sopwell, County Tipperary.  Primary education was officially introduced to Ireland in 1831, with schools run by the National Board of Education. This building apparently dates from six years earlier, but stylistically follows the form of such establishments throughout the country, with two large rooms on either side of the entrance, one for boys and the other for girls: children were segregated by gender rather than by age. According to Samuel Lewis, in 1837 the school had no less than 150 pupils. Seemingly it closed in 1925 and looks to have been converted at some later date into a domestic residence but now stands empty and rather forlorn. Nevertheless, while the timber bargeboards are deteriorating, much of the rest of the structure is still in good condition and it could easily be restored: all the pretty mullioned windows are still intact for example. Note how metal flags flying above the façade gables are punched with the letter ‘T’. This refers to the local landed family, the Trenches who lived close by in Sopwell Hall; presumably it was then resident of the house Francis Trench who was responsible for the building’s original construction.

4 comments on “Back to School

  1. Vincent Coleman says:

    Great that the flags survived.
    Ahh the Trenches. Wasn’t it a Trench who was responsible for the shot or the gun..or some issue in this regard..that took down St. Ruth at Aughrim..and he was toasted for a long tome after with ‘to Trenches gun” or something Robert, you probably know!!?

    • The story is that the Rev. John Trench, a supporter of King William, saw the latter’s forces at Aughrim were aiming their cannons too high and so missing the enemy. He cut off the heel of his boot and wedged it below the end of a cannon: the first shot then fired from this seemingly took down St Ruth…

  2. sopwell says:

    According to Noel Mac Mahon in “In the Shadow od the Fairy Hill” the school was established on 12th July 1826 by the Earl of Charleville and Francis Trench of Sopwell Hall, assisted by a small grant from the Lord Lieutenant’s Fund. The two roomed school, in which the mistress,Hester Maxwell, lived was situated in the porter’s lodge of the Trench demesne and was built to accommodate 100 pupils. In 1826 there were 11 Protestants and 19 Catholics on the rolls, who were expected to pay one half-penny per week.The mistress received £5 4s 0d p,a, It was taken into connection with the Board of Education in July 1832.

  3. sopwell says:

    Re the first comment. I have heard that the toast was “To the heel of the boot of the Dean of Raphoe”. I believe it was an Orange toast for a while.

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