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Historic digital maps of estate near Stradbally donated to Laois

Ballykilcavan Estate near Stradbally donated to Laois

laois heritage

David Walsh Kemmis, Bernie Foran, County Librarian; Catherine Casey, Laois Heritage Officer; Laois County Council Cathaoirleach Catherine Fitzgerald, Sinead Holland, Laois Libriaries. Pic: Alf Harvey

The Laois Digital Archive, an initiative of Laois Library Service, is delighted to receive the donation of digitised maps of the Ballykilcavan Estate near Stradbally by the Walsh Kemmis.

The Walsh-Kemmis estate maps are held privately by the Walsh-Kemmis family. In 2018 David Walsh Kemmis facilitated the listing of the entire collection, and the digitisation of part thereof, for publication in Arnold Horner’s book Mapping Laois.

This was published in 2019 by Wordwell Books, and the book and the research that went into it including digitising the Ballykilcavan maps were coordinated by Laois Heritage Office with funding from the Heritage Council. 

To further enhance public access to this important collection, David has generously donated the digital copies to Laois Local Studies.

The maps are currently available to view on the Local Studies website 

David Walsh Kemmis spoke about the donation event on the Ballykilcavan Estate.

“Lisa and I are delighted to be able to share these maps, and to have fantastic digital copies made of them. We really enjoy looking at them, and we hope that lots of other people will to," he said. MORE BELOW PICTURE.

The digital map collection consists of a volume of thirteen maps from 1855 and a map of the Ballykilcavan Estate from 1754. The early map was produced by Carlow based surveyor William Thornton and covers the 1,800 Irish acres of the Ballykilcavan Estate of Major Hunt Walsh.

This large detailed map is accompanied by a reference table of 53 items and includes sketches of various houses, a windmill, a mill, a tower, ‘cotter’s crofts’ and a deerpark. It provides a detailed representation of the area, predating Ordnance Survey maps by 80 years. The volume of maps by William Coughlan includes a map of the entire estate covering 13 townland units, with an additional 11 maps featuring either one or two of the townlands in greater detail. It also contains a plan of sewerage at Ballykilcavan.

Maps are a snapshot in time and this collection captures the Ballykilcavan Estate as it was in the mid 18th and 19th centuries. The 1754 map depicts the area as it was almost a century before the social and economic upheaval of the Great Famine, whereas the set of maps from the 1850s captures the area in the post-famine era.

Estate maps are a wonderful resource for the local historian and interested amateur alike. They record buildings, fieldnames, placenames and geographic feature that have long disappeared or altered over time. They indicate the development of land usage in a particular area, providing an insight into the lives of tenants and landowners.

Laois townlands covered by the Walsh-Kemmis Collection include Ballyduff, Ballykilcavan, Bawn, Binbawn, Blackford, Curraclone, Drumneen, Garrans, Inch, Kylebeg, Milland, Moneyferick and Park. 

Laois Local Studies is based in Laois County Library HQ in Portlaoise. It was established to collect, preserve and make available for reference, material relating to the history and heritage of County Laois. It is home to the Laois Collection, a specialist collection on the local, social, political, economic and geographic history of the county. 

Laois Local Studies actively acquires publications and records of private origin, in line with our Acquisition Policy. Private donations have greatly enhanced the Laois Collection and enriched the understanding of Laois heritage.

Laois Local Studies would like to acknowledge the generosity David Walsh-Kemmis and the generosity of the many individuals, families and organisations who have donated material over the years, including local historians, artists, photographers, schools, businesses, organisations, clubs, societies and collectors. 

Do you want to donate or make material public

If you have material you would like to donate please contact Laois Local Studies to discuss the matter further. Donation usually involves full transfer of ownership, which may or may not include copyright ownership.

If you would like to make material available to the public, without the obligation of outright donation, the material can be digitised as part of the Local Studies Digitisation Project. This allows items to be made available to the public through the Laois Digital Archive, for purposes of education, research and enjoyment. Ownership and custody of the physical item is not transferred, although permission to reproduce and display, as outlined above, is required.

For further information, contact Laois Local Studies at 05785 94985 and/or email

The Laois Digital Archive is supported by Creative Ireland Laois as part of the Creative Ireland Programme (2017 – 2022) in partnership with Laois County Council. 

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