The History of Mullingar Town Park
The Town Park is located in one of the most historic areas of Mullingar. The River Brosna which flows through the western side of the Park is the reason there is a town of Mullingar at all. The Anglo-Normans chose to settle here because of the existence of the Brosna. At that time, it was easier to travel across Ireland by water than by land. Originally the river flowed through what is now the centre of the park where the pond is.
To the east of the Brosna, there was an Augustinian monastery for 300 years. Founded in 1227 and closed in 1539, the monastery buildings and graveyard covered a wide area stretching from what is now Cusack Park to the Swimming Pool in the Park. The laneway just to the east of the Park which now runs down to the Tennis Club is part of a very ancient roadway going back to the Early Christian Era. This roadway, which originally ran through what is now the Park, may have been a highway connecting early church sites at Lough Owel and Lough Ennell. The lane was known for centuries as Priestwell Lane.
Another religious foundation stood for centuries just to the west of the Park where the Annebrook Hotel is now. Known as the Frankhouse, this building belonged to the military/religious order known as the Knights Hospitallers. The Frankhouse was a hostel which provided accommodation for members of the order passing through Mullingar. Some members of the Mullingar Frankhouse may have taken part in the Crusades in the Middle East. The name Frank was used to refer to the Normans. By the mid-seventeenth century, the building was being used as a military depot. The Old House part of the hotel dates back to 1810 and was a residence for medical men from the 1810s to the 1990s. One of the first motor cars in Westmeath was owned by a resident of Annebrook House in 1905. The Town Park was part of the gardens and estate of the House until the 1960s.
Mullingar Tennis Club dates back to the 1890s. The Club originally stood where the Community College is now. The Club opened in 1892 and the first tournament was held in July 1893 before “a large and aristocratic attendance.” The Club moved to its present site in the 1950s. The Swimming Pool opened in 1972.
Mullingar Community College opened on its present site in 1953. Vocational schooling in Mullingar began around 1906 in the Governors House of the Old Jail. By 1915 the school proudly boasted of having a typewriter! For many years Mullingar Vocational School was situated in what is now Aras an Muileann.
The Town Park opened in the 1960s and has been enhanced over the years by the addition of the pond, play areas for children and artworks. A skateboard park and free wifi are the latest additions to the park’s amenities.
Ruth Illingworth – local historian