Thomas Moland was a leading land surveyor in Ireland during the early eighteenth century. His career included work on an official survey together with private commissions, some of which involved the mapping of landed estates. In 1730, Moland prepared ‘A Booke of Maps’ for Algernon Coote, the earl of Mountrath. Characteristic of Moland’s work, this large volume contains a range of material of local history interest, most notably a series of thumbnail images of houses and towns that provide rarely-documented architectural detail.
Following early work on the official Trustees’ Survey of 1700-1702, Thomas Moland practised as a land surveyor over a period of three decades. Recognised as a leader of his profession, his commissions included estate maps for the Courtenay and Perceval families and for lords Thomond, Malton and Mountrath. Though not especially innovative in style, Moland’s work provides insights into life in Ireland during the early eighteenth century. His thumbnail sketches of stone houses, and his miniature picture-plans of country towns (including Carlow, Ennis, Newcastle West, Kanturk, Rathdrum and Skerries) show otherwise rarely-recorded architectural detail.
In 1730 Moland prepared ‘A Booke of Maps of the Estate of the Right Honourable the Earl of Mountrath in the Kingdom of Ireland.’ This large volume consists of 14 maps on vellum with descriptions on paper. At first glance, many of the maps may appear quite empty, with the main feature being the representation of property boundaries. But there is embedded detail. For example, an outline plan of Mountrath (Map No. 1) records a town that was then relatively more important than it is now. The plan shows that the long main street, with its distinctive curves and a focus on a very irregularly-shaped market ‘square’, was already in place when Moland made his survey. Also shown, among much else, are a ‘great house and garden’, the ‘Quakers burying place’, a ‘bleaching yard’, and the ‘furnace yards’. These features remind us that Mountrath once had a landlord town house, that – like nearby Mountmellick – it had a substantial Quaker population, and that it was a place of industry. For almost a hundred years, an iron works was fuelled by wood from the slopes of the Slieve Bloom mountains.
Characteristic Moland images that appear on other maps include a possibly unique depiction of a very large house, already in ruins in 1840, at Castlecuffe, County Laois (Map No. 6). Also now much changed is Castlecoote, County Roscommon (Map No. 11), shown here with a surrounding bawn, an access bridge and a nearby mill. Town images include an early representation of Tullamore, County Offaly (Map No. 8), all the more fascinating because it shows the seventeenth-century fort, and a plan of the walled, early seventeenth-century plantation town at Jamestown, County Leitrim (Map No. 7).
The 1730 Mountrath book of estate maps came into the Library, courtesy of the Armytage family of Moyvore, County Westmeath, during the 1980s. It is one of several volumes of maps in the manuscript collections. Others include volumes made c. 1715-1718 by Moland’s contemporary, Gabriel Stokes, portraying the once-extensive estates of the College. The M&ARL website contains further information on maps in the collections.