The Wesley Monument was in Laracor Church
and is now in storage there.
William Kidwell – Sculptor.
William Kidwell was born at Weybridge, Surrey, 27 April 1662. He is described in his will as a ‘stonecutter’, but a number of signed church monuments reveal that he was a sculptor of considerable ability with a delicate touch ideally suited to carving in the naturalistic manner fashionable at the height of the Baroque. Kidwell was responsible for several monuments in England and Ireland which incorporate elements from the baroque repertoire with a somewhat heavy hand.
He was first apprenticed in 1678 as a joiner to John Bumpstead, who had worked at St Stephen’s, Walbrook, London, and then to Edward Pierce , perhaps the finest English sculptor of the 17th century. Kidwell established his own yard in Westminster, London, and from c. 1690 executed several worthy monuments, notably that to Sir Robert Bernard, with a fine portrait bust, and to Francis Coventry, composed of an inscription tablet flanked by a pair of atlantids, which seem to be influenced by Pierce. In 1711 Kidwell settled in Dublin; He was made a freeman of Dublin at Christmas that year; by 1712 he was supervising Sir John Perceval’s marble quarry at nearby Duncarney. He became the leading sculptor of tombs in Ireland, where many examples of his work remain, the most elaborate being the memorial to Sir Donat O’Brien (d. 1717) at Kilnasoolagh, Co. Clare; [for these, see Homan Potterton, ‘A new pupil of Edward Pierce: William Kidwell’, Burlington Magazine 114 (Dec., 1972), 864-867, and, by the same author, Irish Church Monuments 1570-1880 (UAHS, 1975), 52-54, Figs. C, 12 & 16.] From there he supplied chimney-pieces to various houses, including Kings Weston, Bristol, in 1713. Kidwell’s masterpiece, the monument to Sir Donat O’Brien (d 1717; Kilnasoolagh, Co. Clare;, has the deceased reclining on a mattress, surrounded by a rich architecture executed in black and white marble, and shows Kidwell’s debt to Grinling Gibbons and William Stanton. The monument to William Ponsonby, Viscount Duncannon (d 1724; Fiddown, Co. Kilkenny), is an early and remarkably pure example of an architectural wall tablet in the Palladian style. In Fiddown church, Co. Waterford, is a tablet of white marble on a background of black Kilkenny marble, embellished with various objects, skulls, cross-bones, hour-glasses, etc., erected to the memory of William Ponsonby, 1st Viscount Duncannon, who died in 1724, inscribed Kidwell London fecit. The monument to Garret Wesley (d 1728; Laracor, Co. Meath) suggests that Kidwell remained faithful to Baroque conventions. The monument to Michael Boyle, Archbishop of Armagh, in Blessington church, is also his work as is the Dillon Ashe monument in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim.
By 1733 he had a yard on the Strand in Dublin, where marble was sent to him from Cork. Kidwell remained in Ireland for the rest of his life, making occasional visits to London. William appears to have been a bachelor most of his life, but he married a widow, Letitia Moore of Dublin, on 14 September 1733, when he was approaching the age of 70. Kidwell settled in Dublin and died there in 1736. His will, in which he describes himself as “of the city of Dublin, stone-cutter,” was made on 7th August, 1736, and proved on the 13th September following.
It was said that the first Wesley to come to Ireland came with Henry II as his standard bearer in the twelfth century. The first Wesley of Dangan, that can be identified, was Christopher, son of Sir Richard Wesley, who served as High Sheriff of Meath during the reign of Henry V, 1386-1422.
Garrett Wesley was the son of Garret Wesley of Dangan and Mornington who was married to Elizabeth Colley of Castle Carbury, Co. Kildare. He was born about 1665. Garret married Catherine Keating, daughter of Maurice Keating of Narraghmore. She was a sister of the wife of Garret’s older brother, William, and she died in 1745. Garret’s older brother, William, died heirless and so Garret inherited the Dangan estate.
Garret and Catherine were friends of Dean Swift of nearby Laracor and corresponded by letter when he was away from his parish. A silver Communion service donated by Garret Wesley for use by Swift at Laracor has survived and is now in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, Trim. One of the chalices has the inscription, “The Gift of Garret Wesley, Esqr., To ye Church of Larracor, 1723.”
Garret was an Irish Member of Parliament. He represented Trim from 1692 to 1693, Athboy from 1695 to 1699, County Meath from 1711 to 1714 and then Trim again from 1727 to his death.
Garret had no children and he may have considered taking Charles Wesley of Epworth, England, as his heir. Charles was the brother of John Wesley, founder of Methodism. A story suggests that Garret paid for the education of Charles.
When Garret died childless 23 September 1728 his first cousin Richard Colley inherited the Dangan estate and took the Wesley name. Richard’s grandson was Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington.
Diagram of Wesley Monument – made when it was removed from the wall of Laracor Church. The monument was removed from the church wall in the early 1980s when the church was changed into a private residence. The monument remained the property of the parish. The monument is currently in storage in Laracor. The church at Laracor dates to the mid-nineteenth century and so the monument must have been moved from Swift’s church to this church when it was built. The inscription may have been composed by Swift.
With thanks to Richard Haworth for information and illustrations.