Monday 1 May 2023


History of Hedge School Cottage, Newtown

by Dr Matthew Potter

As far as can be ascertained, Hedge School Cottage dates to around 1750, making it 270 years old. Nothing is known of its early history, but in the first half of the nineteenth century, the O’Shea family were renting it from the landlord George Tuthill who owned all of Newtown and lived in Faha House, between Clarina and Patrickswell. The O’Sheas had a hedge school in the cottage. Hedge schools were informal pay schools that arose at the time of the Penal Laws which forbade Catholics to keep schools. Hedge schools became legal in 1782 but the government always distrusted them and after 1831 were absorbed into the National School system. In 1826 an official government report returned the Newtown Hedge School as having forty-five pupils all Catholic while the teacher’s name was returned as John O’Shea. According to Griffiths Valuation of 1851, the school had discontinued but John’s relative, perhaps a brother or son, Patrick O’Shea was still living here. 

In 1856, Patrick’s daughter or sister Catherine O’Shea (1828-98) married John Brinn (1825-1911), a fisherman and a son of James and Anne Brinn. In 1863 John took over the lease of the cottage from George Taylor of Hollypark, Kilcornan, who had inherited the Tuthill estate including Newtown from his uncle George Tuthill. In 1914, under the provisions of the Wyndham Land Act, the Brinns purchased the cottage from the Taylors.

By the 1950s, Hedge School Cottage had become dilapidated. 

From 1962 to 2016, Hedge School Cottage lay derelict and empty.  

In 1977 the cottage was inherited by the Potters.

The Potters lived in Newtown for around 220 years, six generations going back to James Potter (died 1817) who seems to have moved from Adare to Newtown around 1800 [ ]. Before they died, Michael and Joseph Potter promised to donate the cottage to the local community. Their property was inherited by their nephews, brothers Matthew (author of this article) and Michael, whose father John Potter (1923-2001) was the eldest son of Michael Potter and Mary Potter (neĆ© Brinn). Matthew and Michael respected their uncles’ wishes and the cottage was transferred to the local community and restored in 2016-18.



Peter Byrnes, Newtown, Clarina

Catriona Crowe, Limerick Genealogy

Mary Kenny, Newtown, Clarina

Michael McNamara, Newtown, Clarina

The late John Potter, Newtown, Clarina

John Sheehan, A Corner of Limerick History, Recollections, and Photographs (Limerick: Privately published 1989).





Iverus Research is indebted to Dr Matthew Potter for his kind permission to reprint the original article, here abridged.