County Meath

CO. MEATH – 90%, [94,600] c. 1,200 [c. 4,300 (1815)]







Earl of Darnley

30 freeholders (1783)



Abel Ram; sold 2 seats c. 1789 (£10,000) to Henry Bruen

13 burgesses (probably fewer)



Earl of Bective (Marquess of Headfort)

A few freemen and burgesses



Earl of Ludlow (1 seat)

13 burgesses and 60–70 freemen; only 9 voted in 1783

John Preston (Lord Tara) (1 seat)



Gorges Lowther (2)




Earl of Mornington (Wellesley)

13 burgesses and 300 freemen

Co. Meath - Constituency

Co. Meath was declared in 1790 to be:

not inferior to most of the Counties of this kingdom, from its happy situation, nearly adjacent to the metropolis, from the prodigious fertility of its soil, and the great opulence of its inhabitants. Such causes naturally lead to independence and liberty and in fact, no County in Ireland can boast of a more virtuous and patriotic representation within the memory of man.

In 1785 it was said that ‘Lord Mornington (2216), Mr Rowley and Mr Lowther have the chief influence.’ It was thought that the county was in general well governed. The Mornington (Wesley/Wellesley) interest persisted throughout the century. The young – he was 21 at the time of his appointment – Lord Mornington (Marquess Wellesley, 1799 (2215)) was Custos Rotulorum for the county until his death in 1842.

Meath had a number of potential interests. At the end of the century there were thought to be at least ten landowners with incomes over £5,000 p.a. and many others with incomes of £2,000–3,000 p.a., so given this spread of interests the county was subject to electoral divisions as the groups coalesced, split apart and regrouped.

Many of these connections were consolidated by marriages.

At the beginning of the century the Prestons and the Ludlows were connected: Peter Ludlow married Mary Preston, the daughter and heiress of John Preston; the son (1728) of another John Preston (1727) married his cousin, Alice, a daughter of Ludlow. They shared control of the parliamentary borough of Navan. Hercules Langford, who represented the county from 1761 until his death in 1794, had married his daughters to Lord Longford and Lord Bective and thereby consolidated an interest in the county. Most of his property was in the north, where he had represented Co. Londonderry from 1743 to 1760, but his principal residence was Summerhill, Co. Meath.

In 1784 the electorate was estimated to be about 1,200, and although it was a very Catholic county with a number of Catholic peers, such as Lord Fingall, the number of voters had risen only to about 4,300 in 1815. The county had six parliamentary boroughs – Athboy, Duleek, Kells, Navan, Ratoath and Trim – making a total of 14 MPs.

Co. Meath - Boroughs