Newtownforbes village and its townlands are steeped in history, stories and tales from famine times and before. These are still recalled by local storytellers and historians. Newtownforbes is a lively rural village, beautifully maintained and is an ideal spot for tourist, visitor or friend.
The village of Newtownforbes lies in the heart of Clonguish Parish (also spelt Cluan Guish) meaning -the meadow of the swans. The town was originally known as Lisbrack or Lios Breac which translates as the ‘speckled fort’. It gets its current name from the Forbes family, holders of the title Earl of Granard. Castleforbes is the family seat and the main entrance to the house in the centre of the village.
Castleforbes - photo by Lalin Swaris
Between the village and Lough Forbes lies the beautiful demense of Castle Forbes, seat of the Earls of Granard. An imposing mansion dating back to the seventeenth century, Castleforbes was described by Nicholas Dowdal Esq. in 1682 as "a fair and spacious house with lovely gardens of pleasure". The village takes its name from the Earls family, they having resided in the region since 1691. The village church, built in the late 17th century, is one of the few Regency buildings of its type in the country. The Forbes family resided in Castleforbes, which has its entrance in the centre of the village. The land around Newtownforbes was granted to the Forbes Family in 1621. The family was in service to the Crown and successive generations were promoted to Viscount, Baronet and eventually Earldom.
The Forbes family changed the name of the village from Lisbrack to Newtownforbes in around 1750 but the post office stamp used today still has the Irish version ‘An Lios Breac’. The last Earl (the ninth) died several years ago and having no male heir the title passed onto his nephew who sold the castle soon afterwards. Unfortunately there is no public access to the Castle or the grounds, which are strictly private.
Although Newtownforbes geographically has always been in the shadow of Castle Forbes, it can not be regarded as an estate village. There are only a few houses in the centre of the village, near the main entrance to the estate, that were built by the estate owners for the workers on the estate. They were some of the first houses in the county to have flush toilets. Castle Forbes was the home of Lord and Lady Granard. The present occupant is Lady Georgina, although she lives in France at present and only uses the castle on a few occasions on visits during the year. As with other villages in the county, there were many estate houses in and around the parish and some are still in use by farm families, although the lands have been divided between farmers.
Things to See & Do
Parish Catholic Church
The Catholic Church was built by the Forbes family in the 1850s. The roof was replaced in the 1970s, and is an unusual feature on such a building. There is a funerary vault at the back of the church. The church is located in the centre of the village and has plenty of parking in the vicinity.
Church of Ireland
The Church of Ireland Church, dating back to the late seventeenth century, built by the Forbes family. This is an excellent and rare example of the Regency style in Ireland. Note the windows, and unusual corbie-stepping on the gables, clearly indicating the Scottish influence exerted by the Forbes family, who originated in Aberdeenshire. There is an interesting square tower to the rear of the building. Here, the only boxed pews in Ireland can be found. It is a Protected Structure.