Preston Family

Swainstown House

John Preston, alderman of Dublin, established the family's fortune in the seventeenth century.  John acquired nearly 8,000 acres in Meath and Queen's County in 1666. One son established himself at Ardsallagh, another at Balsoon and Nathaniel at Swainstown.

The youngest son, Nathaniel, was born about 1678 and in 1713 he was elected M.P. for Navan, a position he was to hold until 1760. Nathaniel married, Anne Dawson, a niece of Joshua Dawson, who developed Dawson Street, Dublin.  The name Nathaniel was used by subsequent generations of the family.

Mrs. Delaney visited Swainstown in August 1748 and described her host, Mr. Preston, as

"an old prim beau, as affected as a fine lady: but an honest man, obstinate in his opinions, but the pink of civility in his own house, which is as neat as a cabinet, and kept with an exactness which is really rather troublesome.‟

In 1760 Nathaniel's second son, also Nathaniel, succeeded to Swainstown.  His fifth son, Arthur, was a Major in the Lancers and following his death in 1788 a magnificent memorial was erected in Kilmessan church.  A daughter, Anne, married Joseph Leeson, after whom Leeson Street is named.

Nathaniel was clergyman and in 1751 married Alice, daughter of Sir John Dillon of Lismullen.  In 1801 and 1811 Nathaniel Preston is recorded as serving on the Grand Jury of Meath.  Sir John Dillon, his son, Charles, and Nathaniel Preston formed a company to exploit a vein of copper ore on the Walterstown lands of Nathaniel Preston.

Nathaniel and Alice's son, Nathaniel, succeeded them.  Their son, Arthur John became Dean of Kildare and later Dean of Limerick.  Arthur John's son, also Arthur John, became Canon of Kildare and his son, also Arthur John, inherited Swainstown on the death of his cousin, Nathaniel, in 1903.

In the 1830s Swainstown, the seat of Rev. N. Preston, was described as a handsome mansion house with a tastefully laid out demesne and well wooded.  Nathaniel Francis Preston was born in 1843 and married Augusta Florence Caulfield, of Bloomfield, Mullingar, in 1865. In 1876 Nathaniel F. Preston of Swainstown held 1,234 acres in Co. Meath and the representatives of Rev. Arthur Preston of Kilmeague held 826 acres in Meath.  Nathaniel died in 1903. In the 1911 census Augusta was recorded as living at Swainstown but died later that year.

John Nathaniel (Nat) Preston was born January 1915, the only son of Arthur John Preston, who was killed with most of the Dublin Fusiliers in Gallipoli in August 1915. Arthur had written letters to his wife and father at Swainstown on the day he was killed.

When Nat returned from agricultural college in England in 1934 he purchased a Fordson tractor and began farming the land at Swainstown which had been previously let.  In 1937 Nat secured a contract to supply C.I.E. with railway sleepers and so established a saw mill.

Swainstown House is located just off the Dunsany road from Kilmessan.  It is a fine eighteenth century house consisting of a two storey seven bay central block joined to the wings by curved sweeps.  The east wing was for servants and the west wing was stables.  Casey and Rowan describe it as an intriguing house of about 1750 built for Nathaniel Preston, brother of John Preston who was building Bellinter at the same time.  It would appear that some of the materials used for the house were materials adapted from other buildings.  Local tradition says that Swainstown was built from material left over for the construction of Bellinter.  Certainly there are oddities and unusual features to be explained.  It does look as if Nathaniel got hold of thirteen window lintels and used them for his house. The front door case is also of unusual design.  The erection of Swainstown resulted in the re-routing of the public road northwards to its present position.  As this resulted in the road going over a hill, two horses were necessary to pull carts rather than one on the route.  According to local tradition one smart operator established a horse hire business at the bottom of the hill.

Kilmessan Church is also associated with the Preston house at Bellinter. Rev. Francis Briscoe was rector of Kilmessan from 1849 until 1885 and his son, Gustavus, was left Bellinter House by John Joseph Preston in 1892.