Excursions through Ireland By Thomas Cromwell - 1820
Prosperous; now much misnamed, though at a former time bidding fair to become what it is now only by appellation. This ruined town owed its creation to the wealth, directed by public spirit, of a Mr. Robert Brooke who, returning to Ireland with a large fortune acquired in the East, embarked largely in the cotton business, both here and at Dublin; but was destined to prove as unfortunate as those whom his example had stimulated to similar enterprises at Malahide and Balbriggan, where their failure has been already noticed. When the freedom of commerce was first bestowed on Ireland by the British legislature, this gentleman was among the first to avail himself of its advantages; and suddenly raised an obscure and scanty trade, into a great national manufacture. He commenced, by drawing to Dublin English artists, and importing the most improved machinery.
These he established and set to work in the Liberties of that city; but his great undertaking was this at Prosperous. Here, in order to remove the manufactures from the confinement, insalubrity, and expensive living of the metropolis, he began to build a new town, on purpose for their reception and in the short space of three years it was completely finished for all the different branches, including the printing linen and cotton goods on a very extensive scale. While, that nothing might be wanting to give permanency to the establishment, he commenced also, in co-operation with a Mr, Kirchoffen, the business of making machinery on the most perfect and approved models. In these spirited pursuits, he expended the sum of £ 18,000; and it was from the fair and flattering prospects with which he for a short time proceeded, that he called his rising colony by the name of Prosperous.
But at length, having, by constructing aqueducts, and by other very expensive improvements of his works, expended sums considerably exceeding his own private fortune, it became necessary to apply for assistance to the Irish Legislature; who very liberally granted him £25,000; besides affording aids to those who had engaged in the manufacture at Malahide and Balbriggan. But, in a work undertaken by people accustomed to different pursuits, and established in a country where such things had never been before seen, it was no more to be wondered at that ill success should ultimately accrue, than that men of liberal views and ardent minds should, as in so many other undertakings, be found to speculate beyond their means of accomplishment.
In 1786, Mr. Brooke being compelled again to apply to Parliament for aid, and they refusing it, he was no longer able to answer the immediate demands of his widely extended establishment, and became insolvent and thus, without notice or the slightest expectation of the event, the whole machine of industry suddenly stopped and, in the course of 24 hours, 1,400 looms, with all their apparatus and dependencies were struck idle and the artists dismissed from their unfinished work, with the contemplation only of a poverty, the causes of which, in the first moments of confusion, they found it difficult to comprehend.
Mr. Brooke never again attempted to revive the manufacture. The situation of this establishment, it may be observed, was not altogether judiciously chosen.
The place stands in a low marshy country, surrounded with bogs—which are extremely common throughout Kildare—and, though an abundance of turf, for fuel, may be thus obtained, it naturally commands no water. Notwithstanding, the manufactures continued here on a small scale, till the year 1798, when they became an object of attack from the rebels, since which time, Prosperous has gradually descended to decay and only a
few scattered weavers now linger among its ruins. The other adventurers who had embarked in these magnificent schemes have been stated to have proved equally unsuccessful and thus a few short years saw the rise and fall of as extraordinary a commercial enterprise as was perhaps ever contemplated and pursued by so small a number of private and unconnected individuals.