20 April 1796: The First stone of the new buildings of St Patrick’s College, Maynooth, was laid by Lord Lieutenant Camden on this day. The British Government had agreed to a Catholic Seminary being established in Ireland in order to placate the Catholic Hierarchy. They hoped that by doing this the Church would act as a brake upon the growth of Revolutionary ferment in the Country.
'Forty students and ten professors lived in the cramped conditions of Stoyte House during the first year of the College, 1795-1796. Stoyte House had been the home of John Stoyte, the land steward for the Duke of Leinster, who lived in Carton House.
Plans were prepared for the extension of Stoyte House, and the Foundation Stone for Long Corridor was laid by the Lord Lieutenant, Lord Camden, on 20 April 1796 in the presence of the four judge-trustees, officials of Dublin Castle, the Archbishops of Armagh and Dublin, the Duke of Leinster and the first President of the College, Rev Thomas Hussey.
Since 1793 the French Republic had been at War with Britain in a clash of not just Nations but also between ideologies. The British knew that very many people in Ireland were sympathetic to the ideals of the French Revolution, some by a genuine sense of empathy and others through the principle of England’s enemy being Ireland’s opportunity. The Catholic Church on the other hand had been appalled by the Revolution and its excesses and the attempts of the revolutionaries to break their power in that Country.
So the foundation of Maynooth and the subsequent building programme put the seal on this marriage of convenience between two very unlikely partners under pressure of external and internal threats to their respective fields of Authority.