CARLOW, a parish and market-town and post-town and borough (incorporated), in the barony of CARLOW, and county of CARLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 18¼ miles (N. E.) from Kilkenny, and 39¼ (S. W. by S.) from Dublin; containing 9597 inhabitants, of which number, 9114 are in the borough. This town, called, till within a comparatively recent period, Catherlough, or Catherlagh, is supposed to have derived that name, signifying in the Irish language "the city on the lake," from its proximity to a large sheet of water which formerly existed here. The erection of the castle has been variously attributed to Eva, daughter of Dermot Mac Murrough; to Isabel, daughter of Strongbow, and to King John; but with more probability to Hugh de Lacy, about the year 1180. In the reign of Edw. II., the castle belonged to the crown, and was made the head-quarters of the seneschalship of the counties of Carlow and Kildare, instituted on account of the disturbed state of those districts. About the year 1361, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, established the exchequer of the kingdom at this place, and expended £500 in fortifying the town with walls, of which at present there is not a vestige. James Fitzgerald, brother of the Earl of Kildare, seized the castle in 1494) but it was soon afterwards invested by the lord-deputy, Sir Edward Poynings, to whom, after a siege of ten days, it was surrendered. In 1534 it was taken by Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, during his insurrection; and in 1577 the town was assaulted by Rory Oge O'More. Jas. I. granted the manor to Donogh, Earl of Thomond, whom he also made constable of the castle. In 1641, the whole county was overrun by the insurgents, and the castle of Carlow was invested by a strong party and reduced to great extremity; a number of Protestants had taken refuge within its walls, and the garrison was about to surrender, when it was relieved by a detachment of the Earl of Ormonde's forces under the command of Sir Patrick Wemys. On his approach the insurgents raised the siege, and, after burning the town, took flight, but 50 of them were killed in the pursuit. This place was constantly exposed to the assaults of the insurgents; and the castle, after sustaining a siege for nearly a month, ultimately surrendered in May, 1647. It was, in 1650, closely invested by Ireton and the republican army; and after a severe cannonade which greatly injured the castle, the garrison surrendered on conditions to Sir Hardress Waller, whom Ireton had left to conduct the siege. After the battle of the Boyne, in 1690, Wm. III. led his army southward through this town; and during the disturbances of 1798, it was assaulted by the insurgents on the morning of the 25th of May. The garrison, consisting partly of regular troops and partly of yeomanry, amounting in the whole to 450, repulsed the assailants, though 2000 in number, with the loss of 600 of their men, on which occasion they were obliged to burn several of the houses, in order to compel the insurgents to abandon them.
The town is pleasantly and advantageously situated on the eastern bank of the river Barrow, over which is a bridge of four arches connecting it with the extensive suburban village of Graigue, in Queen's county: it is surrounded by a rich agricultural district, and sheltered by some ranges of hills well cultivated to their summits.
It is of considerable extent, and contains more than fourteen good streets, of which the two principal, intersecting each other at right angles and continued through its whole length and breadth, divide the town into four nearly equal portions, which are again divided and subdivided by smaller streets into 42 portions; it is rapidly increasing in all directions, and a new street, chiefly for private residence, is now in progress, which, when completed, will be one of its greatest ornaments.
Though a place of such high antiquity, it has an air of modern neatness: the streets are paved and kept in repair by county presentments, the two principal by the county at large, and the others by the barony in which the town is situated; and the inhabitants are supplied with water from public pumps. On the south side of the town is a stream called the Burren, which flows into the Barrow; and on a rising ground above its influx are the stately remains of the ancient castle, towering to the height of 60 feet above the roofs of the houses. There are two subscription reading-rooms; and to the south-east of the town are cavalry barracks for 8 officers and 112 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 90 horses, and an hospital for 20 patients. From its advantageous situation on the Barrow, affording a facility of communication with the ports of Ross, Waterford, and Dublin, the town has become the principal mart for the agricultural produce of the well-cultivated districts around it, and carries on an extensive trade in corn and butter; the latter is of a very superior quality, and meets with a ready sale in the London market. The trade down the river has, within the last 14 years, greatly increased, while that upwards has diminished, in consequence of the heavy tolls demanded on the canal conveyance to the metropolis.
The quantity of corn and flour sent hence to Waterford and other ports for exportation has, within that period, advanced from 2000 to 15,000 quarters; and the quantity of butter weighed in the market and in private stores is at present not less than 35,000 firkins. The river Barrow is navigable from Athy, where the Grand Canal from Dublin joins it, and thence to its confluence with the river Suir below Waterford; boats consequently pass from this place to Dublin, Ross, and Waterford; there is a lock on the river, and good quays have been constructed for the accommodation of vessels employed in the trade. This is the head-quarters of the southern district of the revenue police, and there are sub-stations at Newtownbarry, Freshford, and Gore'sbridge: there is also a chief constabulary police station in the town. The market-days are Monday and Thursday; and fairs are held on May 4th, June 22nd, Aug.
26th, and Nov. 8th. The revenue of the post-office, according to the latest return to Parliament, amounted to £1395. 1. 6.
The earliest charter on record relating to the borough is that of Wm. Marshall, Earl of Pembroke, granted about the close of the 13th century. It created an open community of burgesses endowed with considerable privileges, including a guild mercatory and other guilds, with exemption from tolls and customs throughout the earl's whole lands, except the towns of Pembroke and Wexford; it also mentions a hundred court as being then in existence in the town, and ordained that it should be held only once in the week. Jas. I., in 1613, granted a charter of incorporation, conferring, among other privileges, a right to return two members to Parliament; and the present governing charter was obtained on petition from Chas. II., in 1674. Jas. II. granted a charter founded on a seizure of the franchises by a decree of the exchequer, which being declared void, it soon became inoperative. Under the charter of Chas. II.
the corporation is styled "The Sovereign, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Catherlagh;" and consists of a sovereign, twelve free burgesses, and a commonalty, assisted by a town-clerk, two serjeants-atmace, a weighmaster of butter, and a bellman. The sovereign is annually elected by the sovereign for the time being and a majority of the burgesses from their own body, on the 24th of June, and enters upon his office on the 29th of September: he is ex officio a justice of the peace for the borough and the county, and clerk of the market, and with the approbation of the burgesses may appoint one of them to be his deputy. The burgesses are elected from the freemen by a majority of the sovereign and burgesses; the town-clerk and serjeants-atmace are chosen by the sovereign and burgesses, and the weighmaster of butter is appointed by the sovereign.
The freemen are elected by the sovereign and burgesses.
The borough returned two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, since which period it has sent only one to the Imperial parliament. The right of election, previously confined to the sovereign and burgesses, was, by the act of the 2nd of Wm IV., for amending the representation, extended to the resident freemen and £10 householders, of whom, including the suburb of Graigue, which has been comprised within the new electoral boundary (of which the limits are minutely described in the Appendix), the number is 383, of which 380 are householders, and three freemen resident within seven miles; the sovereign is the returning officer. By the charter the corporation had power to hold a court of record for pleas to the amount of five marks; but they at present exercise no jurisdiction whatever, either civil or criminal. The assizes, and also the quarter sessions for the county, are held here; and petty sessions are held every Thursday before the sovereign and county magistrates. The manor court has jurisdiction to the amount of £10 late currency over the entire town and an extensive rural district; it had fallen into disuse prior to 1833, when the lord of the manor, B. Hamilton, Esq., appointed a seneschal, and the court was revived, but few cases have been since determined in it. The court-house, a newly erected building at the junction of the Castledermot and Athy roads, near the entrance of the town, is a handsome octagonal edifice with a fine Doric portico, in imitation of the Acropolis at Athens, resting upon a platform to which is an ascent by a broad flight of steps; the whole is of hewn granite of chaste design and execution, and forms a striking ornament to the town. Near it is the county gaol, well adapted for the classification and employment of prisoners, who are engaged in useful labour and are taught trades, to qualify them on their discharge for a life of useful industry; the female prisoners are carefully instructed and employed under a duly qualified matron; a school has been established, and the sick are carefully attended by the medical officer; but the hospital is not yet sufficiently prepared for the reception of patients. There is a tread-wheel, which is worked for raising water to supply the gaol.
The parish comprises 1955 statute acres, of which about 648 are plantations, a few acres bog, and the remainder good arable and pasture land. The surrounding scenery is pleasingly varied and in many parts beautifully picturesque; and there are several handsome seats in the parish. Oak Park, formerly called Paynestown, and now the residence of Col. Bruen, is a handsome spacious building, consisting of a centre and two wings, situated to the north of the town in a fine demesne embellished with stately groves of full-grown oak. To the east of it are Browne Hill, the seat of W. Browne, Esq.; and Viewmount House, formerly the seat of Sir E. Crosbie, Bart., and now the residence of R. C. Browne, Esq., pleasantly situated and commanding a beautiful prospect of the neighbouring country. On the opposite side of the river, below the town, is Clogrennan, the seat of J. S. Rochford, Esq., beautifully situated in a highly improved demesne. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Leighlin, and in the patronage of the Crown for two presentations, and of the Bishop for one: the tithes amount to £400. The church is a modern structure, with a beautiful spire terminating at an elevation of 195 feet, having a massive gilt cross presented by the ladies of Carlow: the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £488. 4. 10. for its repair. Near the river, to the north of the town, is an ancient burial-ground, called "The Graves," said to have been granted to the parish by the Earl of Thomond.
There is no glebe-house; the glebe comprises 3½ acres. The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church, and is the benefice of the Bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. The R. C. cathedral is an elegant cruciform structure, in the later English style, with a lofty tower at the southern extremity of the transept, surmounted by a lantern of beautiful design terminating at a height of 151 feet from the base: it occupies the site of the old chapel, and is a rich ornament to the town. At the foot of the altar are interred the remains of the Rt. Rev. Dr. James Doyle, late bishop, distinguished by his letters under the signature of J. K. L., and his important evidence before both houses of parliament. He entered the college of
Carlow, as professor of rhetoric, in 1809, and was soon afterwards appointed professor of theology; in 1819 lie was raised to the R. C. see of Kildare and Leighlin, and died of a lingering decline on the 10th of June, 1834.
Braganza House, the residence of the R. C. bishop, situated in the immediate vicinity of the town. There are places of worship for Presbyterians, the Society of Friends, and Wesleyan Methodists.
The R. C. college of St. Patrick, for the education of youth and of the R. C. clergy, was founded by the late Rev. Dr. Keefe, and opened in the year 1795 under the direction of the late Dean Staunton: the system of education comprises the Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Italian, French, and English languages, sacred and profane history, rhetoric, geography, arithmetic and the mathematics, to which are added natural and moral philosophy, humanity, and theology, under the superintendence of professors and assistants, who are members of the house and are resident. The building, which consists of a spacious centre connected with two wings by corridors, is situated in a park comprising an area of 34 acres, nearly in the centre of the town, and enclosed with high walls and well planted, affording ample opportunities of healthful recreation and undisturbed retirement.
The institution is under the direction of a president, vice-president, and prefect of the lay college, dean of the ecclesiastical college, and other officers: the fees are £31. 10. per annum for lay, and £25 for ecclesiastical students. Connected with it is a neat chapel, with a burial-ground attached. The Diocesan school of Leighlin and Ossory is supported by a grant of £120 per annum from the Diocesan fund, and is open also to boarders paying £31. 10., and to day scholars paying £6. 6. A parochial school is aided by an annual donation of £10 from the rector; and there are two national schools and an infants' school. In these are about 370 boys and 485 girls; and there are several private schools, in which are about 500 boys and 258 girls. The district lunatic asylum for the counties of Carlow, Kilkenny, Wexford, and Kildare, and the county of the city of Kilkenny, is situated in this town, and was built in 1831, at an expense, including the cost of erection and purchase of land and furniture, of £22,552. 10. 4.: it is under excellent regulation, is calculated to accommodate 104 lunatics, and attached to it are 15¼ acres of land; the number of inmates in the summer of 1836 was 99. The county infirmary is supported by grand jury presentments and local subscriptions, aided by a parliamentary grant; a fever hospital, opened for the reception of patients in 1829, is supported by grand jury presentments alone; a dispensary is maintained in the usual way, and a Magdalene asylum is supported wholly by subscriptions. The remains of the old castle consist only of one side of the quadrangle, at each end of which is one of the massive round towers that flanked its angles; the remainder having been undermined in an injudicious attempt to convert it into a private lunatic asylum, fell down in 1814; the length of the side from tower to tower is 105 feet. The walls are of very great thickness, and shew that it must have been a fortress of much strength; and from the loftiness of its elevation and the commanding position which it occupies, it has a striking appearance of majestic grandeur.
Near Oak Park was a small Franciscan friary, founded by the Cooke family, formerly proprietors of that estate. Browne Hill and Viewmount both occupy the site of an ancient religious establishment, called St.
Kieran's abbey; and in the vicinity are the remains of a cromlech, of which the table stone is 23 feet in length, 19 in breadth, and at the upper end nearly 4½ feet thick; it is supported at the east end on three upright stones, 15 feet 8 inches high, and at a distance is another upright stone standing by itself. Carlow gives the inferior title of Viscount to the family of Dawson, Earls of Portarlington.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.