"Callan", an incorporated market and post-town, and a parish (formerly a parliamentary borough), partly in the barony of Shillelogher, but chiefly in that of Kells, county of Kilkenny, and province of Leinster, 8 miles (S. by W.) from Kilkenny, and 65 1/2 miles (S. W. by S.) from Dublin; containing 6112 inhabitants. This is a place of considerable antiquity, and was the territory or ancient inheritance of the O'Glohernys and the O'Coillys or O'Callans: the Fforstalls or Forestalls, Butlers, and Comerfords had fortified castles here, the ruins of some of which yet exist. It was a walled town, as appears from the divers grants of murage to the local authorities.
The town is situated on the King's river, and on the mail coach road from Dublin, by way of Clonmel, to Cork; it is chiefly the property of the Viscount Clifden, and consists of four streets meeting in the centre, and in point of size ranks the second in the county. This appears to be a corporation by subscription; and it is recorded that William Mareschal, or Marshall, granted a charter to it in 1217.
The parish comprises 4700 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £5798 per annum; about 600 acres were enclosed under an act in 1831. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, united by council, in 1763, to the rectories and vicarages of Tullaroan, Tullamain, Coolaghmore, Killaloe, and Ballycallan, together forming the union of Callan, in the alternate patronage of the Crown and the Marquess of Ormonde. There are two churches in the union, one at Callan, and the other at Ballycallan. The parish church, which was very extensive, was formerly occupied by Canons Regular of the order of St. Augustine, under an abbot: the ante-chapel is in ruins, but displays two windows of beautiful design. The church at Ballycallan, distant about 4 miles, is a small edifice, built about 60 years since at the request of several of the inhabitants. There is no glebe-house: the glebe lands of the union are in divers places, and comprise 32 acres. In the R. C. divisions the parish is partly in the union or district of Ballycallan; and the remainder forms the head of a union, comprising also of the parishes of Coolaghmnore, Tullmain, Earlstown, and part of that of Kells, called Mallardstown. The latter union or district contains three parochial chapels, situated respectively at Callan, Newtown, and Coolagh.
[From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837)]