ENNISCORTHY, a corporate, market, and post-town, and a parish (called St. Mary's, Enniscorthy), in the barony of SCARAWALSH, county of WEXFORD, and province of LEINSTER, 11¾ miles (N.) from Wexford, and 62¾ (S. by W.) from Dublin, on the river Slaney, and on the road from Wexford to Dublin; containing, within the parish, 4938, and in the entire parish and town, which latter extends into the parish of Templeshannon and barony of Ballaghkeen, 5955 inhabitants.
This place probably derives its name from a beautiful island in the bed of the Slaney, which here divides that river into two channels. It is said by Seward to have been originally the capital of the Coriondi, and by other writers to have been called "Corthae," and subsequently given as a portion to Basilea, sister of Strongbow, on her marriage with Raymond Le Gros, to whom is attributed the erection of its ancient castle. In 1227, the town was surrendered by Philip de Prendergast to the Bishop of Ferns, who asserted a superior claim; and in 1231 it was confirmed to that prelate by Gerald de Prendergast, the son of Philip, to whom the bishop restored it in exchange for other lands, on condition of his holding it under the see, The castle and manor afterwards came into the possession of the McMurrougha, or Kavanaghs, and were granted by Donald, surnamed Fuscus, to the Franciscan monastery which he had founded, after the dissolution of which they were given by Queen Elizabeth to John Travers, who conveyed them for a term of years to the poet Spenser, by whom they were assigned to Sir Henry Wallop, Knt., ancestor of the Earl of Portsmouth. In 1049, the town and castle were taken by Cromwell, and soon after became the property of an ancestor of the Carew family, but were subsequently restored to the Wallop family, in exchange for other lands, by Robt. Carew, Esq. In 1798, this place was the scene of much hostility: the town, which was garrisoned by 300 of the King's troops, and by several corps of yeomanry, both horse and foot, was attacked on the 28th of May by nearly 7000 of the insurgent forces, who, after a sanguinary conflict, compelled the garrison to retreat to the market-place, where, making a resolute stand, they ultimately repulsed the assailants. But the town being on fire in several places, and surrounded by an overwhelming number of the insurgents, the king's forces retreated to Wexford, and the enemy plundered the town, damaged the interior of the. church, nnd converted the castle into a prison. On the 29th the insurgents took their station on Vinegar Hill, an adjoining eminence, where, being joined by the disaffected from the surrounding country, the numbers increased to upwards of 10,000 men. Many of the loyal inhabitants of the town, who had not been able to escape with the garrison to Wexford, were brought prisoners to the insurgents camp, tried by a court martial, and put to death. Gen. Johnson, with a party of the royal forces, succeeded in making himself master of the, town; and on the 21st of June, Gen. Luke, Commander-in-chief of the royal army, attacked the insurgents in their camp, and routed them. The enemy fled with precipitation towards Wexford, leaving behind them great numbers of slain and thirteen pieces of ordnance.
The town is built on the acclivities of the hills on both sides of the Slaney, and in 1831 contained 1047 houses: the streets are in general narrow and in some parts inconveniently steep for carriages, The principal portion is on the south-west side of the river, which is connected by a substantial stone. bridge of six arches with the other portion, which lies at the base of Vinegar Hill, and comprises the suburbs of Templeshannon and Drumgoold. The bridge it now being widened and its roadway lowered, partly at the expense of Lord Portsmouth's trustees and partly by a Grand Jury presentment; and a plentiful supply of spring water, from Sheill's well at Templeshannon, will be conveyed, by pipes inserted in the new work of the bridge, into several parts of the town, which is at present but badly supplied, and only partially paved. A small woollen manufacture is carried on near the town; and at Carley's bridge, on the river Urrin, which runs into the Slaney, is a manufactory for coarse pottery. In the town are a distillery, three breweries, two flourmills, three tanyards, and a rope-factory. Flour-mills are also being erected by Mr. Pounder on the site of an extensive iron-foundry long since discontinued; and at Fairfield, about a mile and a half distant, on the road to Killan, is an extensive distillery, belonging to Mr. A. Jameson, the working of which has been suspended for the last few years. The river Slaney abounds with excellent salmon and trout, with which the markets are well supplied during the season. The trade principally consists in the exportation of agricultural produce, and the importation of coal, timber, slates, iron, salt, and various other commodities, for which its central situation and river navigation to the port of Wexford are very favourable. Large quantities of corn and butter are sent hence by lighters to Wexford, and also by land carriage, by way of New Ross, to Waterford. Two spacious quays have been lately constructed, at an expense of £9000, defrayed partly by the trustees of the Earl of Portsmouth's estate, and partly by subscription: the quay on the Templeshannon side is 450 feet, and that on the opposite side, which it is in contemplation to extend, is 500 feet in length.
The tide flows up to the town, which is accessible to barges of large tonnage, and it is intended to apply for an act of parliament to construct a ship canal for vessels of 200 tons' burden from Pooldarrag, on the eastern bank of the Slaney, to the bridge of Enniscorthy, a distance of nearly seven British miles. It is also in contemplation to establish a communication by steam between this place and Wexford, and a subscription is in progress for building an iron steam-boat of 12-horse power, for the conveyance of goods and passengers.
The facility of land carriage has been greatly increased by a new line of road to Wexford, avoiding the hills and shortening the distance by nearly a mile; a new road from the bridge along the western bank of the river has also been completed, communicating at Blackstoops with the Dublin road, and greatly improving that approach to the town. A branch of the National Bank of Ireland has been lately opened here; and a savings' bank has also been established. The market days are Thursday and Saturday; on the former day, which is the principal, there is an abundant supply of provisions, but corn and butter are brought to market daily. An ancient market on,Tuesday, granted to Sir Henry Wallop, has been discontinued. Fairs for cattle, hogs, and various articles of merchandise are held on Jan. 20th, Feb. 21st, March 21st, April 25th, May 10th, June 7th, July 5th, Aug. 26th, Sept. 19th, Oct. 10th, Nov. 15th, and Dec. 21st. A corn market and shambles have been recently erected near the site of the ancient Franciscan monastery, and the open area, called the abbey ground, is intended to be laid out for the erection of new streets; but from some misunderstanding between the market people and the proprietors, they are not at present used, the general markets being still held in an irregular area in the centre of the town.
By the charter of incorporation granted by Jas. I., in the 11th of his reign, the government is vested in a portreeve, 12 free burgesses, and a commonalty, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, two serjeants-at-mace, and other officers. The portreeve, who may appoint a deputy, is chosen from the free burgesses by a majority of that body on the 24th of June, and sworn into office on the 29th of September; he is a justice of the peace within the borough and liberties, in which the county magistrates have concurrent jurisdiction. The burgesses fill up vacancies in their body by a majority, either from the freemen or the inhabitants at large, and appoint all the officers of the corporation; the freemen are admitted only by favour of the corporation. The borough returned two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when it was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded in compensation was paid to Cornelius, Lord Lismore, and Robert Cornwall, Esq.; to the former, £12,300, and to the latter £2700. A court of record, for debts and pleas to the amount of £3. 6. 8. late currency, is held every Tuesday before the portreeve. The Easter and Michaelmas quarter sessions for the division are held here, and petty sessions every Thursday.
There is a chief constabulary police station in the town. The court-house, a neat building, erected at the expense of the county, contains also one of the two newsrooms. The market-house, built and kept in repair by the Portsmouth family, contains a large room occasionally used for concerts and public meetings. The parish of St. Mary,Enniscorthy, comprises about 2916 statute acres, with very little wood, and no waste land. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Ferns, united by act of council in 1778 to the vicarage of Clonmore, and to the rectories of Templeshannon, Ballyhuskard, and St. John, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the rectory is impropriate in Caesar Colclough, Esq. The tithes amount to £247. 10. 8., of which £71. 1. 11. is payable to the impropriator, and the remainder to the vicar; the aggregate tithes of the benefice amount to £1559. 13. 11½. There is a handsome glebe-house at Templeshannon, rebuilt by the present incumbent, with a glebe of 23 acres, and there is also a glebe of 20 acres at Ballyhuskard. The church is a plain edifice without tower or spire; in repairing it, after the disturbances of 1798, a six-pound shot fell from one of the rafters; the chancel was rebuilt a few years since.
There are also churches in the parishes of Clonmore and Ballyhuskard, which have been erected into perpetual cures. In the R. C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the greater part of the parish of Templeshannon, part of St. John's, and a small portion of that of Templeshambo: the chapel, a spacious and handsome edifice, erected by subscription in 1808, is the cathedral church of the R. C. diocese of Ferns: a house has been lately erected by Dr. Keating, R. C. Bishop, as a permanent residence for his curates. There is also a convent for nuns of the order of the Presentation, established in 1826 as a branch from the convent at Wexford. There are places of worship for the Society of Friends and Primitive Methodists; and another class of Methodists assemble in the markethouse.
About 550 children are taught in the public schools of the parish, of which the male and female parochial schools, forming a handsome range of building, erected in 1831 on the glebe, are aided by a grant of £52 from the funds of Erasmus Smith's charity, and £20 from Lord Portsmouth's trustees; a school for girls is gratuitously superintended by the ladies of the Presentation convent, by whom the children are taught reading, writing, Catechism, and every description of useful and ornamental needlework, and is supported, together with a large Lancasterian school for boys, by subscription; and an infants' school, established in 1831, is also supported by subscription. There are 11 private schools, in which are about 420 children, and one Sunday school. Bishop Vigors, in 1721, bequeathed £900 for the endowment of some almshouses, which were rebuilt in 1830 by the trustees, in a neat cottage style, at Summer Hill, near the town; they contain apartments for seven Protestant widows, who now receive £3 per annum each. Miss Toplady, late of Dublin, left £80 per annum for poor widows whose husbands were killed, or otherwise sufferers in the disturbances of 1798, ten of whom now receive £8 per annum each; and Miss Grenville left the impropriate tithes of the parish of Ballyvalloo, now amounting to about £60 per annum, for the endowment of an almshouse for the poor of this parish, which bequest is at present the subject of litigation. A fever hospital, affording accommodation for 40 patients, was erected in 1829, on. an acre of ground given for its site by Lord Portsmouth's trustees, and attached to it is a dispensary, with a surgeon's ward. The ancient castle, now the property of the Earl of Portsmouth, is a venerable quadrilateral building with a round tower at each angle, and is surrounded with a high wall of more modern date. Of the Franciscan monastery the only remains are a lofty square tower on four pointed arches, a great portion of the conventual buildings having been removed in order to furnish a site for the new market; a curious brooch of gold, enriched with emeralds and garnets, was found in clearing away the ruins. About three quarters of a mile, below the town, on the west bank of the Slaney, and in the parish of St. John, was a monastery for canons regular of the order of St. Victor, founded by Gerald de Prendergast in 1230, and subsequently made a cell to the abbey of St. Thomas-juxta-Dublin, by John St. John, bishop of Ferns, on which occasion it adopted the, order of St. Augustine.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.