Cormac McCarthy the Great founded here a Franciscan monastery, also in honour of St. Bridget.
In the civil war of 1641, the castle of Kilcrea, in this parish, erected by the same McCarthy, was garrisoned by the Irish; it was subsequently cannonaded by Cromwell; a fissure in the wall, caused by the cannon, is still conspicuous. The parish is situated on the river Bride, and comprises 3844 statute acres, of which 480 are in the barony of Barretts, and are valued in the County Survey at £452 per annum; and 3422 are in East Muskerry, valued at £2599. 11. 10.: about seven-eighths are arable, the rest being waste and bog.
The land is generally good, though the soil is light, the greater part to the south of the limestone valley being hilly, and the soil shallow, yet, under an improved system of agriculture, it produces excellent crops. An exhausted bog of great extent here is capable of being brought into cultivation; and an excellent limestone quarry is worked for the purposes of building and agriculture.
The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Cork, forming the corps of the prebend of Desertmore in the cathedral of St. Finbarr, Cork, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £350. The glebe-house was built by aid of a gift of £100, and a loan of £600, from the late Board of First Fruits: the glebe comprises 60 acres. The church, a plain modern building, was erected by aid of a gift of £600, in 1814, from the same Board; and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £140. 13. 6. for its repair. In the R. C.
divisions the parish forms part of the union or district of Ovens. The parochial schools, in which are about 20 children, are entirely supported by the rector, who provides the school-house and master's residence rentfree.
The ruins of the Franciscan abbey are approached by an avenue of ash and sycamore trees, leading to the nave and choir of the church, which was a handsome structure, 150 feet in length, with a transept to the south 68 feet long, opening into an arcade or aisle, extending along both transepts and nave by five arches springing from circular pillars of hewn marble. The dormitories, refectory, kitchen, and other domestic buildings, are to the north. Between the nave and choir rises a light tower, 80 feet high. This venerable pile of ruins, shaded by the lofty trees of the avenue, and viewed together with an ivy-mantled bridge of eight arches, built by order of Cromwell, forms a very interesting feature in the landscape, the beauty of which is much increased by the remains of the castle of Kilcrea, consisting of a massive oblong tower, surrounded by a moat, and part of the barbican, with its towers and platforms in good preservation.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.
The transcription of the section for this parish from the National Gazetteer (1868), provided by Colin Hinson.
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