The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"COUNTY CORK, a maritime county in the province of Munster, in the S.W. of Ireland, bounded on the E. by the counties of Tipperary and Waterford, on the N. by Limerick, on the W. by Kerry, and on the S. by the Atlantic Ocean It is the largest county in Ireland, both in extent of surface and of arable land, extending from 9° 45' to 10° 3' W. long., and from 51° 12' to 52° 13' N. lat. Its length from Dursey Island, its most westerly point, to Youghal, E.N.E., is about 110 miles, and its greatest breadth from N. to S. is 70 miles, with an average breadth of 34 miles, comprising an area of 2,885 square miles, or 1,846,333 acres, of which 1,308,882 are arable, 465,889 uncultivated, 52,180 in plantations, 6,515 in towns, and 12,867 under water. The population in 1851 amounted to 649,308, but in 1861 had decreased to 544,818, showing a diminution of 104,490 persons.

The history of the county dates back to a remote period. It was originally, peopled, according to Ptolemy, by the Uterni, or Uterini, or as called by others, the Iberni. They occupied the district afterwards held by the Desmond family, in the southern part, and from the name are supposed to have been of Spanish or Iberian origin. Contemporary with this tribe were the Vodii, who inhabited the eastern portion of the district, whilst the Coriondi held possession of the northern and middle districts, The ancient divisions cannot be accurately given, but prior to the English settlements the whole formed the kingdom of Desmond, together with a portion of Waterford and the county of Kerry. In the year 1177 Henry II. of England granted the territory to Milo de Cogan and Robert FitzStephen, except the city of Cork and some of the surrounding country. In 1210 it was shire ground. The next important change took place in 1583, when Sir Walter Raleigh, the Boyles, and others obtained the forfeited estates of the Desmonds. Subsequent changes took place in 1642 and 1691, during the troubles which occurred at each of those periods respectively. Kinsale Head is famous as being the spot where the Spaniards obtained a temporary footing; and Bantry Bay as being the rendezvous of the French fleets in 1689 and 1796. By the statute of the 4th George IV. cap. 93, this large county was divided, for the purpose of more frequent holding of general sessions of the peace, into two districts, called the East and West Ridings; these have been again subdivided for quarter sessions purposes, the former into three, the latter into two districts. The East Riding contains the baronies of Barretts, Barrymore, Condons and Clangibbon, Cork, Duhallow, Fermoy, Imokilly, Kerrycurrihy, Kinalea, Kinnatal-loon, part of East Muskerry, Orrery and Kilmore, Kinsale, and Youghal liberties The West Riding contains the baronies of Bantry, Bear, East and West Carbery, Ibane and Barryroe, Kinalmeaky, West Muskerry, part of East Muskerry, and Courceys. The county returns eight members to parliament, which are divided as under:-two for the county, two for Cork city, and one for each of the boroughs of Youghal, Bandon, Kinsale, and Mallow. Before the Union the county sent twenty-four members to the Irish parliament, of which two were for the county, two for the county of the city of Cork, and two for each borough. The constituency for the county in 1859 numbered 15,716, and the county members are elected at the court-house in the city of Cork, though each riding constitutes a separate jurisdiction for the purposes of registration. The county is included in the Munster circuit; the assizes are held in Cork city, and by an Act 4 George IV., it is enacted that five general sessions of the peace shall be held in alternate months in each of the two ridings, so that in the county at large a session is held every month, except the two months in which the general sessions are held for the entire county. The sessions for each division are directed to be held for the East Riding alternately in the city of Cork and at Midleton, Fermoy, Mallow, and Kanturk; and for the West Riding alternately at Bandon, Macroom, Bantry, Skibbereen, and Clonakilty. These 23 baronies comprise 251 separate parishes, constituting the whole of the dioceses of Cork, Cloyne, and Ross, and a small part of Ardfert. On the death of Dr. Brinkley, Bishop of Cloyne, in 1835, that see was added to Cork and Ross by the Church Temporalities Act of the 3rd William IV. The united diocese is one of the eleven which constitute the ecclesiastical province of Cashel; it is entirely within the county of Cork, extending about 74 miles in length and 16 in breadth, and contains an estimated superficies of 356,300 acres. The majority, of the population, however, are Roman Catholics; there being, according to the census of 1861, only 26,736 members of the Church of England in the diocese of Cork, 11,746 in the diocese of Cloyne, 4,746 in that of Ross, and 6,424 in the part of Ardfert comprised within the county of Cork. The local government is vested in a lord-lieutenant, 16 deputy-lieutenants, and 282 magistrates, besides whom there are the usual county officers, including 4 coroners, and a constabulary force partly paid by government and partly by the grand jury presentments. Cork is the headquarters of the military district of that name, comprising 17 barrack stations, situated respectively at Charles Fort, Camden Fort, Fermoy, Kinsale, Ballincollig, Carlisle Fort, Spike Island, Youghal, Rocky Island, Hawlbowline, Mitchelstown, Buttevant, Mallow, Bandon, Dunmanway, Millstreet, and Clonakilty. A depot for convicts has been established at Spike Island, where persons sentenced to transportation are retained; instead, of being sent as formerly to Western Australia and Van Dieman's Land. The county gaol and house of correction are situated in the city of Cork, besides which there are seventeen bridewells in different parts of the county. The net annual value of property in the county, under the Tenement Valuation Act is £1,023,587, distributed between town and country. Besides the city of Cork, which, with an extensive surrounding district, forms a county of itself, Cork contains the boroughs, market, and seaport towns of Youghal and Kinsale; the boroughs and market towns of Bandon and Mallow; the seaports and market towns of Cove or Queenstown, and Bantry; the market and post towns of Fermoy, Skibbereen, Macroom, and Dunmanway; the ancient disfranchised boroughs of Baltimore, Castlemartyr, Charleville, Clonakilty, Doneraile, Midleton, and Rathcormack; and the small towns or villages of Ballincollig, Buttevant, Castle-Lyons, Castletown-Bearhaven, Castletown-Roche, Cloyne, Crookhaven, Innishannon, Kanturk, Kildorrery, Kilworth, Liscarrol, West Millstreet, Mitchelstown, Passage, Rosscarbery, and Timoleague, all of which are post towns. In a county of so large extent a great variety of soil and scenery is to be met with, but the general aspect of the country is pleasing and well cultivated, notwithstanding the deficiency of timber and of hedgerows and plantations. The western part is bold, rocky, and mountainous, while the northern and eastern portions are distinguished for their richness and fertility; it is, however, in the southern and south-western portions of the county that the grandest scenery occurs, where the stupendous masses of schistose rock are raised like adamantine barriers against the fury of the Atlantic waves, which for the greater part of the year are driven with fury against them by the force of the prevailing winds. The climate is remarkable for its mildness of temperature, never reaching any great extreme of heat or cold, compared with other places situated in about the same degree of latitude. Its proximity to the ocean renders it moist, like most of the western counties of Ireland, but drainage has effected a great improvement in this respect, as well as in the productiveness of the land. The soils may be classed under four heads 1. The calcareous, found in the limestone tracts, which are very fertile and produce good wheat crops. 2. The loamy, not calcareous, generally resting on clay-slate; these lands are next in fertility to the calcareous, and comprise the less elevated tracts in the S. 3. The light and shallow soils, resting upon gravel or rubble, which in wet seasons produce good corn crops; but are better fitted for pasture, the herbage being short and sweet, and in dry seasons subject to drought 4. The moorland or peat, the usual substratum of which is a hard rock or coarse retentive clay, rendering tillage difficult; these lands when susceptible of cultivation are planted in oats, potatoes, or grass. Sands occur on the coast and in the large bays. The principal minerals are iron, which was largely smelted whilst wood was obtainable for fuel; copper, worked principally at the Allahies mines, where 1,500 to 2,000 hands are employed; coal (anthracite), found near Dromagh and Lisnacon; quartz, on the hills round Cork, Ross, Queenstown, and Youghal; veined marble, occasionally in the limestone near Bantry; limestone, fuller's-earth, and brick-clay. The principal river is the Blackwater, rising in the mountains bordering on berry in the W.; it runs S. to near Millstreet, where suddenly turning E. it runs for many miles, past Mal low and Fermoy, into Waterford county, returning again to Cork county, and eventually falls into the sea at Youghal Harbour. The Lee also rises in the W., flowing from Lake Gougane-Barra, eastward 30 miles, to Cork, where it divides into two channels, and then widens into an extensive estuary. The other rivers are the Bandon, Ilen, Funcheon, North Bride, and Awbeg. The coast is deeply indented by numerous bays and inlets, forming safe and commodious harbours, of which the most noted are those of Bantry, Dunmanus, Clonakilty, Kinsale, Cork Harbour, and Youghal. Off the south western coast are several small rocky islands, of which the principal are Cape Clear, with a population of 1,052, and Innisherkin, near the harbour of Baltimore; Bear and Whiddy, in Bantry Bay; and Dursey, off the promontory of Bearhaven, forming the most western extremity of the county. In the mountainous districts there are several lakes, the most interesting being Gougane-Barra, with the hermitage of St. Finbar, and Allua, situated in a very lonely part of the country; also the lakes of Cahir, near Glengariffe, the Some, at Three Castle Head, and Lough Loughbofinny, near Bantry. The chief ranges of mountains are the Nagle, Bograh, and Muskerry, running between the rivers Lee and Blackwater the highest points being Hungry Hill 2,249 feet, Cahirbarna 2,234 feet, and Knockinsea 1,386 feet. Another range runs towards Mizen Head, S. of the river Lee, including the Clargh hills, of which Shehy, 1,796 feet, is the highest, point. The principal railways are the Great Southern and Western, connecting Cork city with Dublin, and the Eastern Coast, with branches to Fermoy and Killarney, which leave the main line at Mallow; the Cork and Bandon railway, which is to be extended to Dunmanway and Skibbereen; the Cork and Limerick direct line; the Cork, Youghal, and Queenstown direct line; and the Cork, Blackrock, and Passage railway, connecting Cork city with Cork Harbour, from whence steamers leave for America, Eng land, Scotland, and various ports of Ireland. The chief lines are the British and North American Royal Mail steamships, from Queenstown to Boston, calling at Halifax; the Liverpool, New York, and Philadelphia Steamship Company's vessels, from Queenstown to New York. The steamers for England and Scotland sail to the several ports of Bristol, Cardiff, Glasgow, Liverpool, Milford, Newport, and London (calling at Plymouth); there are also steamers from Cork to Waterford, and from Cork to Queenstown, calling at Glenbrook and Monks town and another line to Aghada;these two last lines are the Citizen's River Steamers. The roads intersecting the county of Cork are numerous, connecting all the chief towns in the vicinity; they may, however, be grouped into eight systems, viz., from Cork by Glanmire to Youghal, by Passage and Queenstown to Cloyne, by Ballinhassig to Kinsale and Bandon, by Bandon to Crookhaven and Ban try, by Ballincollig to Ballylickey on Bantry Bay, by Kilcrea to Macroom and Killarney, by Mallow to Tralee and Limerick, by Watergrass Hill and Kilworth to Clonmell, or by Mitchelstown to Tipperary. The county abounds in ancient ruins, stone circles, cromlechs, raths, caves, and religious houses. Near Clonakilty, is a stone circle, an ancient-pillar of one single stone, and an artificial cave. Ross possesses similar antiquities, and near Glanworth and Castlemary are monuments of curious form. Rosacarbery is famous for its caves, so also the Great Island, in Cork Harbour, and The Ovens, near Cork. There are round towers at Cloyne and Kineth of considerable size and in good preservation. Ancient weapons, urns, and other antiquities are found in the bogs. Ancient castles are numerous, a few of great magnificence, but the greater number consist only of square towers or keeps; Kanturk Castle is the largest, but the moat interesting is probably Blarney, the ancient seat of the McCarthyes, famous for the celebrated "Blarney Stone.""


[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868)]
Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2018