The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

"COUNTY KILKENNY, an inland county in the province of Leinster, Ireland, bounded on the N. by Queen's County, on the E. by Carlow and Wexford, on the S. by Waterford, and on the W. by Tipperary. Its greatest length N. and S. is 46 miles, and greatest breadth E. and W. 24. It comprises an area of 796 square miles, and contains a population, by the census of 1861, of 124,516. According to Ptolemy it was originally inhabited by the Brigantes and Caucoi, and it subsequently became part of the kingdom of Ossory. In 1247, when Leinster was divided among the daughters of William, Earl of Pembroke, Kilkenny was allotted to his third child, Isabella, and through her descended to the earls of Ormonde. Its early history was occupied in struggles between the houses of Ormonde and Desmonde. In the rebellion of 1641 Kilkenny fell into the power of the Irish. At the accession of William III. most of the leading county families, the Graces, the Walshes, the Butlers, the O'Shears, &c., revolted, espousing the Jacobite cause, and suffered severely from various confiscation. Kilkenny returns three members to parliament, two for the county, which in 1859 had a constituency of 5,347, and one for its city, with a constituency of 585. The communication through the county is good. A mail-coach road runs from Dublin to Cashel, and another connecting the town of Kilkenny with Dublin, Waterford, and Clonmel. There are also a branch railway to Carlow from the Great Southern and Western line, continued to Kilkenny, and a line to Waterford. This county is chiefly in the diocese of Ossory, but a small part in that of Leighlin. It is divided, for purposes of civil jurisdiction, into ten baronies, viz: Callan, Crannagh, Fassadinin, Galmoy, Gowran, Ida, Iverk, Kells, Knocktopher, and Shillelogher, and contains 140 parishes. The chief rivers which irrigate this' county are, the Nore, passing through the middle, the Barrow on the E., the Suir on the S., also the Dinan, Munster, and Kings'-river. The three first-named rivers are navigable for a considerable distance, and were formerly famous for salmon, but owing to the mills on their banks, the quantity has greatly decreased. The scenery of Kilkenny is more picturesque than grand. The soil being argillaceous, affords very good pasture ground, which adds greatly to the beauty of the scenery by the intensity of its verdure. The hills are of minor importance in the features of the county, being only the extension of the Wicklow group, forming the hills of Brandon, between the Barrow and the Nore, and finally terminate in the small elevations which unite towards the S. the mountains of Waterford. The chief crops are, wheat, barley, and potatoes, nearly 470,102 acres out of the 509,732 which the county comprises being arable; of the remainder 21,126 are uncultivated, 13,899 in plantations, and 3,056 under water, besides about 1,549 in roads, towns, &c. Scientific farming has made considerable progress of late years, but there is room for manifest improvement in the culture of agricultural produce. Irrigation is but little attended to, and the land in the hilly tracts, which by some slight care and attention would yield good crops, is neglected. As regards cattle, the native horses are generally active, and the breed of sheep and pigs has been greatly improved, though less care is paid to the rearing of these animals than in the adjoining counties. Kilkenny is very deficient in woods and plantations, of which there are only 13,899 acres. Perhaps the banks of the Nore are the only exceptions to this general want of timber. This county is rich in coal. Its coal-fields may be estimated at 6 miles in length by 5 in breadth, but the coal is of inferior quality, being sulphureous, and chiefly used for smelting and smiths' work. The principal collieries are at Castlecomer, Clough, and Newtown. The substratum is chiefly limestone, with clay, slate, and sandstone, but iron, marble, manganese, and marl are also found. There are chalybeate springs at Ballyspellin. The soil is light, loamy, and very fertile in the valleys. The climate, owing to the general slope of the surface to the S.E., causing the waters to run off rapidly, is very dry and healthy. The occupations of the people are almost entirely agricultural, and but few manufactures are carried on, the only articles of export being flour, beer, whisky, and leather. The woollen manufacture and the linen trade, once so important, are now almost extinct. Its chief industry is in the flour mills, of which there are great numbers. The grain is sent to Dublin. The condition of the poor is wretched in the extreme, all articles of food and clothing being very expensive. The principal towns are, Kilkenny, with a population in 1861 of 14,174, and Callan, with 2,322. The former is the county town, where the assizes are held, and here also is the headquarters of the police force. It is in the Leinster circuit, and in the south-eastern or Curragh military district. The barrack stations are at 'Kilkenny and Castlecomer. The county contains numerous traces of antiquity. On the summit of Tory Hill is a circular space covered with stones, and bearing a curious inscription. There are various cromlechs, the most remarkable of which is at Kilmogue. Raths are very numerous, especially at Galmoy and near the Nore. At Earlsrath is a large fort enclosed by a fosse, and at Callan, Kilkenny, and Castlecomer, are extensive moats. In this county were two very celebrated monasteries of the Cistercian order, one at Jerpoint and the other at Graig; also numerous castles, the chief of which is Grandison Castle, in Iverk. Among the resident landowners are, Viscount Clifden, Sir Charles Cuffe, Bart., the Earl of Desart, Lord Mountgarret, Viscount Ashbrook, the Earl of Bessborough, James Aylward, George Bryan, &c."

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