ARDEE, a parish and incorporated-market-town and post-town, in the barony of ARDEE, county of LOUTH, and province of LEINSTER, 10 miles (S. W. by S.) from Dundalk, and 34½ miles (N. N. W.) from Dublin; containing 6181 inhabitants, of which number, 3975 are in the town. This place, anciently called Atherdee or Athirdee, derives its name from its situation on the river Dee. Though a town of great antiquity, it was chiefly indebted for its former prosperity and importance to Roger de Pippart, one of the English adventurers, who became lord of the surrounding territory, and erected a strong castle here, about the beginning of the thirteenth century. In the year 1207 he also founded an hospital for Crouched friars of the order of St. Augustine, dedicated to St. John, and endowed it with a caracute of land, to which he afterwards added two more, and other gifts. Eugene, Archbishop of Armagh, who died in 1215, confirmed the charter of this establishment, and granted it the privilege of electing its own prior, and it attained an eminent degree of wealth and importance.
A Carmelite friary was also founded at an early period, to which Ralph de Pippart, in the reign of Edw. I., granted certain endowments out of his manor of Ardee, and its revenues were further augmented by several of the inhabitants. During the invasion of Edward Bruce, who laid waste much of the surrounding country, many of the inhabitants assembled for protection in this friary, which was attacked by a party of Scots and Irish under his command, and reduced to ashes. John de Bermingham, after repelling these invaders, was created Earl of Louth, and. had a grant of the manor, but was soon afterwards killed in an insurrection of his own people. In 1538, the town was burnt by O'Nial and his associates; and in the following year George Dowdall, the last prior of the Augustine monastery, surrendered that house with all its possessions in lands and advowsons, and was allowed a pension of £20 sterling until he should obtain some ecclesiastical preferment.
Having been appointed to the archbishoprick of Armagh, he received a grant for life of the monastery and its appurtenances, in 1554; and in 1612 its pos- sessions in and near the town were granted, by Jas. I., to Sir Garret Moore, who also subsequently received a grant of the remainder. On the breaking out of hostilities in 1641, Sir Phelim O'Nial obtained possession of the town, which thence became the head-quarters of the Irish army; but Sir Henry Tichborne advanced against it in the same year, with his small force from Drogheda, and retook the town and castle, in which a garrison was then placed. At a subsequent period the Marquess of Ormonde issued orders to the garrison to destroy the town, which, from their neglect or disobedience of his commands, afterwards fell into the hands of Cromwell.
Jas. II., after leaving Dundalk, retired with his army to this place; but on the approach of William's forces, previously to the battle of the Boyne, retreated to Drogheda.
The town is situated in a very fertile corn district, and consists of one principal street, with lanes branching from it; many of the houses are of respectable appearance. Turf is brought for the supply of the inhabitants from a large bog about 1½ mile to the west, by means of a branch of the river Dee, which has been made navigable for boats. Malting is extensively carried on; and there are a corn-mill and a corn and flourmill.
The market is held on Tuesday and is well supplied: a meat market, or shambles, was erected by the corporation in 1796, which cost about £600; and a corn market about the year 1710, at an expense of nearly £2000, for each of which they pay a ground rent of about £10 per annum. Fairs, of which four are held under the charter of Queen Anne (in confirmation and extension of a patent of Chas. II. in 1681), and three were granted by patent of Geo. III. in 1819, are held on March 1st, April 10th, June 6th, July 8th, Aug. 20th, Oct. 23rd (a large fair for sheep), and Dec. 17th, principally for live stock, on a plot of ground which has been enclosed at a considerable expense by the corporation.
The tolls were granted by charter to the corporation, who, previously to 1823, claimed the right of levying toll not only at the market and fairs, but also toll thorough and pontage; but after considerable resistance, accompanied by riot and disorder, their claim to the latter was negatived at the Dundalk assizes in that year; and the payment of the former has been since also resisted, but their right has been confirmed by the assistant barrister for the county. Here is a chief station of the constabulary police.
A corporation is first mentioned in a charter of the 51st of Edw. III. (1377), as set forth in a charter of inspeximus and confirmation of the 3rd of Rich. II., under the style of "the Provosts (or Portreeves) and Commonalty of the town of Athirde;" and certain customs on goods for sale were granted to them for a term of ten years, and confirmed by succeeding monarchs, in aid of enclosing the town with a stone wall and paving the streets. A charter of the 1st of Hen. V. (1414), granted cognizance of all pleas, real and personal, and jurisdiction of assize, with return of writs and other important privileges, within the town and precincts; and by a statute in the 33rd of Hen. VI., confirmed by another in the following year, it was enacted that the portreeves should be justices of the peace. The present governing charter was granted in the 11th of Queen Anne, 1713; under it the corporation is styled "the Portreeve, Burgesses, and Commons of the Corporation of AtherARD dee;" and consists of the portreeve, 23 other burgesses, and an unlimited number of freemen, assisted by a town-clerk, constable, two serjeants-at-niace, and other inferior officers: there is also a select body composed of the portreeve, six burgesses, and six common council freemen. The portreeve is elected annually out of the burgesses on the 23rd of April, by the portreeve, burgesses, and freemen, and is sworn in on Sept. 29th; the burgesses are elected for life out of the freemen, by the corporation at large; the freemen are created by nomination of the common council and subsequent election of the corporation at large; and the members of the common council are created for life in the same manner as the burgesses. The borough returned to the Irish parliament two members, elected by the burgesses and freemen, until the Union, when, of the £15,000 awarded as compensation for the abolition of the elective franchise, one-half was paid to Wm. Ruxton, Esq., and the remainder to Chas. and Wm. Parkinson Ruxton, Esqrs. The portreeve under the charter is a justice of the peace, coroner, and clerk of the market; but, being usually a justice of peace for the county, and the local courts having fallen into disuse, these peculiar functions are little exercised, and the corporation is now little more than nominal. The county quarter sessions for the division of Ardee are held here in January and June; and petty sessions are held every Wednesday, at which the portreeve and county magistrates preside.
The old castle is now used as a court-house; and attached to it is a well-regulated county bridewell of modern erection. The revenue of the corporation is derived from rents of lands and tolls, and amounts to about £135 per annum.
The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 4884½ statute acres. With the exception of about 300 acres of bog, it is principally under tillage; the soil is very fertile, and the system of agriculture much improved. It contains several quarries of limestone and greenstone. The surrounding scenery has been much improved by extensive planting. Ardee House is the seat of Mrs. Ruxton, and Red House, that of W. Parkinson Ruxton, Esq.; a handsome demesne is attached to each. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Armagh, to which the rectory of Kildemock was united by act of council in 1700, and subsequently the vicarages of Shenlis, Smarmore, and Stickillen episcopally, forming the union of Ardee, in the patronage of the Lord- Primate: the rectory is impropriate in Viscount Ferrard.
The tithes amount to £392. 13. 11., the whole of which is payable to the impropriator, who allows a stipend to the incumbent, who, besides a glebe-house and 40 plantation acres of glebe, valued at £120 per ann., at Kildemock (nearly in the centre of the union), has a glebe in this parish comprising 104 plantation acres and valued at £391. 11. 5. per ann., fifteen tenements in the town let for £107. 2. 2. per ann., and half an acre in Stickillen of the annual value of £1. 10. The gross annual value of the benefice, tithe and glebe inclusive, is £842. 13. 7.
The church, which was formerly that of the Augustine monastery, is an ancient and spacious structure, supposed to have been built in 1208, and still in good repair.
The R. C. district comprises the Protestant union and the parish of Maplestown in addition, and contains two chapels, situated at Ardee and Kildemock: the former stands at the entrance to the town from the south, and was built in 1829; it is a handsome and commodious edifice faced with hewn stone, 100 feet long by 56 broad, with a gallery extending round three sides of it.
There are two schools for both sexes on the foundation of Erasmus Smith: the boys' school-room was built in 1806, and the girls' in 1817, at a total expense of £600, of which the corporation contributed £450 and about three roods of the fair green as a site, and W. P. Ruxton, Esq., £150. There are seven private pay schools, also a dispensary and a savings' bank. Of the Augustine monastery, with the exception of the church, only the eastern wall of the belfry at the west end, and an adjoining cell on the north are remaining; and of the Carmelite friary there are no vestiges. Near the church are the remains of an old college, which have been converted into a thatched dwelling. The ancient castle, situated in the middle of the town, and now used as a court-house and gaol, is of quadrangular form, with a high roof and a rudely pointed gateway; the east and west fronts are defended by projecting towers, which rise above the rest of the building. In the centre of the town is also another ancient castle, which has long been in the possession of the Hatch family; it was granted by Cromwell to Williams, one of their ancestors, and has been recently fitted up as a handsome dwelling by W. Hatch, Esq., the present proprietor; it is defended by embrasures and a tower on the east side, on which have been placed two four-pounders, by permission of the lord-lieutenant and council in 1828. Close to the town is a fortified mount of great magnitude, anciently called Cnuc na Scanghaim, and the seat of the chiefs of the district. The Earl of Meath enjoys the inferior title of Baron Brabazon, of Ardee, by which his ancestor, Sir Edward Brabazon, was elevated to the peerage of Ireland, in 1616.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.