MONAGHAN, a parish and market-town, the chief town of the county, and formerly a parliamentary borough, in the barony of MONAGHAN, and county of MONAGHAN, and province of ULSTER, 12¼ miles, (W.
S. W.) from Armagh, and 60 (N. N. W.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Londonderry; containing 11, 875 inhabitants, of which number, 3848 are in the town. This place, till within a comparatively modern period, was distinguished only by a monastery, of which St. Moclodius, the son of Aedh, was abbot; and which, according to the Annals of the Four Masters, was plundered in 830 and again in 931. It appears from the same authority to have flourished for more than two centuries, and the names of its abbots, deans, and archdeacons (among the former of whom was Elias, the principal of all the monks of Ireland, who died in Cologne in 1042) are regularly preserved till the year 1161, after which date no further mention of it occurs. Phelim Mac Mahon, in 1462, founded on the site of the ancient abbey a monastery for Conventual Franciscans, which at the dissolution was granted to Edward Withe; but even at that time no place deserving the name of a village had arisen near the monastery, and the whole of this part of the country, under its native chiefs, the Mac Mahons, still retained the ancient customs. About the commencement of the 17th century, Sir Edward Blayney, who had been appointed seneschal of the county, erected a small fort here, which he garrisoned with one company of foot; and on the approaching settlement of Ulster, when, the Lord-Deputy came to this place to make some arrangements respecting the forfeited lands, it was so destitute of requisite habitations, that he was under the necessity of pitching tents for his accommodation. On this occasion the Lord-Deputy was attended by the Lord- Chancellor and judges of assize, and by the attorneygeneral, the celebrated Sir John Davies, who describes the place as consisting only of a few scattered cabins, occupied chiefly by the retired soldiers of Sir Edward Blayney's garrison. Besides that fort, which was on the north side of the village, he notices another in the centre of it, which had been raised only 10 or 12 feet above the ground, and was then lying in a neglected state, although £1200 had been expended on it by the king, as a means of retaining the native inhabitants of the district in subjection. The Lord-Deputy divided several neighbouring "ballibetaghs" among the soldiers residing in the town; and as the fort at this time depended on Newry for its supplies, which, from the hostility of the intervening country, were frequently precarious, he granted to Sir Edward Blayney a portion of land on which he erected the fortress of Castle Blayney.
In 1611, Sir Edward obtained the grant of a market and fair; and the town, which now began to increase in population and extent, was, in 1613, made a parliamentary borough, and the inhabitants were incorporated by a charter of Jas. I., under the designation of the "Provost, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Monaghan." The town consists of one principal square in the centre, called the Diamond, in which is the linen-hall, and of another spacious opening in which is the markethouse, and of three streets diverging from the principal square in a triangular direction; the total number of houses is about 580, of which many are well built, and those in the environs are neat and handsome.
There are barracks for cavalry, a neat building adapted for 3 officers and 54 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 44 horses, and a small hospital.
A news-room is supported by subscription; and a savings' bank has been established, in which, in 1835, the deposits amounted to £22,016. 2. 5., belonging to 749 depositors. There is a large brewery in the town, but no particular manufactures are carried on; the chief trade is in agricultural produce and the sale of linen, for which this place is one of the principal marts in the county; the quantity of linen sold, in 1835, was 6641 pieces, of 25 yards each, and the average price per piece, 18s. 9d. The market days are Monday, for linen and for pigs, of which great numbers are slaughtered and sold to dealers, who send the carcasses to Belfast, where they are cured for exportation; on Tuesday for wheat, bere, barley, and rye; on Wednesday for oats; and on Saturday, for oats and potatoes: flax, yarn, butter, and provisions of all kinds are also sold here in large quantities. Fairs are held on the first Monday in every month, and are amply supplied and numerously attended.
The market-house, a very commodious building, was erected by the late Gen. Conyngham, afterwards Lord Rossmore, whose arms are emblazoned over the entrance. The Ulster canal, which is now in progress, will pass through the northern part of the parish; a branch of the river Blackwater also bounds the parish on the north, running nearly parallel with the canal.
These facilities of water conveyance will contribute to the benefit of the town, which is at present in a thriving state, and is progressively increasing in importance.
The corporation, by the charter of Jas. I., consists of a provost, 12 free burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, two serjeants-atmace, and other officers. The provost is annually chosen from the free burgesses on the festival of St.
John the Baptist, and sworn into office on that of St.
Michael; the burgesses are elected, as vacancies occur, from the freemen by a majority of their own body, by whom also freemen are admitted by favour only; the recorder and serjeants-at-mace are chosen by the corporation at large, but no recorder has been chosen since 1815, when the last, who was also the first serjeant-atmace, died. The corporation continued to send two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. The court of record, ordained by the charter to be held every Monday, with jurisdiction extending to five marks, has not been held for the last 50 years. The assizes for the county are held here, also the quarter sessions four times in the year, and petty sessions every Tuesday. There is a chief constabulary police force stationed in the town.
The county court-house, situated in the centre of the town, is a handsome modern building of hewn stone, containing spacious court-rooms and all requisite offices, and in every respect well adapted to its purpose. The county gaol, completed in 1824, and situated on an eminence near the entrance to the town, is a handsome semicircular range of building, containing 75 single cells, and 11 rooms with more than one bed each, with appropriate day-rooms and airing-yards, in one of which is a tread-wheel applied to the raising of water for the supply of the prison; there are a male and female hospital, a chapel, and a school; the prison is well adapted for classification, and under very good regulations.
The parish, called also "Rackwallis," comprises, according to the Ordnance survey, 13,547½ statute acres, of which 12,758 are applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £23,013. 13. 2. per ann.; 26½ acres are water, and the remainder principally under tillage. The general surface is irregular and hilly, rugged towards the south, but smoother and more gently undulating towards the north. The soil is rich in the vicinity of the town, but inferior towards the south and south-west; there is but little bog in the parish, though there are large tracts in those adjoining, from which abundance of fuel is obtained. The system of agriculture is improved; limestone abounds, and there is a very fine quarry at Milltown Bridge; marl is also found, but is seldom used for manure; whinstone also forms part of the substratum. The principal seats are Rossmore Park, the residence of the Right Hon. Lord Rossmore, a handsome mansion in the Elizabethan style, situated in an extensive and beautifully diversified demesne, abounding with wild and romantic scenery and commanding some fine distant views; Castle Shane, of E. Lucas, Esq., an ancient mansion in a highly enriched and tastefully embellished demesne (within which is the site of the ancient village of Castle Shane), with a handsome entrance lodge in the later English style of architecture, and forming an interesting object as seen from the new line of road winding through the valley; Cornacassa, of Dacre Hamilton, Esq., pleasantly situated in a highly cultivated and well-planted demesne; and Camla Vale, of Lieut.-Col. Westenra, brother of Lord Rossmore, a spacious and handsome residence, situated in grounds tastefully laid out and adjoining the demesne of Rossmore Park: there are also many handsome residences in the immediate environs. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Clogher, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £553. 16. 11. The glebe-house is a neat thatched residence, and the glebe comprises 38 statute acres, valued at £114 per annum. The church, a very handsome structure, in the later English style of architecture, with a tower and spire, was erected on the site of the former edifice in 1836, at an expense of £5330, of which £1100 was a legacy, with interest, bequeathed by the late Dowager Lady Rossmore; £1000, a bequest of Mrs. Jackson; £2000, a loan from the late Board of First Fruits, the remainder being raised by subscription.
The interior contains some handsome monuments and tablets of white marble, to the late rector, the Rev.
Mr. Montgomery, Mr. and Mrs. Jackson, the families of Lucas and Cole, and the lady of Col. Westenra. The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church; there are chapels situated respectively at Latlurken, Ardahy, and in the town. Contiguous to the chapel at Latlurken are the national school and a house and ground given by the Rossmore family for the residence of the R. C. clergyman. There are places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the second and third classes, and for those of the Seceding Synod, of the first class; also for Wesleyan and Primitive Wesleyan Methodists. The consistorial court of the diocese of Clogher is held in the town; and the presbytery of Monaghan, in connection with the Synod of Ulster, also holds its meetings here in February and October. The diocesan school for the sees of Raphoe, Kilmore, and Clogher was founded by Queen Elizabeth and is supported chiefly by the bishops and clergy of those dioceses: the school-house is a spacious and handsome edifice, towards the erection of which Lord Rossmore contributed largely, and endowed the establishment with an annuity and five acres of land. About 1400 children are taught in ten other public schools, of which the parochial school, for which a new house has been recently built, is partly supported by the rector; a free school for boys was founded by R. Jackson, Esq., who endowed it with £22. 10. per annum, and a house rent-free; a female sewing school is also supported by the same gentleman, who endowed it with a house rent-free and a salary of £16 for the mistress; and a school at Killamarly is aided by an annual donation from W. Brook, Esq. There are also seven private schools, in which are about 300 children.
The county infirmary, a good building, occupying an open and elevated site, is supported by a parliamentary grant, by the interest of a legacy of £4000 bequeathed by the late Francis Ellis, Esq., a rent-charge of £20 by the late J. Wright, Esq., and £100 per annum from Bishop Sterne's charity; also by Grand Jury presentments and subscriptions. During the year ending Jan.
6th, 1835, it afforded relief to 286 in-patients, and medicine and attendance to 900 out-patients. There are also a mendicity society, and a penny a week society for the assistance of the poor, supported by subscription and weekly contributions from the members. An almshouse for six poor widows was founded by the late Richard Jackson, Esq., who endowed it with £25. 19.
per annum, charged on lands in the parish. A large house in the square called the Diamond is said to occupy the site of an ancient castle; and in the rear of it are some old walls, said to be the remains of the old abbey; the cemetery attached appears to have been very extensive.
In levelling the ground in front of the old gaol, human bones and a skull of unusually large size were discovered. On the summit of the hill to the north of the town, and near the site of the new gaol, was a small mound of earth, marking the site of the fortress built by Sir Edward Blayney for the protection of the town, and noticed by Sir John Davies as serving both for a garrison and a gaol. Several silver coins have been found here, among which was a curious coin of one of the Henrys, and a larger coin of Jas. I., which is in good preservation; and in a meadow near the river was dug up, some years since, an ancient brass spur, similar to those in the museum of Trinity College, Dublin.
On the townland of Lisard, about two miles to the south-west of the town, is a perfect fort, with a rampart and fosse; it is situated on an eminence commanding the surrounding country.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.