BALTINGLASS, a parish and market-town and post-town and borough (ancient), in the barony of UPPER-TALBOTSTOWN, county of WICKLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 32 miles (W. S. W.) from Wieklow, and 38 miles (S. S. W.) from Dublin; containing, with the town of Stratford-on-Slaney, 4110 inhabitants, of which number, 1670 are in the town of Baltinglass. This place, according to most antiquaries, derives its name from Baal-Tin-Glas, signifying, according to common acceptation, "the pure fire of Baal," and is thence supposed to have been one of the principal seats of druidical worship. At the time of the English invasion it formed part of the inheritance of the Kings of Leinster; and about the year 1148, or 1151, Diarmit Mac Murchad O'Cavanagh, the reigning monarch, founded here a monastery for Cistertian monks, in the church of which he was afterwards interred. Among the most distinguished benefactors to this establishment, which became a mitred abbey, was John, Earl of Morton, afterwards King of England; and among its abbots was Albin O'Molloy, one of the most zealous advocates of the Irish clergy, in opposition to the overbearing allegations of Giraldus Cambrensis. The monastery was frequently plundered by the mountain septs of the O'Byrnes and the O'Tooles; and in 1314 the abbot obtained from the English government permission to hold a conference with the chiefs of those formidable septs, who in the deed for this purpose are designated "Irish Felons," in order to recover "the goods and chattels of which he had been robbed, or a full equivalent for the same." The monastery was suppressed in 1537, and with its extensive possessions, including the castle and manor of Baltinglass, was granted, in 1541, to Thomas Eustace, Lord Kilcullen, whom Hen. VIII. created Viscount Baltinglass. In the reign of Elizabeth a parliament was held here, in which was passed an act rendering every kind of inheritance forfeitable for high treason, emphatically called the statute of Baltinglass. James, the third Viscount Baltinglass, and his four brothers, having joined in the great Desmond insurrection, were convicted of high treason; and their estates being confiscated under this statute, were granted by Queen Elizabeth to Sir John Harrington. The manor is now the property of Henry Carroll, Esq., of Ballynure 3 and the castle, with the town and other considerable property in the neighbourhood, is in the possession of the Earl of Aldborough. During the disturbances of 1798, the insurgents, after their defeat in the county of Wexford, stationed themselves in the mountains of this neighbourhood, and continued for some time to commit outrages on the peaceable inhabitants of the surrounding country.
The town is pleasantly situated in a romantic vale watered by the Slaney, over which is a stone bridge of three arches connecting those parts of it which are on the opposite banks of the river. It consists of four principal streets, with two or three others of less importance, and in 1831 contained 256 houses: it is amply supplied with water from springs, and, from its situation on the great road from Dublin, by Tullow, to Wexford, enjoys a considerable traffic. There are infantry barracks for one officer, and 25 non-commissioned officers and privates: and a constabulary police and a peace preservation force are stationed in the town. The manufacture of linen, woollen, and diaper was formerly carried on here extensively; there are two bleach-greens in the town in full operation, and an extensive flour-mill. There are also some extensive cotton and calico-printing works at Stratford-on-Slaney. A market and fairs were granted, in 1617, to Sir Thomas Willmott by Jas. I. Chas. II., in 1663, granted by charter a market, to be held on Friday, and two fairs for three days each in May and September, to Sir Maurice Eustace, with the tolls thereof; and four more fairs were granted, in 1763, to John, Lord Baltinglass, by a patent which also contains a grant of a market on Tuesday, not held, and of the tolls and customs of the markets and fairs to his lordship. The market is on Friday; and the fairs are held on Feb. 2nd, March 17th, May 12th, July 1st, Sept. 12th, and Dec. 8th. Until within the last few years the tolls and customs were received, by the corporation, but the collecting of them has been discontinued.
The town was incorporated by charter of Chas. II. in the 15th year of his reign (1663), under the designation of the "Sovereign, Burgesses, and Free Commons of the Borough of Baltinglass." The corporation consists of a sovereign, twelve burgesses, a recorder and town-clerk, a serjeant-at-mace, and a clerk of the market. The sovereign is elected annually by and from the burgesses, on the Monday next after the feast of St. John the Baptist, and sworn into office on the Monday after Michaelmas- day; he has power to appoint a deputy from among the resident burgesses, by consent of a majority of that body; the sovereign or deputy is a justice of the peace within the borough during the year of office, and the former for one year after; the sovereign is also coroner.
Burgesses are elected for life, but have no functions to perform. The power of appointing the recorder and town-clerk during pleasure, and also the clerk of the market, was vested by the charter in Sir Maurice Eustace, his heirs and assigns; and the serjeant-at-mace is appointed by the sovereign and burgesses. The freedom of the borough is obtained only by gift of the corporation; the freemen are exempted from serving upon juries without the limits of the borough, which, according to the charter, extend beyond the town, and comprise 300 acres lying on the west and south sides. The corporation had nearly become extinct, there being only two burgesses and not one freeman in 1832, when ten burgesses were chosen. The borough returned two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when it was disfranchised, and the sum of £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to the trustees of the Earl of Aldborough: the sovereign was the returning officer. The borough is included in the manor of Baltinglass, and the manor court was constituted a court of record, in which the seneschal presided, with jurisdiction to the amount of £10, but has been long discontinued. The quarter sessions for the western division of the county are held here; as are also the petty sessions for the upper division of the barony of Talbotstown, every alternate Friday, before the county magistrates. The court-house is situated at the extremity of the principal street, on the eastern bank of the river. The district bridewell, situated in the town, contains ten cells, three day-rooms, and three airing-yards, in one of which is a tread-wheel; and though badly planned and inconveniently situated, it affords sufficient facility for the classification of the prisoners usually confined within its walls.
The parish comprises 11,691 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. The lands are in a good state of cultivation; the soil is fertile, and the system of agriculture is improved; there is very little bog or waste land. Stratford Lodge, the seat of Lady Elizabeth Stratford, is a spacious mansion pleasantly situated in a demesne of 100 acres tastefully laid out and planted, ornamented with several sheets of water, and commanding from the house some extensive views, including the town, the valley, and a magnificent range of mountain scenery. Saunders Grove, the seat of R. F. Saunders, Esq., is a spacious and handsome mansion of hewn stone lined with brick, beautifully situated in a rich demesne adorned by the windings of the Slaney. Golden Fort, situated on an eminence over the Slaney, opposite the demesne of Saunders Grove, is the seat of Lieut.- Gen. Saunders, who has very much improved the estate, by the introduction of an improved system of agriculture and a superior breed of cattle. The lands of Golden Fort and Rathbran, both in this parish, are subject to a, charge of double county cess, an error which will probably be rectified by the general survey now in progress. Slaney Park, the residence of the Rev. W. Grogan, and Whitehall, that of W. Butler, Esq., are in the parish; and on the townland of Ladytown, which is part of this parish, but detached and completely surrounded by the county of Carlow, is Mount Lucas, the residence of Capt. Jackson, commanding extensive mountain views and the scenery of the valley. The living is a rectory, annexed to that of Ballynure, in the diocese of Leighlin, and in the patronage of Henry Car- roll, Esq.: the tithes amount to £618. 9. 2¾ The church, which occupies the site of the chancel of the ancient abbey, was repaired, and a square tower added to it, in 1815, at an expense of £500, and a grant of £252 has been lately made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for its further repair. The churchyard is the burialplace of the Aldborough family, and over the remains of his deceased ancestors the present earl, in 1832, erected a massive mausoleum of granite, terminating in a pyramidal spire. There is a chapel of ease at Stratford-on- Slaney. In the R. C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, which comprises also the parishes of Ballynure and those parts of the parishes of Timolin and Moon which are in the county of Wicklow, and that part of Kineagh which is in the county of Kildare; the chapel near the town is a neat edifice with a tower, and there is also a chapel at Stratford-on-Slaney. In the town of Baltinglass is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists, and at Stratford is one for Presbyterians.
At Stratford Lodge are two schools, one an infants' school, and both supported by Lady Elizabeth Stratford; and there are two other schools, altogether affording instruction to about 260 boys and 190 girls. A second infirmary for the county of Wicklow, containing four wards, in which are 20 beds, with a dispensary annexed to it, has been established in the town; there is also a savings' bank. Within the demesne of Stratford Lodge is a shop for supplying the poor with goods at cost price. There are some considerable remains of the Cistertian abbey, chiefly consisting of a series of seven pointed arches springing from alternated round and square pillars with curiously carved capitals, which formerly separated the south aisle from the nave; the church appears to have been a spacious cruciform structure, and the west end, which is still standing, has the remains of a lancet-shaped window of three lights; the walls enclose a large area, which appears to have been surrounded with monastic buildings.
Of the ancient castle, now converted into a farm-house, two Norman doorways leading into a court-yard are still remaining; and formerly many fragments of stone highly wrought lay scattered in all directions. Near the town is a cromlech, and numerous other relics of antiquity are said to have been lately existing there. On the eminence on which Golden Fort is built are two circular intrenchments or raths, surrounded by moats, in one of which the proprietor of the estate discovered, a few years since, a number of gold coins, from which circumstance the seat derived its name; and in the other, which is of larger dimensions and in a much more perfect state, was found a kistvaen containing an urn of rude pottery, in which were ashes, with a number of human bones scattered around: in the same demesne is an ancient cemetery. Baltinglass gives the title of Baron to the noble family of Stratford, Earls of Aldborough. See STRATFORD-ONSLANEY.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.