CASTLEMACADAM, a parish, in the barony of ARKLOW, county of WICKLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 5 miles (N. W.) from Arklow; containing 5155 inhabitants. This place derives its name from an ancient castle, which was destroyed in the frequent incursions of the O'Byrnes, and rebuilt in 1308,, by Piers Gaveston, during his lieutenancy of Ireland. The parish is situated on the mail coach road from Dublin to Wexford, and on both sides of the beautiful Vale of Ovoca; it contains 12,360 statute acres, and although abounding in mineral wealth, is poor for agricultural purposes. The scenery is unequalled for its variety of beautiful and sublime views, in which the most pleasingly picturesque is combined with the most strikingly romantic.
The enchanting valley of Ovoca, which is the scene of Moore's exquisite ballad, "The Meeting of the Waters," is principally within its limits, and contains a most admirable mixture of mountain, forest, lawn, and river scenery. After the conflux of the Avonmore and Avonbeg, at "the Meeting of the Waters," near Castle- Howard, the united stream takes the name of the Ovoca. The banks are about a quarter of a mile distant from each other, and for nearly eight miles are thickly wooded. The mail coach road from Dublin to Wexford, by way of Arklow, winds through this picturesque vale, which is adorned by the woods of Castle-Howard, Ballyarthur, Castlemacadam, Shelton Abbey, and Glenart, the hills containing the copper mines of Cronebane, Trigon, Ballymurtagh, and Ballygahan, and the village of Newbridge. The most splendid view of the valley is obtained from Ballyarthur, the seat of E. Symes Bayly, Esq. It is a plain house, but the demesne, which contains above 1600 statute acres, is richly wooded, and extremely varied in surface. The avenue leading to the house, which is through a turreted archway, near the village of Newbridge, is about two British miles in length, and with a gentle ascent winds through a wood of luxuriant growth. This road terminates at the lawn in front of the house, which contains above 60 British acres of undulating ground, on the top of the hill. A path behind the house leads to a terrace on the uppermost ridge of the northern bank of the Ovoca, which commands a prospect of the union of the Ovoca and Aughrim rivers, called the "Second Meeting," and of Croghan-Kinshela, which contains the Wicklow gold mines. But the most delightful view is from the spot where stood an octagonal temple, about half a mile from the terrace, the path to which is through a walk so thickly planted as to exclude the prospect of the surrounding country. This privation increases the gratification derived from the magnificent view which suddenly bursts on the eye. This enchanting demesne is open to all respectable persons, and during the summer is visited by very great numbers, being considered, from the exquisite beauty of its prospects, one of the most delightful spots in Wicklow. Near the head of the vale stands Castle-Howard, the magnificent seat of the late Col. Robert Howard, which crowns the summit of an almost precipitous cliff, rising from the east bank of the Ovoca and overlooking the confluence of the Avonmore and Avonbeg: the demesne is tastefully laid out, and ornamented with rustic buildings. Besides these seats, there are Cherrymount, the residence of the Rev. T. Webber, and Mine View, of J. Kilbee, Esq., from which there is an extensive prospect.
Mining operations were commenced here in 1787, by a company afterwards incorporated in 1798, under the name of the Irish Mining Company. The aggregate produce of Cronebane, up to 1811, was 26,875 tons of ore, which produced 1717 tons of copper. Above £12,000 worth of copper had also been obtained from the waters of the mine, by keeping them in tanks with old iron, which caused the copper to precipitate itself. The mines of Ballymurtagh were worked with eminent success by Mr. Whaley, of Whaley Abbey, so early as 1755. From the low price of copper, these mines were in a languishing state for several years; but in 1834, the Board of Public Works advanced £1000 for the erection of machinery in Cronebane, and a similar sum for Ballymurtagh both to be repaid by instalments, with interest.
In 1835, four of the mines were in operation; of these, Cronebane and Tigrony, leased from the Irish Mining Company to the Cornish firm of Williams, Brothers, & Co., affords employment to above 600 persons. These mines are entirely worked by water; there are 8 water wheels, one of which is 50 feet, and two are 40 feet, in diameter; they produce about 90 tons of ore weekly, which yield from 5½ to 7½ per cent, of pure coper In the middle of the last century, Mr. Weaver, superintendent of the Irish Mining Company's mines, discovered a brown indurated oxyde of iron, containing minute particles of silver to the amount of 6¼ per cent.; the communion plate for the parish church is made of this silver. The Connaree mines, worked by Messrs. Kempston and Tilly, are said to produce the richest copper ore at present known in Ireland, yielding an average from 9½ to 15 per cent., and in some instances even 35 per cent., of pure metal: 150 people are employed in these mines, raising about 1000 tons of ore annually.
A steam-engine of 50-horse power has been erected to drain the mine, and is said to have been the first introduced into Wicklow. The Ballymurtagh mines are held by the Wicklow Copper Mining Company, on a lease which will expire about 1850, at a rent of one-tenth of the produce: about 380 persons are employed, who raise about 400 tons of ore monthly, which yields 5½ per cent, of copper. More than 20 veins have been discovered, extending nearly a mile and a half in length, and varying from a few perches to nearly half a mile in breadth. Four principal shafts have been sunk, the deepest of which is 120 fathoms; and a steam-engine of 50-horse power, and one of 45 are used for draining them. The working of Ballygahan mine, belongingto Viscount Powerscourt, was re-commenced by the Royal Irish Mining Company, in 1833, who raise from 40 to 50 tons per month, but intend working it on a larger scale. The shipping-place for all these mines is the port of Wicklow, to which their produce is conveyed by a difficult land carriage. There are some quarries of clayslate in the parish, which is used for building, and also some detached masses of granite.
The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough, united by act of council to part of the vicarage of Ballydonnel and the vicarage of Kilmacoo, forming the union of Castlemacadam, in the patronage of the Archbishop: a very small portion is impropriate in Charles Cooper, Esq. The tithes amount to £246.7.7., of which £230. 15. 4¾. is payable to the incumbent, and £15. 12. 2¼. to Mr. Cooper. The church is a neat edifice, standing on an elevated ridge which projects into the western side of the vale, midway between the two "Meetings of the Waters." A portion of the ruins of the castle, erected in the 14th century, is incorporated in the walls of this church, the erection of which was aided by a loan of £1000 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1819; the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have lately granted £291 for its repair. There is a glebe-house; the glebe comprises about 30 acres. In the R. C. divisions this parish is partly in the union or district of Danganstown, but chiefly forms the head of a union, called Newbridge and Barrenisky, comprising also the parishes of Kilbride and Redcross, and part of that of Templemichael; and containing two chapels, one at Barrenisky and one at Newbridge; attached to the latter is a national school. There are three parochial schools under the direction of the rector, which are supported partly by subscriptions and partly by the proprietors of land granting small portions to the schools rent-free. There is also a school supported by the proprietors of the copper mines, principally for the miners' children. The interest of a bequest of £100 is divided among the poor; and a savings' bank was established here in 1834.
from Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837.