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Jamestown, Leitrim

Historical Description

JAMESTOWN, a small market-town, (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the parish of KILTOGHART, barony and county of LEITRIM, and province of CONNAUGHT; containing 311 inhabitants. This place, though said to have been anciently the site of a Franciscan monastery, was of very little importance prior to the settlement of Leitrim in the reign of Jas. I. In 1621 that monarch granted divers lands, containing together 200 acres of arable and pasture and 12 acres of woodland and moor, to the inhabitants, whom he incorporated under the designation of the sovereign, burgesses, and free commons of the borough and town of Jamestown, enjoining them by his charter to build a new town of that name in some convenient situation near the Shannon. In 1623, Sir Charles Coote, to whom the king in reward of his services had granted the town with several extensive landed estates in the county, surrounded the town with walls and erected a castle on the banks of the Shannon, which in 1645 was besieged and taken by the Earl of Carlingford, after a few discharges of cannon. The R. C. prelates and clergy held a meeting in the friary of this town in 1650, and nominated commissioners to treat with any foreign power to aid them in opposing the parliamentary army, which was then everywhere triumphant; the result was the inconclusive treaty with the Duke of Lorraine. In 1689, Col. Lloyd with a party of the Enniskillen forces attacked, and, after a sharp resistance, took possession of the town; but the native Irish under Gen. Sarsfield marching against it, the garrison that had been left for its defence abandoned it and retired to Sligo. The town is pleasantly situated on the navigable course of the Shannon, and contains about 48 houses; the chief vestige of its former importance is an ancient gateway through which the mail coach road passes, and which has been castellated by the present proprietor, Francis O'Beirne, Esq., who has built a handsome residence contiguous to it. There is a large flour-mill on the Shannon, which here has a considerable fall. The market is on Saturday. By the charter of Jas. I. The corporation consisted of a sovereign, 12 burgesses, and an indefinite number of free commoners, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, coroner, serjeants-at-mace, and inferior officers. The sovereign, who with his deputy was justice of the peace, and also coroner and clerk of the market, was annually elected by the corporation from the burgesses, by whom all vacancies in their own body were filled, all officers appointed, and the free commoners admitted solely by favour. The charter also conferred the right of sending two members to the Irish parliament, which was exercised till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. The corporation had power to hold a court of record, with jurisdiction extending to £20; but for some time previously to the Union they exercised few of their municipal functions, except that of returning members to parliament, and since that period the body has become extinct. Towards the close of the last century, the Earl of Mountrath built a school-house here free to the poor of the neighbourhood, and endowed it with £40 per ann., but the endowment has been lost; and here is a national school, for which a handsome school-house has been built at an expense of £600 by Francis O'Beirne, Esq.; in the upper part of the building is a small establishment of lay monks. There are some slight vestiges of the ancient abbey on the banks of the Shannon, and also of the castle; and there were formerly in the town a prison and barracks, both of which have been destroyed.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1840 by Samuel Lewis

Civil Registration

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Directories & Gazetteers

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Land and Property

The Return of Owners of Land in 1873 for Leitrim is available to browse.