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Maryborough, Queens County

Historical Description

MARYBOROUGH, an incorporated market and post-town, formerly a parliamentary borough, and a parish, in the barony of EAST MARYBOROUGH, QUEEN'S county, and province of LEINSTER, 10½ miles (W.) from Athy, and 40 (S. W.) from Dublin, on the road to Roscrea and Limerick; containing 5306 inhabitants, of which number, 3223 are in the town. This place derived its importance and its name from the erection of the ancient territory of Leix, by act of parliament of the 7th and 8th of Philip and Mary, into the Queen's county, of which it was constituted the county and assize town, and Was called Maryborough in honour of the queen. The town appears to have been selected for this purpose both from its central situation and its proximity to a strong fortress, which had been recently erected to retain in obedience to the English crown this portion of the country, which had been reduced by the Earl of Sussex. In 1570, Queen Elizabeth granted to the inhabitants a charter of incorporation, which conferred upon them all the privileges enjoyed by those of Naas, Drogheda, and Dundalk, together with a market on Thursday; and in 1635, the corporation obtained from Chas. I. a grant of two fairs. On the breaking out of the war in 1641, this was one of the places held by the confederate Catholics; it was seized by Owen Roe O'Nial in 1646, but was subsequently retaken by Lord Castlehaven; and in 1650, the fortress was taken by the parliamentarian troops under Cols. Reynolds and Hewson, by whom it was entirely demolished. The town, which is situated on a river tributary to the Barrow, contains 508 houses, irregularly built and of indifferent appearance; the streets are narrow and inconvenient, badly paved, and the inhabitants are indifferently supplied with water from want of pumps. There are barracks for a company of infantry, a handsome range of buildings. A considerable trade is carried on in flour, for the manufacture of which there are three mills, and in the neighbouring districts the woollen manufacture was formerly carried on to a very great extent. The market is on Thursday; and fairs are held on Jan. 1st, Feb. 24th, March 25th, May 12th, July 5th, Sept. 4th, Oct. 26th, and Dec. 12th, for cattle, horses, pigs, and pedlery. Under the charter of Elizabeth the corporation consisted of a burgomaster, two bailiffs, and an indefinite number of burgesses and freemen, assisted by a town-clerk, Serjeant-at-mace, and inferior officers. The burgomaster and bailiffs were to be annually elected on Michaelmas-day from the burgesses, by a majority of their number, by whom also vacancies in that body were filled up and freemen admitted only by favour. The burgomaster and bailiffs were by the charter compelled to take the oaths of office before the constable of the fort or castle of Maryborough, which office, though now a sinecure, is still retained; or, in his absence, before the burgesses and commons of the borough; the former is justice of the peace within the borough, and, with the two bailiffs, escheat or, clerk of the market, and coroner. The town-clerk is also serjeant-at-mace, billetmaster, and weigh-master, to which offices he is appointed by the burgomaster. By the charter the corporation continued to return two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the franchise was abolished. The borough court, which had jurisdiction to any amount, has been discontinued for more than 40 years; and in 1829 the members o the corporation hadso diminished in number, that no legal election of officers took place, although the townspeople took upon themselves to elect a burgomaster, bailiffs, and other corporate officers; and in 1830, one burgess and two freemen of the old corporation held a meeting, at which the former was elected burgomaster by the latter, who were also elected bailiffs by the former; the townspeople also elected the same number of officers, without any legal authority in either case. The civil business of the borough is transacted at the quarter sessions for the county, which are held here in April and October; the assizes for the county are also held here at the usual periods, and petty sessions weekly before the county magistrates. There is a neat and commodious court-house; part of the old gaol adjoining it has been converted into offices for the county business, and it is proposed to fit up the remainder as a police barrack and a bridewell. The town is the head-quarters of the constabulary police of the county, for which it is the depot. The county gaol and house of correction was completed in 1830, and cost £18,500: it is a spacious and well-arranged edifice on the radiating plan, consisting of a central building of three stories, which contains the kitchen, the governor's apartments, with a board room, and a chapel for both Protestants and Catholics'; and four-radiating wings, each divided into two parts, thus forming eight wards, four for male criminal prisoners, two for male debtors, one for female criminal prisoners, and one for female debtors. Attached to each are day and work-rooms and airing-yards: there are also an infirmary, nine solitary cells and a tread wheel, used for raising water; the prison is heated by stoves. A school is opened in each ward, and the rules of prison discipline, according to the most improved system, are strictly observed. The District Lunatic Asylum for the King's and Queen's counties and those of Westmeath and Longford is established here; it was erected at an expense, including the purchase of land and furniture, of £24,172. The building stands in the middle of an enclosed area of 22a. 12r. 7p., handsomely laid out and planted for the recreation of the patients and the use of the establishment, and presents a front of hewn limestone, raised from quarries in the neighbourhood, extending 365 feet. It is composed of a central building, containing the governor's residence and other apartments connected with the management of the institution, and having the kitchen, laundry, baths and other out-offices in-the rear. From the centre branch out the wings, containing corridors, sleeping-rooms, day-rooms, and workinghalls; there are four corridors, &c., for each sex, all admirably constructed and of easy access for the purpose of superintendence. Water for culinary purposes is conveyed by pipes from a rivulet that passes through the enclosed area, and each corridor is furnished with an ample supply of the purest water from a never-failing spring which issues from a neighbouring limestone rock. The building, which is capable of accommodating from 150 to 160 patients, is now nearly full, and an enlargement of it is in contemplation: the average expense of each patient for the year 1836 was £16. 12. 7., on the gross expenditure, which is defrayed by the several counties in proportion to the number of patients sent hither from each. The county infirmary, situated near the lunatic asylum, and opened in 1808, consists of a large building of three stories, each traversed from end to end by a corridor communicating with eleven wards, capable of accommodating five patients each. The funds are derived from parliamentary grants, county presentments, (limited to £1400 per ann.) subscriptions and fines at petty sessions. The number of patients admitted in 1836 was 868; the expenditure, £990. The dispensary, connected with the infirmary, afforded relief to 8650 extern patients.

The parish, also called Borris, comprises 5465 statute acres of good land, of which about 200 acres adjoining the town were formerly a common, which was enclosed at the union, one-half being divided between Lord Castlecoote and Sir John Parnell, Bart., and the remainder distributed equally among the 13 freemen, reserving a small rent for the widows of freemen, and since that period no freemen have been elected. The soil is fertile and the system of agriculture improved. A remarkable natural bank, called the Ridge, passes across the union for nearly six miles without interruption, and with a few small chasms near Tullamore, for nearly twenty-five miles, extending into King's county; it is in some parts not more than 100 feet wide at the base, and slopes gradually towards the summit, which is from 20 to 30 feet in breadth; it appears as if formed by the ebbing and flowing of water, and in some places separates the uplands from low coarse grounds, of which nature, in some places, the lands on both sides of it partake. A fine well, which is held in great veneration by the peasantry, issues from it near Woodville, about a mile from Maryborough. The principal seats in the vicinity are Shane House, the residence of Tho. Kemmis, Esq.; Lamberton Park, of the Hon. Justice Moore; Sheffield, of Major Cassan; Woodville, of F. Thompson, Esq.; the Heath House, of M. J. O'Reilly, Esq.; New Park, of the Rev. Thos. Harpur; Portrane, of W. Woodroffe, Esq.; Cremorgan, of L. Moore, Esq.; Broomfield, of Robt. Onions, Esq.; Ballyknock, of J. Cassan, Esq.; Rathleix House, of W. Clarke, Esq.; Rock View, of R. Graves, Esq.; and Millbrook, of H. P. Delaney, Esq. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Leighlin, episcopally united, in 1721, to the rectory and vicarage of Kilcolemanbane and the vicarage of Straboe, and in the patronage of the Bishop. The tithes amount to £392. 6. 1¾.; the glebe, in the parish of Kilcolemanbane, comprises only one acre; and the gross value of the benefice is £667. 16. 4½. The church, towards the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits gave £500, was built about the beginning of the present century, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners are about to have it new roofed and thoroughly repaired. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Straboe, Kilcolemanbane, Dysartenos, Killeny, Kilmurry, and Kilteale. The chapel in the town is a spacious and handsome edifice, not yet completed; on the outside of the front are busts representing the heads of the four evangelists. There are also chapels at the Heath and Rathenisca; and there is a convent of the Presentation order in the town, consisting of a superioress and 16 professed nuns, who devote themselves to the gratuitous education of poor girls, of whom an average number of 200 attends the school. The Wesleyans and Calvinists have places of worship in the town. The parochial school-house was built at an expense of £250, of which £150 was raised by subscription and £100 granted from the Lord-Lieutenant's school fund. About 600 children are taught in the parochial and in a national school; there are also six private schools, in which are about 100 children. A Temperance Society has been established very lately. The remains of the old church still exist; there is also an extensive and very old burial-ground on the ridge adjoining it, and several raths in various parts. The only remains of Maryborough castle are a portion of a bastion and the walls; some ruins of Castle Clonrear still exist. Maryborough gives the title of Baron, in the English peerage, to W. Wellesley Pole, next brother of Marquess Wellesley; this nobleman is the present constable of the fort and castle.

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

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Directories & Gazetteers

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Land and Property

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