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Mullingar, Westmeath

Historical Description

MULLINGAR, a market and assize-town, and a parish, partly in the barony of FARTULLAGH, but chiefly in that of MOYASHEL and MAGHERADERNON, county of WESTMEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 20 miles (S. E.) from Longford, and 39 (W. by N.) from Dublin; containing 8869 inhabitants, of which number, 4295 are in the town. This was one of the ancient palatinate towns founded by the English settlers of Meath. In 1227, Ralph le Petyt, Bishop of Meath, founded a priory here for canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, and was long designated the "House of God of Mullingar." A Dominican friary was founded here in 1237, by the family of Nugent, which attained such celebrity that general chapters of the order were repeatedly held in it. In 1329, Lord Thomas Butler was attacked, near this town by Mac Geoghegan, and after an obstinate resistance was defeated and slain; and in 1464 the town was burned and destroyed by the people of Managh. The monks of Multifarnham, in 1622, commenced the erection of a Franciscan friary, but it was never completed; the two previous religious establishments continued to subsist till the reign of Elizabeth, when they were finally dissolved. In 1661, the castle, the two dissolved monasteries, with the town and adjacent lands, were by royal charter granted to Sir Arthur Forbes, ancestor of the Earl of Granard, and erected into a manor, with very extensive privileges; and for better peopling the said manor, the town of Mullingar was by the same charter constituted the assize town for the county. In the war of the revolution, the town was fortified by Gen. de Ginkel, and became the principal rendezvous of "William's forces. From this place he led 2000 horse and 1000 foot against the Irish adherents of Jas. II., who had encamped at Ballymore; and it was also the headquarters of William's army preparatory to the siege of Athlone.

The town is finely situated on the river Brosna, nearly in the centre of the county and of Ireland, and in a fertile and open tract, about halfway between Lough Hoyle and Lough Ennel; it is partly encircled on the north by the royal canal from which it derives a great increase of trade; and the road to Sligo, which passes through it, affords additional facilities of communication. It consists of one principal street, about a mile in length, from which several smaller streets branch off in various directions; and contains 785 houses, most of which are handsome and well built of stone and roofed with slate. There are barracks for infantry, adapted for 39 officers and 990 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 21 horses, and an hospital for 80 patients. The principal trade is in wool, for which this is the greatest mart in the county, its central situation and facility of communication with the Shannon and with Dublin having rendered it the commercial centre of a wide extent of country. The City of Dublin Steam Company commenced operations here in 1830: a steamer plies twice a week between this town and Shannon Harbour, where it meets the Limerick steamer and Grand Canal boat for Dublin. An ale and porter brewery, belonging to Messrs. Fitzgerald and Callanan, was established in 1830; and there are two large tanneries. The market is on Thursday, and is amply supplied; large quantities of butter are sold in firkins, and oats and frieze are also purchased extensively. The fairs are on April 6th, July 4th, Aug. 29th, and Nov. 11th, for wool, horses, horned cattle and pigs; that in November is a great horse fair, at which many English buyers attend. The market-house is a neat and commodious building in the centre of the town.

The charter of Chas. II., granting the manor to Sir Arthur Forbes, created no corporation, nor are any officers elected; the lord of the manor is empowered to appoint a clerk of the market, and the business of the town is conducted by his seneschal. The charter conferred on the freeholders of the manor the right of returning two members to the Irish parliament, which they continued to do till the Union, when the franchise was abolished. The seneschal holds a court leet and baron every Thursday, at the latter of which debts to the amount of 40s. are recoverable; and a court of record, with jurisdiction to the extent of £100. The assizes are held here at the usual periods; the general quarter sessions for the county in January, April, July, and October; and petty sessions every Saturday. A chief constabulary police force is stationed in the town; and it is also the head of a revenue police district, comprising the Mullingar, Kilbeggan, Castlepollard, and Abbeyshrule stations. The court-house is a neat and well-arranged building; and the county gaol, erected at the southern extremity of the town in 1828, comprises 9 wards, with day and work rooms and airing-yards, adapted for the classification of the prisoners; 100 sleeping cells, a tread-mill, infirmary, chapel, and every requisite office; the governor's house is in front, and commands a view of all wards. The old prison is used for females only, and contains 90 sleeping cells, and two day-rooms. The county infirmary is a spacious and well-arranged building, situated on the Dublin road.

The parish is 8½ miles in length from east to west, and extends in breadth from the shore of Lough Hoyle, on the north, to that of Lough Ennel, on the south; comprising 17,008 statute acres of profitable land. The system of agriculture is in an unimproved state; there is not much waste land, but a considerable quantity of bog; stone of good quality for building is quarried. Lough Hoyle is situated nearly in the centre, and in the most elevated part of the county, in the description of which it is more particularly noticed. The principal seats are Anne Brook, the residence of R. Barlow, Esq. M.D.; Bellevue, of T. Walsh, Esq.; Belmount, of W. Reilly, Esq.; Ladiston, of J. C. Lyons, Esq.; Green park, the property of Sir Geo. Hodson, now occupied by the Rev. Mr. Browne; and Levington Park, of R. H. Levinge, Esq. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Meath, and in the patronage of the Crown; the rectory is impropriate in the Trustees of the Bluecoat Hospital, Dublin. The tithes amount to £800, of which £415 is payable to the impropriators, and the remainder to the vicar. The glebe-house was erected in 1812, at an expense of £1327, of which £100 was a gift, and £675 a loan, from the late Board of First Fruits, and the remainder was paid by the late incumbent: adjoining it, and close to the church, is the glebe, comprising 1¾ acre, valued at £30 per annum. The church, a spacious cruciform structure in the later English style, with a handsome tower and spire, was rebuilt on an enlarged scale in 1813, at an expense of £3554, of which £2261 was raised by parochial assesment, £185 was a donation from the Trustees of the Blue-Coat Hospital, and the remainder a loan from the late Board of First Fruits: the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £187 for its repair. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union, or district, comprising also the parishes of Lynn, Moylisker, and part of the parish of Carrick, together forming the mensal of the Bishop, whose residence is here. The chapel is a handsome edifice, in the later Engllsh style, erected in 1836 on a commanding eminence, capable of containing 6000 persons, and furnished with a very fine organ; there is also a chapel at Walshestown, and one at Gainstown, in the parish of Lynn. A small convent for nuns of the order of the Presentation has been established. There are places of worship for Presbyterians and Wesleyan Methodists. About 700 children are taught in three public schools, of which the Diocesan school is supported partly by endowment, and partly by the clergy of the diocese; and there are eight private schools, in which are about 250 children. There are numerous Danish raths in the parish; at Kinna are the ruins of an ancient church, in which the Hodsons of Green Park are interred; at Beardstown are the ruins of an ancient fortress, and also at Balthrasna; several coins and ornaments of gold have been found in the neighbourhood, and, in a bog near the town, a torques of pure gold, weighing 11 oz. The head of the family of Petit was anciently styled Baron of Mullingar, which title was also conferred by Wm. III. on Duke Schomberg, whom he created Duke of Leinster.

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

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