Augher Town in the 1830s

1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described by Samuel Lewis in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" 1837.

AUGHER, a market-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the parish and barony of CLOGHER, county of TYRONE, and province of ULSTER, 2 miles (N. N. W.) from Dublin; containing 726 inhabitants.

Of the origin and early history of this place very little is known.

  • In the reign of Elizabeth, Lord-Deputy Mountjoy placed in it a powerful garrison to defend the pass through the valley in which it is situated, that retained possession for some time, constantly harassing the army of the Earl of Tyrone till his final surrender at Mellifont.
  • From this place, the Queen's army marched when it crossed the mountains to give battle to the earl at Magheralowney, where that chieftain's principal magazine was taken, in June 1602.
  • At the time of the English settlement of Ulster, by virtue of a decree by James I. in 1611, Sir Thomas Ridgway, Knt., Treasurer at War for Ireland, received, in 1613, a grant of 315 acres of land in the barony of Clogher, under an agreement that he should, within four years, settle on a parcel of land called Agher twenty Englishmen or Scots, chiefly artificers and tradesmen, to be incorporated as burgesses and made a body politic within the said four years; and should set apart convenient places for the site of the town, churchyard, market-place, and public school; he was likewise to assign to the burgesses houses and lands and 30 acres of commons. Sir Thomas received also, in 1611, the grant of a market and two fairs to be held here; and in 1613, the town and precincts, with the exception of a fort and bawn called Spur Royal castle, which had been erected, were created a borough.
  • Besides the 315 acres of land on which he was to gound the borough, Sir Thomas received a grant of 2000 acres called Portclare; and according to Pynnar's report in 1619, it appears that, besides the fort and bawn, he had built 16 houses of stone in the town, which were inhabited by English artificers who were burgesses, and had each two acres of land, and commons for their cattle.
  • In 1630, Sir James Erskine, Knt., then proprietor of the manor, received a grant of two additions fairs.
  • On the breaking out of the war in 1641, a garrison was stationed here by Col. Chichester and Sir Arthur Tyringham, and the castle was gallantly defended against the insurgent forces, who, in an attempt to take it by storm, were repulsed.
  • This defeat so exasperated their leader, Sir Phelim O'Nial, that in revenge he ordered his agent, Mac Donnel, to massacre all the English Protestants in three adjacent parishes. Sir James Erskine dying without male issue, the extensive manor of Portclare, which in 1665 was confirmed in the family by Chas. II., under its present name of Favour Royal, was divided between his two daughters, who married into the families of Richardson and Moutray, and the respective portions are still in the possession of their descendants, of whom the present proprietor of Augher Castle has assumed the additional surname and arms of Bunbury.
  • The castle was finally dismantled by order of parliament and continued in a state of dilapidation and neglect till 1832, when it was restored and a large and handsome mansion built adjoining it by Sir J. M. Richardson Bunbury, Bart. The ancient building consisted of a pentagonal tower surrounded by a wall 12 feet high and flanked by four circular towers; the wall has been removed, but one of the round towers has been restored; and the entrance gateway has also been removed and rebuilt on an elevated situation commanding some fine views, in which the remains of the old castle form an interesting object: the mansion is situated in a well-wooded demesne of 220 acres, and upon the margin of a beautiful lake.

The town is situated on the river Blackwater, over which is a bridge adjoining it, and in a fertile valley between two ridges of lofty mountains clothed with verdure to the summit, of which the highest, Knockmany, is covered on its south side with thriving plantations. It consists of one principal street, from which another branches at right angles on the south leading to Clogher; and has a penny post to Aughnacloy.

Several new roads have been lately formed, and not far distant is an excellent bog. The lands in the neighbourhood are well cultivated.

Besides Augher Castle, there are several gentlemen's seats near the town, described in the article on the parish of Clogher.

The market is on Monday, and has lately become a good market for oats; and fairs for the sale of cattle, sheep, pigs, and other commodities, are held on the last Monday in every month, in the market-place set apart under the original grant at the bottom of Clogher-street; the market-house is the only public building in the town. The collection of tolls and customs has been discontinued by the proprietors of the manor.

Here is a chief station of the constabulary police.

The charter granted in 1613 incorporated the inhabitants under the style of "The Burgomaster, Free Burgesses, and a Commonalty of the Borough of Agher," with the privilege of holding a civil court of record with jurisdiction to the extent of five marks, and of returning two members to the Irish parliament, which they continued to exercise till the Union, when the £15,000 compensation money for the abolition of its franchise was awarded to James, Marquess of Abercorn. Since that period no corporate officers have been appointed, and the town is now entirely within the jurisdiction of the county magistrates, who hold petty sessions irregularly. The seneschal of the manor holds a court here every third Monday, for the recovery of debts to the amount of 40s., the jurisdiction of which extends into the parishes of Errigal-Kerogue, Errigal-Trough, Ballygawley, and Clogher; and a manorial court leet is held once in the year.

Divine service is performed in the market-house every Sunday by the officiating clergyman of Clogher.

A school for boys was built on part of the Commons Hill, or Fair Green, granted by the proprietors of the manor to the deans of Clogher, in trust for a schoolhouse, and with funds provided from the "Lord-Lieutenant's School Fund:" it is supported by private subscriptions and by a weekly payment of 1d. from each pupil, and a school for girls is supported in a similar manner.

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