1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (The information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

BOYLE or Assylin, a corporate market, and post town, and a parish, in the barony of BOYLE, county of ROSCOMMON, and province of CONNAUGHT, 19.25 miles (S.S.E.) from Sligo, and 84.50 miles (W.N.W.) from Dublin; containing 12,597 inhabitants, of which number 3433 are in the town.

This place has its origin in the foundation of a religious establishment, in 1148, at Grelacdinach, which, after several removals, was finally settled here in 1161, by Maurice O'Dubhay, the third in succession to Peter Mordha, its first abbot, who was promoted to the see of Clonfert, and was drowned at Shannon in 1171. The abbey which was dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, was founded for brethren of the Cistercian order of St. Bernard, and as a dependency on the great abbey of Mellifont, in the county of Louth. In 1197, Cornelius Mac Dermot, King of Moylurg (which included the greater part, if not the whole, of the barony of Boyle), died here in the habit of the order, and was interred within the precincts of the abbey. The English forces, commanded by the lords-justices Maurice Fitzgerald and Mac William, in 1235, encamped within the walls of the monastery, seized upon everything belonging to it, and stripped the monks of their habits, to punish them, for their endeavours to assist the King of Connaught. It was pillaged by Rory O'More, in 1315, but continued to flourish till the dissolution, and in 1569 was given by Queen Elizabeth to Patrick Cusacke, of Gerrardstown, in the county of Meath, by whom, or a lay proprietor who afterwards succeeded him, it was forfeited. In 1589 it was granted to William Usher, on a lease of 21 years, at a rent of £14 16s. 4d., per annum: and in 1595 it was besieged by the Earl of Tyrone with an army of 2300 Scottish Highlanders and Irish. In the 2nd, 4th, and 9th, years of reign of James I., inquisitions were made to ascertain its possessions: and in 1603, it was given to Sir John King, ancestor of the present Earl of Kingston and Viscount Lorton, which grant was, about 15 years afterwards, confirmed by another, which conferred also the privileges of holding courts leet and baron. The town which is the largest in the northern part of the county, and one of the principal within its limits, is situated on the river Boyle, which flows from Lough Gara into Lough Key, and on the mail coach road to Sligo.

It is divided into two parts by the river, towards which the ground slopes precipitously on both sides: the older part extends up the acclivity on the north side, and the more modern portion stretches in a direction parallel with the north-west bank of the river, above the bridge, ascending the hill and forming a crescent on its summit.

  • The old bridge, an inconvenient structure, which connected these parts of the town and on which was a statue of William III., has been taken down and replaced by a handsome structure of three arches, 100 feet long and 42 feet wide: the span of the principal arch is 30 feet, and the lightness and beauty of the design add greatly to the appearance of the town; it was erected at an expense of £500, one half of which was paid by the county and the other by Lord Lorton.
  • Another bridge of a single arch, 50 feet in span, was thrown across the river in 1817: and below it there is a third, of five small arches.
  • The old mansion of the Kingston family has been converted into an infantry barracks for 12 officers and 260 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 5 horses and an hospital for 30 invalids. The principal street is on the line of approach from the new bridge to the barracks: the houses are built generally of limestone, but sandstone is used in some of the public buildings.
  • On the erection of a new sessions house, the old building was given up to Lord Lorton, and on the site of it a handsome lecture-room has been built partly from a bequest by the late Rev. J. Gouldsbury, and partly by his Lordship: in the back part of the building are the savings bank, the charitable loan fund, the infants school and the dispensary.

The town is the commercial centre of the extensive agricultural district which surrounds it, and carries on a considerable trade with Sligo and Drumsna. A market and fairs were granted to John Bingley and John King in 1604, prior to which date scarcely any notice occurs of the town. The staple articles are corn and butter: of the former, very little is sold in the town, the greater part or nearly the whole being sent to Sligo; the butter market is on Monday, when great quantities are sold in firkins for exportation; yarn is also sold in great quantities to the purchasers who attend from the north for that purpose on the principal market day, which is Saturday; the sale of frieze and flannel has of late very much diminished. The market for provisions is held in an enclosure on the north west side of the bridge, formed at the expense of Lord Lorton about the year 1826, and is well supplied, not only with fish from the rivers and lakes but also with sea-fish in abundance. Fairs are held on March 6th, April 3rd, May 9th and 30th, July 9th and 25th, Aug 16th, Oct 1st, and Nov 25th.

The only line of communication is the mail coach road from Dublin to Sligo, and all the trade of the town is conducted by land carriage.

  • Here is a chief station of the constabulary police, for whose accommodation a barrack, with a handsome residence for the chief officer, has been erected near the abbey, at the expense of Lord Lorton.

The borough was incorporated by charter of the 11th of Jas. I (1613), and a new charter was granted in the 4th of Jas. II, but it was never acted on, the former is the governing charter. The corporation is styled "the Borough Master, Free Burgesses and Commonality of the Borough of Boyle," and consists of a borough-master, twelve other free burgesses, and an indefinite number of commonality: of which the last named body is not now recognised in practise. The borough master is chosen annually from and by the free burgesses, but his duties are very limited, and he exercises little practical power: the free burgesses are also chosen, as vacancies occur, by the members of their own body, and hold office for life, but are removable for misconduct: and the charter empowers the corporation to appoint two serjeants-at-mace, but at present there is only a town serjeant. The borough, of which the limits include the town and a small district immediately surrounding it, returned two members to the Irish parliament, who were elected by the borough-master and free burgesses; and on its disfranchisement at the time of the Union, the £15,000 granted in compensation for the loss of that privilege was paid to Lord Lorton, as executor of his father the late Earl of Kingston, to whom the borough belonged. The charter granted a court of record to be held every Tuesday, with civil jurisdiction to the amount of five marks, in which the borough master is judge; but the business done being inconsiderable, it is not usually held oftener than about once a month. According to practise the jurisdiction is exercised in cases of which the cause of action either arises within the borough, or where it arises without and there are goods of the defendant within the borough: the process is by attachment on oath made by the plaintiff. Quarter sessions are held here every nine months, for the Boyle division of the county, which comprises also the towns of Castlerea and Strokestown, where they are likewise held every nine months; and petty sessions are held by the county magistrates every Monday. A seneschals court is held in the town, having no urisdiction within the borough, but over several baronies within the county, extending to the distance of many miles round the town.

  • The new sessions house towards the erection of which Lord Lorton contributed £500, is situated on the slope of the hill on the south side of the river fronting the main street, and is built of sandstone. Connected with it is the district bridewell, containing a keeper's house and eight cells upon the improved plan of construction: the entire expense, amounting to £2,400 was advanced by the Government, to be repaid by the county in instalments.

The parish which is also called Assylin, comprises 10,139 statute acres as applotted under the tithe act. The lands are chiefly under tillage, and the system of agriculture is improved; there is little woodland, except on the demesnes of the resident gentry; about 1010 acres are bog and waste land. Limestone and freestone are found in abundance, and there are also some quarries of a species of marble; it is said that coal exists on the Curlew mountains, and that there were formerly iron-works on the river.

  • Rockingham House, the superb residence of Viscount Lorton is beautifully situated about two miles from the town, and on the south-east side of Lough Key: the building is of Grecian Ionic architecture, with a noble portico of six columns, on each side of which the facade is decorated with as many of the same order; on the north is a colonnade of six Ionic columns, and on the east is an entrance through an orangery: the grounds are tastefully laid out, and there are four grand entrance lodges leading into the demesne, which comprises about 2000 statute acres, richly planted.
  • On the northern bank of the river, close to the town is Frybrook, the seat of H. Fry, Esq.;
  • and near the abbey is Abbbeyview, now occupied by the agent of Lord Lorton.
  • On the south side of the river is Tangier, the seat of Capt. Caleb Robertson; 
  • and about two miles west of the town is Knockadoo, the handsome residence of Owen Lloyd Esq.
  • Near Knockadoo is Ballymore, the residence of the Rev. J. Elwood; and
  • about a mile to the east is Mount Erris, the seat of Capt. Duckworth, commanding some fine views of Lough Key and the adjacent mountains.

The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Elphin, to which the vicarages of Taunagh, Kilmacallane, Drumcollum, Kilross, Aughanagh, Ballynakill and Ballysumaghan, were episcopally united in 1802, which eight parishes constitute the union of Boyle, in the patronage of the Bishop; the rectory is impropriate in Viscount Lorton. Thetithes amount to £313 16s. 10d., of which £166 3s., is payable to the impropriator and the remainder to the vicar; and the tithes for the whole benefice, including the rectorial tithes of four of the above named parishes, which form the corps of a prebend held by the vicar, to £638 6s. 1.50 d. There are three churches in the union, situated respectively at Boyle, Ballysumaghan and Kilmacallane: the church at Boyle serves for the town and parish; that at Ballysumaghan serves also for the parishes of Kilross and Ballynakill; and that at Killmacallane for the parishes of Taunagh and Drumcollum. The church at Boyle situated near the old park, is a spacious building, for the repair of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have granted £182; it was erected by aid of a loan of £1000 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1818. The glebe-house was built by aid of a gift of £100 from the same Board, in 1805. There are two glebes; one in this parish, comprising 20.50 acres, and one in Kilmacalane of 18a. 3r. 34p. Arrangements have been made for forming this union into three benefices on its next avoidance.

In the Roman Catholic divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising the parishes of Boyle and Kilbrine; there are two chapels in the town; and there are also places of worship for Wesleyan Methodists and Baptists.

There are six public schools, of which a large girls school and an infants school are supported by Lady Lorton: in these about 350 boys and 330 girls receive instruction; there are alos four Sunday schools and ten private schools, in which are 460 boys and 380 girls.

A charitable loan society was established in 1824 under the patronage of Lord and Lady Lorton, by which about £90 weekly is distributed to the poor in small lloans, to be repaid by instalments with a trifling interest: a dispensary is supported in the customary manner, and another is maintained by Lord Lorton for the poor on Rockingham estate and its vicinity.

  • The ivy-clad remains of the ancient abbey are situated near the river, and not far distant from the new bridge; they consist of vestiges of the conventual building dispersed on the grounds of Capt. Robertson's seat, and of the principal part of the church, of which the nave, choir, and transepts, with the lofty and massive central tower, are in good preservation; the nave 131 feet long and 25 feet wide, is separated from the aisles by a noble range of massive circular arches supported partly by circular and clustered columns, with richly ornamented bases and capitals of various designs, between which are enriched corbels, from which sprang the arches of the groined roof; the wall of the south aisle is wanting, and the pillars stand exposed; some of the clerestory windows are partly remaining; though concealed by the thick ivy that crowns the irregular summit of the range; the central tower is supported on four massive columns, 48 feet high, of which the bases, formerly concealed by accumulated earth have been cleared by Capt. Robertson, and are beautifully ornamented with various sculptured designs; of the arches, there are three circular and the fourth pointed; the east window of the choir is of the triple lancet form; and the prevailing style of this once magnificent church is of the later Norman passing into the early English: within the walls is the tomb of the King family.
  • To the north of the town is the low ridge of the Curlew mountains over which are scattered numerous white cottages; and on which Sir Conyers Clifford, governor of Connaught in the reign of Elizabeth was intercepted by O'Rourke, one of the petty chieftains of the district, his detachment routed and he himself, slain.
  • At Ardcarne, three miles to the east of the town, commence the plains of Boyle, extending ten miles in length and four in breadth, consisting of elevated limestone, with an undulating surface of rich pasture lands noted for fattening oxen and sheep.
  • About a mile from the town up the north bank of the river, on a knoll terminating abruptly, are the remains of the old church of Assylin or Isselyn, which, from the extent of the ruined walls appears to have been a very spacious building; around it is a large cemetery, which is still used as a place of sepulture by the inhabitants of the town. Below this post the river rushes over the rocks with great impetuosity.
  • At a small distance was a ford, formerly called Athdalaragh and now Ardagh, where was anciently an abbey of Canons Regular, which became the seat of a Bishoprick, over which St. Comgallan presided in the time of St. Patrick; the abbey existed till 1201.
  • On the right side of the road to Lough Gara is one of the largest Cromlechs in Ireland; the table stone, which has a considerable inclination, is 15 feet long and 11 feet wide, and was formerly supported on five upright pillars, of which one has been removed.

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