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).

WEXFORD (County of), a maritime county of the province of LEINSTER, bounded on the north by the county of Wicklow; on the west by those of Carlow and Kilkenny, and Waterford harbour; on the south by the Atlantic Ocean, and on the east by St. George's channel. It extends from 52° 2' to 52° 44' (N. Lat.), and from 6° 17' to 7° 4' (W: Lon.); comprising an extent, according to the Ordnance survey, of 564,479 statute acres, of which 545,979 are cultivated land, and 18,500 unimproved mountain and bog. The population, in 1821. was 170,806; and in 1831, 182,991.

The whole or the greater portion of the county was inhabited in the time of Ptolemy by the Menapii, whose territory bordered on the Modonus, now called the river Slaney, on the bank of which stood their chief town Menapia, supposed to have occupied the site of the present town of Wexford. They are considered to have derived their origin from the Menapii of Belgic Gaul, perhaps through the Belgae of Britain, and to have been the race styled by Irish annalists Fir-bolgs, i. e., Viri Belgici, or Belgians.

Some writers are of opinion that the peninsula of Hook, the most southern point of the county, is the Hieron Promontorium, or "Sacred Promontory," of the Grecian geographer. Before the arrival of the Danes or English, the county was distinguished by the names Corteigh, Moragh, and Laighion, all signifying the maritime country. The first of these appears to be preserved in the designation of Enniscorthy; the second, it is thought, gave the family name to its chief, Mac Murrough or Mac Murchad; and from the third came the denomination of Leinster, which, in the productions of the Irish, Danish, and Latin writers towards the close of the middle ages, is mostly confined to Wexford. This and the adjoining county of Wicklow were also distinguished by the name of Dalmach-sevel, or "the maritime counties."

Weisford, from which its present name is formed, was given to its chief town by the Danes, who, after devastating the country by predatory incursions, made the town of Wexford the centre of a permanent settlement. In later times, a popular designation of this district was, according to Camden, County Reogh, or "the rough county;" and the northern part was included in Hy Kinselagh, the peculiar territory of the Mac Murroughs, afterwards known by the name of Kavanagh. A principal seat of the royal family of Leinster was at Ferns, in this territory, the favourite place of residence of the last king, Dermod Mac Murrough. Hither he conveyed Dervorghal, wife of O'Rourk, Prince of Breffny, whom he had carried off from her husband; and after he had been driven out of the country by Roderic, King of Ireland, and had engaged the assistance of some English leaders to reinstate him in his authority, he returned hither to await in the privacy of the abbey the arrival of his new allies.

The landing of the first body of the English was at Bagenbon, on the south side of Fethard bay, in the south-western part of the county, in May 1169. This party consisted only of 30 knights, 60 men at arms and 300 archers, under the command of Robert Fitz-Stephen, whom Mac Murrough had engaged in the attempt by the promise of conferring on him the town of Wexford, with a large adjacent territory. Being reinforced by Maurice Prendergast, who landed on the following day at the same place with 10 knights and 200 archers, and joined by Mac Murrough, Fitz-Stephen attacked Wexford; but its Danish inhabitants made a stubborn resistance, and it was not until after a contest of four days that they were induced to surrender on articles, through the interference of the clergy. Mac Murrough then confirmed his grant in favour of Fitz-Stephen and his companion in arms, Maurice Fitzgerald: he also granted two cantreds, which lay between the town of Wexford and the Suir, to Harvey de Monte Marisco or Montmorency, the uncle of Strongbow and associate of Fitz-Stephen.

The successful settlement of the English, whose numbers were augmented by reinforcements from their own country, alarmed the other native princes, and Roderic, King of Ireland, aided by a confederacy of the subordinate chiefs, made an effort to drive out both the rebellious king of Leinster and his allies. To resist this formidable invasion, Mac Murrough fortified himself in a strong position near Ferns, and presented such a front to the assailing army, that hostilities terminated in a treaty between the Irish kings, in which a secret article was inserted for the expulsion of the English. But the arrival of additional forces gave a new direction to Mac Murrough's views. Aided by them he took the city of Dublin from the Danes, and was projecting a scheme for asserting his right to the monarchy of the whole island, when the arrival of Richard de Clare, surnamed Strongbow, Earl of Chepstow, gave a new turn to the aspect of affairs; extending still wider by his conquests the power of the English arms and the ambitious views of Dermod, whose daughter Eva he espoused.

Fitz-Stephen and his party, to secure their new possessions, had erected the castle of Carrigg near Wexford, where the native inhabitants quickly besieged them, and they were induced to surrender on articles by the false intelligence of the death of Strongbow and the extirpation of his followers. On surrendering, most of his men were killed, and Fitz-Stephen himself was committed to the island of Beg-Erin, in Wexford harbour, where all the inhabitants of the town sought safety on the approach of Strongbow with his victorious forces. The latter, however, was deterred from practising hostilities towards them by a threat that Fitz-Stephen's life should be answerable for such a proceeding; so that he remained in captivity until the arrival of Henry II., to whom he was given up by his captors on a promise of redress for any ill treatment inflicted by him on the natives.

After the death of Mac Murrough in 1172, Strong-bow became lord of Leinster, which was confirmed to him as a palatinate in the same year by Henry II., when he visited Ireland. This monarch at first retained the town of Wexford in his immediate possession, but in 1174 he granted it to the earl, who made it one of the principal scats of his power, which extended over the whole of the present county, as well as the other parts of Leinster.

The county of Wexford is one of those erected by King John in 1210, and it formed part of the inheritance of William le Mareschal, who succeeded to the possessions of Earl Strongbow by marriage with his daughter. On the extinction of the male line of William, Earl Marshal, his possessions were divided among his five daughters; and the corpus comitatus of Wexford, with the assizes, perquisites, &c., valued at £50. 12. 6., and the burgh of Wexford, valued at £42. 1. 5., with the manors of Rossclare, Carrick, Ferns, &c., were assigned to the second daughter, Joan, married to Warren de Mountchensy, the richest baron in England. Through this marriage the lordship descended by the female line successively to William de Valence, Earl of Pembroke and half brother of Henry III., and to Lawrence, Lord Hastings of Abergavenny, after the death of whose grandson, John Hastings, Earl of Pembroke, the king, in 1395, ordered possession of all his estates to be given to his next heirs, and the lordship of Wexford came to the family of Talbot, and was inherited by John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, who, in 1446, was created Earl of Waterford and Baron of Dungarvan.

In the mean time, however, in consequence of these changes and the non-residence of the great English lords, the county fell into a state of such confusion, that, in the beginning of the fourteenth century, a great part of it was seized by one of the Kavanaghs, who assumed the title of Mac Murrough, declared himself king of Leinster, and maintained possession of a large portion of Carlow and Wexford by means of his alliance with the O'Tooles and Byrnes, the chieftains of Wicklow. Nor did the county suffer merely from the efforts of the natives to regain their ancient dominion. John Esmond, Bishop of Ferns, having been deprived of his episcopal dignity by the pope in 1349, maintained himself in his castle of Ferns, in defiance of the power of his superiors. The sheriff declared himself unable to execute the king's writ against him, and he was at length with difficulty brought to enter into articles to keep the peace.

His immediate successor was equally warlike, for, when his castle was assaulted by some Irish septs about the year 1360, he made a sortie in person at the head of his servants and retainers, and routed the assailants with considerable slaughter. During the minority of George, great grandson of John, Earl of Shrewsbury, it was enacted by parliament, in 1474, that Gilbert Talbot, Esq., might exercise and enjoy the liberty of the county of Wexford, with cognizance of all pleas and jurisdictions royal, under the name of Seneschal of the Liberty of Wexford, with power to appoint all officers established of old within that liberty.

Earl George afterwards enjoyed it, until 1537, when an act was passed vesting in the crown this and the other possessions of the great absentee lords of Ireland; and the separate jurisdiction of the liberty was thereby terminated. During its existence, the county returned two sets of representatives to the Irish parliament, two members being sent for the liberty, in which the return was made by the lord's seneschal, and two for the Cross, or Church lands within the county, over which was a sheriff appointed by the king, to whom the writs were addressed.

In the year 1571 the people of this county had a feud with the Kavanaghs of Carlow, in which 30 gentlemen of rank in Wexford were killed: but it led to no important consequences. In the civil war which broke out in 1641, it was the scene of important military operations; the Marquess of Ormonde was repulsed, in the early part of it, from before New Ross; and Duncannon fort was afterwards taken by the Catholic party who thus became masters of the whole. But in 1649 it was reduced to submission by Cromwell, who put the garrison of Wexford to the sword in the same sanguinary manner in which Drogheda had been treated.

In the war of the Revolution it was much less distinguished; and from this period the history of the county presents a perfect blank, until 1798, when it acquired a melancholy notoriety as the chief seat of the insurrection of that year. In the month of April the county was subjected to martial law in consequence of the suspicions of the secret organization of the society of United Irishmen, which had already pervaded most of the other counties, having been extended to it; but it was not until after actual hostilities had broken out in other parts that any military force was sent hither.

The burning of the chapel of Boulavogue, in the parish of Kilcormuck, by the military, and the cruel treatment of the peasantry in order to force them to confess their guilt, hastened the assembly of the people in arms on the two neighbouring hills of Oulart and Kilmacthomas. They were immediately driven from the latter position with some loss, but at the former they routed and cut to pieces the detachment of the military sent to disperse them. Increasing now in numbers and confidence, the insurgents attacked Enniscorthy the next day, and forced the garrison to fall back upon Wexford. Having at the same time cut off a party of infantry and artillery that was advancing from Duncannon fort to strengthen the garrison of the latter place, the insurgents moved upon that also, and the garrison made a hasty retreat to Waterford.

At the same time a camp was formed at Vinegar hill, in the immediate vicinity of Enniscorthy, which was the head-quarters of the insurgent army during its short existence. The possession of Wexford gave occasion to the slaughter of many of the loyalists who had not been able to effect a timely escape, and also of several of the prisoners brought in from time to time; nor were these atrocities without their counterpart in the excesses of the royalist soldiery.

At the commencement of hostilities Beauchamp Bagnal Harvey, Esq., a Protestant gentleman of the county, who had long signalised himself as an advocate of the people, and an enemy to the severe measures of the Irish government, was chosen general. A few days after the occupation of Wexford, the insurgents attacked the town of New Ross, but after ten hours hard fighting they were repulsed on all sides with considerable loss. Shortly afterwards Harvey was superseded, and the command was given to a Roman Catholic clergyman named Roche.

The royal forces which had been collecting from various parts now made a simultaneous attack from all sides on the position at Vinegar hill, which was taken with little difficulty, and the main body of insurgents forced to retreat. The re-capture of Wexford immediately followed, and a fresh torrent of blood was poured forth in the punishment of numbers engaged in the rebellion, which was thus terminated in this district, except in the lingering efforts of detached parties.


The county, with the exception of parts of two parishes (which are in the diocese of Dublin), is entirely within the diocese of Ferns, and in the province of Dublin. For civil purposes it is divided into the baronies of Ballaghkeen, Bantry, Bargy, Forth, Gorey, Scarawalsh, Shelbourne, and Shelmalier. It contains the ancient episcopal town of Ferns; the borough and market-towns of Wexford and New Ross; the market and post-towns of Gorey, Enniscorthy, Newtownbarry, and the disfranchised borough of Fethard; and the post-towns of Arthurstown, Broadway, Clonegal, Camolin, and Taghmon, the last of which was anciently a borough, as were also Clonmines and Bannow.

The penny posts are Ballycarny, Bannow, Bridgetown, Duncannon, Kyle, and Oulart. It sent eighteen members to the Irish parliament, two for the county at large, and two for each of the boroughs of Wexford, New Ross, Gorey, Enniscorthy, Taghmon, Fethard, Clonmines, and Bannow; but since the Union its representatives in the Imperial parliament have been two sent by the county and one for each of the boroughs of Wexford and New Ross.

The county members are elected at Wexford. The county constituency, up to the 5th of Jan. 1837, consists of 456 £50, 284 £20, and 2227 £10 freeholders; and 21 £20 and 244 £10 leaseholders; making a total of 3234. The county is included in the Leinster circuit: the assizes are held at Wexford; general sessions of the peace are held twice in the year at each of the towns of Gorey, Wexford, Enniscorthy, and New Ross; and petty sessions are held, at various intervals, at each of the above towns and at Newtownbarry, Burkestown, Clonroche, Duncormuck, Killinick, Oulart, and Taghmon.

The county gaol is at Wexford, and there are bridewells at New Ross, Gorey, and Enniscorthy. The local government is vested in a lieutenant, 16 deputy-lieutenants, and 81 other magistrates. The number of constabulary police stations, in 1834, was 36, having unitedly a force of 7 officers, 39 constables, and 170 men, with 8 horses.

The district lunatic asylum is at Carlow, the county infirmary and house of industry at Wexford; there are fever hospitals at Wexford, New Ross, Gorey, Enniscorthy, Arthurstown, Castleborough, Oulart, and Newtownbarry, in each of which places there is a dispensary, as also at Taghmon, Kilcavan, Bannow, Broadway, Ferns, Bridgetown, Killenagh, Skreen and Ardcolme, and Clongeen and Newbawn: the dispensaries are maintained by Grand Jury presentments and private subscriptions in equal proportions.

The Grand Jury presentments for the year 1835 amounted to £29,039. 13. 11 ¼., of which £2548. 2. 2. was for roads and bridges, being the county charge; £9070. 2. 5 ¾. for roads and bridges, being the baronial charge; £9425. 5. 5 ½. for public buildings, charities, officers' salaries and incidents; 4113. 10. 11 ½. for the police, and £3882. 12. 10 ½. for repayment of advances by Government.

In the military arrangements the county is in the eastern district, and within its limits are barracks at Wexford, New Ross, and Duncannon, for cavalry, artillery, and infantry; the whole capable of accommodating 18 officers and 372 men.


This district is much detached from the rest of Ireland, having the sea on its eastern and southern sides, the estuary of the Suir and the river of Ross along the greater part of its western border, the remainder of which and the northern side are hemmed in by a lofty range of mountain land, through which there are but few lines of communication. The mountains on the side of the county of Wicklow extend from Slievebuy, a beautiful conical hill covered with verdure, to the valley through which the Slaney flows, dividing this part of the range from the still more extensive and lofty chain of Mount Leinster and the Blackstairs, three remarkable pointed summits of which are distinguished by the names of the "Leaps of Ossian's Greyhounds."

Except on the confines, there are no high or extensive ridges of mountains, but the surface is diversified with many single hills of considerable height, and, towards the north, the mountain of Forth forms a less elevated ridge of about 500 feet above the level of the sea, extending 5 or 6 miles in a north-eastern and south-western direction. The general surface between these hills does not expand into large plains: the land declines from the primitive mountains on the north towards the sea in unequal elevations, and, where the depositions of alluvial substances are considerable, the surface has a beautifully waving outline, and is enlivened by numerous gently winding streams. The Slaney, which traverses the northern and eastern part, presents a succession of highly picturesque views, beautifully ornamented with remains of antiquity, and with modern mansions, villas, and plantations.

The scenery on the Barrow, in the vicinity of New Ross, which is marked by grander features, can scarcely be surpassed. The southern baronies of Bargy and Forth, which are shut out from the remainder of the county by the Forth mountain, consist of low land that owes its attractions more to human labour and ingenuity than to the gifts of nature.

The entire county presents nothing meriting the name of lake, except Lady's Island lake, in Forth, which claims notice, not from its extent or beauty, but from the singularity of its formation, receiving several small rivulets and having no natural outlet, so that once in every three or four years an opening is cut through the sand bank which separates it from the sea.

The sea-coast on the eastern side presents no opening for shelter from foul weather from Arklow to Wexford harbour, and is rendered still more dangerous to shipping by a range of sand banks parallel to the shore, the most northern of which is marked by a light-ship. Towards the northern extremity of this line of coast a harbour has been formed for small craft at the inlet of Courtown, in Kilbride bay, consisting of two rough piers forming a floating dock.

Wexford harbour is large and capacious, but its entrance is obstructed by a bar, and the navigation is in other respects dangerous. The Tuscar rock lies about seven miles southeast of Greenore Point: it is marked by a revolving light of three faces, two bright, the third a deep red; a bell also rings in foggy weather. In the northern part of Wexford harbour are the islands of Beg Erin, or Little Ireland, and Great Island, both inhabited: the former is of very small extent, but ancient fame; the latter contains about 80 acres.

On doubling Carnsore Point, the Saltee islands, two in number, the larger and the smaller, present themselves off the southern coast. A late return from the resident incumbent of the adjoining parish on the mainland states that these islands are considered to form part of the county of Tipperary. The larger is a mile long and half a mile broad, but not more than one-third of it consists of arable land: the lesser is about a mile in circuit: both are high and contain some rocky pasture.

From the lesser island to the mainland is a ridge of rocks called St. Patrick's bridge, extremely dangerous, having not more than from 7 to 10 feet of water above them at low tide. Farther westward is Bagenbon Head, and near it the small dry harbour of Fethard. What was formerly called "Slade Island" is connected with Bannow by a narrow isthmus of sand.

The extreme south-west point of the county is marked by a lighthouse at Hook head, 140 feet high, with a steady fixed light. On doubling this point the navigator finds himself within the grand and safe estuary of Waterford harbour, into which the united streams of the Suir, Barrow, and Nore are received.


In the eastern and southern districts, which lie open to the sea, the temperature is milder than that of the adjoining counties of Carlow and Kilkenny. Snow seldom continues on the ground, and the lands may be tilled, and the surface is verdant, while those ten miles inland are frost-bound, and their elevated parts covered with snow. The southern district is subject to storms in spring and autumn, and to heavy rains in winter; but the harvest is as early, if not earlier, than in the opposite Welsh counties of Pembroke and Carmarthen, which lie more southerly. It is even earlier here than in the north of Devonshire; and the climate is altogether eminently favourable to the perfection of grain crops.

The soil is mostly of a cold clayey nature, being deficient in the substrata of limestone and limestone gravel, universally found in the midland counties. On the whole, the maritime districts are superior to those in the interior, as to fertility. The whole of the eastern and southern borders has a deep alluvial soil, abounding with various kinds of marl and calcareous sand, with some limestone. The western and inland baronies contain little marl, but in compensation for this defect they have abundance of bog, which affords an adequate supply of turf for burning the lime imported from the neighbouring counties, while the southern baronies are extremely deficient in this useful article.

The prevailing clayey and gravelly loam, though apparently stubborn and untractable, when judiciously under-drained and limed, is productive of abundant crops. In the Hook, a peninsula entirely open to the ocean, and little elevated above its level, the subsoil is of a compact limestone, overspread with a thin layer of vegetable mould: it produces grasses of wonderful luxuriance, and both wheat and barley of superior excellence.


The parishes along the sea coast, particularly in the baronies of Forth and Bargy, are divided into small farms of from five to twenty acres, the competition for which produces high rents, and on which is exhibited that wonderful exertion of industry which seldom fails to shew itself in Ireland where the inhabitants are secured in the enjoyment of the fruits of their labour. The crops consist of wheat, oats, barley, and beans; also tares, rape, and turnips. Barley is the principal corn crop throughout the county, and, though uncertain, it generally repays the cultivator by a luxuriant produce. Beans are sown on the lea after it has been manured with marl; the kind sown is the small horse bean, and the produce is generally exported to the West Indies: in seasons of scarcity, this crop has been found of great utility in diminishing the severity of famine.

The potato, however, is the staple crop here, as in all the other counties, and all the manure is used for its culture: the seed is planted with the plough in small ridges, three rows in the ridge, and covered with the spade. The general succession of crops is potatoes, barley, and oats; but, in the barony of Forth, beans are introduced. The sowing of clover, which has been for some time increasing, is now very general; but the English green crops for winter feeding are still chiefly confined to the lands of the resident gentry or experimental agriculturists.

In some parts, particularly in the peninsula of Hook, the natural grasses are very luxuriant: in the interior, on the cold clay soils, they are thin and of little value: the farmers in general depend upon artificial grasses. Dairies are numerous, but they are not managed with the attention to neatness requisite for ensuring the best kind of butter; nor is sufficient pains taken in the selection of a suitable stock of cows; yet nevertheless there is a large annual export of that article.

In Forth and Bargy the farmers manure with marl found in abundance in the interior of those baronies; also with calcareous sand, which is procured in the vicinity of Duncannon fort; floating sea weed is much used in some parts: by these kinds of manure the land is kept permanently in a state of great fertility. In Carne, where the tillage grounds are so overspread with large stones that the superficial observer would think that the plough could hardly be used at all, the land has been kept, from time immemorial, under alternate crops of barley and beans, affording abundant returns. In the eastern district, where also marl is abundant, use is made of it. In this tract, particularly on both sides of the Slaney, pebble limestone is burned, and applied to the purpose of manure. In the western baronies lime, brought with much toil and expense from the neighbouring counties, is the chief manure.

The cottiers on the side of Mount Leinster travel with a horse a journey of two days in going and returning to bring home a load of limestone, forty loads of which are required for manuring an acre. The farmers on the parts adjacent to the Barrow and Suir procure from the beds of these rivers, at low water, a rich sediment of the nature of marl, but which is so heavy that it cannot be carried to a distance without much expense. Under all their various natural disadvantages, the lands of this county, by incessant industry and superior skill, are generally kept in an excellent state unknown in many other parts of Ireland; and in the baronies of Forth and Bargy this distinction is of long standing.

The fences in the southern baronies are in general good and well kept, being formed of mounds of earth and sods, planted with furze on the sides and top, which affords good shelter for cattle, and has the additional advantage of being extremely useful for fuel, while it presents an impenetrable barrier against trespassing. In some cases they are still farther improved by a row of quickset on the summit, which increases both the shelter and ornament.

In those parts where turf is plentiful, less attention is paid to the construction of fences; and there they are generally rugged and defective. The farmers are by no means so attentive to the improvement of the breed of cattle as in many other counties: the long-horned was most prevalent, but the short-horned is now most encouraged.

Although all the farmers, even the smallest, keep a few sheep for their wool and milk, the common breed reared here is by no means of a good kind, being long-legged, narrow-backed, large-boned, and as wild as deer, insomuch that they are kept from destroying the fences and breaking into the corn-fields by tying their feet with side lines: of the improved breeds, the Leicester is the most encouraged. Swine are numerous, but, like the former kinds of stock, not in general of the best kind.

The poultry is excellent; farmers and even cottiers rear vast quantities of turkies and other domestic fowl; and many old leases contain a clause binding the tenant to rear poultry for the landlord. In the neighbourhood of Wexford they are fattened by cramming, and sent to Dublin and Liverpool. There is a fair every Michaelmas at Ballyhack for poultry only, where the various kinds are sold in large quantities and very cheap, owing to the great number of small land-holders who rear them at a trifling expense from their potato offal and a little barley meal.

Bees are in some parts much attended to, and much mead is made. Means are used in some places to save the honey without destroying the bees, by driving them into a fresh hive instead of smothering them.

A source of riches, arising from the contiguity to the sea, is found in the extent of sandy warren which furnishes great numbers of rabbits yearly. The burrow of Rosslare, near Wexford harbour, furnishes the market weekly with 300 pair for three months: they are considered peculiarly delicate and well-flavoured. Pigeons are also attended to and found profitable; and, in consequence of the growth of a peculiar kind of grass or sea weed, myriads of wild fowl frequent the shores, the flesh of which is of remarkably delicate flavour. The barnacle, whynyard, widgeon, teal, and duck, are most esteemed; besides which there is a great supply of sea fowl, which are readily bought, though of inferior quality.

Fuel in some parts of the county is very scarce, especially in places remote both from the sea coast, where coal from England can be obtained at a reasonable rate, and from the mountains, where turf can be procured. The great improvement which has been made in the agriculture of the county, even within the last few years, has been mainly effected by the exertions of two agricultural associations, one in the northern and the other in the southern part, in the success of which a lively interest has been taken by the resident gentry, as well by pecuniary contributions as by personal attendance and encouragement,: the former is held at Gorey, and is in a flourishing state; the latter, held at Fook's Mill, is on the decline.

An agricultural school was carried on for some time at Bannow, and an horticultural institution has been established at Kyle, the particulars of each of which are given in the accounts of the parishes of Ban-now and Kilpatrick.


The county, in its geological relations, forms part of the clay-slate tract, which stretches, on the eastern side of the granitic range, from the northern part of the county of Wicklow to the Atlantic. The strata in the southern portions are in some places considerably inflected, but in the northern parts of the county they maintain a tolerably uniform north-eastern and southwestern direction, with a dip to the south-east; and the clay-slate is here found immediately in contact with granite, which is the chief component of the Blackstairs and Mount Leinster ranges.

The Forth mountain consists almost entirely of quartz rock, with a tendency to the slaty structure from interposed laminae of clay-slate. The strata range 25° north of east and south of west, and dip 45° towards the north-west: they are occasionally traversed by fissures and by veins of quartz, and in these veins have appeared in some places indications of lead, copper, and iron. The lower grounds and eminences in the vicinity of Forth are composed of alternations of quartz rock and clay-slate: the former rock, which is sometimes iron-shot and of a deep reddish hue, ranges to the north of Wexford town, forming its foundation, and in its southern progress constituting the White Rocks near Kerlogue, extending still further south: clay-slate is visible on the south-eastern side of Forth, and to the north-west is distinctly seen at Carrigg bridge, and in several other parts around the inner haven of Wexford. It is traversed by contemporaneous veins of quartz, and probably contains several beds of greenstone, blocks and fragments of this rock being observable on the strand near Saunders Court, and smaller pieces in the fields above and towards the entrance of Edenvale.

The general components of the south-eastern quarter of this county are also quartz rock and clay-slate interstratified, disposed in the manner above described, and containing occasionally beds of greenstone. Towards Carnsore Point the land gradually rises, forming a low swell of ground, composed apparently of granite, as great blocks of that rock, with some few scattered masses of mica slate, occupy its entire surface. The approach to a granite soil is indicated even at Broadway village, a little north of the lake, where blocks of that rock and of mica slate begin to appear. The granite base breaks forth again in Carrigburn and Camorus hills, to the north-west of Forth; and blocks of granite are strewed over a part of the county extending towards Bannow on the south.

At Caim, near the eastern foot of the granitic chain, the clay-slate appears to contain several beds of greenstone; and the bridge over the Urrin stream is mostly built of it. Traces of the same rock occur also near Enniscorthy, on both sides of the Slaney: the clay-slate and quartz rock in the vicinity of this town are sometimes much intermingled. Vinegar hill and the craggy rocks stretching towards Solsborough are principally composed of the latter; so also is Carrigrua-more, to the north-east. But the principal ranges of elevated land, such as Slieve-buy, Bree hill, Slieve kelter, &c., are clay-slate; and quarries are opened in several parts of the line adjacent to the granitic chain, some of the best slates being raised in the neighbourhood of Newtown-Barry and towards Kilkevin to the north-east.

A black, slightly carbonated clay occurs near Enniscorthy, where it is mistaken for coal, and some trials were made in consequence: this rock generally contains finely disseminated iron pyrites, and exhibits also thinly interspersed galena. The eastern side of Waterford harbour, in this county, consists principally of clay-slate in strata nearly vertical, but it is surmounted by a cap of sandstone in Broomhill: a similar cap occurs more to the south, in Templetown hill, which gradually declines till it underlines the tongue of floetz limestone which extends to the extremity of Hook Point. This limestone is arranged in strata of only a few inches in thickness, dipping at an angle of from 4° to 8° towards the south, and contains numerous bivalves and corallites: its connection with the sandstone is most conspicuous on the eastern, coast, proceeding along which to the north the limestone becomes interstratified with slate clay, and this latter rock at length predominates, alternating with very thin beds of limestone and acquiring a much higher elevation.

At the point of junction with the red sandstone beneath it, at Houseland castle, the latter is of a fine grain and red cast. More to the north it acquires a coarser structure, thick beds of conglomerate being interstratified with fine-grained, red, perishable sandstone. These rocks form a bold coast of abrupt precipices, extending to Carnyven headland, eastward of Templetown hill and south of Bagenbon Head. Detached portions of the sandstone shew themselves in other places.

The inner haven of Wexford is partly lined with four isolated patches of this rock lying unconformably on the clay-slate: it is of a deep red colour, and is principally composed of fragments of quartz, with a few of clay-slate, cemented by iron-shot quartz. Park Point, on the south side of the haven, consists chiefly of this sandstone arranged in strata from one to two feet thick, which are sometimes separated by a thin seam of red soapy clay. On the western side of the northern extremity of the inner basin is another smaller patch of red conglomerate, situated to the west of the Castle bridge.

In a dell westward of Artramont castle is a similar small patch, and a fourth of larger extent occurs in Saunders Court demesne. At Duncormuck is another patch of sandstone, which comes in contact with floetz limestone; and it is found in the Saltee islands, where it is based on the clay-slate. At Ballyback, where Waterford harbour narrows to the north, are caps of sandstone conglomerate, reposing unconformably on clay-slate, and containing many pebbles of granite, but fragments of clay-slate are the predominating constituents.

The great body of the rugged and isolated hill of Taragh, east of Gorey, consists of porphyry, with a compact felspar base, that sometimes passes into horn-stone, containing inlaid crystals of glassy felspar; but greenstone also appears occasionally. Besides the limestone of Hook Point, there is a narrow slip at Drinagh, a mile south of Wexford, which follows the coast for four or five miles southward, consisting of a blueish grey kind, containing corallites and bivalves, and associated with a brownish grey, fine, granular magnesian limestone. A third small limestone district occurs at Duncormuck, and extends from the coast into the interior three or four miles; it is generally of a reddish brown cast, apparently derived from the sandstone conglomerate in its vicinity.

A lead mine was discovered at Caim and wrought for several years: the works are now about to be resumed. At Clonmines the remains of an ancient mine are still to be traced; and galena has been found here, partly adhering to quartz and rhomboidal ironstone, and partly thrown on shore after storms, by which portions of the cliff had been torn away. The old heaps in the neighbourhood are supposed to be the remains of the silver mines said to have been worked by the ancient Ostmen.

At Kerlogue, near Wexford, is a small vein of copper ore, of the malachite or carbonated green copper ore species. Specimens of plumbago were found, about three years since, at Greenfield, near Enniscorthy; and in quarrying for stone at Bloomfield, in the same neighbourhood, about a year ago, some fine specimens of asbestos were discovered, the only ones known to exist within the county.

The horns and bones of the moose deer have been found in the alluvial districts both on the east and south, where there is marl. About a year since, a perfect fossil skeleton of the Cervus Megaceros, or gigantic horned deer of Ireland, was found at Ballyhuskard, near the bog of Itty, exceeding in its dimensions the fossil deer in the Dublin museum.


Much coarse woollen cloth was formerly manufactured throughout the county, but almost wholly for domestic use. Cotton-works were erected at St. John's, near Enniscorthy, upwards of twenty years since, but were only carried on for two or three years: at the latter place were also some iron-works. Linens, diapers, checks, and woollens were formerly wrought at Tintern, where the weaving and spinning business was carried on to such an extent that a yarn market and a market-house were built for the accommodation of the buyers and sellers, but both these buildings have fallen into decay, though there are still many weavers in the neighbourhood.

The vicinity of the county to the great Nymph Bank renders its fisheries an important object of consideration. In addition to the supply of deep-water sea fish derivable from this source, the inhabitants along the whole coast are mainly employed in fishing: there are also numerous residents at every creek that affords shelter for a few boats, who derive their subsistence partly from their little farms on shore, but mostly from the sea. A valuable fishing ground lies near the shore, adjacent to the Saltee islands, but the want of a harbour adequate to the reception and shelter of a better description of craft prevents the fishery from being followed, except in open boats.

There are two small harbours, one at Fethard and the other at Cross-Farnogue, at the eastern extremity of Ballyteigue bay, which, inadequate as they are, enable the fishermen to go out in the summer season; but the want of a good harbour prevents them from partaking much in the profits of the cod and herring fishery, which is chiefly carried on in the winter. Shell fish are caught in great abundance along the shore. The oysters are much esteemed by some for their size and flavour, but they do not maintain that character in the Dublin market: the lobsters are also reckoned to be of a superior kind.

Salmon, white trout, eels, and the pearl muscle are taken in the Slaney. The chief commerce of the county is in the export of agricultural produce, especially barley, to various ports on the British coast. The chief markets for grain are Wexford, Enniscorthy, and Castlebridge; the first is the port for the two others. New Ross has also a considerable trade in the same produce. The surplus butter is either taken to Gorey, and there sold for the Dublin market, or exported from Wexford and Waterford to Bristol, Liverpool, &c. There is also a considerable export of cattle, pigs, and poultry, which are shipped at Wexford and Waterford to be exported to England by steam.


The only large river is the Slaney, which enters the county at Newtown-Barry, and flows in a south-eastern course through Enniscorthy to Wexford; the tide flows to Enniscorthy, and the river is navigable so far by large boats: it receives the Bann near Fern, and the Boro south of Enniscorthy. The Bannow is a small stream falling into the harbour of the same name, and chiefly remarkable for the historical reminiscences connected with it. The Corug, another small stream, falls into the same harbour.

The Owenvarra empties itself into St. George's Channel at the fishing port of Courtown, in the bay of Kilbride. The Barrow forms a small part of the western boundary from Blackstairs mountain to its confluence with the Nore, whence, assuming the name of the Ross river, it continues to skirt the county, passing by New Ross, and having depth of water sufficient for vessels of large burden; at Great Island it exchanges its new name for that of the Suir, with which it here unites, and the whole body of waters flows southwards, still skirting the county, and disembogues itself in the capacious and safe estuary of Waterford harbour.


The relics of antiquity anterior to the arrival of the English are very few, with the exception of monastic buildings. A fine tumulus or rath stands at Salville or Moatabeg, and another at Donamore, both in the neighbourhood of Enniscorthy. Near Old Ross there is also a rath or tumulus, and two of considerable extent near Dunbrody. Smaller raths are scattered in numbers through the southern baronies: one of the most perfect is at Ballytrent, near Broadway, which has a double mound, and has been lately laid out as a pleasure garden. There are remains of monasteries at Wexford town, Enniscorthy, St. John's to the south of it, Ferns, Dunbrody, Ross, and Clonmines.

Tintern abbey has been converted into a residence of the Colclough family. The houses of Ballyhack, Carnsore, and Clonmore, are now parish churches; the remains of Glascarrig are still visible, part being used as a barn. The sites of the other monastic buildings are either uncertain or wholly unknown: their names are Achadhabla, Airdnecoemhain, Arbensis, Ardladhrann, Camross, Disert-Cheandubhoin, Down, Drum-chaoin-chellaigh, Fionmagh, Horetown, Inverdaoile, Innisbeg, Innisfeal, Kilcloghan or Killogan, Maghere-nuidhe, Seanbhotha, and Taghmon. There were religious houses on each of the little islands of Beg Erin and Derinis. Near Carnsore are the ruins of a very ancient chapel, called St. Vaugh's.

The remains of castellated buildings are still more numerous. At Wexford is White castle, over against the entrance to the harbour, also a castle within the town, since taken down and a barrack erected on its site. Two miles north-west of the town is Carrigg castle, seated on the pinnacle of a rock over the Slaney. Two miles from Wexford is also the castle of Barntown; and that of Ferns is worthy of note both in an historical and architectural point of view. One of the noblest and earliest military structures of the English settlers is Enniscorthy castle.

Another of these feudal structures is at Mackmine: Brown's castle, on a projecting point over the river Slaney, about two miles from Enniscorthy, is in ruins. At a short distance from Dunbrody abbey is a curious old fortress, called Cuislan-na-Blahie, or "Buttermilk Castle"; and in the same neighbourhood are the ruins of Killesk, Knockagh, and Kilhile castles. Of Ballykeroge or Button's castle, so called from its founder, Roger de Sutton, considerable ruins still exist; and in the same neighbourhood are a castle at Stokestown, another at Aldertown, a third at Priest's Haggard, and two in the Great Island.

On the summit of Mountgarrett, a lofty hill that overlooks the town of New Ross, are the ruins of an ancient castle, from which a branch of the Butler family derives the title of Viscount. On the peninsula of Hook are the remains of Slade castle and Houseland castle; and on its extreme point is the old fort Hook tower, which has recently been converted into a lighthouse. Duncormuck or Croscormuck castle, on the inlet of Bannow, also owes its erection to the English settlers under de Montmorency.

There are the remains, more or less perfect, of nearly sixty of these ancient castles, or towers, most of which are situated in the baronies of Forth and Bargy: the principal, not already enumerated, are Johnstown castle, near Wexford, now incorporated with the modern castellated mansion of H. R. G. Morgan, Esq.; Rathmacknee, in the same neighbourhood, which was inhabited by the Knox family within the last seventy years; Bargy, which gave name to the barony, also incorporated with some comparatively modern additions; Butlerstown, Lingstown, Ballycogley, and Cloest, in the barony of Forth; and Ballyhealy, Ballyteigue, Baldwinstown, Coolhull, and Dane's castle, in that of Bargy.

Not far from Duncormuck castle is Strongbow's fort, on the head of Bagenbon, where are yet visible the remains of strong intrenchments, attributed to that leader, though it is more probable that they were thrown up by the party under Fitz-Stephen, who landed there two years before, as Strongbow's debarkation took place in the county of Waterford. Duncannon fort, on the eastern bank of Waterford harbour, is modern in comparison with those hitherto noticed. The modern mansions of the nobility and gentry are described in their respective parishes.

SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)

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