WEXFORD, a sea-port, borough, market, post, and assize town, in the barony of FORTH, county of WEXFORD, and province of LEINSTER, 74 miles (S.) from Dublin and 30 ¼ (E. N. E.) from Waterford; containing 10,673 inhabitants. This town, which, as far as can be inferred from the earliest historical notices respecting it, was a maritime settlement of the Danes, is thought to have derived its name, which was anciently written Weisford, from the term Waesfiord (Washford), which implies a bay overflowed by the tide, but left nearly dry at low water, like the washes of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.
Nothing further is known respecting it till the time of the English invasion, when it was besieged by Fitz-Stephen and Harvey de Montemarisco, immediately after their landing at Bannow, aided by the Irish army of Dermod Mac Murrough. The townsmen at first marched out to give the invaders battle, but awed by their numbers and discipline they retired within their walls, after having set fire to the suburbs to check the enemy's pursuit: an assault of the besiegers was gallantly repulsed, but at the end of three days they surrendered on condition of recognising the sovereignty of Dermod. The town, with two adjoining cantreds, was then assigned to the two English leaders, conformably with a previous agreement; and Fitz-Stephen, to secure himself in his new possession, immediately commenced the erection of a castle in a position commanding the pass of the Slaney at Carrigg.
After the main body of the English had proceeded to Dublin, the Wexford men invested the castle, and having in vain endeavoured to force an entrance, prevailed upon Fitz-Stephen and his garrison to surrender, by means of a fabricated account of the destruction of Strongbow and all his companions in arms. On the arrival of Strongbow, who, after the dispersion of the Irish army before Dublin, had hastened to the relief of Fitz-Stephen, the townsmen quitted Wexford and took refuge in Beg Erin, an island in the harbour, carrying their prisoners with them as hostages for their own good treatment.
The plan succeeded: on the arrival of King Henry, they gave up their prisoners and were allowed to return peaceably to Wexford, which they now promised to hold under his authority. Henry, on his hurried departure from Ireland to suppress an insurrection in Normandy, gave the town in charge to William Fitz-Aldelm, Philip de Braosa, and Philip of Hastings, with a body of 50 knights. In 1174 he granted the town to Strongbow, who, during his residence in it, celebrated the marriage of his sister Basilea with Raymond le Gros and appointed him governor.
In 1177, Raymond received Fitz-Aldelm here on his arrival as Custos or Governor of Ireland, who placed his kinsman, Walter Almain, in command of the place; but Raymond having been restored, soon after proceeded by sea with part of the garrison to the relief of the city of Cork, which was besieged by an Irish army. After the death of Strongbow, and of all the male issue of his only daughter, who had married William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and the subsequent partition of his immense property among his five granddaughters, Wexford was assigned to Joan, the second sister, who had married Warren de Mountchensey.
In 1318 the town received its earliest charter extant from Adomar de Valence, into whose possession it and the lordship came by marriage with Warren's only daughter. In 1327, an Irish army under O'Brien was repulsed from the town with great slaughter. During the struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York it was seized in 1462, by Sir John Butler, whose brother, the Earl of Ormonde, had been just before beheaded by the Yorkists; but having rashly accepted a challenge from the Earl of Desmond, who had advanced to dispossess him, to decide the contest in the open field, he suffered a total defeat: the victorious earl held a parliament in the town in the next year.
The lordship, which had been conveyed, through the female line, to Richard Talbot, who married the only daughter of Adomar de Valence, continued in the possession of his descendants until forfeited in the 28th of Henry VIII., under the act against absentees. By the charter of James I., in 1608, the castle and borough were granted to the corporation at an annual rent.
On the breaking out of the war of 1641, Wexford was one of the first places that fell into the hands of the insurgents and was their chief port for receiving military supplies from other countries. On the approach of Cromwell, in 1649, the inhabitants at first refused to admit any troops on the part of the king but afterwards consented to receive 2000 Catholics sent by the Marquess of Ormonde: but the aid was useless, for Cromwell's troops gained admission either by force or through the treachery of Stafford, the governor, and the town was given up to military execution, as had been the case with Drogheda. The castle and much of the corporation property was confiscated at this period.
After the battle of the Boyne, the town declared for William III. and was garrisoned by his troops. In 1793, a large body of the peasantry proceeded thither to rescue some Whiteboy prisoners: on their approach, a detachment of the garrison was sent out to disperse them, the commander of which, Captain Valloton, having ridden in advance of his men, for the humane purpose of expostulating with the insurgents on their conduct, was cut down by a scythe: a monumental obelisk erected on the Windmill hill commemorates this deplorable event.
During the disturbances of 1798, Wexford was the chief position of the insurgents in the south of Ireland. After the defeat of a detachment of the King's troops, at the Three Rocks, on the 30th of May, on their march to the town, it was evacuated in a panic by the garrison and immediately taken possession of by the insurgents, who made it their principal station and kept it till the 21st of the following month, during which time they put to death 91 of their prisoners on the bridge. On the advance of the royal army, after the total defeat of the main body of the insurgents at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy, it was evacuated with such precipitation that a troop of yeoman-cavalry, which had galloped in advance of the main body, in the hope of preventing the apprehended ill-treatment of their wives and families from the paroxysms of despair of their opponents, entered without the smallest check or opposition.
Medals of gold and silver were struck by order of the corporation, to commemorate this event, and given to the officers and privates of the corps. In 1804, the walls underwent a thorough repair, at the expense of the corporation, on which occasion a piece of plate was presented to the mayor.
The town is situated on the lower part of a hill, close to the shore of the estuary of the Slaney, where it opens into the broad but shallow expansion of Wexford haven. Its extent from north to south within the walls is nearly a statute mile, or a mile and a quarter, including the suburb of Faithe at its southern extremity, the name of which is a corruption of Feagh, from the parish of St. Michael of Feagh, in which it is situated. The streets are narrow, partially and indifferently paved, and not lighted; two attempts, made in 1830 and 1833, to bring the town within the provisions of the act of the 9th of George IV., for paving, lighting, and cleansing towns, failed; the proposal being each time rejected by a majority of a public meeting convened for its consideration. An arrangement recently made with a Scotch contractor to light the quay with gas will probably remove this inconvenience, by having the contract extended to the rest of the town. It contains 1820 houses, in general well built and of respectable appearance; the supply of water is partly by pipes laid down by the corporation for improving the quays, and partly from wells, or from the public conduit in the corn-market, erected at the expense of the Marquess of Ely.
The town is connected at its northern end with the grounds on the opposite bank of the Slaney by a bridge commenced in 1794, and opened in 1795; it was constructed wholly of American oak, at an expense of £17,000, by the late Emanuel Cox, an engineer from the United States, and the builder of the wooden bridge at Londonderry: its length was 1571 feet. The collection of the tolls and care of the bridge was committed to a corporation, consisting of the shareholders who contributed towards its erection and some ex-officio members. In consequence of its decayed state the corporation had it repaired, or rather re-constructed, at an expense of £6000, of which £4000 was raised by a mortgage of the tolls, which let, in 1832, for £700 per annum.
The structure now consists of two causeways projecting from the opposite banks of the river, and of the respective lengths of 650 and 188 feet; the roadway of the bridge over the intervening space of 733 feet is of timber, supported on 23 sets of piers of the same material, with a drawbridge, to permit the passage of vessels with masts.
A quay extends for nearly half a mile from the bridge, having a general breadth of 60 feet, except near its middle, called the Crescent, where it widens to 80 feet. On the opposite shore has been raised the ballast quay, so called from being formed by the ballast deposited there by the shipping: it serves as a breakwater for the protection of the vessels moored on the side towards the town. The former of these quays has received a considerable extension to the south-west by an embankment raised by J. E. Redmond, Esq., which carries it on in a direct line to the end of Fishers'-row, whence a communication with that part of the country will be opened by a road in the same direction to the rock of Maudlintown, where it will form a junction with the Killinick road.
A branch of the Bank of Ireland occupies a very neat structure faced with granite, forming the northwestern angle of the Crescent. The Provincial Bank has also an establishment on the quay. A building, with an exterior corresponding with that of the Bank, is about to be erected on the Crescent-quay, for reading-rooms and a library; on the same quay a building is also in progress for the accommodation of the Chamber of Commerce, established in 1831; two reading-rooms have been already opened.
The Wexford Union Club, formed in 1833, is held in a building erected for it on the quay. A small and neat theatre was built in the Back-street about four years since, as a private speculation, which not having succeeded, it is used as an auction and commission sale-room, without any alteration in its internal arrangements: a circulating library is kept in its lobby. Balls for public charities and on other occasions are given in the Assembly-rooms, a handsome suite of apartments belonging to the corporation.
The castle and its surrounding grounds, granted by Cromwell to a person named Borr, were sold about a century since to the Government by that individual's representative, who contracted to convert it into a spacious barrack; but the transaction having been made the subject of parliamentary inquiry, the contractor, who was a member of the House of Commons, was obliged to vacate his seat and the treaty was put an end to. The present barracks, situated at the commencement of the Faithe, form a considerable range, capable of affording accommodation to 7 officers and 172 men, with a hospital for 12 patients. Several new streets have been opened within the last few years.
TRADE & COMMERCE
The inhabitants, in the time of the Danes, maintained themselves by commerce and piracy: afterwards the fisheries, and chiefly that of herrings, were their main source of subsistence: at present the staple trade of the town is the agricultural produce of the surrounding country, the herring and oyster fisheries, though still of some magnitude in the winter months, having declined considerably, from the withdrawing of the bounties, the poverty of those engaged in it, and the want of safety harbours.
The principal manufacture is that of malt, for which there were 38 establishments in 1831, in which from 70,000 to 80,000 barrels of malt were annually made, by much the greater part of which was exported, chiefly to Dublin: the quantity has since decreased.
A distillery, lately built on a large scale in the suburbs, consumed 25,000 barrels of grain in the same year: there are breweries, tan-yards and rope-walks in the town and suburbs. The magnitude of the export trade may be estimated by the fact that, in 1831, upwards of 300,000 barrels of grain were purchased by the merchants, chiefly for export either in the raw state or malted: that of cattle during the same period was very considerable, and 28,000 firkins of butter were exported: since the place has been made a bonding port the coasting trade has diminished, but that to Great Britain has increased proportionally; a store for bonded tea has been erected.
The amount of customs' duties for 1835 was £4920. 13. 10.; and for 1836, £6306. 10. 9. The amount of the excise duties collected in the Wexford revenue district, for the former year, was £76,453. 19. 8 ¼.
The port or haven is formed by two low sandy peninsulas approaching each other from the north and south and separated by a narrow entrance half a mile broad between Rosslare and Raven points. On the outside is a bank of shifting sand, which has been for some years gradually increasing, so that in the part where it is lowest, and which therefore is the principal passage to the haven's mouth, there are only six feet of water at the ebb of spring tides; and as the rise of springs is but six feet, and at neaps from three to four, vessels of every size larger than fishing boats must ride outside exposed to the danger of shipwreck before there is a sufficient depth of water to float them in: the navigation of the interior of the harbour, a distance of five miles, is both intricate and shallow.
Several expedients have been suggested by Sir John Rennie in a report on the subject, for the diminution of those obstacles to the safe navigation of the haven, but none of them has been yet acted upon. Notwithstanding these formidable obstacles the commerce is considerable; there are 110 registered vessels, of the aggregate burden of 6500 tons, and navigated by 600 seamen, belonging to the port; these are chiefly engaged in the British and coasting trade. The port is considered to be a great nursery for seamen, as there is always a considerable proportion of apprentices in the merchants' service there. There are two steamers on the Wexford and Liverpool station, one of which sails every week in winter and twice a week in summer, carrying live cattle, provisions, merchandise, and passengers.
The shipping interests have been materially promoted by the construction of a patent slip and ship-building yard, by Mr Redmond, at the southern extremity of his new embankment, from which a vessel of 70 tons has been already launched; the vessels belonging to the port had been previously built at Milford and Liverpool. The trade with the interior of the country is carried on chiefly by the Slaney, which is navigable to Enniscorthy; it is proposed to establish a line of steamers between the two towns.
The principal market is on Saturday; there is one for poultry, butter, eggs, and small wares on Wednesday: meat, fish, and vegetables are exposed for sale daily. The shambles occupy one side of a street leading from the quay; the butter market is held underneath the Court of Conscience, the corn and potato market in a square named the corn-market; poultry is vended in the public street. Fairs are held on Whit Monday and the 29th of June, on the Windmill Hill; on the 24th of Aug. in the Faithe; and on the Saturday before Shrovetide, March 17th, May 1st, Sept. 29th, and Nov. 1st. in the town.
The first charter to Wexford on record is that of Adomar de Valence in 1318, already noticed, which was confirmed and extended by that of the 12th of Henry IV., in 1411, and again confirmed by Elizabeth in 1558. The act of the 28th of Henry VIII. for vesting the estates of absentees in the crown, under which that of Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury, was confiscated, was followed by another specially confirming the liberties and privileges of the corporation of Wexford. A third charter was granted by James I., in 1608, which is the latest now in force; that subsequently granted by James II., in 1688, having been annulled after the revolution.
The corporation is one of those subjected to the new rules of the 25th of Charles II. By the charter of James I. the ground within the ancient limits of the town and its suburbs was made a free borough corporate, by the name of "the Town or Free Borough of Wexford," to consist of a mayor, two bailiffs, free burgesses and commonalty, and the body so incorporated was called "the Mayor, Bailiffs, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Town or Borough of Wexford;" the mayor to be a justice of the peace within the borough and county, also to be escheator, coroner, clerk of the market and master of the say; and a court to be held every second Monday before the mayor and bailiffs, with civil jurisdiction to any amount. It also grants a guild of the merchants of the staple, of which the retiring mayor and bailiffs are to be mayor and constables for the ensuing year.
At present the mayor appoints a deputy; there are 23 other burgesses; no recorder has been appointed for many years and the mayor's court has fallen into disuse, but that functionary still exercises occasionally a right to attach the property of persons about to go beyond the limits of his jurisdiction. The corporation still possesses large portions of its original lands; but as many of them are let on long leases or in perpetuity, at very low rates, the income from this source does not exceed £270 per ann.; tolls were levied to the average amount of £900 per ann., but the demand for them has been discontinued for some years, in consequence of the right being disputed.
A court of conscience is held by the mayor every week for debts under 40s. Irish; imprisonment for two months by this court cancels a debt under 20s. and for four months one under 40s. The mayor regulates the assize of bread. The assizes for the county are held in the town, and also the Epiphany and Midsummer general sessions for this district of the county, at which the mayor takes precedence of all the other county magistrates on the plea of his commission bearing date from the granting of the governing charter: petty sessions are held weekly and special road sessions twice in the year.
Two minor corporations have been formed under an act of the 34th of George III.; these are the Quay Corporation and the Bridge Corporation. The Quay Corporation, composed of the mayor, bailiffs, burgesses, town-clerk, port collector, and the members for the county and town, with 36 others elected by a majority of the persons attending (seven to be a quorum), is a corporation with power to levy rates on the vessels entering the port, to be applied towards making, maintaining, and improving the harbour, quays, and passages to them; it has also the regulation of the pilotage and of the supply of pipe water and is invested with certain powers towards the cleansing and economy of the town. Under this authority, the avenues to the quay are kept in repair by this body, and a pilot establishment has been formed, consisting of two smacks with a sailboat and rowboat attached to each; the pilot station is near Rosslare fort.
The receipts of the corporation, in 1834, were £2686; the expenditure £2677. The borough corporation repaired the streets up to the period of the interruption of the collection of tolls, since which the streets have been neither cleaned nor repaired; all the thoroughfares up to the town are kept in order by the county grand jury. The Bridge Corporation consists of the subscribers to the fund for building the bridge across the Slaney at Wexford, who are empowered to levy tolls thereon for defraying the expenses of its erection and repairs and to divide the surplus revenue among the subscribers rateably. The courthouse, situated on the quay, opposite to the end of the bridge, is a neat structure, erected at the expense of the county, and consists of a centre and two wings, with its entrance under a pediment supported by two columns.
The county gaol and house of correction stand at the entrance of the town from New Ross, enclosed by a wall from 16 to 20 feet high, with an entrance between two turnkeys' lodges. It consists of a centre and two wings: the interior contains 58 sleeping-cells, 12 day-rooms, and 16 airing-yards, with a detached hospital: the male prisoners are employed at breaking stones or at the treadmill; the females in washing, spinning and knitting. The borough returned two members to the Irish parliament by a prescriptive right exercised without interruption from 1374 till the Union, at which period the number of its representatives was reduced to one, whom it continues to return under the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 88: the mayor is the returning officer.
The present number of electors is about 330: the limits of the electoral boundary are fully detailed in the Appendix. The environs contain a number of handsome houses and neat villas, the residences of the gentry connected with the town. Within the last few years new roads have been opened between Wexford, Duncannon Fort, New Ross, and Enniscorthy, the last-named of which is now the mail coach road: a new approach to the town from the Carrigg bridge road is contemplated, as is the formation of a short canal of four miles to the bathing village of Curracloe.
The union of Wexford, in the diocese of Ferns, and in the patronage of the Bishop, consists of
- the rectories of St. Patrick's, Maudlintown, Killilogue or Kerlogue, Drinagh, Rathaspick, Kildavin, and Ardcandrisk;
- the rectory and vicarage of St. Mary's, and
- the impropriate cures of St. Iberius (Wexford), St. Bridget's or Bride's, St. Selsker's or Sanctum Sepulcrum, St. Tullogue's or St. Euleck's, St. Peter's, St. Michael's of Feagh, and Carrigg.
Of these, the parishes of St. Patrick, St. Mary, St. Iberius, St. Bridget, St. Selsker and St. Tullogue are within the walls, and being entirely built upon, pay no tithes or dues of any kind; the rest, which are without the walls, are described under their respective heads. The glebe of St. Patrick's, now the site of the parochial school, contains 20 perches; that of St. Mary's, now a dwelling-house and offices, 2 roods; of St. Selsker's, now a garden, 20 perches; and of St. Tullogue's, now the site of five small houses, 1 rood; making a total of 1 acre of glebe land within the walls.
By a return to a regal visitation made in 1615, it appears that there were then 20 churches in the town; at present there are but two, those of St. Iberius and St. Selsker. The former, erected in the latter part of the last century, is now the principal, though not the mother church of the union, that of Rathaspick being so considered, and the new incumbent being therefore inducted first into it and afterwards into each of the other churches. It is a plain structure with stone quoins and surmounted with a cupola; the interior has a gallery around three sides, and the fourth, containing the altar, forms a semicircular recess separated from the body of the building by an open screen of two pilasters and two columns: the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have granted £252 for its repair.
The church of St. Selsker is a small edifice, erected in 1818 at an expense of £1400, in the early style of English architecture, with panelled buttresses at the angles, terminating in pinnacles, and plain buttresses between the lancet-shaped windows on each side and a combination of three similarly shaped windows at the east end; the body of the church is connected by a small vestibule with the massive ancient tower of the old church: the interior is fitted up with open seats instead of pews: there are several monuments of great antiquity in the church-yard. In St. John's churchyard is a handsome mausoleum erected by J. H. Talbot, of Talbot Hall, Esq., to the memory of his wife.
In the RC divisions, the union or district of Wexford extends over the whole of the town and suburbs and includes 11 of the 16 parishes constituting the Protestant union: of the remaining five, Drinagh, Rathaspick, and Kildavin are included in the union or district of Piercestown; Carrigg and Ardcandrisk in that of Glynn.
The chapel of the Franciscans has been long used as the principal chapel of the Wexford union.
- The conventual Franciscans settled here in the reign of Henry III.: about the year 1380 they obtained possession of the convent and church of St. Bridget and St. John, which had previously belonged to the Knights Hospitallers: at the dissolution, the buildings and lands were granted in perpetuity to two laymen.
- The community at present consists of a guardian elected triennially at a general meeting of the Franciscan order in Dublin, and six friars.
- The building is a plain edifice, with the exception of a modern addition erected for a library, which contains a valuable collection of theological works, chiefly of the early Christian fathers, and also books in other departments of literature. The building, which is surmounted by a turret with a cupola and cross, and furnished with a clock, was erected under the superintendence of the Rev. R. Walsh, late guardian of the convent, who, with the aid of a subscription for the purpose, also collected the library, chiefly from the continent.
The chapel, dedicated to St. John and St. Bridget, and supposed to occupy the site of that of the ancient monastery of the Franciscans, is a large unornamented pile: the burial-ground attached to it has been lately enlarged, and a commodious house for the clergyman has been built adjoining the chapel, at an expense of about £1000.
The nunnery was established in 1818 for nuns of the order of the Presentation: their house, adjoining the Franciscan convent and erected principally at the expense of the late Mr Carrol, of the Faithe, contains a small chapel elegantly fitted up at the expense of the Countess of Shrewsbury, who presented £200 for that purpose: it is open on Sundays as a public place of worship: beneath the chapel is a commodious schoolroom, in which the girls originally attached to the Lancasterian school, and those belonging to the Redmond female orphan-house, are gratuitously educated by the ladies of the order, and also instructed in useful and ornamental needle-work.
The Wesleyan Methodists have two places of worship:
- a congregation in connection with the Irish Evangelical Society,
- and another, called the separatists, meet in private houses.
SCHOOLS & INSTITUTIONS
The Diocesan School for the See of Ferns, situated to the north of the town, on the road from Ferry-Carrigg, was built in 1800, at the expense of the county, on a piece of ground leased by the late R. Neville rent-free for 30 years, with a right reserved of charging it with a rent not exceeding £50 per annum at the end of that period, which has not since been demanded by the present proprietor, Sir W. R. P. Geary, Bart. The school has accommodation for 40 boarders and 6 daily pupils, and has a large play-ground attached: the master receives a salary of £70, paid by the bishop and the beneficed clergy of the diocese: an additional salary of £100 was paid by the corporation until the discontinuance of the payment of tolls.
The parochial school, founded in 1824, and situated on the glebe of the parish of St. Patrick, is a neat building, consisting of a centre and two wings, and containing two school-rooms, in which 77 boys and 62 girls are instructed; it is supported by the trustees of Erasmus Smith's charity and by voluntary contributions. St. Peter's college originated in a bequest by the Rev. Peter Devereux, P. P. of Kilmore, made during the existence of the penal code, which prohibited students for the priesthood from being educated at home. It consisted of a farm, the proceeds of which were to provide for the education of two ecclesiastical students in a foreign college: the continental war prevented the bequest being applied to its intended purpose, and a large sum accumulated, which, in 1818 was expended in the purchase of land and the erection of the buildings, which are vested in the R. C. bishop of the diocese and two clergymen as trustees.
The college stands on Summer Hill, an elevated situation to the west of the town, and presents the appearance of a large mansion-house, containing accommodation for a president, six professors, and 30 resident pupils, with classrooms for 150 daily pupils: a large addition is now in progress of erection in the Gothic style, to contain a chapel, library, and accommodations for an additional number of professors and pupils; it is to form a quadrangle, the eastern front of which is completed and exhibits a square tower in its centre with octangular turrets at each angle, which will be surmounted with a spire 140 feet high; the interior will be surrounded by a colonnade in the cloister style, enclosing an open area of about 130 feet square.
The course of studies comprises all the gradations of instruction from the rudiments to the highest departments in the ancient and modern languages, mathematics, physics, logic, metaphysics and ethics; and, should the wants of the diocese require it, a course of theology to supersede the necessity of students finishing their education at Maynooth. The fees, the maximum of which is limited to £28 per annum, are at present £25 for resident and £6 for daily pupils. Protestant children are admitted without any interference with their religious principles: the profits of the institution are applied exclusively to charitable purposes.
The Wexford Poor School, founded in 1809 by Mr W. Doran, is attended by upwards of 300 boys. An infants' school, founded in 1830, affords instruction to upwards of 70 children in a building erected for the purpose. The county infirmary, in the north-western part of the town, contains 10 wards and 35 beds; attached to it is a dispensary, with a house for the surgeon. The county fever hospital, erected in 1818 in the south-western suburb, has six wards, containing 60 beds: during the prevalence of cholera, it was used for the reception of patients labouring under that disease. The Earl of Shrewsbury has for the last seven years given £50 per annum to this institution.
The house of industry and lunatic asylum was established in 1816 in the old gaol: the former contains two departments, one for the aged and infirm, the other for vagrants and prostitutes: all the inmates able to work are employed; the poor are allowed half of their earnings; vagrants, none. The department for lunatics is now very small, as most of the patients have been removed to the district asylum at Carlow.
The Redmond female orphan house was erected in 1829, at an expense of £1900, being the accumulated proceeds of a bequest of £500 by the late Walter Redmond, of Bettyville, Esq., together with a donation of £200 by John H. Talbot, of Talbot Hall, Esq.; the institution, originally intended for 12 orphans, without religious distinction, but containing accommodations for 34, is maintained by a bequest of £120 per annum from the founder, and is under the superintendence of the R. C. bishop and five other trustees; the children are received at an early age and apprenticed at 16: the house stands on part of St. Peter's College lands.
A savings' bank and a loan fund have also been opened. Some charitable bequests to the poor of Wexford and the adjoining parishes are distributed by the rector, under the names of Tottenham's fund, Browne's fund, and Tait's charity.
ANTIQUITIES & CURIOSITIES
The ruins of the ancient monastery of St. Peter and St. Paul of Selsker, consisting of a tower, now forming part of the present church, and some of the arches, are still in existence.
- It is said that Cromwell, when he destroyed the church at the sacking of Wexford, carried away the ring of bells, and that they are now in one of the churches in Liverpool: according to tradition, the freedom of the town and exemption from the port dues of Liverpool were granted to the freemen of Wexford in lieu of these bells.
- There are no remains of the priory of the Knights of St. John of Jerusalem, or of the Magdalene leper house.
Some portions of the town walls, with five of the towers, three square and two round, are still in a sufficient state of preservation to show that the walls were 22 feet high, and were supported on the inside by a rampart of earth 21 feet thick: ruins of most of the old churches are still visible.
- Near the west gate was a strong chalybeate spring, now closed up.
- Many coins have been found at different times, but none of great antiquity: among them are some of copper of the dates 1605 and 1615, evidently struck off for tokens by merchants or dealers to supply the deficiency of legal coin.
- Near the Windmill hill a rudely carved urn of unbaked clay, containing calcined human bones, was found in 1831.
Nicholas French, the author of "The Bleeding Iphigenia," and of several other political publications during the reign of Charles II., was a native of this town.
Wexford gives one of his titles of Earl, in the Irish peerage, to the Earl of Shrewsbury.
SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)
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