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A look at Castlebar in the 1840s

CASTLEBAR, a market and post town, a parish, the head of a union, and formerly a parliamentary borough, in the barony of Carra, county of Mayo, and province of Connaught, 44 miles (S. W.) from Sligo, and 125 1/4 (W. by N.) from Dublin ; containing 10,464 inhabitants, of whom 5137 are in the town. This place owes its rise and importance to Sir John Bingham, the ancestor of its present proprietor, who, in 1609, obtained for it the grant of a market and fair. In 1613, James I. granted the inhabitants a charter of incorporation, under which the government of the town was vested in a portreeve, fifteen free burgesses and a commonalty,
with power to hold a court of record every Monday for the recovery of debts not exceeding five marks. The
charter also conferred upon the portreeve and free burgesses the right of returning two members to the Irish parliament; and in 1620, the inhabitants received a grant of a second annual fair. After the quelling of the disturbances of 1798, in the autumn of that year the French, under the command of General Humbert, having landed in the bay of Kilcummin on the 22nd of August, made themselves masters of that place, and proceeded to Ballina, of which they took possession on the 24th. On the following day, General Hutchinson
arrived at Castlebar from Galway, and being joined on the evening of the 26th by Lieut.-General Lake, every
disposition was made for the reception of the invaders, who, nevertheless, after an obstinate contest, effected an entrance into the town, of which they kept possession for some days ; but learning that the Marquess Cornwallis was approaching with his army, General Humbert abandoned the place, and retreated with his forces towards Sligo.

The town is situated near the eastern extremity of Lough Lanach, and on a river having its source therein
and called Castlebar, which divides the place into two nearly equal parts . it is also on the mail-coach road
from Ballinasloe to Westport, and consists of one principal street nearly a mile in length, from which diverge several smaller streets and lanes. It contains 831 houses, some of the best of which are built round the green, a pleasant promenade ; the streets are paved and kept in repair at the expense of the county. The barracks, a fine range of building recently erected, and commodionsly adapted for artillery and infantry, are arranged for 60 men of the former, and for 24 officers and 565 non-commissioned officers and privates of the latter. The linen manufacture, which was formerly much more extensive, is still carried on here ; and a considerable quantity of linen and linen-yarn is sold in the linen-ball, a neat building at the entrance of the town from Ballina. There are a tobacco and snuff and a soap and candle manufactory, a brewery, and a tannery ; and the general trade of the town, with the exception only of the linen trade, is gradually improving. The market is on Saturday ; and fairs are held on May 11th, July 9th, Sept. 16th. and Nov. 18th. A branch of the National Bank was established in 1836. In the excise arrangements the town is within the district of Foxford, and it is a chief constabulary and a revenue police station.

Under the charter of James I., the corporation continued to return two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised, and the sum of £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to Richard, Earl of Lucan. From that period till 1824, the corporation occasionally elected officers, but exercised little or no magisterial jurisdiction; for the last twenty years it has been virtually extinct ; and the court of record has been consequently discontinued. The assizes for the county are held here, and also the quarter-sessions in January and October, petty-sessions are held every Saturday. The court-honse is extensive and well arranged. The new county gaol, situated at the southern extremity of the town, is a spacious and handsome building with a castellated front, erected in 1834, at an expense of £23,000 ; the arrangement is on the radiating principle, with the governor’s house in the centre. It is well adapted for classification and contains 140 cells, with day and work rooms and airing-yards, in one of which is a treadmill applied to the raising of water , in the upper part of the governor’s house is the chapel, accessible to the prisoners by corridors communicating with it by neat iron bridges. The female prisoners are divided into two classes, under the care of a matron and assistant, and an excellent school has been established ; the average number of prisoners (which in 1841 was 143) will allow a separate cell to each at night, and during the day the men are employed chiefly in breaking stones.

The parish, which is also called Aglish, comprises 14,794 statute acres; about 1400 are bog and waste, and the remainder arable and pasture. The lands are principally under tillage ; the soil is good, and the system of agriculture much improved. The surrounding scenery is beautifully picturesque and finely varied, terminating in a distant view of the mountains by which the landscape is nearly surrounded. Castlebar, the seat of the Earl of Lucan, is romantically situated on the brow of a steep eminence overhanging the river, and attached to it is an extensive and well-wooded demesne, affording a pleasant promenade to the inhabitants of the town. Many of the inhabitants are employed in quarrying excellent limestone. used fur building , and turf is carried by water for several miles, to the town, through the lake and the Castlebar river. A manorial court at which debts to any amount were recoverable, was formerly held by a seneschal appointed by Lord Lucan, it has been discontinued for some years. The living is a rectory and vicarage in the diocese of Tuam, united by act of parliament, in 1711 to the rectories and vicarages of Breafy, Turlough, and Kildecamoge, and the vicarage of lslandedin, forming the union of Castlebar, in the patronage of the Bishop. The church, a handsome structure in the later English style, with a lofty square embattled tower, was erected in 1825, at a coat of £2500, of which £2000 were a loan from the Board of First Fruits; there is also a church in the parish of Turlough. There is no glebe-house : the glebe of the union comprises 24 acres ; and the tithe rent-charge of the parish is £142. 10. In the Roman Catholic divisions the parish is the head of a district, including also Ballyhane and Breafy, and comprising two chapels, at Castlebar and Ballyhane; the former is a spacious slated edifice. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. The county infirmary, a large building, is situated at the south end of the town, here are also a dispensary for the barony of Cam, and one for the town. The union workhouse, on a site of seven acres purchased for £341, was completed in 1841, at a cost of £6300, and is constructed to contain 600 paupers. At the head of Lough Lanach, near the town, is an ancient burial-place, commanding a fine view of the distant mountains ; and on the other side of the lake are the ruins of a fortified residence. The Earl of Lucan enjoys the inferior title of Baron Lucan, of Castlebar.

Extract from: Lewis – A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland
Photo from: The Lawrence Collection

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