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Reprinted from

Lewis Topographical Directory of Ireland.

County Kilkenny up to 1837.


Farming | Early People | Administration | Geology | Forestry | Castlecomer Coal Mines | Other Minerals
Industry | Rivers | Roads | Ancient Monuments | Castles | Housing | Springs | Kilkenny Town

KILKENNY (County of), an inland county, in the western part of the province of Leinster, bounded on the east by the counties of Carlow and Wexford, on the north by the Queen’s county, on the west by the county of Tipperary, and on the south by the county of Waterford.

It extends from 52º 14’ to 52º 51’ (N. Lat.), and from 6º 56’ to 7º 38’ ( W. Lon.); and comprises an area, according to the Ordnance survey, of 536,686 statute acres, of which 417,117 are cultivated land, and 96,569 bog and mountain. The population, in 1821, was 158,716; and in 1831, 169,945.

Early People.

According to Ptolemy, this county was originally inhabited by the Brigantes and the Caucoi, and it afterwards formed part of the kingdom of Ossory. The name of Uisraigagh, modernized into Ossory, is supposed to be expressive of its local situation, being compounded of the Gaelic words uisge, “water,” and rioghachd, “kingdom,” as lying between the rivers.

The portion between the Nore and Barrow is sometimes excluded from the kingdom of Ossory , and was anciently styled Hy Creoghain Gabhran; the southern part of the county was sometimes called Comor na tri uisge, “the high district of the three waters.” The countries of Ely OCarrol and Hy Carthin comprised some of the north-western portion of this county. This kingdom was sometimes tributary to Leinster , and sometimes to Munster. After the arrival of the English, it formed one of the counties into which King John divided the portion of the island that acknowledged his sovereignty.

At the commencement of the reign of James I., it was chiefly occupied by the Graces, the O’Brenans, the Wandesfords, the Butlers , the O’Sheas, the Rooths, the Harpurs, the Walshes of the mountains, and the Shortals.


This County is partly in the diocese and province of Cashel, and partly in the diocese of Leighlin, but chiefly in and comprehending the greater part of the diocese of Ossory, in the province of Dublin.

For purposes of civil jurisdiction it is divided into the baronies of Gowran, Ida, Fassadineen, Kells, Galmoy, Cranagh, Iverk, Knoektopher, and Shillelogher. It contains the incorporated market and post-towns of Callan, Thomastown, and Gowran; the market and post-towns of Castlecomer, Durrow, and Graig; the ancient disfranchised boroughs of Knocktopher and Innistiogue, of which the latter is a post-town, and the former has a penny post; and the post-towns of Freshford, Ballyragget, Urlingford, Johnstown, and Goresbridge.

Among the largest villages are those of Piltown, Clough, Bennettsbridge, and Rossbercon, besides the large suburb of Ferrybank, opposite the city of Waterford. Prior to the Union this county sent twelve members to the Irish parliament,two knights of the shire, and two representatives for each of the boroughs of Callan, Gowran, Thomastown, Knocktopher, and Innistiogue: but since that period its representation has been confined to the two members for the county at large.

The constituency, as registered at the summer assize of 1836, consists of 266 £50, 108 £20, and 864 £10 freeholders; 27 £50, 12 £20, and 189 £10 leaseholders; and 5 £50 and 6 £20 rent-chargers: making a total of 1477 voters. The election takes place at Kilkenny. It is included in the Leinster circuit: the assizes are held at Kilkenny; and the general quarter sessions at Kilkenny, Castlecomer, and Thomastown.

The county court-house and the county gaol are in Kilkenny, and there is a bridewell at Thomastown. The number of persons charged with criminal offences and committed to the prisons, in 1835, was 574, and of civil bill committals, 21. The local government is vested in a lieutenant and 17 deputy lieutenants, of whom 13 are county magistrates, and there are also 105 other magistrates; besides whom there are the usual county officers, including two coroners.

There are 50 constabulary police stations, having in the whole a force of one stipendiary magistrate, 10 chief and 51 subordinate constables, and 341 men, with 22 horses, the expense of maintaining which is defrayed equally by Grand Jury presentments and by Government. There are 30 stations of the peace preservation police, consisting of two magistrates, 3 chief and 18 subordinate constables, and 112 men, with 2 horses, maintained at an expense, in 1835, of £6963.

The county infirmary and fever hospital are at Kilkenny, and there are also fever hospitals at Freshford, Kells, Kilmaganny, and Rossbercon, and dispensaries at Kilkenny, Castlecomer, Ballyragget, Graig, Freshford, Kilmanagh, Knocktopher, Kilmaganny, Thomastown, Ida, Kells and Stonyford, Gowran, Callan, Durrow, Johnstown , Kilmacow, Urling ford, Whitechurch, and Innistiogue, maintained by equal subscriptions and Grand Jury presentments.

The amount of the Grand Jury presentments, for 1835, was £29,793. 14. 8½., of which £2603. 11. 6. was for the public roads of the county at large; £5907. 19. 1. for the public roads, being the baronial charge; £2387. 6. 9. in repayment of loans advanced by Government; £7609. 19. 1. for officers’ salaries, public establishments, &c.; and £11,284. 18. 3½. for the police. In the military arrangements this county is included in the eastern district.


An argillaceous soil may be considered as predominant throughout the county, within the limits of which there is very little ground unfit for tillage, or which does not form good meadow or pasture. The northern part consists chiefly of a moory turf, a few inches deep, incumbent on a bed of stiff yellow or whitish clay, which is the worst soil in the county, and the only kind liable to be injured by surface water.

More southerly, the soil is in general light, covering an argillaceous schistus. The northern part of the barony of Gowran is similar in quality, until its hills subside into a rich plain covered by good loam of various kinds. An excellent soil for the growth of wheat pervades the southern part of this barony from the Barrow to the Nore; its western portion consists of low hills or gently sloping grounds of good soil, dry, and sometimes deep, but diminishing in quality as it approaches the latter of those rivers.

That to the west of the Nore, below the city of Kilkenny , is a clayey loam immediately over a bed of limestone. In general, the nearer the limestone is to the surface, the poorer the soil; but as this kind of ground, along the banks of the river, produces close and green herbage, and is extremely dry, it seems calculated by nature to form the best kind of sheepwalks.

A light soil appears all round the city of Kilkenny , frequently rising into hills of sand and gravel. Along the banks of the Nore, northwards, good meadow ground is found, apparently formed by aquatic depositions: some of it consists of a deep blackish loam, apparently the produce of decayed vegetables, and inducing the inference that the Nore, formerly obstructed by rocks or other natural impediments which the impetuosity of its water had ultimately broken down, was once an expansive lake, whose edges may still be traced round the flat plain inclining towards Freshford. Achadh-ur, or “the Field of Water,” the old name for Freshford, strengthens this conclusion.

The north-western portion of the county is chiefly occupied by hills, the soil of which, though not deep, is of good quality and productive of fine herbage. From the whitish appearance of these calcareous hills, the district was probably called Geal-Magh, “the white field,” corrupted into Galmoy.

The country declines north-wards into a varied plain of still better soil, until it is bounded by a branch of the Bog of Allen: the western part, with a varied surface and a limestone bottom, possesses all the gradations between a stiff, yet rich, clayey soil and a light gravel. Proceeding southwards, the fertility of the land increases as it approaches the Suir, on the margin of which is some of the richest and deepest ground in the county.

Some parts of this southern district consist of low hills covered by a light dry soil, producing good crops; and, as the soil has a large proportion of argill, it is peculiarly productive on the application of calcareous manure. There is a considerable extent of mountain land in the county, much of which is unimproved: all the hills, when they rise a little above the calcareous districts, incline to a moory surface, and when neglected produce little but heath.

The quantity of peat is inconsiderable; by far the largest tract, amounting to 1000 acres, is in the north-western extremity: several small tracts, from 30 to 50 acres each, are scattered in various parts; the whole may be estimated at about 1500 acres, not including mountain ground, the surface of which is often stripped for fuel.

A bed of marl has been found in a bog between two strata of black peat; also three strata of bog separated by alternate beds of indifferent marl. Some of the lesser bogs may be cut to a depth of 20 feet: considerable quantities of oak, fir, and birch are found in them. A stratum of bog has been found 33 feet beneath the surface, covered with the following strata; —vegetable mould, 3 feet ; marl with black stones, 15 feet; yellow clay and hard gravel, 15 feet.


There are no loughs of any extent: in the parish of Cloghmanta are some small lakes, here called Loughans, which are formed by the surface water in winter. The best land in the county, most of which has a limestone bottom, is applied to the growth of wheat which is the predominant crop. Barley is usually sown after it: here is not in general cultivation.

Oats are cultivated in all parts of the county: the species most commonly used is the Irish, a hardy but small grain, which does not shed easily. Rye , which is but little cultivated, is usually sown on land that has been pared and burned, and produces fine crops on mountainous ground. Potatoes are everywhere grown, and all the manure of the county is applied in their culture; but the most approved is that from the farmyard, though the sweepings of the streets of Kilkenny are purchased at a high price, and other manures consist of composts of various kinds; lime only is sometimes used.

In the barony of Iverk, and everywhere within reach of the coast, or of the Suir, sea-wrack and sand are generally used. Green crops are very rare, being cultivated only by some of the principal gentry and a few wealthy farmers. Manure is seldom used for any but the potatoe crop: when exhausted by repeated tillage, the land is too frequently left to recruit itself by a natural process; grass and clover seeds are, however, sometimes sown, and the advantages are beginning to be appreciated.

In the best cultivated parts of the county about one-third of the ground is under tillage, but in the hilly parts the proportion is much less. The use of green food for any species of stock is almost unknown to common farmers: many of the cattle graze abroad the whole winter, but some are housed from Christmas to April.

In the Walsh mountains grass is kept for the cattle, into which they are turned in the winter without hay, straw, or shelter. The only green food used in winter is furze tops pounded, which are commonly given to horses, and sometimes to black cattle: the former become fat, sleek, and fine, skinned on this food: the sort preferred is the large French furze, but the small Irish furze will serve.

The stalks of potatoes, dug when green, are given to cattle: sheep are remarkably fond of them, and particularly of the apples, which fatten greatly. The Jerusalem artichoke has also been used successfully as food for sheep. Less attention seems to be paid to pasture than to other agricultural objects, being, in the tillage districts, such fields as will no longer bear corn, let out without any seeds.

The mountain pastures are left in a state of nature, unenclosed and unimproved. Sheep are banished from many places for want of fences, and the land seems to be applied to no purpose, being left to the spontaneous growth of heath. These heaths are very liable to take fire in dry summers by accidental circumstances, and cause some damage: the fire, however, eventually improves the surface, when not too intense, and sometimes is kindled for that purpose.

That the hilly tracts are capable of being improved by culture is testified by the aspect of the small enclosures near mountain villages, where the natural grass by a little shelter and manure becomes surprisingly green. Improvement is not much impeded by rights of common, as there are few persons to assert such rights, if they exist, and landlords seem to have an undisputed authority in partitioning lands, which, though grazed in Common, confer no legal claim on the occupier.

Irrigation is but little attended to, although, where it has been practised judiciously, it has been found very advantageous. There is a considerable portion of land, bordering both on the Suir and the Nore, which is embanked and chiefly used for meadows: the most remarkable is in the parish of Roer, where the embankment is about two miles long; some of it is pastured, and was formerly tilled, but the greater part is constantly kept in meadow: it is intersected by open drains communicating with a main drain connected with the river by sluices.

Besides this district, the most extensive dairies are in the barony of Iverk and principally around the Walsh mountains: this tract has a good depth of soil, much inclined to grass. So late as the close of the last century, the principal family residing in it consisted of five branches, holding among them more than 2000 acres; they retained a remarkable degree of clanship, by constantly intermarrying, and were very comfortable and hospitable.

But from the practice of subdividing the land amongst their descendants, the farms have become very small and the occupiers poorer. The land, however, is much improved: the chief crops are oats and potatoes, and great numbers of cattle and pigs are bred here. The milch cows are principally fed on potatoes during the summer, and the butter is of a superior quality, and brings a good price both at Waterford and Kilkenny, whence it is exported to England .

The pigs are mostly fed with buttermilk and potatoes and grow to a large size: vast numbers are annually shipped for England , and during the season the provision merchants of Kilkenny and Waterford obtain a large supply from the barony of Iverk. Throughout the whole of that part of the barony which is not immediately adjacent to the city of Waterford , the population is more or less connected by ties of consanguinity, rarely marrying out of their own district.

Limestone to a great extent is burned for manure; and limestone sand and gravel, raised from the numerous escars and screened, were formerly esteemed nearly as efficacious as lime, and are still frequently employed when found at a distance from limestone rocks. Before the practice of burning lime became general, they formed the principal manures, for which reason large excavations are to be found whence these substances were raised: the most remarkable is in the barony of Iverk, where, from the magnitude of the old excavations, they have been in use probably for a thousand years.

A manure somewhat similar is used, under the name of Kilmacow sand, for hilly ground: it is carried up the Nore to Innistiogue, and thence drawn for some miles up the hills. Marl is found in great quantities in different parts, generally mixed with fragments of limestone; but, in consequence of the higher estimation in which lime is held, it is not in general use.

River sand, raised below Ross, is more extensively used than marl. At the edge of the river, near Ringville, black mud, containing the decayed remains of vegetables, is raised, and proves an excellent manure for light ground; some sand is also taken up, containing thin broken shells of a species of tellina; the earth of old ditches and from boggy ground is often mixed with it.

A compost of lime and earth is common as a top dressing; and the scrapings of roads, and furze, fern and straw, spread on lanes and other thoroughfares, are also used. Burning was the usual way of bringing land into tillage, and was encouraged by many landlords under particular restrictions, but is now generally discountenanced, as the carbon and all volatile particles are dissipated by the fire.

The use of oxen in the plough seems to be rather increasing, though the proportion is very small in comparison with horses. The native horses are lively, active, hardy, and well adapted to the uses of the farmer: few are bred in the county; of English breeds the Suffolk is most in request.

The attention paid to the breeding of cattle is inferior to that of the adjoining counties of Carlow and Waterford , and some parts of Tipperary : the common breed is a cross between the old Irish and Lancashire , and some districts have the old native cow. Some noblemen and gentlemen have a superior kind, being a cross between the Irish and Durham ; and crosses between the Irish and Devon and Ayrshire and Durham breeds appear to suit both the soil and climate.

But those that attain the largest size are a cross between the Limerick and Durham , which fatten speedily and weigh well. The little Kerry cow is much sought after in some of the dairy districts, in which it improves much, and when crossed with the Ayrshire is very profitable to the small farmer.

The breed of sheep is generally little improved; the New Leicester and Ayrshire breeds are found in the lawns and demesnes of some gentlemen, but are comparatively few in number.

Pigs have been greatly improved by the introduction of the Berkshire and other superior breeds. In all the minor departments of rural economy, except the rearing of poultry, the farmers are very deficient. The fences generally are very indifferent, principally consisting of an old broad mound of earth (called a ditch), with a deep and broad trench on one or both sides, or of dry and broken stone walls, except in the immediate neighbourhood of Kilkenny or on the farms of gentlemen, where in many instances quick set hedges show to great advantage: the parks and demesnes are mostly enclosed with high stone walls.


The county is very deficient in woods and plantations, although there are some of considerable extent around Kilkenny, Durrow, Desart, Woodstock , Besborough, Castlecomer, Thomastown, and other places on the banks of the Nore. Callan and its neighbourhood, once so celebrated for its extensive woods, is now denuded; but from Kilkenny to Callan the fences appear better and the land more judiciously divided than in other parts. Planting is by no means general, except around demesnes. An agricultural society, the first midland society formed, has been long established, of which, perhaps, the most beneficial result is the improvement of agricultural implements, which has been accomplished to a considerable degree.


As the soil is seldom much raised above the rock that forms its basis, it is not difficult to trace the substrata: these are granite, silicious schistus, silicious breccia, argillite, sandstone and limestone. The granite hills form a very small part of’ the county, being merely the extension of the Wicklow group, which, including Mount Leinster and Blackstairs in the county of Carlow, forms the hills of Brandon between the Barrow and the Nore, and ultimately terminates in the low and secondary hills which unite to the south, towards the mountains of Waterford.

The stratum which usually joins the granite is silicious schistus, and lower down argillaceous slate. The granite varies in shades of grey, red, and yellow, and in the fineness of its grain; the best is of a light yellow tint, finely grained and compact; black mica is found in it, together with specks of iron ore and crystals of schorl: it can be raised in blocks of large size, and may be chiselled into any form. Below Innistiogue, part of the hills are composed of granite; on their lower part the yellow mica is sometimes found by itself in large masses.

The detached stones which form the surface of these hills are called fire stones, and are worked into hearth-stones, and also applied to other purposes. Pieces of a very fine deep red and compact jasper, of various sizes, the largest ten or twelve inches long and half as broad, have been discovered in the granite district. The silicious schistus is blackish, sometimes containing grains of quartz; when broken it has a shivery texture and thin lamellae, and is hard enough to scratch glass. The base of Brandon Hill, and of that extending thence to Graig, is composed of it; between Innistiogue and Ross it is quarried out of the steep banks of the river.

New Ross is mostly built of it: the dip of these quarries is east- ward. Martial pyrites frequently lies between the beds of this stone: the strata are also intersected by broad veins of quartz: iron ochre occurs in it, and it is much tinged by oxyde of iron. A few specks of copper are sometimes perceived, but no vein has been discovered. Fine-grained galena has also been detected in it, in small quantities and in detached fragments. Silicious breccia forms many of the lower hills: it consists principally of flue quartz sand, united by a silicious cement and enveloping rounded pebbles of quartz, from the size of a pea to two or three inches in diameter, and of a reddish tinge: it seems to be one of the stones styled by Kirwan semiprotolites, and wherever its base can be discovered, it appears to lie on silicious schistus.

This stone is constantly accompanied by red argillite, which covers the sides of the hills, but scarcely ever the sum-mits: it prevails on the northern sides of these hills, and from its appearance is sometimes called red slate. The hills of breccia run southward from the Nore, spreading to the south and south-east till they approach the Suir: the great hill of Drumdowney, bounded by the Ross river, forms the extremity of the principal range. The stone here is of a fine grain, and is raised for mill- stones, which are principally quarried on the top of the hill of Drumdowney, where an enclosure of about 300 acres has been made for the purpose: they are sent coastwise to Cork, Dublin, and other ports; the dimensions of the largest are five feet in diameter and sixteen inches in the eye. This stone is sometimes accompanied by a fine-grained white sandstone, consisting chiefly of quartz with a silicious cement: its Chief defect is that the strata are very thin. Slaty argillite also often forms the lower parts of those hills, varying from reddish brown to green or blue, but being very heavy is not well adapted for roofing.

In the western part of the county there is an extensive quarry of excellent slates, scarcely exceeded by any in colour and lightness. The northern part, including the whole of Fassadineen and the upper part of Gowran, consists either of ferruginous argillite, or of silicious schistus: of the latter, stones are raised in several quarries for the purpose of flagging; the former is always found above the coal, and is thence called coal-cover. It is a brittle blackish slate impregnated with iron ochre, and more or less inlaid with nodules of iron ore; it extends from the collieries to the south and west, forming the banks of the Dinan almost to its confluence with the Nore.

The same stone forms lower hills which stretch towards the river, but in that part it is generally found of a fine soft grain, some of which is quarried for polishing marble, and the finer specimens are sometimes used as hones. In several parts are numerous escars, mostly near the banks of the rivers; some are seen near Urlingford, approaching the verge of the Bog of Allen, and they are also frequently found far removed from either river or bog; they are mostly composed of rounded masses of limestone, quartz, clay-slate, and ironstone, but most commonly of the first. They form gently rising hills, and may be traced from the banks of the Shannon, in the county of Limerick, through Tipperary and Kilkenny, to the banks of the Suir, whence they range through Carlow, Kildare, and near to the sea shore a little to the south of Dublin: along their entire extent the surface is generally fertile and very picturesque.

Castlecomer Coal Mines.

The Kilkenny collieries are situated two miles north from Castlecomer, twelve from Kilkenny, eight from Carlow, and forty one from Dublin , and extend in length from Cooleban to the river beyond Maesfleld, continuing thence into the Queen’s county. In this county the coal field may be estimated at six miles in length by five in breadth, and the collieries are distinguished by the names of Firoda, Ballyouskill, Clogh, and Maesfield.

The mines were discovered in 1728. A great number of men had been for several years employed in raising iron ore, which was smelted with charcoal from the numerous woods of the country; and having worked through the seam, came unexpectedly to a vein of coal. The first pits were sunk near the southern termination of the coal field, and were consequently unprofitable; others were then opened on the ridge of hill at Cooleban, where three separate seams were worked at little expense till exhausted. The present colliery is in the plain westward from Cooleban, and is much flooded: two powerful steam-engines are constantly at work, but the water frequently accumulates to such a height as to interrupt the operations.

In this field are 24 pits, varying from 31 to 39 yards in depth, and only the upper seam of coal has yet been worked, which varies from 34 to 38 inches in thickness: more than 700 men are constantly employed. The soil of the entire district is a stiff clay, below which is a rock composed of argillite and silicious limestone, resting on an argillaceous deposit here called grey or curled rock, below which is black shale, with thin layers of rich iron ore, and beneath these are thin layers of slate, here forming the roof of the coal.

The seat of the coal is a soft, black, brittle stone, or fire-clay, containing impressions of various plants: it has never been applied to any beneficial purpose, although, when pulverised and worked into cement, it becomes fire-proof, and would be very valuable for crucibles, glass-pots, and other vessels exposed to intense heat.

Since the woods of the country failed, no attempt has been made to smelt the iron ore, and vast quantities lie scattered about in every part. Wheaten bread is the principal food of the colliers, which they take with them into the pits: their earnings are generally consumed in the purchase of spirits, whence it happens that, though their wages are higher than those of other workmen, they are the most wretched class in the county.

Their habitations are miserably mean, being generally built and covered with sods, sometimes without chimneys or windows; their children naked, themselves ill clad and unhealthy, few arriving at the age of fifty. A Consumption of the lungs is the most fatal disorder among them: those who work in wet pits live longest, as they do not inhale so much of the volatile dust of the coal.

The excellent qualities of this coal for particular uses occasion a demand for it in all parts of the country. It burns dully, with little flame, but lying like charcoal in an ignited state for seven or eight hours, casts a steady and strong heat. No fuel dries malt so well, and this without any preparation; it is excellent for the forge and for all works in iron; indeed in every manufacture in which steady heat is required void of smoke, it cannot be excelled; nor does it dirty the flues where it is used.

On being analysed, it appears to approach nearly to pure carbon, without any bituminous matter; the proportions being 97.3 per cent. of pure carbon, and the remainder uninflammable ashes. Iron has been successfully smelted with it; and it seems peculiarly calculated for cementing steel and for potteries.

Other Minerals.

In the town of Castlecomer very good, tenacious, brown potters’ clay is found, and different clays for potters’ use exist in the neighbourhood: a pottery commenced here many years since failed from want of capital. Indications of coal present themselves in other parts, extending for a considerable distance into Queen’s county, and in one direction stretching to the border of Carlow.

Yellow ochre is found in different parts; pipe-clay of good quality, and potters’ clay lie in the southern part of the county as well as in the northern. Manganese is considerably dispersed: it is seen on the banks of the Barrow, and in limestone quarries, particularly near Freshford.

Of copper, no certain indications have been found: lead ore has been met with in small quantities between Innistiogue and Ross; large pieces of fine-grained galena are frequently taken up near Knocktopher, imbedded in limestone quarries. But the only lead mine ever worked was in the park of Floodhall , which was continued for some time with considerable profit: the ore was rich, and contained a considerable quantity of silver.

Limestone is the base of the central part of the county, and of detached portions of its north-western and south-western extremities. The quality of the stone varies considerably: that to the north of Gowran, which appears good to the eye, cannot be burned into lime, on account of its hardness, or of the quantity of silicious sand which it contains.

Near Callan is a kind of white limestone, splitting into laminae, which is little esteemed: near Durrow, the stone is full of flint. All the limestone of this county contains impressions of shells or corallines: it is stratified more horizontally than the rocks around it usually are, and appears to fill all the lower lands between the hills; no other stone lies above it, and it is generally so deep that scarcely any other has been found beneath it. In most cases the limestone district is terminated by a broad bed of gravel, composed chiefly of rolled calcareous pebbles.

The most important quarry is that which produces the Kilkenny marble; it is called the black quarry, and is situated about half a mile south of the town. The stone, when polished, has a black ground more or less varied with white marks, which appear more conspicuously when exposed to the air; but the jet black specimens only are esteemed at Kilkenny.

This marble contains a great variety of impressions of madrepores, and of bivalve and turbinate shells: the spar which occupies the place of the shells sometimes assumes a greenish yellow colour. In some places there are iridiscent spots: and sometimes martial pyrites is imbedded in the marble. A small specimen of pink fluor was found in it; but this is a very rare occurrence. The analysis of the most common kind gave 98 per cent, soluble in marine acid, and 2 per cent. of a black powder of carbon, which burned without leaving any ashes.

The blocks raised at this quarry are finished principally at a marble mill at some distance, which presents a very elegant combination of simplicity of’ structure with powers of execution: it performs the work of forty- two men daily; water never fails, and from the excellence of its construction it is scarcely ever stopped on account of repairs.


The woollen manufacture owes its introduction into the county to Pierce, Earl of Ormonde, who died in 1359, and his wife Margaret, who brought artists in tapestry, diaper, and carpets from Flanders ; some of their tapestry is still in the castle of Kilkenny . James, Duke of Ormonde, also incurred great expense, in the middle of the seventeenth century, in establishing both the linen and woollen manufacture.

This latter branch was chiefly carried on at Carrick, where it gave employment for many years to the population of the surrounding district: its decline is attributed to the fraudulent practice of stretching the cloths to augment the measurement, until the Dublin merchants refused to buy them: the manufacture was principally carried on by large farmers and their families.

In the hilly districts a constant manufacture of frieze and ratteen prevails: the yarn is spun by the women; both sexes are employed in carding the wool; and the farmers’ sons, who are taught to weave, manufacture it into cloth. On the decline of the frieze trade, that of wool-combing succeeded; the combers converting their coarse offal wool into blanketing, which has gradually become a staple branch of trade.

The linen trade was introduced towards the close of the 17th century, and prospered for fifty or sixty years; but within the last century it has so decayed as to leave few traces of its former prosperity, only the coarser cloths for domestic consumption being now made: many of the bleach-greens were converted into mills of various kinds, but there are three still tolerably well employed.

In the hilly districts every farmer grows a little flax for his own use, and generally bleaches his own linen: he also often has a little hemp to make sacking. The number of flour-mills is very great; there are twenty-two on the Nore between Durrow and Innistiogue; on the King’s river, from Callan to the Nore, ten; on the part of the Barrow within the county, three or four, and several on the streams which fall into the Suir and other great rivers.

Rape-mills have been erected, but are not profitable; the exportation of the seed being found more advantageous than the manufacture of the oil. The principal part of the grain raised is sent to Dublin in the shape of flour, malt, and meal, the preparation of which is another source of internal wealth: the wheat and barley find a ready sale among the numerous millers, maltsters, and distillers, so that very little is brought to the market- house.


The rivers were formerly famous for their salmon, much of which was sent to Dublin , both fresh and preserved in ice; but the quantity has decreased during the last century, caused, as is supposed, by the increased number of mills. The salmon trout is not uncommon in the rivers; its usual length is from eighteen to twenty inches. The shad comes up the Nore in April and returns in May; the sturgeon appears but rarely; porpoises sometimes follow the salmon beyond Waterford ; the conger eel is sometimes taken; lampreys are thrown away by the fishermen, not being even kept for bait. All the aquatic birds usually found along the course of large rivers are met with here: the common gull follows their course to a great distance, devouring many insects pernicious to the farmer, and returns to the sea at night: the common people call it the white crow. The kingfisher and waterousel are not uncommon.

The river Suir forms the southern boundary of the county for twenty miles; vessels of 100 tons navigate it to Carrick, and of a much larger burthen to Waterford . An act has been recently obtained for removing rocks and other obstructions in its bed, which will enable large vessels to proceed to Carrick.

The Barrow skirts the eastern border of the county for about twenty-six miles. Large sums of money have been expended in improving its navigation to Athy: the boats which ply on it are from twenty to forty tons’ burthen, but the locks last constructed admit boats of eighty tons.

The river forms the course of the navigation, except in a few instances, where inland cuts are connected with it. The Nore more peculiarly belongs to this county, flowing nearly through its central part in a winding course of not less than forty-six miles, from the neighbourhood of Durrow to its junction with the Barrow near Ross: after passing Kilkenny, it receives the King’s river from the west, whence in its course by Thomastown and Innistiogue it presents a rich variety of picturesque scenery: after its junction with the Barrow, the united stream takes the name of the Ross river.

Like all mountain rivers, it is subject to great floods, which are highest when the wind has blown for some time from the north-east, accompanied with rain: the clouds thus driven on the hills to the north of the county, and quickly succeeding each other, convert into torrents all the streams that feed the Nore; on such occasions the water has risen eighteen feet at Innistiogue.

It has long been an object of importance to establish a navigation from Kilkenny to the sea by means of this river; much money was expended in the attempt, and many plans proposed, but none accomplished: the boats navigating it to Thomastown carry thirteen or fourteen tons down the river when it is full, and bring up ten tons, but only three or four when the water is low; they are drawn up by eight men, and require two more to work them.


The roads are numerous, and are generally well laid out and kept in good repair. Several new lines have been recently made: the principal are those from Kilkenny to Piltown, Carrick-on-Suir, Freshford, and Roscrea respectively, and those from Castlecomer to Ballynakill, from Callan to Johnstown , and from Innistiogue to Waterford . The construction of these numerous lines, particularly through the hilly districts, has afforded to the farmer increased facility for the carriage of lime and the conveyance of agricultural produce to market.

Ancient Monuments.

The traces of antiquity are numerous. On the summit of Tory Hill, called in Irish Slieve-Grian, or “the Hill of the Sun,” is a circular space covered with stones, on one of which, resting on several others, is an inscription which has given rise to much controversy.

On the summit of the Hill of Cloghmanta, which signifies “the Stone of God,” is another circular heap. Both these monuments are much decayed. The most remarkable cromlech is at Kilmogue, in the barony of Knocktopher; the upper stone is 45 feet in circumference, and is elevated six feet above the ground at its lower end, and 15 at its upper: the country people call it Lachan Schal, or “the Great Altar.”

Numerous other cromlechs are dispersed through various parts of’ the county. Not far from the spa of Ballyspellane is a large stone, formerly supported by several smaller: it is called Cloghbannagh, or “the Stone of Blessing.” Not far from it is a conical stone, lying on its side. The remains of another heap, called Cloghan- carneen, may be seen at Ballynasliegh, near Durrow.

Many human bones have been found in the neighbourhood, and, among others, a skeleton enclosed between flags, with a horn near it. On the Hill of Garryduff, in Fiddown parish, is a place called Leibe-na-cuhn, or “the Dog’s Grave,” around which are the remains of ranges of stones. Several small urns containing ashes were found in front of a great stone in Kilbeacon parish, and in other places.

Raths are very numerous in some districts, particularly in Galmoy and near the Nore; they are of various shapes, and are formed of one, two, or three enclosures. Chambers under ground, roofed with flags, are found not accompanied by raths.

At Earlsrath is a very large fort, enclosed by a fosse, in the area of which are the vestiges of buildings. Some large moats are observable in several parts: the largest are at Callan, Kilkenny, and Castlecomer; one of them, at Rathbeath, is pointed out as the place where Hereman built his palace and was buried.

There are five round towers: one at St. Canice, a few feet from the southern side of the cathedral; another at Tulloherm; a third at Kilree; a fourth at Fertagh, or Fertagh-na- geiragh; of the fifth, at Aghaviller, only the lower part remains.

In the parish of Macullee is a place called Reighlig-na-lughduigh, or “the Burying-place of the Black Lough,” where are some upright stones, near which human bones and several bronze spear-heads were found. There is a faint tradition that a great battle had been fought here.

Besides the ruined abbeys in the city of Kilkenny , there were two very celebrated monasteries of the Cistertian order, one at Jerpoint, the other at Graig. The Dominicans had abbeys at Rossbercon and at Thomastown, and the Carmelites at Knocktopher. An old abbey is said to have stood at Barrowmount; another near Kellymount; and a second monastery, not noticed by writers on the monastic antiquities of Ireland, at Thomastown.


The number of castles, though much diminished by the ravages of time and internal commotions, is still very great, but most consist of a single tower. Granny or Grandison Castle , in Iverk, is one of the most considerable: it was the residence of Margaret Fitzgerald, the great Countess of Ormond, a lady of uncommon talents and qualifications, who is said also to have built the castles of Balleen and Coolkill, with several others of minor note.

The Butlers owned the castles of Knocktopher, Gowran, Dunfert, Poolestown, Nehorn, Callan, Ballycallan, Damagh, Kilmanagh, and Urlingford. King John built a castle at Tybrackny, where also are the foundations of a Danish town and a tombstone with Danish sculptures.

The castles of Drumroe, Barrowmount, and Low Grange, are said to have belonged to Lord Galmoy; those of Stroan, Kilfane, Clofouke, Conahy, Ballyfoyle, and Cloranke, to the family of the Purcells; that of Cowen to the Brennans; those of Castlemorres, Frenystown, and Foulksrath, to the families whose names they bear; and those of Bishopscourt and Kilbline to the Currys. The Shortalls possessed the castles of Cloghmanta, Kilrush, Tubbrid, Killeshuran, and Balief; the two latter, as well as that of Seskin near Durrow, are round.

Gaulstown Castle belonged to a branch of the De Burgos; Grenan, said to have been built in the time of King John, to a family of the name of Den; the Walshes of the mountains held numerous castles in that district; Courtstown, Ballylench, and some others, belonged to the Graces; Dunfert, corrupted into Danesfort, was erected by William, Earl Marshal. The modern mansions of the nobility and gentry are noticed in the account of the parishes in which they are respectively situated.


The farm-houses are generally built of stone, oftener cemented with clay than mortar; some of the better kind are slated, but thatch is most general; some may be comfortable, but few are neat or cleanly. The residences of rich farmers are generally inferior to their means; but the greatest defect is in the offices, which are sometimes covered with potatoe stalks, forming a very bad thatch, and sometimes with heath, which is not much better.

Ash trees are often planted near the farm-houses, and, towards the border of Munster, cherry trees. The offices generally form an irregular yard in the front of the house, wholly or at least partially occupied by the dunghill. The most usual tenure for farms is for thirty-one years, or three lives: some land in the hilly districts is held at will, but tenures of this description are decreasing; the inhabitants of these districts, who generally live in scattered villages and hold in partnership, usually obtaining a joint lease for years.

There is not much land in mortmain: the see of Ossory possesses about 9300 acres, besides the manors of Durrow and Freshford. The condition of the labouring poor is wretched in the extreme: it is only by slow degrees that they can procure articles of clothing; turf is their general fuel, in consequence of the high price of coal; potatoes, with milk when it can be procured, are almost their only food; sometimes, but not always, salt is added, and occasionally a herring. The clothing is frieze and flannel; the women wear stuff petticoats; straw hats manufactured at home, and estimated at from sixpence to a shilling, are commonly worn by both sexes. The English language is very generally spoken.


At Ballyspellane, in Galmoy barony, is a mineral spa, celebrated both for the medicinal properties imputed to it, and by the lines written on it by the witty and eccentric Dr. Sheridan, the friend of Swift; the water is best drunk on the spot, as the carbonic acid gas contained in it, and to which its effects are chiefly attributable, soon evaporates on exposure to the air. Chalybeate spas, but not of much strength, exist near St. John’s bridge on the Nore, near the marble hill on the same river, and at Jerpoint Abbey. In the Castlecomer collieries there are also some weak chalybeates, and others are to be found dispersed through the county. Springs of very pure transparent water are also numerous; most of them are named after some saint, and have a patron annually held near them.

Kilkenny Town.

KILKENNY, a city and, including Irishtown, a county of itself, and the seat of the diocese of Ossory, locally in the county of KILKENNY, of which it is the chief town, and in the province of LEINSTER, 24 miles (N. E. by N.) from Clonmel, and 57½ (S. W.) from Dublin, on the river Nore and the mail coach road to Cork ; containing 23,741 inhabitants.

This place is supposed by some writers to have derived its name from Coil or Kyle-Ken-Ni, “the wooded head, or hill, near the river; and by others, with more probability, from the dedication of its church to St. Canice, on the removal of the ancient see of Ossory from Aghavoe to this place, about the year 1052, which had been originally founded at Saiger, now Seir-Keran, about 402.

Of the earlier history of the town little is recorded previously to 1173, when Donald O’Brien, King of Thomond, assembled his forces to dispossess the English invaders under Strongbow, who had established themselves and erected a fortress here soon after their landing in Ireland. On this occasion Strongbow retreated to Waterford , and abandoned the castle to the enemy by whom, together with the town, it was demolished, and the surrounding country laid waste.

In 1192, the English appear to have settled themselves firmly at this place; and in 1195, William Le Mareschal, who had succeeded to Strongbow’s possessions, rebuilt the castle on a larger scale and restored the town, which became one of the principal residences of his successors and the head of the palatinate of Kilkenny.

About this time arose that portion of the present town which is more especially called Kilkenny, and which was more immediately connected with the castle, in contradistinction to the original town on the opposite bank of a small river flowing into the Nore, called Irishtown. Each had its separate and independent municipal government, the former under the lords of the castle, and the latter under the bishops of Ossory, who ceded a portion of it to William Le Mareschal, by whom the burgesses of Kilkenny were incorporated and endowed with many privileges, among which was exemption from toll in all his territories of Leinster.

Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hereford, marrying a daughter of William Le Mareschal, obtained as her dower the county of Kilkenny, which subsequently passed by marriage again to Hugh, grandfather of Thomas Le Spencer, from whom it was purchased by James Butler, third Earl of Ormonde.

A great council of the barons of the English pale was held here in 1294; and in 1309 a parliament assembled at this place, in which severe laws were enacted. against such of the English settlers as should adopt the Irish customs; and anathemas against all who should infringe them were denounced in the cathedral by the Archbishop of Cashel and other prelates who assisted on that occasion.

In 1317, Lord Roger Mortimer, justiciary of Ireland , and the English nobles, held a council here to deliberate on the most effectual means of opposing the ravages of Edward Bruce; and an army of 30,000 men was assembled, and great numbers of families sought refuge in the town under the general alarm. Parliaments were held here in 1327 and 1330, when an army assembled here to drive Brien O’Brien from Urkuffs, near Cashel; in 1331 a parliament was adjourned to this place from Dublin, and in 1341 a grand meeting of the principal nobility took place, assisted by the chief officers of the king’s cities, to petition for the better government of Ireland.

Parliaments were also held in 1347, 1356, and 1367, at which last, held before Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the celebrated statute of Kilkenny was enacted; and also in 1370 and 1374, in which latter Sir William de Windsor was sworn into the office of Lord-Lieutenant. Letters patent were granted in 1375 to the burgesses, and renewed in 1384, authorising them to appropriate certain customs for building and repairing the walls; and in 1399, Richard II., on his progress through the south of Ireland, arrived from Waterford at this place, where he was entertained for fourteen days by the Earl of Ormonde, Robert Talbot, a kinsman of the earl’s, in 1400, encompassed the greater portion of the town with walls; and in 1419 the townsmen received a grant of tolls for murage.

During the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster, the town was taken and plundered by the Earl of Desmond, who was an adherent of the latter; and in 1499 the burgesses, headed by their sovereign, marched out in aid of the Butlers against Tirlagh O’Brien, but were defeated. The last parliament held in the town was held in 1536, and was adjourned to Cashel; but this place still continued to be the occasional residence of the lords-lieutenant, and the chief seat of their government, for which purpose Hen. VIII. granted to the corporation the site and precincts of the Black friars’ monastery, on condition of their furnishing certain accommodation free of expense to the chief governor of Ireland, when in Kilkenny; from which they were subsequently released on payment of a fine of £70, Sir Peter Carew, in his progress to resist the aggressions of the Butlers and Desmonds, in 1568, took possession of the town, which was soon after invested by Fitz-Maurice, brother of Desmond; but the spirited conduct of the garrison compelled him to retire.

In the parliamentary war of 1641 this place was distinguished as the theatre of contention; it was seized by Lord Mountgarret, and in the following year a general synod of the Catholic clergy was held here, and a meeting of deputies from the confederate Catholics from all parts of the kingdom took place in the house of Mr. R. Shee, in the present coal market. The lords, prelates, and commons all sat in the same chamber; and the clergy who were not qualified to sit as barons assembled in convocation in another house; and a press was erected in the city, at which were printed all the decrees of the synod.

On the arrival of Rinuncini, the Pope’s nuncio, the city and suburbs were placed under an interdict, for accepting the peace which had been concluded at this meeting; and in 1648 a plot was discovered for betraying the city and the supreme council into the hands of the nuncio and the party of O’Nial. Cromwell, relying on the promises of an officer of the garrison, advanced before the city though unprepared to besiege it, in the hope of obtaining it by treachery; but the plot was discovered and the agent executed, Having, however, received large reinforcements under Ireton, he again appeared before it on the 23rd March, 1650, and commenced a regular siege; the garrison, originally consisting of 200 horse and 1000 foot, but reduced by the plague to 300, made a resolute defence under Sir Walter Butler, who had been appointed governor by Lord Castlehaven, but was at length compelled to surrender upon honourable terms.

The city, which occupies an area of nearly a square mile, is intersected from north to south by the river Nore, dividing it into two very unequal portions, of which the larger, containing the castle, is on its western bank; and near the northern extremity, on the same side of the river, is that portion of it called Irishtown, containing the cathedral, and separated from the former by the small river Breagh, which here falls into the Nore.

The streets are very irregular, but the city has an air of venerable magnificence, from its castle, cathedral, and the numerous and imposing remains of its ancient religious edifices, and is seen to great advantage from the high eastern bank of the river, and from the rising ground on the road to Clonmel. The houses in the principal streets are generally built of stone, and many of them are spacious and handsome, especially in that part of it properly called Kilkenny, in which the chief modern improvements have taken place; the total number of houses, in 1831, was 2800, since which time the number has increased.

There are two elegant stone bridges over the Nore, erected after designs by Mr. G. Smith, to replace two which were destroyed in 1763 by a great flood; St. John’s bridge consists of three arches, and Green’s bridge connects Irishtown with the opposite bank. The environs are in many parts extremely pleasing, and there is a fine promenade called the Mall, extending nearly a mile along the bank of a canal commenced many years since, but never completed, and also along the banks of the Nore and the base of the castle, beautifully planted with ornamental trees of fine growth.

At a short distance from the city are infantry barracks for l5 officers and 558 non- commissioned officers and privates, a neat range of buildings of modern erection; there is also a temporary barrack for one squadron of horse, The library, established in 1811 by a proprietary, and supported by subscription, contains more than 4000 volumes, and has a newsroom attached to it; it is open to strangers introduced by a subscriber, The Mechanics’ Friend Society, established in 1835, for diffusing information among the working classes, and supported by subscription, has a library of 700 volumes, and a room in which lectures on the arts and sciences are gratuitously delivered. The Horticultural Society holds two meetings in the year; and races are held in September on a course at a short distance from the town, and are generally well attended.

The Kilkenny Hunt has been long established, and is considered as the most celebrated in Ireland . The savings’ bank, established in 1816, under the patronage of the Earl of Ormonde, had, in 1836, deposits to the amount of £23,784, and 801 depositors.

In the 16th century, Piers, Earl of Ormonde, with a view to benefit the town by the introduction of manufactures, brought over several artificers from Flanders and the neighbouring provinces, whom he employed in working tapestry, diapers, and carpets, but the manufacture did not extend beyond the supply of the castle and was soon discontinued.

The manufacture of coarse frieze was extensively carried on here in the reign of Chas. II., but was withdrawn to Carrick-on-Suir, and succeeded by the wool-combing and the worsted trade, which, about the middle of the last century, were superseded by the manufacture of blankets, which became the principal trade both of the city and the county.

In 1821, from 3000 to 4000 persons were employed in this manufacture; but on the expiration of the protecting duties, the trade became greatly depressed, and at present not more than 600 persons are employed in it, and even these at greatly reduced prices; the blankets made here are still in great repute, and are purchased for the supply of the army.

There is also a small manufacture of coarse woollen cloth, but the principal trade is in corn, and in the immediate neighbourhood are several very extensive flour-mills, three large distilleries, four breweries, two tanneries, some extensive yards for curing bacon, some salt-works, and several considerable starch-manufactories.

Coarse linens are woven by the country people for domestic wear, and there is a large bleach-green. About half a mile from the city are quarries of the well known Kilkenny marble, which has a black ground with white veins interspersed with shells and marine exuviae, and is susceptible of a very high polish. It is mostly worked into mantel-pieces of great beauty, and is cut and polished in a mill moved by water power, erected on the bank of the river, about two miles from the town, in the parish of Blackrath; great quantities of the marble are exported.

Limestone is also quarried in various parts of the county of the city. The amount of excise duties paid in the district of Kilkenny, for the year 1835, was £70,665. 16. 11½. The markets are on Wednesday and Saturday, and are amply supplied with corn and provisions of every kind. Two great fairs are held on March 28th and Corpus Christi day; they are great cattle and wool fairs, which regulate the prices of all the others, and are attended by graziers from all parts of Ireland : there are also several other fairs, established by recent patents. An area in the lower part of the spacious old building called the Tholsel is appropriated as a market-house.

The charter granted to the burgesses by William Le Maresehal was confirmed, with all its privileges, by Edw. III., in the 1st year of his reign; and in the 51st of the same reign the sovereign, portreeve, and commonalty of Kilkenny were by a roll enjoined not to interfere with the freedom of the market of Irishtown, the inhabitants of which obtained from Edw. IV. a confirmation of the grant of their market, and the privilege of choosing a portreeve annually, independently of Kilkenny, Edw. VI. confirmed all the ancient privileges of the burgesses of Kilkenny, as enjoyed by them during the reign of Hen. VIII., and granted them the dissolved priory of St. John , with all its possessions, at a fee-farm rent of £16. 6. 4. Elizabeth , in 1574, confirmed the several rights of both boroughs, but, to obviate the disputes that arose from having two corporations in the same town, constituted them one body corporate under the designation of “The Sovereign, Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Town of Kilkenny .” Jas, I., in 1608, made the towns of Kilkenny and Irishtown, with the parishes of St. Mary, St. John, St. Canice, and St. Patrick, a free borough, and in the following year granted additional privileges, erected the borough into a free city, under the designation of the mayor and citizens of the city of Kilkenny, and constituted the city and its liberties a distinct county, to be called the county of the city of Kilkenny, Chas. I., in 1639, granted to the mayor and citizens the monasteries of the Black and Grey friars, with several rectories and other possessions; and Jas. II. gave the citizens a new charter, which never came into operation, the city being governed by the charter of Jas. I. Under this charter the corporation consists of a mayor, two sheriffs, 18 aldermen, 36 common-councilmen, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, treasurer, two coroners, a town-clerk, four serjeants-at-mace, and other officers.

The mayor, who is also custos rotulorum, escheator, clerk of the market, and master of the assay, is chosen annually from the aldermen by the aldermen and councilmen, on the next Monday after the 24th of June, and has power to appoint a deputy, during illness or necessary absence, chosen from such of the aldermen as have served the office of mayor. The sheriffs are elected annually from the common-councilmen by the aldermen and councilmen, on the same day as the mayor.

The aldermen are chosen for life from the common-councilmen by the mayor and aldermen; and the common-councilmen are chosen from the freemen by the aldermen and councilmen, who also appoint the recorder, and the treasurer and town-clerk are appointed by the corporation. There is also a corporation of the staple.

The freedom of the city is obtained by birth, marriage, servitude, and favour of the corporation. The burgesses of lrishtown still continue to elect their portreeve annually under the direction of the Bishop of Ossory; he is clerk of the market, and presides in his court held weekly for the recovery of debts under 40s., but has no magisterial jurisdiction.

Each borough returned two members to the Irish parliament; Kilkenny first in 1374, and Irishtown at a much earlier period; both continued to do so till the Union , when Irishtown was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded in compensation was paid to the Board of First Fruits, to be applied to the uses of that fund. Since that period the city has sent only one member to the Imperial parliament.

The right of election, previously in the freemen of the city and 40s. freeholders of the county of the city, was, by the act of the 2nd of Win. IV., cap. 88, vested in the resident freemen and £10 householders, and in £20 and £10 leaseholders for the respective terms of 14 and 20 years; the 40s. freeholders retain the privilege only for life.

The number of registered voters at the close of 1836 was 808. No alteration has taken place in the electoral boundary of the borough, which is co-extensive with the county of the city: the sheriffs are the returning officers. The mayor, recorder, and all the aldermen who have served the office of mayor, are justices of the peace, and under their charter hold quarterly courts of session, with criminal jurisdiction within the county of the city; and a court of record, called the Tholsel, for the determination of actions to any amount exceeding £20, every Tuesday and Friday.

Assizes for the county of the city, and for the county at large, are held here twice in the year; and quarter sessions for the county of Kilkenny are held in rotation with the towns of Castlecomer, Thomastown, and Urlingford. A peace preservation force is stationed in the city, the expense of maintaining which, for 1835, amounted to £712. 15. 10. The court-house, called Grace’s Old Castle , contains courts both for the city and for the county at large, and is a spacious and handsome modern building, occupying part of the site of the ancient castle of the family of Grace, of whom William Grace, or Le Gras, its first founder, was seneschal of Leinster and governor of Kilkenny. The city gaol is a badly constructed edifice, containing seven cells, but not adapted to the classification of prisoners. The county gaol is a spacious modern building of stone, a little to the west of the city: it contains 48 cells, is well arranged for classification, and has a tread- mill and a well-conducted school.

The SEE of OSSORY, which, like that of Meath, takes its name from a district, was originally established at Saiger, now Seir-Kieran, in the territory of Ely O’Carrol, about the year 402, by St. Kieran, after his return from Rome, where he had remained 20 years in the study of the Christian faith, and had been consecrated a bishop. He was accompanied on his return by five other bishops, who also founded sees in other parts of Ireland , and after presiding over this see for many years is supposed to have died in Cornwall , as stated by the English martyrologists.

Of his successors, who were called Episcopi Saigerenses, but very imperfect accounts are preserved. Carthag, his disciple and immediate successor, died about the year 540, from which period till the removal of the see from Saiger to Aghavoe, about the year 1052, there appears to have been, with some few intervals, a regular succession of prelates.

The monastery of Aghavoe was founded by St. Canice, of which he was the first abbot, and in which he died about the year 600; and after the removal of the see from Saiger, there is little mention of the bishops of Aghavoe, in whose succession there is a chasm of 73 years till the time of Donald O’Fogarty, who was consecrated in 1152, and assisted at the synod of Kells held under Cardinal Paparo, as vicar-general and bishop of Ossory. Felix O’Dullany, who succeeded him in l178, removed the see from Aghavoe to the city of Kilkenny , as a place of greater security, where he laid the foundation of the cathedral church of St. Canice , which was continued at a great expense by Hugh Mapelton, and completed by Geoffrey St. Leger, about the year 1270. Bishop St. Leger gave to the vicars choral his manse and lodgings, formerly the episcopal palace, previously to the erection of the palaces of Aghor and Dorogh; and William Fitz-John, who succeeded in 1302, appropriated the church of Claragh to the abbey of St. John the Evangelist, with a reservation of 20s. to the vicars choral of St. Canice. Richard Ledred, who was consecrated in 1318, beautified the cathedral and rebuilt and glazed all the windows, of which the great east window contained some exquisite specimens of scripture history in stained glass, for which Rinuncini, the pope’s nuncio, in 1645, offered £700; he also built the episcopal palace, near the cathedral. Bishop Hacket, who succeeded in 1460, built the arch of the tower of the cathedral of hewn stone, and appropriated the parish church of Rallybur to the vicars choral; and Oliver Cautwell, who succeeded in 1488, repaired the episcopal palaces, rebuilt the bridge of Kilkenny (which had been destroyed by a flood), and gave the church of St. Mael to the vicars choral of St. Canice.

Milo Baron, who was consecrated in 1527, repaired the episcopal palace and gave a silver staff to the cathedral; and Nicholas Walsh, his successor, was the first who introduced types of the Irish character, in which he had prayer books and a catechism printed in the Irish language. Jonas Wheeler, consecrated in 1613, recovered the lands of Tasscoffin, Grangecoolpobble, Freinston, and Sheskin Wood, which Bishop Thonory had alienated, and obtained a grant of the manor of Breghmoe, in King’s county, which was confirmed to the see in 1619 by Jas. I. Griffith Williams, who succeeded to the prelacy in 1641, laid out £1400 in repairing the cathedral, and £300 in beautifying the chancel; and gave to the see many of his lands in Caernarvonshire and other parts of Wales.

Bishop Parry, in 1672, enriched the see by the recovery of alienated lands; and Thomas Otway, who succeeded in 1679, founded the library of the cathedral in the churchyard, and gave all his books for the use of the clergy of the diocese; he also embellished the cathedral and gave to it a service of communion plate weighing 363 ounces.

The see of Ossory continued to be a separate diocese till 1835, when, on the death of the late Dr. Elrington, Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, both those dioceses were, under the provisions of the Church Temporalities’ Act of the 3rd and 4th of Win. IV., annexed to it, and their temporalities vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The diocese, which is one of the five that constitute the ecclesiastical province of Dublin , comprehends the county of the city of Kilkenny , the whole of the barony of Ossory, in Queen’s county, the parish of Seir- Kyran, in King’s county, and the greater part of the county of Kilkenny .

It extends 60 miles in length, and 18 in breadth, and comprises an estimated superficies of 346,000 acres, of which 60,000 are in Queen’s county, 4100 in King’s county, and 281,000 in the county and county of the city of Kilkenny . The lands belonging to the see comprise 21,730 statute acres of profitable land; and the gross annual revenue, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1831, was returned at £3859. The chapter, consists of a dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, archdeacon, and the seven prebendaries of Blackrath, Aghoure, Mayne, Killamery, Tasscoffin, Kilmanagh and Cloneamery.

The vicars choral, three in number, are a corporate body, endowed with various lands and tithes in the city and county of Kilkenny; the former comprising nearly 269 acres, and, tcgether with the tithes, producing a rental of £200. 1. 10. The economy fund amounts to £444. 1. 1¾., arising from houses and premises in the city, and from tithes in the county. The consistorial court consists of a vicar-general, surrogate, three proctors and two registrars, who are keepers of the records of the see, which are all modern documents, the earliest being wills dated 1634. The total number of parishes in the diocese is 146, comprised in 62 benefices, of which 27 are unions of two or more parishes, and 35 single parishes; of these 11 are in the gift of the crown, 16 in lay and corporation patronage, 5 in joint or alternate presentation, and the remainder in the patronage of the bishop and incumbents.

The total number of churches is 52, and there are also six other places where divine service is performed; and the number of glebe-houses is 36. The cathedral church, dedicated to St. Canice, and situated on a gentle eminence at the western extremity of the city, is a spacious and venerable cruciform structure, in the early English style of architecture, with a low massy central tower supported on clustered columns of black marble, and lofty pointed arches, affording entrances from the nave into the choir and transepts.

The exterior walls, with the exception only of the gables, are embattled, and at the west end the pinnacles form two small spires. The whole length of the building is 226 feet, and the breadth along the transepts 123 feet. The interior is lofty and of chaste and elegant design; the nave is separated from the aisles by an elegant range of five clustered columns of black marble on each side, with lofty and gracefully moulded arches, and lighted by a large west window of elegant design, and a range of five clerestory windows; the aisles are lighted by four windows on each side the choir, of similar character, has a beautifully groined ceiling, embellished with delicate tracery and numerous modillions, and a central group of cherubs, festoons, and foliage of exquisite richness. A transept, on the eastern side, is built by Bishop Pococke, and to chapter-house. On the eastern side of the north transept is a door leading through a dark passage into the chapel of St. Mary, where the parochial vicar of St. Canice formerly officiated; and adjacent to it, on the same side, is the present parish church, containing the tomb of Bishop Gafney, who died in 1576.

In various parts of the cathedral are several ancient monuments, of which the most remarkable is that of Bishop David, near the consistorial court, now much defaced; eight of the bishops of Ossory and several of the noble proprietors of the castle are interred here; and in the transept is a stone seat, called the Chair of St. Kieran.

Within a short distance from the south transept are the remains of an ancient round tower, 108 feet high and 47 feet in circumference at the base, and crowned at its summit with a low battlement. The cemetery is finely planted, and is approached from the town by a flight of marble steps. Near the east end of the cathedral is the episcopal palace, a commodious and handsome residence; and on the south-eastern side is the deanery, a good building.

At the north-western end of the churchyard is the diocesan library, founded in 1692 by Bishop Otway, who left £5 per annum to the librarian, and £5 for coal; it was enlarged in 1756, by Bishop Maurice, who increased the stipend of the librarian by an annuity of £20, and contributed largely to the collection, which now contains 3000 volumes.

In the R. C. divisions, this diocese, as originally constituted, is a separate bishoprick, being one of the three suffragan to the archiepiscopal see of Dublin : it comprises 32 parochial benefices or unions, containing 94 chapels served by 88 clergymen, of whom 32, including the bishop, are parish priests, and 56 coadjutors or curates. The parochial benefices of the bishop are the unions of St. Mary and St. John , Kilkenny, in the former of which is the R. C. cathedral and the bishop’s residence. The diocese is divided into three districts, called the northern division, or Conference of Ballyragget; the middle division, or Conference of Kilkenny; and the southern division, or Conference of Ballyhale, where chapters of the clergy are held.

The county of the city comprehends the parishes of St. Mary, St. Patrick, St. John , and St. Canice, and comprises 16,400 statute acres: the total amount of Grand Jury assessments of 1836 was £2816. The parish of St. Mary is entirely within the city: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Bishop.

The church, for the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits, in 1819, granted a loan of £1200, is an elegant cruciform structure, with a tower and spire, situated in the High-street. The glebe-house, for which the same Board gave £400 and lent £350, is a good residence; and there is a small glebe near the church.

The parish of St. Patrick is about one mile and a half in length, and nearly the same in breadth: the living is a rectory and vicarage, united to the rectory of Aghaboe, and the rectory and vicarage of Urlingford, together constituting the corps of the deanery of Ossory, in the patronage of the Crown; the tithes amount to £500, and of the union to £1176. 3. 1. The parish of St. John comprises 5318 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £7016 per annum. Fairs, for which patents have recently been obtained, are held here on Feb. 15th, May 6th, Sept. 23rd, and Nov. 10th.

The living is a vicarage, united by act of council, in the reign of Hen. VIII., to the vicarage of Clara, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the rectory is impropriate in the corporation of Kilkenny. The tithes amount to £576. 2., of which £373. 0. 6. is payable to the corporation, and £203. 1. 6. to the vicar; the tithes of the whole union, payable to the incumbent, amount to £293. 1. 6.

The church is part of the ancient monastery of St. John the Evangelist, restored agreeably to the character of the ancient building, which was of elegant design and elaborate execution; it contains the mutilated relics of ancient sepulchral monuments to the Butler, Grace, and Purcel families. There is no glebe-house; the glebe is situated in the parish of Clara, and comprises 15 acres.

The parish of St. Canice, comprises 6159 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the living is a rectory and a vicarage, united by act of council from time immemorial to the rectories and vicarages of Ballybur and St. Martin, together forming the union of St. Canice, belonging to the vicars choral, who receive the tithes of the two first, amounting to £450; those of St. Martin are payable to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In the R. C. divisions the parish of St. Mary is the head of a union or district, coniprising also a small portion of St. John’s; the parish of St. Patrick is the head of a union, com-prising also the parishes of Castleinch and Outrath, and part of St. Canice; the parish of St. John is the head of a union, comprising also Rathcoole, Kilderry, and Kilmadrum; and the parish of St. Canice is the head of a union, comprising also the parish of St. Maul, and part of Ballybur.

There are four chapels, one in each parish: that of St. Canice is a handsome modern edifice, in the later English style; the others are all plain buildings. Adjoining St. Mary’s, which is the largest, is the residence of the R. C. bishop, and also the Presentation Convent, with a chapel attached to it: there is also a Capuchin friary, and a Dominican abbey, with chapels attached.

The grammar-school, called the college of Kilkenny, was originally founded by Piers Butler, Earl of Ormonde, and a new charter was granted to it by the Duke of Ormonde, in 1684; but it fell into disuse during the war of the Revolution, and Jas. II. founded on its site a royal college, which continued only for a short time, when the original establishment was restored. The house, having gone to decay, was rebuilt in 1782, by parliamentary grants, amounting to £5064, and is adapted to the accommodation of 80 boarders.

Provision is made for the education of scholars on the foundation, to be afterwards admitted into Trinity College, Dublin; and the children of freemen are entitled to instruction at half the usual terms. It was endowed by the Duke of Ormonde with a house for the master in John-street, with eight acres of land attached to it, and with £140 per annum charged on the Ormonde estate, for the maintenance of a master and ushers, and the repair of the house; the salary of the master of the diocesan school, which has been discontinued, is also paid to the master of this school, who is appointed by the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, and is to teach the classics, poetry, and oratory; the Bishop of Ossory, Leighlin, and Ferns, and the Provost of Trinity College are visiters.

Among many eminent men, who have been educated in this establishment, were Stanihurst,. the historian; Swift; Congreve Farquhar; Harris, the continuator of Ware; Provost Baldwin; Dr. Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne; and several other distinguished literary characters.

At Birchfield, near the city, is a R. C. seminary for the education of students intended for the priesthood. Bishop Pococke bequeathed the whole of his property to the Incorporated Society of Dublin for promoting English Protestant schools, for the foundation of a school for R. C. children from 12 to 16 years of age, to be instructed in the principles of the Protestant religion, and bred to the linen-weaving trade, for which purpose he appropriated his manufacturing house at Lintown, which is amply endowed: there are, at present, about 24 boys in the school, and as many looms in the factory; and the curate of the parish, with a salary of £10, is catechist to the school, which now occupies the building of the old charter-school.

A parochial school for the city at large is supported by a bequest of £100 per annum from the late Mr. Evans, an annual donation from the bishop and dean, and by subscription; and there are also an infants’ school and others. The ladies of the Presentation Convent gratuitously instruct more than 300 female children. The total number of children taught in the public schools exceeds 1100; and there are various private schools, in which are more than 1500 children. There is also an orphan-house for girls, under the patronage of the ladies of the Presentation Convent, for the establishment of which a large sum was given by Mr. Murphy, of this city.

Adjoining the library in St. Canice’s churchyard is an almshouse for eight poor women, founded by Bishop Williams, who endowed it with lands at Fermoy, which were sold by his executors; but the inmates receive small annuities from different estates of the Waring family. In the coal market was an hospital, founded by Thomas, tenth Earl of Ormonde, who died in 1614; he endowed it with the impropriate tithes of Drominberran and Bewley, to which were added those of Inch and Drumboth by the great Duke of Ormonde, who obtained from Chas. II. a charter incorporating the master, brethren, and sisters. The house having gone to decay, a smaller one was built in High-street by the present family, consisting of two stories, with four rooms on each floor, inhabited by eight poor widows, who receive small payments; it is called the Ormonde poor-house.

In Rose-Inn-street is an hospital founded in 1581, by Sir R. Shee, Knt., who endowed it with the tithes of Butler’s-woods and Kilmocahill, in the counties of Kilkenny and Carlow, for the support of twelve poor men and women; but the tithes have long been detained in lay hands, and Gen. St. Ruth bequeathed some property, vested in the French funds; but the inmates, who are now all females, receive only small gratuities, from the family of Shee, by whom they are nominated, and alms collected at the chapel of St. Mary.

In a pleasant situation is a range of almshouses, called St. James’ Asylum, founded and endowed, in 1803, by James Switzer, Esq., for twenty poor widows, twelve Protestant, and eight R. C., each of whom, in addition to residence, receives £20 per annum; in the area in front of the building is a statue of the founder, who was a native of the city.

The widow of Edw. Cramer bequeathed £7. 10. per annum (turnpike debentures) for supplying the poor of St. Mary’s parish with bread, to be distributed at the church by the curate, who also has the distribution of another bequest to the poor of that parish by Mr. Nicholai. Mr. Lewis Chapelier, of John-street, bequeathed, in trust, the interest of £500 to be given every second year, in a sum of £50 late currency, as a marriage portion to the daughter of a reputable tradesman, who should marry a tradesman of the town, both being Protestants. Sir William Fownes bequeathed the rents of two tenements in Patrick-street to charitable purposes; and £8 is accordingly given yearly to the county infirmary, and the rest in charitable pensions.

A large house and garden in Patrick-street, were bequeathed by Gen. St. Ruth, in trust, to pay £12 per annum to the poor; and a bequest for the same purpose by Mr. John Cramer was also made about the same time, but neither has been carried into effect. The late Rev. William Lanigan, P. P. of St. Patrick’s, bequeathed £1600, three per cent. consols., for the support of six poor widows, who receive the dividends, and a house is now being built for their reception.

The Charitable Society, formed in 1740, affords relief to sick tradesmen or their widows; and the Benevolent Society was established in 1785, for the relief of bedridden poor. A charitable loan was instituted by act of parliament in 1792, for lending small sums to poor tradesmen, free of interest; and the Ormonde charitable loan fund, for the same purpose, was established by the Ormonde family in 1834, for granting loans, repayable by small instalments.

The county infirmary was opened in 1767: it contains two male and two female wards, in each of which are 10 beds; external patients receive advice and medicine two days in every week; the average annual income is about £660, and the number of in-patients about 500, and of out-patients about 1059. The fever hospital was built at an expense of £1100, a loan from Government, and subsequently repaid by Grand Jury assessments; and the dispensary, founded in 1819, is supported by presentments and subscription, and a bequest of £100 per annum by the late Mr. Evans, which, in common with other charitable bequests by that gentleman, has been for some time suspended, from the non-payment of interest on certain debts chargeable on estates, for the sale of which proceedings have been for some years pending in the court of Chancery: patients unable to attend are visited at their own houses. There is also a house of industry, with an hospital for lunatics attached to it, which is now appropriated as an auxiliary to the county gaol.

The castle, originally built by Strongbow, and rebuilt by William Le Mareschal, occupies a commanding situation on an eminence overlooking the river Nore: it was enclosed with a wall 40 feet high, and defended by bastions, curtains, and towers of great strength, with a keep on the summit; and contained, in addition to accommodation for a large garrison, a splendid suite of apartments, the baronial residence of the Earls of Ormonde. It was for the greater part rebuilt by the second Duke of Ormonde, but not completed, and occupies at present two sides of a quadrangle, containing three of the round towers of the ancient castle: several of the rooms are hung with tapestry from the manufacture introduced by the Ormonde family, and it contains a fine collection of paintings, among which are numerous portraits of the time of Chas. II.

It is now being partly rebuilt on a splendid scale by the present Marquess, after a design by Mr. Robertson, of Kilkenny, and when completed will occupy three sides of a quadrangle, preserving the ancient towers, with the character of which the additional buildings will carefully harmonise. It commands extensive and interesting views, and will be one of the most magnificent baronial residences in the country. The other seats in the immediate vicinity of the city are Kilereen, formerly the seat of Sir W. de Montmorency, Bart. , and now the residence of Clayton Bayly, Esq.; Castle Blunden (formerly Clonmoran), of Sir J. Blunden, Bart, Bonnetstown, of P. Collis, Esq.; Rose Hill, of W. Robertson, Esq.; Orchardton, of the Dowager Countess of Carrick; Danville, of Christopher James, Esq.; Kilfeara, of H. Ryan, Esq.; The Cottage, of J. Green, Esq.; Sion, of M. Warren, Esq.; Hebron, of Major Jones; River View, of R. Collis, Esq.; and Johnswell, of A. P. Thomas, Esq.

The priory, or hospital, of St. John the Evangelist, founded by William Le Mareschal in 1220, not withstanding its long alienation from ecclesiastical uses, was, in 1641, taken possession of by a fraternity of Jesuits, who commenced its restoration; a great part of it was afterwards demolished, and the east window of its church, enriched with delicate tracery, and part of the south side of the choir formed a picturesque ruin till the year 1817, when it was restored, and became the parish church of St. John.

The annals of this house, called the Codex Kilkenniensis, were in high reputation, and formed part of the Chandos collection. The Dominican abbey, founded in Irishtown by William Le Mareschal the younger, in 1225, was dedicated to the Holy Trinity; and chapters of the order were held in it in 1281, 1302, 1306, and 1316; part of it was, subsequently to the Reformation, made a shire-house, and in 1640 the whole was repaired.

The remains of the abbey church are extensive and interesting; it was cruciform, with a central tower, which is still in good preservation, crowned with a graduated battlement with angular turrets; the windows and arches are of elegant design, and the nave and south transept are beautiful specimens of rich detail in the decorated English style; part has been lately restored for a R. C. chapel. Among the eminent persons interred in this church were the founder and his brother. The Franciscan abbey was founded previously to the year 1230, and a provincial chapter was held in it in 1267; it extended from the city walls to the river, and of its extensive remains, part has been converted into a brewery.

The body of the church is nearly entire, though without a roof, and is now used as a tennis court; at the west end are the relics of a lofty window of seven lights, and from the centre of the building rises a tower of light and elegant proportions, resting on finely groined arches, and apparently of the date of the 14th century. Within the precincts is a well of pure water, formerly held in great veneration, and still in high repute. John Clyn, an annalist of some celebrity, was a friar of this house.

All these houses after the Reformation were granted to the corporation. Part of a house in the coal-market, now divided into five or six tenements, is said to have been the chamber in which the parliaments held at Kilkenny assembled; it consisted of a hall, 49 feet long and 47 feet wide, under which was a dungeon, 20 feet square; the windows are arched, narrow, and lofty, and are defended with iron bars.

Among the eminent natives of this place were several bishops of various sees, of whom William Daniel, D. D. , a man of great learning, translated the book of Common Prayer from the English, and the New Testament from the Greek, into the Irish language, and was made Archbishop of Tuam in 1609. John Banim, author of the O’Hara Tales, and other works of imagination, is also a native of this place. Kilkenny gives the title of Earl to the family of Butler.