BANAGHER, a market and post-town

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

BANAGHER, a market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the parish of RYNAGH, barony of GARRYCASTLE, KING'S county, and province of LEINSTER, 6 miles (N. W. by N.) from Parsonstown, and 64 miles (W. S. W.) from Dublin; containing 2636 inhabitants. This town is situated on the side of a hill, on the south bank of the Shannon, just above the influx of the little Brosna river, and at the junction of the roads from Parsonstown to Cloghan and Eyrecourt. The bridge, connecting it with the Galway shore, is one of the oldest across the Shannon: it consists of several small arches with projecting piers, and is very narrow and inconvenient, but of great strength and solidity. Latterly, however, this bridge, which is supposed to have stood between 400 and 500 years, has shown numerous symptoms of decay: it completely obstructs the navigation of the river, to remedy which a canal with a swing-bridge over it has been formed on the Galway side. Its military defences are very strong: on the King's county or Banagher side is a tête-du-pont mounting three pieces of heavy ordnance, and about a ¼of a mile lower down the river is a circular field work with six pieces of ordnance; on the Galway side to the right is a Martello tower, and on the left a small battery.

The town comprises about 500 houses, mostly well built; the streets are Macadamised. It has a reading-room; and close to the bridge are infantry barracks for 3 officers and 63 men. There are a distillery, brewery, malt-house, and tanyards; and the town has a good general trade with the rural population of the surrounding district. It is well situated for trade, having the advantages of steam navigation to Limerick and the sea, and of water communication with Athlone, Ballinasloe, and Dublin: the introduction of steam navigation on the Shannon, has greatly benefited the general trade of this place, and in the autumn of 1836 extensive surveys were made by order of Government, with a view to improve the navigation of this noble river. The market, originally granted in 1612 to Sir John McCoghlan, Knt., to be held on Thursday,— and to the corporation in 1628 on Monday,—is now held on Friday, and is a considerable corn market. Fairs are held on May 1st, Sept. 15th and three following days, Oct. 28th, and Nov. 8th; that held in September is a large fair for live stock, inferior only to that of Ballinasloe. Here is a station of the constabulary police.

The inhabitants were incorporated in 1628 by charter of Charles I., by which it was ordained that certain lands, altogether comprising 200 acres of arable and pasture land, and 70 acres of wood and moor, should be a free borough; l-13th of these lands was granted to Sir Arthur Blundell and his heirs, l-13th to Sir Matthew Derenzie and his heirs, and l-13th to each of the other burgesses named in the charter, to be held in free burgage at a rent of 3s. 1d. respectively. It further granted to the corporation 222 acres of arable and pasture land, and 7 acres of wood and moor, for the support of a resident preaching minister, whom they were to appoint; and 200 acres of arable and pasture, and 85 acres of wood and moor, for the maintenance of a schoolmaster in the town, to be appointed by the viceroy, or, in default, by a majority of the burgesses. It also contained a grant of a court with jurisdiction to the amount of £20; and constituted the sovereign, or his deputy, a justice of the peace within the borough, and coroner and clerk of the market, and empowered the corporation at large to send two members to the Irish parliament. The corporation was styled "The Sovereign, Burgesses, and Free Commons of the Borough and Town of Bannacher alias Bannagher;" and consisted of a sovereign and twelve burgesses, with power to admit freemen and appoint a recorder and other officers; but the corporate offices have not been filled up since the year 1800, when the borough was deprived of its right of parliamentary representation, and the £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to the Rt. Hon. William Brabazon Ponsonby. The sovereign formerly held, under the charter, a court for the recovery of debts to the amount of £20 late currency, which was discontinued about forty years since: the only court now held is a court of petty sessions every alternate Monday. The lands granted by the charter for a preaching minister are said to have been formerly held by a clergyman appointed by the corporation, who officiated in a church now fallen into decay in the town; but they have for many years become united to the rectory, and are now held by the incumbent of the parish.

At the entrance to the town is the parish church, a handsome edifice in the ancient English style of architecture, with a tower and spire, built in 1829 at an expense of £2286, of which £2030 was granted on loan by the late Board of First Fruits. There is also a R. C. chapel, a large plain building in good repair. A school was established by the corporation pursuant to the charter granting lands for its endowment: by an act of the 53rd of George III., cap. 107, these lands, which according to a survey made in 1817 comprised about 370 acres, of which about 233 acres are arable and pasture, were vested in the Commissioners of Education, and the schools placed under their control. The lands were formerly let at a rent of £300, but are now held by the master at a rent of £148. 17. 10. per annum, and the Board has recently proposed to allow him a salary of £200 on the condition of his surrendering all interest in them, with a view to their being placed under the superintendence of a local qualified agent. The school is held very near the town, and was suspended from 1798 to 1807: there are no free scholars on the establishment, which in no respect differs from an ordinary classical school, except that it is under the control of the Board. The parochial school in the town is aided by an annual donation from the incumbent; and there is a national school for boys and girls, aided by voluntary contributions, also a dispensary. In the vicinity is Cloghan Castle, the seat of Garrett O'Moore, Esq., and one of the oldest inhabited castles in Ireland; and a short distance to the south of the town, near the banks of the Little Brosna river, are the ruins of Garry castle, which gave name to the barony.—See RYNAGH.

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