BANNOW, a parish

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

BANNOW, a parish, formerly a corporate town and parliamentary borough, in the barony of BARGY, county of WEXFORD, and province of LEINSTER, 1 ½ mile (N. E. by E.) from Fethard; containing 2185 inhabitants. This parish is of a peninsular form, being bounded on the south-east by Ballyteigue bay, in St. George's channel, and on the west by the bay or harbour of Bannow, which forms the estuary of the Scar river; and is situated near the new line of road along the east side of the mountain of Forth to Wexford. It formed part of the territory originally granted by Dermod Mac Murrough, last king of Leinster, to Hervey, who accompanied Robert Fitz-Stephen in his expedition, which landed at Bag-and-bun bay, within sight of this place. From an early period after the English settlement here was a town of some note, it being mentioned in the earliest charter of New Ross, by which, in the reign of Edw. I., Roger Bigod granted to the burgesses of that town "as extensive privileges as were enjoyed by the men of Bannow, Kilkenny, or any other town in Leinster."

The old town has long since disappeared: part of its site is covered with sand drifted from the sea, in some places to the depth of many feet; and the inequalities of the surface immediately adjoining the churchyard are supposed by some to be occasioned by the ruins of the town lying at a considerable depth, from which circumstance it has obtained the appellation of the Irish Herculaneum. It does not appear that there is any charter of the borough on record; but there are extant numerous inquisitions, post mortem, of the reigns of James I and Charles I., finding the seisin of certain parties in premises and rents in the town and burgages, which appear to have been held in burgage tenure, but they make no mention of a corporation. Notwithstanding the decay, if not the total annihilation of the town, it continued to send two representatives to the Irish parliament until the Union, when the £15,000 awarded in compensation for the abolition of the franchise was paid to Charles, Marquess of Ely, and Charles Tottenham, Esq., of Ballycurry, in the county of Wicklow.

The names of St. Mary's, St. Tullock's, and St. Benedict's streets are retained on the quit-rent books of the Crown, but their sites are merely conjectural. The only perceptible remains of antiquity are the ruins of its venerable church, situated within a walled enclosure at a short distance from the shore, and at an elevation of about 30 feet from the level of the sea: they are of considerable extent, and consist of the walls of the nave and chancel, surmounted by embattled parapets, and having two small chapels attached, the whole being unroofed; the east window of the chancel appears to have been in the decorated English style, and still retains some fragments of flowing tracery; the ancient font was removed some years since to the R. C. chapel at Danescastle, where it is preserved with great care. There are many ancient tombstones in the churchyard, one of which records the death of a person named French at the advanced age of 140.

The parish comprises by estimation about 2980 statute acres, as rated for the county cess, exclusively of Carrig, which is ecclesiastically incorporated with it. The soil, though light, is fertile and in a high state of cultivation, the system of husbandry having greatly improved; the land is well adapted to the growth of corn, and produces excellent crops; the situation is favourable for an abundant supply of sea manure, and has the advantages of navigation on both sides of the parish. The neighbourhood is thickly studded with comfortable farm-houses, decent cabins, and cottages of a superior description let to numerous families that resort hither during summer for the benefit of seabathing; and the roads throughout the parish are kept in excellent order.

The principal seats are Grange, that of S. Boyse, Esq., who is the chief proprietor of land in the parish; Graige House, the residence of R. Boyse Osborne, Esq.; Kiltra, of W. Marchant, Esq.; and Barrystown, the property of the Rev. R. King. A lead mine was worked to some extent by the late celebrated George Ogle, Esq., but since his death the works have been discontinued, as it is said from the vein being exhausted; and, according to Mr. Frazer, in his statistical survey of the county, silver was anciently procured on the lands of Barrystown; but this silver mine was probably the lead mine worked by Mr. Ogle, which might have contained more than the usual proportion of silver, and have thence derived its denomination of silver mine. The small farmers and the peasantry are comfortable in their circumstances and highly exemplary in their manners: in the whole parish there is not one resident mendicant, all who are able to work finding full employment. This desirable state of society is attributable to the active exertions of T. Boyse, Esq., and to the beneficial effects of an agricultural school established some years since by the Rev. W. Hickey, then vicar, under the auspices of S. Boyse, Esq., father of the above, who granted 40 acres of improvable land for that purpose: the pupils divided their time between the pursuits of study and agricultural labour; the best practical treatises on agriculture were adopted, and the most improved agricultural implements were in use; the school-house was built partly by a grant from the fund at the disposal of the lord-lieutenant, and is now occupied as a farm-house, and the school was conducted by Mr. Hickey until his removal to another benefice. This gentleman has distinguished himself by many popular writings on agriculture and gardening, and gave evidence of the efficiency of the establishment before a parliamentary committee in 1830.

Bannow bay produces an abundance of various kinds of fish. The harbour is navigable for vessels of 120 tons' burden: one side of the entrance to it is called the Isle of Bannow, it being connected with the mainland only by an isthmus of sand; from this there is a ferry to the barony of Shelburne, and between it, and the little port of Fethard or Feathard, is Bag-and-bun bay, where Robert Fitz-Stephen landed his troops for the conquest of Ireland. The harbour or creek is an out-port of Wexford, and the business of the customs here, and of the bar of Lough at the south-eastern extremity of the parish, is transacted by an officer residing at Cullenstown, near the latter place. At Newtown is a quay where coal, culm, and Welsh slate are landed and stored; timber is also brought hither from Waterford, and corn is occasionally shipped here, though mostly sent to Wexford by land; limestone from Slade, on the eastern side of Hook peninsula, is brought up the bay in boats averaging from 14 to 20 tons' burden. An agent from Lloyd's resides at this place.

At the bar of Lough is a coast-guard station, being one of the five comprised in the Wexford district, and there is a small detachment at the Isle of Bannow. Off this bar, and about ½ a mile from the shore, are two small islands, called the Keroe islands, on the larger of which a house was built a few years since by Mr. Boyse, as a temporary shelter for shipwrecked persons. The coast on both sides of the parish is much frequented for the purpose of sea-bathing; accommodation is afforded by most of the farmers, who let their houses during the season. Some of the inhabitants are engaged in the herring and cod fishery At Cullanstown are the remains of a castle, which about 70 years since was converted into a dwelling-house; the parapet and upper story have been taken down, and it has now the appearance of a modern building.

It is a vicarage, in the diocese of Ferns, and forms part of the union of Kilcavan or Kilkevan; the rectory is impropriate in Caesar Colclough, Esq. The tithes amount to £364. 17. 5 ¾., of which £212. 6. 2. is payable to the impropriator, and the remainder to the vicar. The church of the union is within the border of the parish of Kilcavan: the glebe-house, in this parish, about 2 ½ miles distant from it, was built by aid of a gift of £400 and a loan of £330 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1821. In the R. C. divisions this parish forms part of the union or district of Ballymitty, also called Bannow: the chapel is at Danescastle, in the parish of Carrig. On the decline of the agricultural school, which took place after the removal of Mr. Hickey, a private school, called the Bannow grammar school, for the preparation of young men for the Irish University, was established here by the Rev. H. Newland, D.D., author of the "Apology for the Church in Ireland," and other works connected with the state of religion in this country. The parochial school, for children of both sexes, is partly supported by subscription: the school-house was built at an expense of £150, of which £60 was a grant from the lord-lieutenant's fund: there is a national school at Danescastle, in which about 50 boys and 20 girls are taught, and there are three hedge schools in the parish. A dispensary is supported in the usual manner. About a mile from Danescastle there is a small convent of Augustine Friars, who are reputed to be the representatives of the more sumptuous monastery of that order, of which the ruins are among others in the neighbourhood of Clonmines: attached to it is a small but elegant chapel erected in 1829.—See CARRIG.

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