From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
The incorporation of the town as a county of itself is ascribed by tradition to King John; the shrievalty was held jointly with that of the county of Antrim. But although it existed as a separate county long prior to the time of Elizabeth, the charter of the 11th of her reign is the earliest on record containing such incorporation. Its boundaries are described in this charter and in one of the 7th of James I., with a reservation of the castle and its precincts, together with the ancient liberties and royalties appertaining to it, and of sites for a sessions-house and prison for the county of Antrim; but the latter charter excluded from the county of the town certain lands which had been granted and confirmed to the corporation by charter of the 44th of Elizabeth. The franchise now acknowledged is stated to differ from both, and to be in conformity with a riding of the franchises made by the corporation in 1785. In 1810 it was decided, on an issue tried at the assizes, that the lands of Straid and Little Ballymena, described by the charter of Elizabeth as being within the boundary, but not within that marked out by the charter of James, though still belonging to the corporation, are not within the franchise. This is probably a borough by prescription: the earliest notice of the existence of a corporation is in the record of a commission dated 1274, in which year the Scots landed on the neighbouring coast to assist the O'Neills against the English. Henry IV., in 1402, on the petition of the mayor and three burgesses released them, for one year, from the payment of the annual rent of 100s. for the customs, to aid them in rebuilding the town, which had been burned by his enemies.
Queen Elizabeth, in the 11th of her reign (1569), on a representation of the inhabitants that they had lost their letters patent in the disturbances and persecutions of rebels and enemies, by which they were deprived of the enjoyment of their franchises, granted a charter of incorporation conferring on them, besides several special immunities, all such other privileges and jurisdictions as the corporation of Drogheda possessed; and ordaining that they should hold the borough of the king, as of his castle of Knockfergus, at an annual rent of 10s., payable half-yearly, until the fortifications should be repaired and a grant of lands made, and then at a rent of £40 per annum. The grant of lands was conferred by charter of the 44th of Elizabeth, founded on an inquisition issued to ascertain the quantity which had previously belonged to the corporation. James I., in addition to the charter of the 7th of his reign, before noticed, granted others in the 10th and 20th, the former of which is now the governing charter, and the latter created fourteen persons and their successors a corporation, by the style of the "Mayor, Constables, and Society of the Merchants of the Staple." In the "new rules" of the 25th of Charles II., for regulating corporations in Ireland, it was ordained that the appointment of the mayor, recorder, sheriffs, and town-clerk should be subject to the approbation of the lord-lieutenant and privy council.
Charlotte Milligan Fox, sister of the poet Alice Milligan, was a founding member of the Irish Folk Song Society and an indefatigable field collector of Irish traditional music. Her singularly important work on Irish haprers is here presented for the twenty-first century reader. This edition of Annals offers a much greater number of illustrations than were included in the original 1911 publication, a full biographical introduction, an extensive bibliography of the writings of Milligan Fox and an appendix discussing the variant texts of Arthur O’Neills Memoirs.
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