FERMOY

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

FERMOY, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of CONDONS and CLONGIBBONS, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 17 ¼ miles (N. by E.) from Cork, and 108 ½ (S. W.) from Dublin, on the river Blackwater, and on the mail coach road from Cork to Dublin; containing 8690 inhabitants, of which number, 6976 are in the town. This place, which is now a grand military depot, is said to have originated in the foundation of a Cistertian abbey by the family of the Roches, in 1170, which was known as the abbey of Our Lady de Castro Dei, and after its dissolution was granted by Queen Elizabeth to Sir Richard Grenville, Knt.

The town, which commanded an important pass of the river, over which a bridge had been erected the preceding year, was, in 1690, attacked by 1500 of the Irish in the service of James II., commanded by General Carrol. The garrison, consisting only of a small party of Danes under Colonel Donep, had recourse to the stratagem of two trumpets sounding a march as of reinforcements advancing to their aid, and the assailants retreated with precipitation.

Though the inhabitants had obtained letters patent for a market and fairs, this place, at the close of the last century, consisted of a common carrier's inn and a few mud cabins only; but, in 1791, the late John Anderson, Esq., having purchased four-sixths of the manor, erected a commodious hotel and some good houses, and laid the foundation of its present prosperity.

In 1797, Government wishing to form a military station in a central part of the south of Ireland, made overtures to the proprietor, who, foreseeing the advantages to be derived from such an establishment, made a free grant of a site for that purpose, and erected temporary barracks on the south side of the river.

A handsome and substantial range of buildings, now called the East Barracks, was erected on the north-east side of the bridge in 1806, and in 1809 a second range, called the West Barracks. The former occupy three sides of a quadrangle, 800 feet long and 700 feet wide, with barracks in the rear for cavalry, the whole occupying an area of 16 ½ statute acres, and affording accommodation to 112 officers and 1473 non-commissioned officers and privates of infantry, and to 24 officers and 120 noncommissioned officers and privates of cavalry, with stabling for 112 horses, and other requisite appendages.

The West Barracks are nearly similar in arrangement, but less extensive. The whole establishment is adapted for 14 field officers, 169 officers, and 2816 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 152 horses. Attached to the West Barracks is an hospital for 42 patients, and at a short distance from the East Barracks is the general military hospital for about 130 patients.

The town is finely situated on the opposite banks of the river Blackwater, over which is a handsome stone bridge of 13 arches, widened about 40 years since by the late Mr. Anderson, and consists of a spacious square of handsome houses, the south side of which was the guard-house of the temporary barracks, and of several principal streets connected with others in a parallel direction by shorter streets intersecting them at right angles; also of Barrack-street, and a range of neat houses extending from the north end of the bridge.

The streets are partially paved and watched, under the provisions of an act of parliament obtained in 1808, and the inhabitants are amply supplied with water. There is a circulating library, and a news-room is supported by subscription at the principal hotel, where also is a billiard-room, and where assemblies and concerts are held. The theatre, some few years after it was built, was converted into a coach-manufactory; but a spacious warehouse on the north side of the river is occasionally fitted up for dramatic performances by the Cork company. Races are held annually about the end of September, and continue for a week, and it is in contemplation to apply for a king's plate; the race-course, a fine area of 120 acres to the north of the town, is also used as a ground for military exercises.

The environs abound with pleasing scenery, and the east side of the bridge, which is the only remaining portion of any building connected with the ancient village, is richly covered with ivy, presenting a picturesque object, heightened by the water of a mill-dam, which, crossing the river diagonally under its numerous arches, has the appearance of a natural waterfall. Adjoining the bridge is the entrance to Fermoy House, the residence of the late J. Anderson, Esq., to whom not only the town owes its prosperity, but the entire country is indebted for the important advantages resulting from the introduction of the mail coach system and the formation of many new and useful lines of road: it is now occupied by the lady of the late Major Hennis, and is a handsome mansion, beautifully situated on a gently sloping lawn bounded by the river.

The number of military stationed here is on an average nearly 2000, the supply of whom, in addition to its own population, affords employment to tradesmen and artisans of every kind; and hence the necessaries and luxuries of life are found here in as great profusion as in any of the larger towns in Ireland. There are some extensive flour-mills, paper-mills, and a public brewery, with a large malting establishment attached to it, formerly celebrated for its ale, but now principally brewing porter.

The staple trade of the town is in corn and butter, of which considerable quantities are sent off; but a great impediment to its commercial prosperity results from the want of water conveyance, the Blackwater not being navigable within many miles of this place. Coal and culm are brought by lighters to Tallow, and thence by land carriage to Fermoy, a distance of 10 miles; and in the same tedious manner is the produce of the town and neighbourhood conveyed to the shipping-place for exportation, although it is calculated that a rail road or canal might be made at a moderate expense from this town to Tallow, the line between those places being nearly level throughout.

A savings' bank has been also established. The market is on Saturday, and is abundantly supplied with live stock, provisions of every kind, and various articles of merchandise; and fairs for general farming stock are held on June 21st, Aug. 20th, and Nov. 7th. The market-place, near the river, though well adapted to the purpose, is used only for the corn market. Two mails from Cork to Dublin, and Bianconi's cars, pass daily through the town.

The quarter sessions for the East Riding are held here in January; a manorial court, formerly held every three weeks, with jurisdiction extending to debts not exceeding 40s., late currency, is about to be revived; petty sessions are held every Monday, and a constabulary police force is stationed in the town. The court-house, a neat and appropriate building at the east end of the town, was erected in 1808.

The parish comprises 3319 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £5281 per annum. The land is generally of good quality, and the system of agriculture has within the last few years been greatly improved, under the auspices of an agricultural society established by the late Mr. Anderson, which holds its annual meetings in October for the distribution of premiums, on which occasion there is a ploughing match. The substratum on the north side of the river is limestone, and on the south a kind of brown stone; there is no bog, and but very little waste land.

About a mile from the town are the extensive nursery grounds of Mr. P. Baylor, on which about 50 persons are generally employed; the produce is sent to Cork, Limerick, and other principal towns. The principal seats are Mill Bank, the residence of D. Reid, Esq.; Fermoy House, already noticed; Fermoy Lodge, of G. Shaw, Esq.; Ashfield, of J. W. Anderson, Esq.; Uplands, of S. Perrot, Esq.; Corren, of Major Coast; Grange Hill, of W. F. Austin, Esq.; Richmond, of H. Smyth, Esq.; Richmond Lodge, of Mrs. Collis; and Fairfield, of Capt. Roberts.

The living is a perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Cloyne, and in the patronage of Sir Robert Abercromby, Bart., the present lord of the manor, in whom also the rectory is impropriate, by purchase from the Anderson family. The tithes amount to £591. 9. 10., which is wholly payable to the impropriator. The curacy is endowed with £20 per annum by the late Mr. Anderson, and with £80 per annum by the late Board of First Fruits; the curate receives also a stipend for the performance of a separate service for the military every Sunday in the church. There is no glebe-house; the glebe, at the northern extremity of the parish, comprises about 4 acres.

The church, a remarkably elegant structure with a square tower formerly surmounted with a spire, which has been taken down, was erected at the joint expense of the late Mr. Anderson, who presented the site, and at different times contributed nearly £3000; the late Mr. Hyde, who gave £1500; and the late Board of First Fruits, which gave £500 and granted a loan of £2000. The internal arrangement corresponds with its external appearance: the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £172 for its repair.

In the R. C. divisions the parish is united to that of Clondullane, the greater part of Litter, and a part of the parish of Kilcrumper. The chapel, a spacious and handsome edifice on an eminence, was erected by subscription, towards which the late Mr. Anderson contributed the site rent-free and £500; the altar-piece, of light tracery, is embellished with a good painting of the Crucifixion. A convent for nuns of the order of the Presentation has been built in a very handsome style on the brow of a hill to the south of the town, to which it is a great ornament; it consists of a centre connected by corridors with two wings, of which one is a chapel and the other a school-house for girls; and was built at an expense of £2000, of which £1500 was obtained from funds appropriated by Miss Goold to the establishment of convents in this county, and the remainder raised by subscription.

Adjoining the convent is a handsome dwelling-house, erected by the Rev. T. Murphy, sen., R.C.C., (and now occupied by Capt. Royce, chief officer of police), the rent of which is intended by him to be permanently applied to clothe the children educated at the convent school.

There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. About 400 children are taught in three public schools, of which one was founded and endowed with £1000 by the Rev. Dr. Adair, and is kept in a house given by the late Mr. Anderson, and there are 12 private schools, in which are about 350 children, and a Sunday school.

The Fermoy college school, conducted by Dr. Fahie, for the preparation of young gentlemen for the university, was originally built by the late Mr. Anderson for a military college; the buildings occupy two sides of a square, comprising, besides the usual accommodations, a gymnasium, reading-room, and a ball court, and are surrounded by 11 acres of playground.

The national school is a large and substantial building, lately erected at an expense of £600, and affording accommodation for 400 children. Nothing remains of the old monastery of Our Lady de Castro Dei, which was taken down to afford materials for building several houses in the town, and the only memorial of it is preserved in the name of a street built upon the site, and thence called Abbey-street.

At Corrin, under the mountain of that name, about l ½ mile south of the town, is a chalybeate spa; and at Grange, close to Castle Hyde, is a sulphureous and chalybeate spring, both strongly impregnated. Fermoy formerly gave the title of Baron to the ancient family of Roche.

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