FETHARD

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

FETHARD, an incorporated market and post-town, (formerly a parliamentary borough), and a parish, in the barony of MIDDLETHIRD, county of TIPPERARY, and province of MUNSTER, 7 miles (N.) from Clonmel, and 78 (S. W.) from Dublin by Urlingford; containing 3962 inhabitants, of which number, 3400 are in the town and liberties. This place, which appears to have derived its name from the Irish Faith-Ard, the "summit or hill of the plain," is of considerable antiquity. In 1306, the friars Eremites of the order of St. Augustine obtained from Edward I. a full and free pardon for having acquired, contrary to the statute of mortmain, some land for rebuilding their monastery, which had been founded here at a very early period. In 1376, Edward III. granted to the provost and commonalty certain customs, to enable them to surround their town with walls, and a similar grant was made to them by Henry IV.

The monastery, to which was attached a certain portion of the town, was granted, on its dissolution, by Henry VIII. to Sir Edmund Butler, Knt., at an annual rent of 5s. 4d. Irish; and in 1553, Edward VI. granted the burgesses a new charter, with liberties and immunities similar to those of Kilkenny, which was confirmed and extended by a charter of James I., under which the town is now governed.

In 1650, the town was besieged by Cromwell, to whom, after a short resistance, it capitulated on honourable terms; the original articles are still extant, and in the possession of W. Barton, Esq., of Grove. It is irregularly built, and contains 626 houses, the inhabitants are supplied with good water from a public pump; and there are some extensive barracks, at present occupied by infantry. The old walls, in which were five gates defended by towers, are much dilapidated.

The river Clashanly, or Clashaluin (more correctly Glaisealuin, "the lovely stream," from Glaise, "a stream," and Aluin, "lovely"), which rises in the bog of Allen, passes through the town and gives motion to two flour-mills, which, except in dry seasons, are constantly at work, and furnish the principal trade of the town.

The market is on Saturday, but, from its vicinity to that of Clonmel, is of very inferior importance. Fairs are held on April 20th, Friday before Trinity-Sunday, Sept. 7th, and Nov. 21st, and are well supplied with cattle; the Nov. fair is the largest in the county for fat stock. The town has latterly become a great depot for the sale of culm from the Slievardagh collieries, eight miles distant: it is calculated that 30,000 barrels, or about 5000 tons, have been sold here in a year.

The corporation, by the charter of James I., consists of a sovereign, twelve chief burgesses, a portreeve, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, serjeant-at-mace, and other officers. The sovereign, who is also coroner and clerk of the market, is chosen annually from the burgesses by a majority of that body, and may with their consent appoint a vice-sovereign, who also is a justice of the peace within the borough. The burgesses, as vacancies occur, are chosen from the freemen by the sovereign and burgesses; the portreeve is annually elected from the freemen by the chief burgesses, and the freemen are admitted only by favour of the corporation.

The recorder is chosen by the sovereign and chief burgesses, and holds his office during pleasure; the town-clerk is appointed either by the sovereign or the chief burgesses, and the serjeant-at-mace by the sovereign. The corporation, under their charter, continued to return two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised, and the sum of £15,000 awarded in compensation was paid in moieties to Cornelius, Lord Lismore, and T. Barton, Esq. A Tholsel court, in which the sovereign presides, assisted by two burgesses, is held every three weeks, for the recovery of debts within the borough to any amount; and petty sessions are held generally on alternate Mondays before the county magistrates. A constabulary police force is stationed here.

The parish comprises 1524 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, which, with the exception of a small portion of woodland and about 130 acres of common, are chiefly good arable land. Near the town are some very fine limestone quarries, whence very large blocks are procured; the stone takes a fine polish and is used for tombstones and other purposes.

Grove, the handsome seat of W. Barton, Esq., is pleasantly situated in an extensive demesne intersected by the river Clashanly, and richly planted; the house commands a fine view of Kiltinan Castle and the Waterford mountains; the park is well stocked with deer, and in the grounds are the ruins of an old church. There are several other gentlemen's seats in the union, which are described in their respective parishes.

The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Cashel, united by act of council, in 1682, to the rectories and vicarages of Pepperstown, Kilbragh, Cloneen, and Rathcoole, and to the entire rectories of Kilconnel and Railstown, together forming the union of Fethard, in the patronage of the Archbishop. The tithes of the parish amount to £140, and of the whole union to £1361. 7. 5 ¼. The glebe-house is a neat building, and there are four glebes, comprising together 22 acres.

The church is the remaining aisle of an ancient structure of which the chancel is in ruins; it is in the decorated English style with a venerable tower (in which are four fine-toned bells), and an east and west window of very elegant design, and is 100 feet in length and 50 in breadth; the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have lately granted £440 for its repair.

In the R. C. divisions, the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Killusty; and containing a chapel in each; the chapel of this parish, a large plain modern building, was erected on ground given by W. Barton, Esq. There is also a chapel attached to the Augustinian friary in the town, an ancient edifice with a very handsome east window, the beauty of which is concealed by a modern roof, which intercepts the crown of the arch. There is a place of worship for Presbyterians, erected in 1739, in connection with the Synod of Munster, the minister of which receives a grant of £53. 10. 8. per ann. royal bounty; also a temporary place of worship for Primitive Wesleyan Methodists.

The parochial school is aided by donations from the rector, W. Barton, Esq., and the parishioners: the school-house, a good slated building, was erected at an expense of £325, of which £100 was a grant from the Association for Discountenancing Vice, and Mr. Barton gave £50; the site was part of the glebe given by the rector, the Rev. H. Woodward. A national school is chiefly supported by the Very Rev. M. Laffan, and a school has been established by Mrs. Barton for females, who are also taught spinning and needlework. There are nine private schools, a charitable loan fund, and a dispensary.

There are remains of the ancient walls, with four of the gateway towers; in removing some stones near one of them a gold ring was recently found, bearing the inscription, "No Frende to Fayth." At Market Hill is a mineral spring; at Kiltinan is a subterraneous stream; and in the neighbourhood are the remains of many ancient castles, one of which, at Knockelly, occupies about an acre of ground, and is surrounded by a high wall with towers at each angle, and in good preservation.

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