FETHARD

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

FETHARD, a small sea-port, post-town, and parish, in the barony of SHELBURNE, county of WEXFORD, and province of LEINSTER, 15 ¾ miles (S.) from New Ross, and 81 (S. W.) from Dublin, on the bay of Fethard; containing 2153 inhabitants, of which number, 320 are in the town. This place is supposed to have derived its ancient name, "Fiodh Ard," from the abundance of wood in the neighbourhood, though at present no part of the country is more destitute of timber. Robert Fitz-Stephen, on his first invasion of the country, landed his forces in a bay about a mile to the south of the town, since called Bagenbon bay, from the names of the ships Bag and Bon, both of which, immediately after his landing, he burnt in the presence of his men, telling them that they must either succeed in their enterprise or perish in the attempt.

After the settlement of the English in Ireland, this place was given by Strongbow to Raymond le Gros, who had married his sister Basilia, and who is said to have erected a strong fortress here for the protection of his newly acquired territory. Basilia, with the concurrence of Fitz-Stephen, granted the church lands and tithes of the whole lordship to the abbey of St. Thomas near Dublin: and some of its earlier lords obtained for the inhabitants a charter of incorporation. The castle afterwards became the episcopal residence of the Bishops of Ferns, and here Alexander Devereux, the last abbot of Dunbrody, and the first Bishop of Ferns after the Reformation, died in 1556, and was buried in the church, in the aisle of which his tombstone still remains. In 1648, the manor of Ferns was exchanged by Bishop Andrews for value belonging to the Loftus family.

The town, which is neat and well built, consists principally of one wide street on the line of road from Ross to Bagenbon Head, and contains 50 houses, partly occupied by persons in the coast-guard department, of which a branch is constantly stationed here. Some trade is carried on in coal, timber, iron, and slates, and cattle and pigs are occasionally shipped from the port, for which its situation affords every facility. About 15 boats are employed in conveying limestone from the south-west side of the parish, near Loftus Hall, to this place, whence it is sent up the Scar river into the interior of the country. A considerable fishery of herrings, lobsters, and other fish of superior quality, especially plaice, is carried on off this coast.

The harbour, which was constructed by Government in 1798, and is capable of receiving about four small sloops, is situated on the north side of Inguard Point. Between the pier heads are from 11 to 12 feet of water at high spring tides, and from 8 to 9 at ordinary neap tides. There is also a harbour for small craft at Slade, in the parish of Hook, between which and this place is Bagenbon bay, one of the best shipping stations on the coast, for vessels of any burden, both for its depth of water, and from its sheltered situation, from the west and north-west winds. Fairs for cattle are held on Jan. 31st, April 30th, July 28th, and Oct. 20th.

The town was incorporated in 1613, by charter of James I., by which the corporation was made to consist of a portreeve and 12 free burgesses, in whom was vested the right of nominating freemen to form a commonalty, and of returning two members to the Irish parliament. They had also the power of holding a court of record weekly, for the recovery of debts not exceeding five marks, with the privilege of a market and fair; but this corporation has long been extinct. The borough continued to send two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when it was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded in compensation was paid to Charles, Marquess of Ely, and C. Tottenham, Esq.

The parish, which is the property of the Marquess of Ely, is on the western side of Fethard bay, and with the parishes of Hook and Templetown forms a peninsula which separates Waterford harbour from Ballyteigue bay. It comprises 3775 statute acres, of which the greater portion is under tillage, and the remainder good meadow and pasture land: the soil is fertile and the system of agriculture improved; the chief manure is sea-sand and lime. On the shore is a species of hard red granite, which is used for millstones and other purposes; several unsuccessful attempts to procure coal and slate have been made.

Fethard Castle, the property of the Marquess of Ely, and in the occupation of the Rev. A. Alcock, is pleasantly situated on the left of the road to New Ross; and Innyard, the seat of the Lynn family, is situated in tastefully disposed grounds. The Turret, a bathing lodge, formerly the property of Mrs. Savage, has been recently taken down. There are numerous comfortable farmhouses and bathing lodges in the parish, which is much frequented, for the benefit of sea-bathing. The sands are firm and smooth; the surrounding country is pleasant, and the air salubrious; and the neighbourhood abounds with objects of interest, among which are the remains of the abbeys of Dunbrody, Tintern, and Clonmines.

The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Ferns, and the corps of the prebend of Fethard in the cathedral of Ferns, in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £330. The glebe-house, a handsome building, was erected in 1830 by the Rev. C. W. Doyne, the present incumbent, at an expense of £1060, towards which the late Board of First Fruits contributed a gift of £277, and a loan of £461. The glebe comprised originally 1 ¾ Irish acres, to which 5 acres were added by purchase in 1834. The church, an ancient structure in a very dilapidated state, is about to be rebuilt.

In the R. C. divisions the parish is part of the union or district of Hook; the chapel, on the lands of Dungulph, is a neat , cruciform edifice, recently built by subscription. About 70 children are taught in the public schools, which are supported by the Marquess and Marchioness of Ely; aided by an annual donation of £10 from the rector; there are also two private schools, in which are about 90 children, and a Sunday school supported by the rector.

On the narrow promontory of Bagenbon Head are the remains of an encampment, said to have been formed by Fitz-Stephen on his landing; and at Fethard are the ruins of a castle, at one angle of which is a round tower in good preservation. Bagenbon Head projects considerably from the line of the coast; the land is high, and the shore bold; the water is deep, with a stiff clay bottom, covered with sand, extending nearly to the base of the cliffs. This bay has afforded refuge to many vessels in heavy gales, and the Milford packets have frequently put in and landed the mails, when it has been impracticable for them to reach Waterford; there is a martello tower on the Head.

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