GOWRAN

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

GOWRAN, an incorporated post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough) and a parish, in the barony of GOWRAN, county of KILKENNY, and province of LEINSTER, 6 miles (E.) from Kilkenny, and 52 (S. W. by S.) from Dublin, on the road to Waterford; containing 2783 inhabitants. This place, though now comparatively insignificant, was formerly of considerable importance. In the 14th century a strong castle was built here by James, third Earl of Ormonde, who made it his principal residence till 1391, when he purchased the castle of Kilkenny. In 1399, Teigue O'Carrol, dynast of Ely, when in arms against the royal forces under the Lord-Deputy Scrope, was taken prisoner and confined in the castle of this place, from which in the following year he made his escape. Henry V., in the second year of his reign, by charter alleging that "the town of Ballygaueran was situated far from the aid of the English, and surrounded by Irish enemies who had lately burnt it," granted the inhabitants certain customs for murage and pavage for 40 years, to enable them to build walls for its protection. The castle was subsequently repaired by Margaret, the celebrated Countess of Ormonde; and Edward VI. granted the portreeve, burgesses, and commons an exemption from county cess, which was confirmed by Elizabeth in 1566. James I., in the sixth year of his reign, made the town a parliamentary borough, and incorporated the inhabitants under the designation of the "Portreeve, Chief Burgesses, and Freemen of the Town and Borough of Gowran," by charter setting forth that the inhabitants had always been loyal, but were then greatly reduced by the war and the late plague. In 1650, the castle was besieged by the forces of Cromwell under Sankey and Hewson, to whom, after an obstinate defence by Col. Hammond, it ultimately surrendered, when the commander and the garrison were inhumanly massacred and the castle destroyed by fire. The united forces of Cromwell and Ireton soon after assembled here, where they were joined by those of Hewson, on their march to besiege Kilkenny.

The town, which is the joint property of Viscount Clifden and W. Bayly, Esq., contains 193 houses, many of which have been recently rebuilt, and other improvements have also taken place. There is a flour-mill; a constabulary police force has been established here; and fairs are held on March 8th, May 9th, Aug. 10th, Oct. 6th, and Dec. 8th, but the market has been discontinued. By the charter of James I. the corporation consists of a portreeve, 12 chief burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, a serjeant-at-mace, and other officers. The portreeve, who is also coroner, clerk of the market, and master of the assay, is chosen annually from the chief burgesses, and may appoint a deputy, who with himself is justice of the peace and of the quorum. The chief burgesses, as vacancies occur, are chosen from the freemen by the portreeve and a majority of their own body, by whom also all the officers of the corporation are chosen during pleasure, and the freemen admitted. The borough continued to send two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when it was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to Henry Welbore, Viscount Clifden. The corporation has power to hold a court of record, with jurisdiction extending to debts of £6. 13. 4., but no court has been held for many years; and since the Union, although a portreeve is still elected and other officers appointed, the corporation has been little more than nominal. Petty sessions are held every alternate week, and the chartered fairs are held, but the market is discontinued.

The parish comprises 7682 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £7417 per ann.; the land is chiefly under tillage, and the system of agriculture improving. Limestone is plentiful and is quarried for building and for agricultural uses. Adjoining the town is Gowran House, the seat of Viscount Clifden, finely situated in a richly wooded demesne, with a deer-park attached. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, and in the patronage of Viscount Clifden: the tithes amount to £507. 13. 10 ¼. The glebe-house, a new and handsome residence, was built by the present incumbent under the provisions of Primate Robinson's act; the glebe comprises 10 acres. The church, for the repairs of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £130, is part of a very ancient cruciform structure, which was restored and fitted up for divine service in 1826; the remainder, which is still a ruin, has some very interesting details in the early English style, among which are a finely pointed arch of black marble leading into the chancel; a series of similar arches supported by circular and octagonal columns; some windows of elegant design, delicately ornamented in quatrefoil, and several interior chapels; the doorways and the baptismal font are of black marble curiously sculptured; there are several ancient monuments, three of which are traditionally ascribed to the Earl of Gowran and his two sons: the founder of the castle was interred here, as were also Edmund Butler, Earl of Carrick, and his eldest son, James, first Earl of Ormonde; there is also a monument with a bust of James Agar, Viscount Clifden, who died in 1789.

In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Dungarvan, Blanchfieldskill, Dunbell, Blackrath, Templemartin, Clara, and Tascoffin: the chapel is a neat modern edifice, to which a school-room for 300 children is now being added; and there are three other chapels situated respectively at Pitts, Dungarvan, and Freneystown. About 30 children are taught in the parochial school, supported by the rector; a female school is supported by Lady Dover; there is an infants' school, and also six private schools, in which are about 320 children. An alms-house was founded by Miss Diana Agar, for four poor women, who have each £5 per annum; and there is a dispensary. Gowran formerly gave the title of Baron to the family of Fitzpatrick, Earls of Upper Ossory.

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