LIMERICK CITY TOPOGRAPHY

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The city, situated in an extensive plain watered by the Shannon, is composed of three portions, the English town, the Irish town, and Newtown-Pery. The first and oldest occupies the southern end of the King's Island, a tract formed by the Shannon, here divided into two streams, of which the narrowest and most rapid is called the Abbey river. This part, the houses of which are chiefly built in the Flemish fashion, is said to resemble the city of Rouen in Normandy: but, since the erection of the New town, it has been deserted by the more wealthy inhabitants, and exhibits a dirty and neglected appearance.

The Irish town is also very ancient, being allotted to the native inhabitants so early as the reign of King John: here the streets are wider and the houses more modern; both these parts were strongly fortified. The suburb called Thomond-gate, situated on the county of Clare side of the river, at the end of Thomond bridge, was formerly the only entrance to the ancient city, and was protected by a strong castle: it is now of considerable extent: close to the foot of the bridge is the stone on which the treaty of Limerick was signed.

Newtown-Pery, built wholly within the last fifty years on elevated ground, parallel with the course of the river, below the union of its two branches, on a site, formerly called the South Prior's Land, which became the property of the Pery family about 1770, is one of the handsomest modern towns in Ireland: a very handsome square has been lately erected in it. There are six bridges; Thomond bridge, leading from King John's Castle in the English town to Thomond-gate, on the county of Clare side, is the most ancient. It was built in 1210, and subsequently widened, and consists of 14 unequal arches, which were turned on wicker work, the marks of which are still apparent in the cement; its roadway is perfectly level: it is now being taken down, and will be replaced by a new bridge (the foundation stone of which was laid in 1836, and which is to be opened in 1839), by the corporation, which has procured a loan of £9000 from the Board of Works to effect it: the estimated expense is £12,600.

Wellesley bridge, erected in 1827, consisting of five large and elegant elliptic arches, crosses the Shannon from the New town to the northern, or county of Clare, shore. Its roadway is level and its parapet is formed of a massive open balustrade; on the city side is a swing bridge over a lock through which vessels pass to the upper basin and quays. The New bridge, crossing the Abbey river, and connecting the New town with the English town, was finished in 1792 at an expense of £1800; it consists of three irregular arches. Baal's bridge, higher up on the same branch of the river, is a beautiful structure of a single arch, built in 1831 to replace an ancient bridge of the same name, which consisted of four arches with a range of houses on one of its sides. On the same branch of the Shannon is Park bridge, an old lofty structure of five irregular arches.

Athlunkard bridge, consisting of five large elliptic arches, crosses the Shannon about a mile from the city; it was erected in 1830 by means of a loan of £9000 from the Board of Public Works, £6000 from the consolidated fund, and a grant of £1000 from the Grand Jury of the county of Clare; it forms a communication between Limerick and Killaloe.

The environs, though flat, are generally very beautiful; the soil extremely rich; and the sinuous course of the Shannon, in many points of view, presents the appearance of a succession of lakes; but the landscape is deficient in wood. Of the four principal approaches, that from Clare, by Wellesley bridge, is the best; the others are through lines of cabins, crooked and deficient in cleanliness. In the vicinity of the city are several good houses and neat villas, but by no means so numerous as its wealth would lead strangers to expect; as the rich merchants chiefly reside in the New town.

Among the seats in the neighbourhood, those most worthy of notice are Mount Shannon, that of the Earl of Clare, one of the finest mansions in the south of Ireland; Hermitage, of Lord Massy, Clarina Park, of Lord Clarina; and Doonass, on the opposite side of the Shannon, of Sir Hugh Dillon Massy, Bart.: in the city are the mansions of the Earl of Limerick and of the Bishop. The streets, which are spacious, intersect each other at right angles, and are occupied by elegant houses, splendid and well-stocked shops, and merchants' stores. Patrick-street, George-street, and the Crescent form a continuous line of elegant houses, extending about a mile from the New bridge. The total number of houses, in 1831, was 4862.

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