NAVAN

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

NAVAN, an incorporated market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), and a parish, in the barony of LOWER NAVAN, county of MEATH, and province of LEINSTER, 7 miles (N. N. E.) from Trim, and 23 (N. by W.) from Dublin, on the road to Enniskillen; containing 5292 inhabitants, of which number, 4416 are in the town. It is one of the first boroughs established by the English in the palatinate of Meath, and appears to have arisen under the patronage of the family of the Nangles, barons of Navan, who, towards the close of the 12th century, founded here an abbey for Canons Regular of the order of St. Augustine. The town is said to have been walled round by Hugh de Lacy, and to have attained such importance that, in the reign of Edward IV., the inhabitants received from that monarch a charter of incorporation, which was confirmed, with additional privileges, by Henry VII., in the 9th year of his reign. In the time of Henry VIII. it had become of so much military importance, that an act was passed, in the 34th of that reign, providing that every ploughland in Meath and Westmeath, liable to subsidy, should be charged for four years with the payment of 3s. 4d. towards building the walls of Navan. In 1623, the inhabitants received from James I. a new charter, confirming all previous grants and incorporating them under the designation of the "Portreeve, Burgesses, and Freemen of the Town or Borough of Navan," which was confirmed after his restoration by Charles II., who also granted them four fairs.

The town is situated in the centre of the county, and at the junction of the rivers Blackwater and Boyne; it consists of three principal streets, from which several smaller branch off in various directions, and contains about 850 houses, many of which are well built; altogether it has a neat, cheerful, and thriving appearance. The cavalry barracks, on the site of the ancient abbey, are adapted for 4 officers and 52 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 50 horses. The chief trade is in provisions, which is extensively carried on with Drogheda, and seems to have been consequent on the opening of the Boyne navigation from that part to Navan, a line of 15 miles in extent; and its further extension inland, which has been attempted but not yet carried into effect, would contribute greatly to its increase and to the general prosperity of the neighbourhood. There is also a considerable retail trade with the surrounding districts.

In the immediate vicinity of the town, and closely connected with its trade, though locally within the limits of the adjoining parish of Athlumney, are flax-mills on the river Boyne, affording regular employment, on the average, to about 260 persons, and in the same parish, but close to the bridge of Navan, are some very extensive flour-mills, the property of Mr. Delany. Of these mills, one has five pairs of stones used for grinding wheat only; and the other, called the New Mill, which has been recently erected and fitted up with the most improved machinery, has ten pairs of stones, of which six are used in grinding wheat, and four for oats; attached to these mills is a steam-engine of 30-horse power. There are also some smaller mills in the town, chiefly for oatmeal; and a paper-mill upon a small scale, chiefly for the coarser sorts of paper.

The distillery belonging to Mr. James Morgan is capable of producing 30,000 gallons of whiskey annually; and on the river Blackwater, and close to the town, was formerly a very extensive distillery, with a mill and corn stores, employing a large number of persons; but the establishment has been for some time discontinued, and the buildings are fast going to decay. The manufacture of sacking, of which this place is the principal seat, is extensively carried on: it is made of tow brought from the North of Ireland, and in the town are from 200 to 300 looms in constant operation, each producing annually about 40 pieces of 60 yards in length. The market, which is the best attended in the county, is on Wednesday, and is abundantly supplied with corn, large numbers of bacon-hogs and porkers, and with coarse linen, yarn, frieze, and country merchandise. Fairs for store cattle, horses, sheep and hogs, are held on Easter and Trinity Mondays, and on the second Monday in September and the first Monday in December for beef, store bullocks, sheep, horses, and hogs. A savings' bank, in which are deposits to the amount of more than £5000, and a chief constabulary police force, have been established in the town.

By the charters of James I. and Charles II., the corporation consists of a portreeve, twelve burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a town-clerk, two serjeants-at-mace, and other officers. The port-reeve, who is also justice of the peace, is annually elected on the 13th of September by the corporation at large, and may appoint a deputy, who is also a justice of the peace; the burgesses, as vacancies occur, are chosen from the freemen, who are admitted only by favour of the corporation, by whom also the town-clerk and serjeants-at-mace are appointed. The corporation continued to return two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. The borough court, formerly held before the portreeve or his deputy; has issued no process since 1820, and has since fallen into total disuse; the borough officers exercise no municipal jurisdiction, and though a portreeve is annually chosen, the corporation may be considered as virtually extinct. General sessions are held twice in the year, and petty sessions on alternate Mondays before the county magistrates and the portreeve, who acts also as a magistrate for the county. The court-house, or Tholsel, contains the requisite apartments for holding the courts, and a suite of assembly-rooms, and previously to the erection of the present bridewell, the basement story was used as a prison; the bridewell has separate wards and day-rooms, with airing-yards, for the classification of prisoners.

The parish comprises 3498 ¾ statute acres, of which 2802 are applotted under the tithe act. The land is of middling quality, and about two-thirds of it are under tillage; the system of agriculture is much improved, and there is very little waste land or bog. Limestone of good quality abounds, and is quarried both for burning into lime and for building.

The principal seats are Boyne Hill, the residence of Lieutenant Colonel T. Gerrard, beautifully situated on the bank of the river; Belmont, of J. Goggan, Esq.; and a handsome residence recently erected, near the road to Dublin, by L. Byron, Esq., M.D., commanding some pleasing views. In the immediate vicinity of the town, though within the limits of Donaghmore parish, is Black Castle, the handsome seat of R. R. Fitzherbert, Esq., beautifully situated in a tastefully improved demesne.

The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Meath, united by act of council, in the 17th century, to the rectories of Ardsallagh and Donaghmore, and in the patronage of the Crown.

The tithes amount to £275: the glebe of the union comprises 15 ½ statute acres, valued at £23. 15. per ann.; and the gross revenue of the benefice is £728. 15. The church, towards the repairs of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £226, is a neat modern edifice, rebuilt, with the exception of the old tower, which is of elegant design, in 1818, at an expense of £1700, of which £600 was a gift and £1100 a loan from the late Board of First Fruits; it contains a handsome organ, presented to the parish by Mrs Savage.

In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Donaghmore, Ardsallagh, and Bective: the chapel is a handsome Grecian edifice, now in course of erection upon an extensive scale; there is also a chapel at Bective, Near the R. C. chapel is the convent of the Ladies of Loretto, a handsome edifice, attached to which are two schoolrooms, one in connection with the National Board, in which are 200 girls, who are gratuitously instructed by the sisters of the convent; and the other a private seminary for young ladies. The Navan endowed school was founded by Alderman Preston, of Dublin, who by will bequeathed 800 plantation acres of land in Queen's county, of which he appropriated seven-sixteenth parts to this school, five to a similar school at Ballyroan, and four-sixteenths to the Blue Coat school in Dublin; the course of education includes an efficient preparation for the University, for which the charge must not exceed one guinea per quarter; the appointment of the master is vested in the Rev. Joseph Preston, of Bellinter.

There is also an extensive R. C. seminary for students intended for the priesthood or for any of the learned professions: the school is under the direction and superintendence of three R. C. clergymen; the premises are extensive, and annexed to them is a private chapel. About 400 children are taught in the public schools of the parish; and there are nine private schools, in which are about 450 children. The County Infirmary is a plain building, not well adapted to its purpose; the fever hospital is of modern date, and contains ample accommodation of a superior kind. There are also a charitable loan society, entirely supported by Mrs. Fitzherbert, and a society for the relief of the destitute sick poor. At the western extremity of the town is a large moat of considerable elevation, commanding from its summit a very extensive and interesting prospect.

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