NEWRY TOWN CHARTER

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The present flourishing state of Newry may be attributed originally to the favour shewn by Edward VI. to Marshal Bagnal, to whom the abbey and surrounding territory were granted, with very extensive privileges, in consequence of his services in Ulster, and were continued to him by James I., vesting the ecclesiastical and municipal authority in the proprietor, who, by virtue of these grants, appointed the vicar general, seneschal, and other inferior officers. A charter of the 10th of James I. (1612) made the town a free borough, by the name of "the provost, free burgesses, and commonalty of the borough of Newry," granting the provost and 12 free burgesses the power of sending two members to parliament, and making the provost judge of a court of record, to be held weekly on Mondays, with jurisdiction to the amount of five marks.

A charter granted by James II., in 1688, is not considered to be of any validity. A grant of James I., in 1613, to Arthur Bagnal, empowered a court to be held before the seneschal of the manor, for pleas to the amount of 100 marks: the jurisdiction of this court extends over the borough, and a number of other townlands in Down and Armagh, comprehending 9664 acres in the former, and 11,434 acres in the latter, of these counties. The court is held every third Wednesday: the seneschal limits his jurisdiction by civil bill to £10; he also holds a court leet, once or twice in the year, at which constables are appointed. All the provisions of the act of the 9th of George IV., c. 82, for watching, lighting, cleansing, paving and improving towns were introduced here shortly after the enactment of that statute: the number of commissioners was fixed at 21. The police of the borough is principally attended to by the constabulary forces of the counties of Down and Armagh: the leading streets are kept in repair by county presentments. These arrangements have tended much to the improvement of the neatness, cleanliness, and good order of the town: the expenditure is defrayed by a local tax, amounting to about £1150 annually.

The elective franchise, conferred by James I., was altered at the Union, when the representation of the borough was limited to a single member, which continues to be the present arrangement. It was a scot and lot borough, but the right of election is now vested in the £10 and certain of the £5 householders; the privilege of the latter cannot be perpetuated, but expires with the lives of the few remaining electors of this class, or with their removal from the premises occupied at the period of the general registration: the seneschal of the manor is the returning officer. The borough includes within its limits a large rural district, comprehending 2500 statute acres, the precise limits of which are detailed in the Appendix. The general quarter sessions for the county of Down are held here alternately with Downpatrick; and and those for the Markethill division of the county of Armagh, in Ballybot. Petty sessions are held every Friday. The court-house, built by subscription for a market-house, and converted to its present purpose in 1805, is an unsightly old building in an inconvenient situation. There is a bridewell for the temporary confinement of prisoners until they can be sent to the county prison at Downpatrick.

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