QUEEN'S COUNTY GEOLOGY

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

The principal portion of the county belongs to the great floetz limestone field, which forms the base of the greater part of the level country of Ireland; the Slieve-Bloom mountains in the north-west, are of the sandstone formation, and at the Slievemargue in the south-east the coal formation commences. The limestone field abounds with escars, already noticed. The coal formation commences near Timahoe, and extends east and south-east to the Barrow, and southwards almost to the Nore. It forms the northern extremity of the Kilkenny field, from which it is separated only by a small river, and the coal is in every respect similar in each part: the portion included in the Queen's county extends about 3 miles by 2. The strata range as in Kilkenny, but the dip being to the west, the pits on this side are deeper.

There are five collieries at work; namely, Newtown, Wolf Hill, Doonane, Poulakele and Moydebegh; those of Rushes and Tollerton, though very valuable, are not wrought at present. The pits at Newtown are from 45 to 48 yards deep, all those around Moydebegh are from 61 to 64 yards. The coal at Newtown and Doonane is equal to the best Kilkenny coal, and sells at 20s. per ton at the pits; that of the other collieries, though somewhat inferior, never sinks below the price of 17s. per ton. Hence the poor people, even in the immediate vicinity of the pits, cannot afford to use it, and it is entirely purchased by maltsters, brewers, distillers and smiths, by whom it is much sought after, inasmuch as, being almost pure carbon, without any admixture of bitumen, it requires no preliminary preparation even for malting purposes; it is conveyed to all the surrounding counties chiefly in one-horse carts.

In the summer of 1836, 64 pits were at full work, for unwatering which five steam-engines were employed, but the coal is mostly raised by horses. The works furnished employment to 700 men, and the value of the coal raised is estimated at upwards of £78,000 per ann. Yet, notwithstanding these advantages, the workmen, from their irregular and inconsiderate habits, are miserably poor; and the district is frequently disturbed by broils and tumults, so that police stations are thickly distributed throughout this portion of the county.

Iron ore shews itself in some parts, and mines were wrought until the failure of the supply of timber for fuel caused them to be relinquished: a branch of the iron-manufacture which had been successfully carried on at Mountrath, when timber was plentiful, has been discontinued for the same reason. Copper and manganese have also been found. Slate quarries have been opened at Roundwood, in Offer-lane, and at Cappard. Near Mountmellick are quarries of soft silicious sandstone, which is wrought into chimney-pieces and hearth-stones that are in great demand. Ochre, fullers' earth, and potters' clay are met with. Potteries have been long established in the neighbourhood of Mountmellick, in which large quantities of tiles, crocks, and garden pots are made.

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