RATHDRUM

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

RATHDRUM, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of BALLINACOR, county of WICKLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 8 miles (S. W.) from Wicklow, and 29 (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 2688 inhabitants, of which number, 1054 are in the town. This place, which is situated on the mail road from Dublin to Arklow, derives its name of Rathdrum, "The fort on the Hill," from its position on a lofty and commanding eminence, formerly the fortified residence of the ancient chieftains of the territory in the northeast of the county, then known by the name of Crioc-Cuolan. It was subsequently held by the Byrnes, but in 1595 was wrested from Pheagh Mac Hugh Byrne, the most active and formidable chieftain of these parts in his time, by Sir William Fitzwilliams, Lord-Deputy, the ancestor of the present Earl Fitzwilliam, who is proprietor of large estates in the county.

The town, situated on the height to the west of the Avonmore, is small but neat, the houses well built and generally white-washed, with a few of superior appearance, among which the glebe-house, with its sloping lawn and tastefully disposed shrubberies, adds considerably to the general appearance. The manufacture of flannel was carried on here to such an extent that the Irish government deemed it necessary to appoint a seller of flannels to superintend it, under whom were a deputy and eight sworn meters, who resided in the town. A flannel-hall was erected in 1793, at an expense of £3500, by the late Earl Fitzwilliam, who received a toll of 2d. on every piece of 120 yards, which produced on an average about £300 per annum: the trade continued to flourish so long as the protecting duties on Irish woollens were maintained, but on their repeal it declined rapidly and is now nearly extinct: the few pieces at present made are purchased by the shopkeepers in the town. The apartments in the market-house, which forms a spacious square, and above the principal entrance of which is an escutcheon of Earl Fitzwilliam's arms, are now used for a court-house, a R. C. chapel, and schools.

The manufacture of woollen cloth also flourished here, but owing to the same causes has declined within the last 12 years, and is now also extinct. A large factory at Grenane, on the Avonbeg, was burnt down during the disturbances in 1798. There are two breweries in the town. The market, held on Thursday, is well supplied with provisions: the monthly market for flannels, which was well attended by buyers from Dublin, has been discontinued for some time. Fairs are held in Rathdrum on the last Thursday in Feb., May, and Aug., and on April 5th, July 5th, Oct. 10th, and Dec. 11th; and at Ballinderry on April 21st, May 16th, Aug. 21st, Oct. 29th, the first Monday in Nov., and Dec. 2nd. Petty sessions for the barony are held on alternate Thursdays in the Flannel-hall, and there is a chief constabulary police station in the town.

The parish, which contains 33,863 acres, as applotted under the tithe act, is subdivided into the constablewicks of Ballinacor, Ballykine, Knockrath, and Rathdrum, and comprises the villages of Aghrim, Ballinaclash, Ballinderry, Cappagh, Clara, Greenan, Moycreddin or Carysfort, and Sheanna. It is centrally situated among some of the grandest and most picturesque scenery of this romantic county. At its southern extremity is the confluence of the rivers Avonmore and Avonbeg, better known, since it has been immortalised by the poetry of Moore, as "the Meeting of the Waters:" north of the town, the course of the Avonmore is through the vale of Clara to the Seven Churches, and, more westerly, the Avonbeg passes through the rugged and precipitous valley of Glenmalure, which terminates suddenly at the waterfall of the Esk.

The western and by much the larger portion of the parish is occupied by mountain masses, rising above one another, and topped by the summit of Lugnaquilla, which towers over the rest to a height of 3070 feet above the level of Dublin bay at low water. These mountains are rich in minerals. The lead mine of Ballyfinchogue, about a mile from the barrack at Ballinacor, which has been lately purchased for a residence for the workmen, is now wrought by the Royal Irish Mining Company. The vein, which traverses alternate beds of granite and mica slate, is penetrated by means of an adit level. Its chief produce is common galena in a matrix of quartz, though white lead ore and other minerals are likewise found in small quantities. The annual produce is about 300 tons of galena, which was formerly smelted here, but now is merely washed and exported; the ore produces about 75 per cent, of pure metal. Arrangements are in progress to open another mine on Mr. Parnell's property on the opposite side of the glen. Excellent building stone is raised in great abundance.

The arable lands, amounting to 5484 statute acres, are chiefly under tillage; the principal crop is oats: the remainder, with the exception of some moorland, is under pasture; the butter made here is of very superior quality and in high request in the Dublin market. Fuel is scarce, as there is very little bog.

The eastern parts of the parish, and more particularly those along the rivers Avonmore and Avonbeg, are thickly studded with residences of the gentry and wealthy farmers. The most remarkable are Avondale, the mansion of John Parnell, Esq., situated in a finely planted demesne, which was the favourite residence of the late Sir John Parnell, Bart., once chancellor of the Irish exchequer; Ballinacor, the residence of William Kemmis, Jun., Esq., surrounded by extensive plantations and commanding a fine view of the wild glen of Glenmalure; Kingston, the seat of T. M. King, Esq., a commodious house in the midst of beautifully disposed grounds, commanding fine views of Castle Howard and the Meeting of the Waters; Cassino, a pretty villa, the residence of F. Fetherston-H., Esq.; The Meeting, the neat ornamental cottage of N. Kempston, Esq., at the celebrated Meeting of the Waters, on a rustic seat in the lawn of which Moore is said to have composed the beautiful melody that bears this name; Corballis Castle, the residence of Mr. A. Manning; Ballyteigue, of Mr. W. Manning, and Prospect, of Mr. William Gilbert, all commanding extended and richly varied views.

The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Dublin, and in the patronage of the Corporation of Dublin, to which it was granted, together with the tithes and a large extent of land belonging to the Priory of All Saints, in that city, after the dissolution of the monasteries: the tithes amount to £553. 16. 10. The glebe-house has been already noticed: the glebe consists of 11 ½ acres. The church, situated in the town, was erected in 1796, aided by a private loan and voluntary subscriptions to the amount of £1000, and by the sale of the materials of the old building: it is now in a dilapidated state, and it is in contemplation to take it down and rebuild it, for which purpose the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have granted£1058. Divine service is at present performed in the Flannel-hall. One of the bells, on which there is an inscription in ancient characters, is said to have belonged to one of the churches at Glendalough. There are chapels of ease at Ballinaton and Moycreddin or Carysfort, served by curates appointed by the rector.

The R. C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church; part of the Flannel-hall has been fitted up as a chapel, and a good house has been erected by Earl Fitzwilliam, near the town, as a residence for the parish priest: there are also chapels at Clara, Moycreddin, and Grenane. The Wesleyan Methodists have a meeting-house in the town.

In Rathdrum is a large school-house, with a garden and teacher's house, in which 80 children of each sex are instructed, 40 of each gratuitously: the rent is paid by the rector, and the teacher receives his salary from the funds of Erasmus Smith's charity: the school requisites are provided by private subscription. There is also a school in the Flannel-hall, aided by an annual donation of £20 from Earl Fitzwilliam: schools are supported at Ballinacor by Mr. Kemmis, at Avondale by private subscription, and at Ballinaclash and Ballinderry by the rector. At Carysfort is a royal endowed school: in all these about 220 boys and 180 girls are educated: there are also five Sunday schools.

A dispensary was established in 1812, and there is a lending library of about 300 volumes attached to the church. Mr. John Tate, of Fannaneerin, bequeathed lands in Knockrath, of the value of £100 per ann., to be employed in loans of £5, free of interest, for a year, and for assisting the families of the sick, infirm, and aged poor with small donations; £50 per annum of this fund is appropriated to the dispensary. A charitable association was formed in 1829, by subscription, to relieve the wants of the necessitous poor in their own houses, and for encouraging industry. On Drumkitt hill is a chalybeate spring of considerable efficacy.—See CARYSFORT.

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