From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
TARBERT, an inland, port and post-town, in the parish of KILNAUGHTEN, barony of IRAGHTICONNOR, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 26 miles (N. E.) from Tralee, and 126 (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 956 inhabitants. The seigniory of Tarbert, including the island of that name, was granted by James I. to Patrick Crosbie, Esq., on condition of his keeping on these lands several Irish families brought hither from the King's county, which condition was fulfilled by him and the subsequent proprietors. At the Revolution the seigniory was granted to the family of Leslie. The town is advantageously situated on the southern bank of the Lower Shannon, about 35 miles below Limerick, and at the head of the bay to which it gives name; and though irregularly built it has, on the whole, a neat appearance. In 1831 it comprised 148 houses, since which period it has been much improved and enlarged by the erection of some neat dwelling-houses, and extensive corn-stores, a spacious R. C. chapel, and a national school.
Being the landing-place for passengers from Dublin and Limerick to Tralee and the lakes of Killarney, and being situated on one of the high roads from Limerick to the latter places, it has a good hotel and other accommodations for travellers. Tarbert has a considerable and increasing export trade in corn, butter, pigs, and other agricultural produce raised in the surrounding district, and chiefly sent to Limerick, with which city and the town of Kilrush it has a communication, in summer daily, and in winter on alternate days, by the vessels of the Inland Steam Navigation Company: the voyage to the former place is generally performed in four hours. About 50,000 barrels of grain, and 25,000 pigs, are annually exported, and the export of butter during the season averages about 200 firkins per month. A variety of articles are imported from Limerick, and the import trade is likely to be much increased in consequence of the recent erection, by Mr. James Patterson, of Kilrush, of an extensive store for general merchandise. Fairs are held on Feb. 20th, Easter-Monday, June 22nd, July 20th, Aug. 12th, and Dec. 11th.
The bay of Tarbert extends between the town and an island of the same name, and being capable of affording a safe and commodious roadstead for about 150 vessels of the largest class, may be considered an asylum harbour; it is formed by a deep bight terminated by a small river flowing into it near the town, and is sheltered on the north-west side by the Island of Tarbert, which latter is however insulated only at extraordinary high water of spring tides, being connected with the mainland by a narrow causeway for foot passengers, which is proposed to be superseded by a bridge. An excellent road from the town to the island has been constructed along the shore of the bay by the Steam Navigation Company, for the convenience of passengers, there being at present no nearer point of embarkation than the inner side of the island.
A pier is also in progress of erection on the south-east, side of the island, at a point recommended by Captain Mudge in his report to the Board of Public Works, by which the company is expected to be aided in its erection, the trade of the port being at present much checked for want of such an accommodation. On the island, which is about a mile from the town, is a battery, and bomb-proof barrack mounting seven 24-pounders and two howitzers, erected, with several others, during the late continental war, for the protection of the trade of Limerick. Here is also a revenue station, under the Board of Customs, of which the establishment consists of a surveyor and six boatmen.
A lighthouse (completed in 1835) has been constructed on the extreme northern point of the island, which now enables vessels to run for this anchorage at night, when driven from those of Carrigaholt and Scattery. In the town is a station of the constabulary police, and petty sessions for the district are held on alternate Tuesdays. A small but neat and substantial bridewell was erected in 1831.
The parochial church, a neat modern edifice, is situated about a quarter of a mile east of the town. The R. C. chapel is a handsome cruciform structure, lately erected at an expense of £1200: there is also a meeting house for Wesleyan Methodists. Near the town is a school on Erasmus Smith's foundation; a national school has been recently established near the chapel; and a school is held in the Wesleyan meeting-house. There is a dispensary for the poor. The shores of the bay and river are prettily wooded, and both above and below the town are embellished with several handsome seats, most of which command fine views of the Shannon and of the opposite coast of the county of Clare. Of these the principal are Tarbert House, the residence of Robert Leslie, Esq.; Ahanna, of Pierce Leslie, Esq.; Leslie Lodge, lately the residence of another branch of that family, and now the property of Lord Haliburton; Shannon Lawn, of D. Harnett, Esq.; Clare View, of the Rev. R. Fitzgerald; Ballydonohue, of Thomas Fitzgerald, Esq.; Pyrmount, of W. Sandes, Sen., Esq.; Sallow Glen, of W. Sandes, Esq.; and Carrunakilly, of the Rev. F. Sandes. In a field near the town is a chalybeate spa, not used for medicinal purposes.