YOUGHAL

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837

YOUGHAL, a sea-port, borough, and market-town, and a parish, in the barony of IMOKILLY, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 29 miles (E.) from Cork, and 124 ½ (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 11,327 inhabitants, of which number, 9608 are in the town. The place derived its name, signifying "a wooded place," from its situation at the base of a range of hills, which, at the period of its erection, was a dense forest. The town is of very remote antiquity, having so early as the year 1209 received from King John a charter of incorporation which is still preserved among the archives of Lismore Castle. In 1224, Maurice Fitz-Gerald founded a Franciscan monastery on the south side of the town, which was the first religious foundation of the order in Ireland. It is recorded that he originally intended the building for a castle, but that, in consequence of some harsh treatment which the workmen received from his eldest son, he changed his design and determined to devote it to religious uses: but, dying in 1257, it was completed in 1260 by his second son, Thomas, whose son, in 1263 or 1271, founded a Dominican monastery, called the Friary of St. Mary of Thanks.

At this time the town had attained some commercial eminence, for in 1267 the amount of customs paid was £103. In 1317, Sir Roger Mortimer, who had been appointed Lord-Justice, landed here in Easter week with 38 knights, and in a short time compelled Edward Bruce to retreat from the neighbouring country and take refuge in Ulster; and in the year following, Alexander Bicknor, Archbishop of Dublin and Lord-Deputy of Ireland, also landed at this port. In 1579, the Earl of Desmond, on being proclaimed a traitor, led his forces to this place, plundered the town, and carried off the property of the inhabitants to his castles of Strancally and Lisfinry, in the county of Waterford, at that time occupied by the Spaniards. The Earl of Ormonde, receiving intelligence of this attack, sent a ship from Waterford with troops which entered the town, but, being overpowered by the forces of the seneschal of Imokilly, most of them were killed and the remainder escaped with difficulty to their ships.

The mayor had before this perfidiously refused to receive an English garrison, promising to defend the place to the last extremity; but, having made no effort for that purpose, he was tried by a court martial, found guilty, and hanged before his own house. The devastation to which the town was subjected during this rebellion compelled the inhabitants to abandon it; but on the retreat of the insurgents in 1580, they were invited to return, and in order to inspire them with confidence a garrison of 300 foot was left for their defence. In 1582 the seneschal of Imokilly, with all the forces he could muster, came suddenly to Youghal and scaled the walls; the alarm however being given, he was repulsed by a portion of the garrison, with the loss of 50 of his men.

In the war of 1641 the town again became an important military station, and was defended against the insurgents by the Earl of Cork, at his own expense, with 1000 foot and 60 horse, in addition to which the townsmen maintained 15 companies without any other supply than what the earl might furnish. Sir Charles Vavasour, with his regiment of 1000 men, came to their assistance in February 1642, and landed with some difficulty; soon after the earl held a session in the town, at which the principal insurgent leaders were indicted for high treason; this powerful nobleman died in the following year. In 1644 the native Irish were expelled from the town and their property was seized.

In 1645 the place was besieged by Lord Castlehaven: although the town was in a very weak state of defence and the garrison small, the besiegers were several times repulsed and on the arrival of Lord Broghill with assistance, were compelled to abandon the enterprise. On the approach of Cromwell in 1649, the inhabitants embraced the cause of the parliament, and that general made Youghal his head-quarters till the spring; after the siege of Clonmel he returned and embarked here for England. By letters patent under the privy seal, dated Feb. 14th, 1660, their estates and franchises were restored to the inhabitants, being "innocent Papists", who had been deprived of them during Cromwell's usurpation.

On the 2nd of August, 1690, after the reduction of Waterford, Youghal surrendered to a few dragoons of King William's army; and on the 9th the governor marched at the head of a small army to Castlemartyr, where he defeated a large number of the Irish, and seized the castle for the king's use. In 1696 the inhabitants manned a boat with 40 seamen and soldiers, and captured a French privateer which had put into the harbour to obtain supplies, and lay at anchor under Cable island. His late Majesty William IV., when Prince William Henry, visited Youghal as commander of the ship Pegasus, in 1787; and honoured the corporation with his company to dinner, on which occasion he was presented with the freedom of the borough.

The town is pleasantly situated on the western shore of the harbour to which it gives name, and which is enclosed between two bold eminences called Blackball Head and Knockvarry, leaving a channel of about half a mile in breadth for the confluent streams of the Toragh and the Blackwater, which discharge themselves into the bay. The Toragh is a boundary between Cork and Waterford for about two miles before it falls into the Blackwater, and then makes a bold sweep to the east and south, forming in appearance a fine lake, environed by an amphitheatre of verdant and gently sloping hills, which terminate abruptly on the south in the two bold eminences previously noticed. Knockvarry, rising immediately over the town, is in many places well planted.

The principal street, from which diverge several smaller streets, is nearly a mile in length, and is divided by the clock gate into the north and south main-streets: the houses are irregularly built, but generally of respectable appearance, though occasionally intermixed with a few of the more ancient, which are in a ruinous and dilapidated state; the total number, in 1831, was 1249. The streets are pitched, but neither paved nor flagged; they are lighted with gas, and cleansed under the provisions of the act of the 9th of George IV. The inhabitants are supplied with water from pumps erected in various parts; but the supply in dry seasons being deficient, and the water, from an admixture of sea water, being rendered unpalatable, it is in contemplation to bring water of a better quality to the houses by pipes from the extremities of the town, where there is an abundant supply.

Within the last half century the town has extended itself in all directions; the ancient walls have been entirely removed, and a valuable piece of slab having been reclaimed by the corporation and their tenantry, Catherine-street, the Mall, and numerous extensive warehouses have been built on it. At the southern extremity of the town, near the old abbey, two ranges of spacious and handsome houses have been erected and an elegant and commodious hotel built by the Duke of Devonshire; on the west side of the town is Nelson-place; and a neat row of houses has been built on the east side. Most of the houses in the principal streets are either new or have been modernised; many of the ancient houses have been newly fronted, but may still be distinguished by their gable ends fronting the street, and their pointed doorways of stone.

The town is much frequented during the summer for sea-bathing, for which it is well adapted, having a fine, smooth, and level strand extending nearly three miles along the western shore of the bay; but as a watering-place it is deficient in the accommodation of good lodgings, which might be easily supplied by the erection of marine villas and lodging-houses at the Cork entrance to the town, along the declivity of the hill, which would command a pleasing prospect of the bay, the strand, and Capell island. This would not only increase the number of visiters during the season, but induce many persons to take up their permanent abode in the town, which, among other advantages, enjoys the benefit of cheap and well supplied markets, salubrity of atmosphere, central situation, and excellent society.

The bridge over the Blackwater, a mile and a half north-east from the town, was erected in 1830, after a design of the late Alex. Nimmo, by George Nimmo, Esq., under the provisions of an act passed in 182S, which empowered certain commissioners to take ground and to erect a bridge from Foxhole, in the parish of St. Mary, Youghal, to the opposite shore, in the parish of Clashmore, county of Waterford. The expense of its erection, exclusively of £8509 paid to the corporation for the ferry, was £22,000, towards which Government advanced £10,000 as a loan: it was carried into execution by proprietary shareholders of £100 each, but the speculation has not renumerated them. This structure is built of Memel fir and is remarkably light and elegant: it is 1787 feet in length, including a drawbridge 40 feet long; its uniform breadth is 22 feet within the railings, which are 4 ½ feet in height; and the whole is supported on 57 sets of piers of five pillars each. The gas-works, on the strand adjoining the northern entrance to the town, were built in 1830 under the provisions of the act of the 9th of George IV.; the establishment is managed by 21 commissioners.

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