Clonmel: The Ancient Abbeys, White’s Chapel, St. Patrick’s Well - Book of County Tipperary, 1889

About “The Book of County Tipperary,” 1889

George Henry Bassett produced 7 Irish county directories in the 1880s: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Kilkenny, Louth, Tipperary and Wexford. Each provides useful history of the respective counties as well as lists of office holders, farmers, traders, and other residents of the individual cities, towns and villages.

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  1. This online version is designed primarily as a genealogical research tool and therefore the numerous advertisements in the original book, many full page, and quite a few illustrated, have been excluded.
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With respect to the last point, surnames which today begin with the “Mc” prefix, for example, were often formerly spelt as “M‘,”. For a list of some of the more common forename abbreviations used in the directory, see Forename Abbreviations.

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According to Archdall and other writers, two abbeys were founded at Clonmel in the thirteenth century, one for the Franciscans, and the other for the Dominicans. The site of the latter, and the precise date of the foundation are matters of conjecture, but there is no doubt whatever concerning the former. The Franciscan Abbey, situated in Abbey-street, owes its origin, 1269, to Otho de Grandison, whose munificence was doubtless supplemented by the residents of the town, including the Butlers, who seem to have granted a mill to the friars. The abbey church in its day ranked with the finest in Ireland. In the 34th year of the reign of King Henry VIII. a portion of the abbey, and all its possessions in Newtown, near Anner Bridge, were granted to the sovereign and commonalty of Clonmel, at the annual rent of twelve pence, Irish, and in the same year the rest of the possessions were given to James, Earl of Ormonde, for ever, at the same rent. The church was afterward used as a meeting house by non-conforming Protestants. In 1827 the Franciscans obtained a lease of the remaining portion of the abbey, and through the exertions of the Very Rev. J. B. Cooney, O.S.F., it was rebuilt in 1866 at a cost of over £6,000. Of the ancient abbey, in the existing church, the parts remaining are the tower, seventy-five feet high, and the northern wall of the choir. On this runs the modern northern aisle. The ancient nave crossed the present Abbey-street to the ancient choir, and parallel with it, a nave has been added, and a southern aisle. The nave is divided from the aisles by pillars of polished black marble. A richly stained glass window, over the high altar, representing the crucifixion, was erected by public subscription. The high altar is of pure white marble, the cover being edged with exquisite Irish lace. A monument to one of the Butlers and his wife, bearing two recumbent figures, occupies a niche to the left of the northern door. Mural tablets commemorate the Very Rev. Joseph Augustine Power, O.S.F.; Rev. James Prendergast, O.S.F., 1854; Rev. John A. Bergin, O.S.F., 1859, and Daniel Hearne, 1866.

Dr. John O'Donovan suggests that the old church of St. Stephen, in the western extremity of Clonmel, may have been the Dominican Abbey, the foundation of which could not be traced by Archdall. The ruin of this church is fifty-three feet long and nearly twenty-one feet wide, and the walls are eight feet high. There are small pointed windows in the east and west gables, formed of cut sandstone. In the east gable there are holes for joists, and in the west gable a chimney. The ruin is surrounded by a large grave-yard.

The Abbey of Inis Leamhnachta, signifying island of the new milk, was originally founded by St. Mochoemoc, and dedicated to the Virgin. St. Mochoemoc died in 655. Archdall says that Congan, while Abbot, communicated to St. Bernard materials for a life of his contemporary, St. Malachy, who died in 1153. In 1187 Donald O’Brien, King of Limerick, with the assistance of Malachy O’Faelan, Chief of the Decies, refounded and endowed this abbey. The site included the grave-yard of the present Protestant Church at Marlfield, parish of Innislonagh, less than two miles, Irish, from Clonmel. Of the building, although extensive and having strong claims to architectural beauty, nothing remains but some fragments used for gravestones. In 1840 an effort was made by gentlemen connected with the Ordnance Survey, to trace the foundations, but it failed. The location of the abbey was described as being three hundred paces from the River Suir. James Butler was the last abbot, 31st King Henry VIII. In the 18th of Queen Elizabeth an investigation showed that the abbey and possessions had been leased for thirty-one years to William Crofton at an annual rent of £45 18s. 1d. In the fifth of King Charles I. Sir James Gough, Knt., received a grant of the whole.

In the parish of Innislonagh, something over half a mile from the site of the abbey, there is the ruin of a chapel, forty-two feet long, and seventeen feet broad. The walls are nearly three and a half feet thick, ten feet high and partly ivy-covered. Against the east gable inside is a monument to Nicholas White, who died in August, 1622. The chapel, built to his memory, and dedicated to Jesus and the Virgin, received his remains in December, 1623.

St. Patrick’s Well, celebrated for the miraculous cures effected by washing in its waters, is quite near the chapel. An ash tree, now decaying, has grown to a considerable height beside the well, the roots spreading like serpent coils until they almost encircle it. The spring rises with great force, and sends forth a very strong continuous stream to the overflow from other springs, forming a sheet of shallow water. In the centre of this there is a rude cross apparently very old.