Nenagh: The Castle and Abbeys - 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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The directories are naturally an invaluable resource for those tracing family history. The Book of County Tipperary is the first of these to be made available on, with its own search page. However, there are a few points to bear in mind.

  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.
  2. The text has been proofed with due care, but with large bodies of text typographical errors are inevitably bound to occur.
  3. Be aware that there were often inconsistencies in spelling surnames in the 19th century and also that many forenames are abbreviated in Bassett’s directories.

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.

To enjoy the rich variety of advertisements, confirm accuracy of the entries, or have a printed record of a family member, obtain an original or facsimile copy of The Book of County Tipperary.

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Among the remains of antiquity at Nenagh and in the vicinity, the castle occupies the foremost place. It stands in a field rented by Mr. F. R. Maloney at the back of 35 Castle-street. A breach at the ground shows the wall there to be over 17 feet in thickness. The Ordnance Survey measurements begin at the door which is at the south-eastern side, about 15 feet from the ground. The wall at that point is 13½ feet thick, the external circumference of the castle 166½ feet, and the internal diameter 26 feet. The divisions of the structure were for three storeys, and the increased thickness of the wall from the first storey downward, inside, was used to support the floor. At each storey the thickness diminishes to the top. At the time of the survey there was “a huge chasm in the lower part of the tower, westward of the staircase,” but this was repaired over thirty years ago, and an addition made which increased the height from about 70 to over 100 feet. The style of architecture was not preserved. The stairs were repaired at the same time, and now afford facilities for enjoyment of a splendid view, including Lough Derg. At a distance of 48½ feet to the south of the castle there are extensive remains of a rectangular building (the keep) measuring according to the authority already quoted, 60 feet from east to west, and 28¾ feet from north to south. Of this the eastern wall is destroyed. At the north side there was an arched gateway 13 feet high and 9 feet 8 inches wide. Strong walls at the different corners of the building were originally connected with four flanking towers. The door of the castle, already stated to be 15½ feet from the ground, was connected with the keep by a causeway, portions of the great walls of which, in masses of masonry, are still in position. There is nothing to show who actually built the castle, but tradition attributes it to King John. He succeeded to the monarchy in 1199, and made a visit to the county in 1210, twenty-five years after his first entry as Prince John, Lord of Ireland. This would be consistent with the possession by the Butlers.

The repairs were done to the castle by the late Mr. Lant Ryan, of Newport, under contract to the parish authorities of Nenagh, who acquired the interest with the intention of making it the bell-tower of a cathedral for the diocese of Killaloe. A difficulty arose that prevented the project from being carried out.

The remains of the Franciscan Abbey stand close to the Catholic Church in Chapel-street. Of these there are two gables, one side wall, and the greater portion of the second, all partly ivy-covered. The interior of the church, and the grave-yard, are used for burial places by the Catholic families of the town and neighborhood. There is some doubt as to the original founder of the Franciscan Abbey, said to be one of the richest of the order in Ireland. It dates from the reign of Henry III., who succeeded his father King John in 1216, and died in 1272. One of the Kennedys, a prominent family in Ormond, is mentioned with one of the Butlers in connection with the endowment. Tradition ascribes the erection of the abbey originally to St. Coolan. In the reign of Queen Elizabeth the abbey and belongings were leased to Robert Collum.

The ruin of Tyone Abbey is situated in the townland of same name, near the river, to the south-east of the town, within a distance of half a mile. A great part of the structure has been entirely destroyed. Of the remains there are the east gable, north and south side walls of the choir of the church, and the north wall of the tower, which stood between the nave and choir, the north wall of the nave attached to it, and part of the south wall of the nave, all ivy-covered. The grave-yard is used for burials by the Catholics of the town and district. Tyone Abbey dates from the year 1200. Archdall says a hospital was founded here for Canons regular of the Order of St. Augustine, who were constantly to admit the sick and infirm. It was dedicated to St. John the Baptist, and was usually called “St. John’s House.” Theobald Walter, first Chief Butler of Ireland, gave a large endowment of lands, etc., to this house, on condition that beds for the sick to the number of thirteen, should be maintained, and that each sick person “should have a loaf and sufficiency from the cellar, with a dish of meat from the kitchen.” Thaddeus O’Mara was the last prior. The abbey and its belongings were granted by Queen Elizabeth to Oliver Grace, at a yearly rent of £39 0s. 10d.