Roscrea Abbeys, Round Tower and Castles - 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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Of the abbey founded by St. Cronan in the sixth century, there remains only the west gable. It was entire, and used for services until 1812, when the Protestant church, to which the gable forms an entrance gate, was completed. The gable measures 33 feet from north to south. An arched door-way in the centre, has above it a defaced figure said to represent St. Cronan. Repairs were done by the Board of Works about seven years ago, upon which occasion a large cross, called the shrine of St. Cronan, that had lain neglected in the church-yard, was elevated to a height over seventeen feet. On the side of this, facing the street, there is a representation of the crucifixion. In 909 by will of King Cormac M‘Culenan, his royal robes, embroidered with gold and precious stones, were deposited in this abbey.

The Franciscan Abbey was founded in 1490 by Mulruany na Feasoge O’Carrol, a man of considerable note in his time. At the dissolution it was granted to the Earl of Ormonde. The remains include the east gable and north side wall of choir, part of the north side wall of the nave, and the square tower between the nave and choir. This tower is 60 feet high. It forms the entrance gate and is used as the belfry of the Catholic church.

Monaincha, or the “Boggy Isle,” is situated at a distance of 2 miles, Irish, from Roscrea. It is about 340 feet in circumference, and rises from 4½ to 5 feet above the field of which it is the centre. The surrounding bog, now dry, two hundred years ago was accessible by boat only. In the “island,” or raised ground described, there are remains of the Culdean Abbey. These include a church 33 feet long and 16 feet wide, used as the burial place of the Birch family. Adjoining it are a chancel 8 feet long and 7 feet wide, and an arched cell (the prior’s chamber) 26 feet long and 15 feet wide. It is said that the stones employed in constructing the abbey were floated to the island in boats fashioned from entire trees. One of the variety of opinions as to the meaning of Culdee is that it has been evolved from words signifying “espoused to God.” St. Columba was the founder of the order. The abbey at Monaincha is supposed to date from the sixth century. In the thirteenth century the Augustinian friars occupied it, and the Culdees removed to the neighboring village of Corbally, where they built a small chapel.

The ancient round tower of Roscrea stands at the opposite side of the street from the gable of St. Cronan’s Abbey. It is about 60 feet high. During the rebellion of 1798 one of the rebels, from the top, shot the sentinel at the barracks, and the Government, to prevent the possible repetition of the Act, had 20 feet taken down. In 1814 five floors of the tower were occupied by a family named Scully.

The Castle of Roscrea, built by order of King John in 1213, gives name to one of the principal streets of the town. It is a lofty square structure, roofed and slated, measuring at the ground floor, east to west, 37 feet 10 inches, and north to south 19 feet 5 inches. Repairs were made to it by the Board of Works several years since. A round tower, facing the Mall at one side, roofed and slated, was built at the same time as the castle. A barrack for regular soldiers stands within the enclosure formed by the outer walls of the castle. This was formerly the residence of the Damer family, of whom the head became Lord Portarlington, owner of the town. The barrack is used by soldiers engaged in ball practice at the Rifle Range, 2½ miles from town.