ARDFERT, a decayed borough and market-town, and a parish

ARDFERT, a decayed borough and market-town, and a parish, in the barony of CLANMAURICE, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER,arms 5 miles (N.N.W.) from Tralee, and 144 ½ (S. W. by W.) from Dublin; containing 3585 inhabitants, of which number, 717 are in the town. The name of this place, sometimes written Ardart, signifies, according to Sir James Ware, "a wonderful place on an eminence," or, as some interpret it, "the hill of miracles." Ardart has also been considered a corruption of Ard Ert, "the high place of Ert." Matthew Paris calls it Hertfert, "the place of miracles of Hert or Ert; " and in the Annals of Innisfallen it is mentioned under the name of Hyferte, which denotes "the territory of miracles, or of Ert." It is thought to have been made by St. Ert, in the fifth century, the seat of a bishop's see, which comprehended the northern part of the county.

St. Brendan erected a sumptuous monastery here in the sixth century, which, with the town, was destroyed by fire in 1089: it was again reduced to ashes by Cormac O'Culen, in 1151, and, with the town, suffered a like fate in 1179, on which occasion it is supposed to have been entirely demolished. In 1253, Thomas, Lord of Kerry, founded a monastery for conventual Franciscans, probably on the site of the former, which was held in high estimation on account of numerous miracles said to have been performed in it: the founder and several other lords of Kerry, with many of their respective families, were interred in this monastery.

A leper-house was founded about 1312 by Nicholas Fitz-Maurice, who also erected a castle, of which little is recorded until the reign of Elizabeth, when the town was destroyed by a party of the royal forces under Maurice Stack, in 1599; and in the following year the castle was besieged by Sir Charles Wilmot, and, after a vigorous defence for nine days, was surrendered by the garrison, on some small pieces of ordnance being brought against it from an English vessel; the constable was hanged, but the lives of the rest were spared. The castle was rebuilt by Patrick, lord of Kerry, in 1637, but was demolished by an Irish leader named Lawler, in 1641, and there are now no remains. In the same year the cathedral was also destroyed, and the south transept was afterwards fitted up for divine service.

This is a declining town, without either trade or manufacture, and presents only the appearance of a village. The market, which was held on Thursday, was granted, with a fair on the festival of St. Peter and St. Paul and the following day, and a court of pie poudre and the usual tolls, by letters patent bearing date July 6th, 10th of Jas. I. (1612), to Thomas, lord of Kerry, then principal owner of the district. Fairs are held on Whit-Monday, July 9th, and Aug. 15th. The collection of tolls is not confined to sales made in the public fair; every person selling in his own house, on the fair day, is compelled to pay toll to the collector.

A penny post from Tralee has been lately established; and here is a station of the constabulary police. It has always been considered a borough by prescription, there being no charter of incorporation on record. The corporation, under the title of "The Portreeve, Burgesses, and Freemen of the Borough of Ardfert, in the county of Kerry," consisted of a portreeve, twelve burgesses, and an unlimited number of freemen. The borough returned two members to the Irish parliament in 1639, and continued to exercise the franchise till the Union, when the £15,000 awarded as compensation for the loss of that privilege was paid to the trustees of the marriage settlement of the late Earl of Glandore: the right of election was vested in the corporation. For some years after the Union, corporate meetings took place for the election of a portreeve and filling up vacancies among the burgesses, principally with a view to preserve the corporate property in the commons from encroachment; but the corporation was little more than nominal, and its meetings have fallen into total disuse.

The borough extends towards the east and west a considerable distance from the town, but on the south-west a portion of the town itself is outside the limits, which are not accurately defined: it is entirely within the parish, and is said to include the Sheep Walk, Grague, Killarane, Brandon Well, Kilquane, Laragh, Gortaspidale, and the commons. The above grant of James I., in 1612, conferred on Thomas, lord of Kerry, the privilege of holding courts baron and courts leet, with other manorial rights. The Earl of Listowel is now lord of the manor, and appoints a seneschal, who holds, in what was probably the old borough bridewell, a manor court once in three weeks, for the trial of actions of debt amounting to 40s. late currency, of which the jurisdiction extends about 2 ½ miles round the town; all trials are by jury, the jurors being summoned from the tenants of the manor, who are bound by their leases to serve, or are otherwise liable to a fine; but the business in this court is decreasing, from the holding of petty sessions in the town every alternate week, and of the county quarter sessions before the assistant barrister at Tralee.

The only property now admitted to belong to the corporation is the commons adjoining the town, comprising about 200 acres, and valued at £70 per annum, on which the inhabitants exercise a right of commonage; they were formerly very extensive, but encroachments have been made from time to time, which have been a source of constant disputes, and there are now on them about 100 houses or cabins, valued with the land at about £200 per annum; the occupants are free from rent, and formerly escaped all county rates, but the latter have of late been levied.

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