BANTRY, a sea-port, market and post-town

BANTRY, a sea-port, market and post-town, in the parish of KILMACOMOGUE, barony of BANTRY, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 47 ½ miles (W. S. W.) from Cork, and 173 ½ (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 4275 inhabitants. This place, called anciently Kilgoban, derived that name from St. Goban, its original founder or patron, and its present appellation, Bantry, from Beant-Mac-Farriola, a descendant of the O'Donovans and Mahonys, chieftains of the western portion of this country. During the insurrection of the Earl of Desmond, in 1581, Lord Barry and Goran Mac Swiney attacked the garrison of this place, but were repulsed with the loss of many of their men.

In 1689, a French fleet entered the bay, and being pursued by the English fleet under Admiral Herbert, bore down upon the latter in a line of 28 ships of war and 5 fire-ships, when a brisk action ensued, in which the English stood to sea in order to gain some advantage by manoeuvring, and which terminated by the French Admiral's returning into the bay. In 1691, a Dutch ship was captured in the bay by the native Irish in the interest of James II., but was retaken by Colonel Becher, with the loss, on the part of the Irish, of 36 men drowned and as many taken prisoners. In March of the same year, Sir David Collier with 300 men advanced to this place, where he encamped, and defeated a party of the Irish forces, of whom 70 were killed and 15 made prisoners: in the following May, some smaller skirmishes took place here; and in June, Colonel Townsend, with his forces, killed 100 of the rapparees or insurgent marauders, and brought away a quantity of plunder. In 1697, a body of troops in the service of William III. arrived from Flanders, and landed in the harbour; and in 1796, a French fleet with 15,000 men intended for the invasion of Ireland appeared in the bay; but being dispersed by a storm, in which one-fourth of their ships were lost, returned without attempting to make a descent upon the coast. In 1800, while the main body of the Channel fleet was at rendezvous here, the crew of his Majesty's ship Tremeraire mutinied; but by the spirited firmness of the captain, the late Admiral Eyles, 20 of the ringleaders were seized, taken to Portsmouth and tried, and thirteen of them were executed at Spithead.

The town is situated at the northern extremity of the bay to which it gives name, in a small valley encircled by lofty mountains, which attracting the clouds in their passage over the Atlantic, involve it in almost continual rains. It consists of two parallel streets leading towards the bay, on opposite sides of the river, over which are two bridges, and a cross street, affording communication between them: the streets are indifferently paved, and not lighted; the inhabitants are supplied with water from numerous springs. The approaches, with the exception of the new mail coach road along the margin of the bay, are steep and incommodious, and are lined with cabins of very inferior description. Little improvement has been made in the town, except by the erection of some very extensive stores by Mr. O'Connell and Mr. Corkery, merchants of the place, and the enlargement of the principal hotel, which now affords ample accommodation to the numerous tourists who, during the summer season, frequent this place on their way to Glengariff and the lakes. Anew and important line of road is in progress from Kenmare to Bantry, through Glengariff; it will afford a view of some of the most beautiful scenery in this part of the kingdom, embracing Glengariff and Bantry bay, of which latter it will command an extensive prospect, and is a continuation of the new line from Killarney to Kenmare. New roads have been opened from this town to Skibbereen, which will be highly advantageous to the neighbourhood, and other roads from Glengariff to Cork are also in contemplation.

Nearly adjoining the town is Sea Court, the seat of the Earl of Bantry, situated on a gentle eminence commanding a magnificent view of the noble harbour and bay, with the lofty mountains on the opposite shore: the mansion is a spacious square edifice, containing a fine collection of paintings and some pieces of armour brought from the east by Viscount Bearhaven; and immediately in front of it is the undulating and fertile island of Whiddy, formerly a deer park, but now converted into valuable farms, the picturesque appearance of which is heightened by the ruins of an ancient castle, built by the O'Sullivans in the reign of Henry VI.; the eminence behind the house is finely planted, and the demesne, including an extensive deer park, is tastefully laid out, and forms an interesting feature in the landscape. The trade of the port was formerly very considerable, and the town had attained a high degree of commercial importance. Previously to the withdrawing of the protecting duties, the manufacture of coarse linen and cotton began to thrive here and afforded employment to several hundred persons; these linens, here called "Vitries," were striped pieces chiefly used for bagging; and the sales frequently exceeded £4000 per annum. Butter, pork, and beef were formerly shipped from the port in great quantities, and, about the year 1775, several cargoes of butter were sent annually to Portugal.

The only manufacture at present is that of flour, of which the Bantry Mills, belonging to Messrs. Kingston and Co., are capable of producing 12,000 bags annually. A small porter brewery is carried on in the town by Mr. L. Young; and at Donemark are the brewery and mills of Mr. Michael Murphy. A considerable trade prevails in corn raised in the neighbouring parishes, and since 1815 has been rapidly increasing; in 1835, not less than 10,000 barrels of wheat and 3000 barrels of oats were shipped from this port to the English markets. A very lucrative pilchard fishery was for many years conducted, but has long been discontinued, that fish having left the shores. The present fishery is principally confined to hake, in which 24 hookers are engaged, each carrying 15 men; but mackarel, herrings, and sprats are also taken. The fish are cured in houses formerly called fish palaces, and of late the sales of the three last kinds have produced more than £2000 per annum; they find a ready market within a circuit of 50 miles. The shores of the bay abound with a calcareous deposit which forms a valuable manure, and which, about Glengariff and in other parts of the bay, is so thickly impregnated with coral as to be considered little inferior in strength to pure lime: a considerable number of men are employed in procuring it, and the quantity raised produces on the average more than £4000 per annum. In the year ending Jan. 5th, 1836, 31 vessels of the aggregate burden of 1010 tons, principally laden with corn, cleared outwards from this port, and 26 vessels of the aggregate burden of 814 tons entered inwards, of which, two were foreign ships laden with timber from America, and the remainder coasters with cargoes of salt, coal, earthenware, and iron. The bay is spacious, safe, and commodious for ships of any burden.

The principal market is on Saturday, and is amply supplied with provisions of all kinds; and there is also a market for provisions daily. Fairs are held on March 19th, May 1st, June 9th, July 15th, Aug. 21st, Oct. 15th, and Dec. 1st. Here is a chief constabulary police station. Petty sessions are held on alternate Fridays; and the quarter sessions for the West Riding of the county are also held here in February. The court-house is a neat building ornamented with a cornice and pediment supported by two broad pilasters, between which is a handsome window; and behind it is the bridewell for the barony. The parish church, a neat edifice in the early English style, with a lofty tower, is situated on the bank of the river, at the western extremity of the town; and on an eminence at the eastern extremity is a large R. C. chapel, erected at an expense of £2500. There is also a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. There are two school-houses in the town, one erected by subscription, and the other by a bequest of £200 from the Rev. D. Crowley, late parish priest of Bantry; and a dispensary. Bantry gives the titles of Earl, Viscount, and Baron, in the Irish peerage, to the ancient family of White, of whom the present Earl was created Baron in 1797, Viscount in 1800, and Earl of Bantry and Viscount Bearhaven in 1816.

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