CASTLETOWN-ROCHE, a post-town and parish

CASTLETOWN-ROCHE, a post-town and parish, in the barony of FERMOY, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 18 miles (N. by E.) from Cork, and 116 (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 3648 inhabitants, of which number, 1095 are in the town. This place derives its name from a castle erected here by the family of Roche, lords of Fermoy. In 1580 it was suddenly visited by Capt, (afterwards Sir Walter) Raleigh, who conveyed both Lord Roche and his lady to Cork on suspicion of disloyalty; his lordship, however, proved his innocence and was honourably acquitted. During the parliamentary war the castle sustained many sieges, and in 1649 was defended for several days by Lady Roche against a detachment of the parliamentarian army, who had raised a battery against it on the opposite field, since called Camp Hill. On the refusal of the owner to compound with Cromwell for its restoration, it was confiscated; but it had sustained so much damage during the siege, that its new proprietor found it necessary to rebuild it from the foundation, with the exception of the keep, which is a fine specimen of the architecture of the middle ages.

The town is pleasantly situated on the declivity of a steep hill rising from the west bank of the river Awbeg, over which is a neat bridge of five arches, and on the high road from Fermoy to Doneraile; and with the castle and the church has a highly picturesque appearance, on the approach from the east bank of the river. It contains 165 houses, of which some are neatly built, and a small barrack, in which an officer and one company of infantry are generally stationed. Below the bridge are two large flour-mills, and near Annsgrove the making of bricks is carried on to a small extent. The market, granted, together with two fairs, to the Rev. Thomas Widenham in the reign of George II., is discontinued; the fairs are held on May 25th and Sept. 29th, and two additional fairs on July 28th and Dec. 12th have greatly declined. A constabulary police force is stationed here; and petty sessions are held in the town every alternate Tuesday.

The parish comprises 6333 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £6378 per annum. The lands are chiefly under tillage; there is neither waste land nor bog. The soil is fertile, and well adapted to the growth of corn; the wheat raised here is of the best quality, and the system of agriculture is greatly improved. In many of the farms belonging to the gentry, the Scottish system of husbandry has been introduced with success. Great numbers of sheep and cattle are fattened here for the neighbouring markets: the cattle are in general stall-fed. Limestone is found in great abundance and of excellent quality, and is extensively quarried both for building and for burning into lime; and the clay for bricks is found on the banks of the river, on the estate of Annsgrove. The surrounding country is beautifully picturesque; and the river Awbeg, the "gentle Mulla" of Spenser, is celebrated for the richness and variety of its scenery.

Castle Widenham, the noble mansion of H. Mitchel Smith, Esq., is situated on the summit of a rocky eminence overhanging the river, the banks of which are here richly wooded, and commands extensive and varied prospects over the surrounding country, itself forming a conspicuous and beautiful object from every point of view. The tower or keep of the ancient fortress has been incorporated in the present structure, which is in a style of corresponding character, and rises majestically above the woods in which it is embosomed, forming a strikingly romantic feature in the landscape. The castle, with its outworks, occupied a considerable extent of ground surrounded by a strong rampart with parapets and turrets, of which a large portion is still remaining; there is a descent to the river of 100 steps cut in the solid rock, for supplying the castle with water. Annsgrove, the elegant seat of Lieut.-Gen, the Hon. Arthur Grove Annesley, is a handsome mansion recently built by the proprietor, on the verge of a precipitous cliff rising from the river Awbeg, which flows through the demesne: the grounds are laid out with great taste and surrounded by thriving plantations.

Glenamore, the seat of the representatives of the late Rev. T. Hoare, is beautifully situated in the midst of picturesque and romantic scenery. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Cloyne, formerly united to the rectories and vicarages of Bridgetown and Kilcummer, from which, on the death of the late incumbent in 1835, it was separated, and is at present a distinct benefice, in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £518. 15. 5. The church is a remarkably handsome structure, with a tower, surmounted by a finely proportioned octagonal spire; the lower stage is pierced with a window on every face, the copings of which form a zigzag ornament continued all round; it was erected on the site of the old church, in 1825, by aid of a loan of £1250 from the late Board of First Fruits, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently made a grant of £100 for its repair. It occupies the summit of a rocky eminence, the base of which is washed by the Awbeg, forming a conspicuous and picturesque feature in the view of the place.

There is neither glebe-house nor glebe. In the R. C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Killathy, Ballyhooley, Kilcummer, and Bridgetown; the chapel is a spacious but plain building, on which the chapel at Ballyhooley is dependent. There are four private schools, in which about 220 children are educated. Walter Croker, Esq., about 80 years since, bequeathed £100, the interest to be annually divided by the minister and churchwardens among the Protestant poor of the parish: in the town is a dispensary. Below the castle, and near the margin of the river, is a holy well, dedicated to St. Patrick, on whose anniversary a patron is held here: the water is remarkably pure, and is much esteemed by the peasantry for its supposed virtues.

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