WEXFORD, a sea-port, borough, market, post, and assize town, in the barony of FORTH, county of WEXFORD, and province of LEINSTER, 74 miles (S.) from Dublin and 30 ¼ (E. N. E.) from Waterford; containing 10,673 inhabitants. This town, which, as far as can be inferred from the earliest historical notices respecting it, was a maritime settlement of the Danes, is thought to have derived its name, which was anciently written Weisford, from the term Waesfiord (Washford), which implies a bay overflowed by the tide, but left nearly dry at low water, like the washes of Lincolnshire and Cambridgeshire.

Nothing further is known respecting it till the time of the English invasion, when it was besieged by Fitz-Stephen and Harvey de Montemarisco, immediately after their landing at Bannow, aided by the Irish army of Dermod Mac Murrough. The townsmen at first marched out to give the invaders battle, but awed by their numbers and discipline they retired within their walls, after having set fire to the suburbs to check the enemy's pursuit: an assault of the besiegers was gallantly repulsed, but at the end of three days they surrendered on condition of recognising the sovereignty of Dermod. The town, with two adjoining cantreds, was then assigned to the two English leaders, conformably with a previous agreement; and Fitz-Stephen, to secure himself in his new possession, immediately commenced the erection of a castle in a position commanding the pass of the Slaney at Carrigg.

After the main body of the English had proceeded to Dublin, the Wexford men invested the castle, and having in vain endeavoured to force an entrance, prevailed upon Fitz-Stephen and his garrison to surrender, by means of a fabricated account of the destruction of Strongbow and all his companions in arms. On the arrival of Strongbow, who, after the dispersion of the Irish army before Dublin, had hastened to the relief of Fitz-Stephen, the townsmen quitted Wexford and took refuge in Beg Erin, an island in the harbour, carrying their prisoners with them as hostages for their own good treatment.

The plan succeeded: on the arrival of King Henry, they gave up their prisoners and were allowed to return peaceably to Wexford, which they now promised to hold under his authority. Henry, on his hurried departure from Ireland to suppress an insurrection in Normandy, gave the town in charge to William Fitz-Aldelm, Philip de Braosa, and Philip of Hastings, with a body of 50 knights. In 1174 he granted the town to Strongbow, who, during his residence in it, celebrated the marriage of his sister Basilea with Raymond le Gros and appointed him governor.

In 1177, Raymond received Fitz-Aldelm here on his arrival as Custos or Governor of Ireland, who placed his kinsman, Walter Almain, in command of the place; but Raymond having been restored, soon after proceeded by sea with part of the garrison to the relief of the city of Cork, which was besieged by an Irish army. After the death of Strongbow, and of all the male issue of his only daughter, who had married William Marshal, Earl of Pembroke, and the subsequent partition of his immense property among his five granddaughters, Wexford was assigned to Joan, the second sister, who had married Warren de Mountchensey.

In 1318 the town received its earliest charter extant from Adomar de Valence, into whose possession it and the lordship came by marriage with Warren's only daughter. In 1327, an Irish army under O'Brien was repulsed from the town with great slaughter. During the struggle between the houses of Lancaster and York it was seized in 1462, by Sir John Butler, whose brother, the Earl of Ormonde, had been just before beheaded by the Yorkists; but having rashly accepted a challenge from the Earl of Desmond, who had advanced to dispossess him, to decide the contest in the open field, he suffered a total defeat: the victorious earl held a parliament in the town in the next year.

The lordship, which had been conveyed, through the female line, to Richard Talbot, who married the only daughter of Adomar de Valence, continued in the possession of his descendants, until forfeited in the 28th of Henry VIII., under the act against absentees. By the charter of James I., in 1608, the castle and borough were granted to the corporation at an annual rent.

On the breaking out of the war of 1641, Wexford was one of the first places that fell into the hands of the insurgents, and was their chief port for receiving military supplies from other countries. On the approach of Cromwell, in 1649, the inhabitants at first refused to admit any troops on the part of the king, but afterwards consented to receive 2000 Catholics sent by the Marquess of Ormonde: but the aid was useless, for Cromwell's troops gained admission either by force or through the treachery of Stafford, the governor, and the town was given up to military execution, as had been the case with Drogheda. The castle and much of the corporation property was confiscated at this period.

After the battle of the Boyne, the town declared for William III., and was garrisoned by his troops. In 1793, a large body of the peasantry proceeded thither to rescue some Whiteboy prisoners: on their approach a detachment of the garrison was sent out to disperse them, the commander of which, Captain Valloton, having ridden in advance of his men, for the humane purpose of expostulating with the insurgents on their conduct, was cut down by a scythe: a monumental obelisk erected on the Windmill hill commemorates this deplorable event.

During the disturbances of 1798, Wexford was the chief position of the insurgents in the south of Ireland. After the defeat of a detachment of the King's troops, at the Three Rocks, on the 30th of May, on their march to the town, it was evacuated in a panic by the garrison, and immediately taken possession of by the insurgents, who made it their principal station, and kept it till the 21st of the following month, during which time they put to death 91 of their prisoners on the bridge. On the advance of the royal army, after the total defeat of the main body of the insurgents at Vinegar Hill, near Enniscorthy, it was evacuated with such precipitation that a troop of yeoman-cavalry, which had galloped in advance of the main body, in the hope of preventing the apprehended ill-treatment of their wives and families from the paroxysms of despair of their opponents, entered without the smallest check or opposition.

Medals of gold and silver were struck by order of the corporation, to commemorate this event, and given to the officers and privates of the corps. In 1804, the walls underwent a thorough repair, at the expense of the corporation, on which occasion a piece of plate was presented to the mayor.

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