Fáilte Romhat

  The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland - Clonakilty

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland

1844-1845


CLONAKILTY or Cloghnakiltv,a market and post town, and formerly a parliamentary borough in the parish of Kilgariff, eastern division of the barony of East Carbery, co. Cork, Munster. It stands on the road from Cork to Skibbereen, and at the head of the estuary of the Foilagh rivulet, 6- miles north-east by east of Rosscarbery, 10 miles south-south-east of Bandon and 25- miles south-west of Cork. The rivulet Foilagh has a course to the town of only about 3 miles; it cuts the town into two not very unequal parts, and is crossed by two bridges; and immediately below it becomes tidal and expands at high water to a breadth of nearly of a mile. The country around the town has been much improved. The town itself was not long ago in flourishing condition, but begins to assume an appearance of desertion, decay, and coming misery. It was founded by the family of Boyle; it highly prosperous up to the civil wars of 1641 it was then almost entirely burned to the ground it rose very slowly from the ashes, and for upwards of a century, to possess little if more than village importance; it began 1790, to experience rapid improvement, and receive the accession of several spacious and handsome private residences; and since 1821, or a or two later, it has not only ceased to progress, but been exposed to the corrosions of comparative neglect and adversity. Its streets north of the brook which bisects it, are two of respectively 300 and 770 yards in length, running northward from the two bridges and somewhat parallel to each other, and two of respectively 800 and 350 yards in length, crossing the former two at right angles, and running somewhat parallel with river; and its chief streets, south of the bisecting brook, are two, which commence at the bridges, and unite 270 yards to the south, and one of about 360 yards in length, which crosses them at right angles; but all the streets, in both divisions of the town, are to some extent only one-sided or but partially edificed, and fail to present the attractions of uniformity, regularity, or prevailing burghal neatness. The chief public buildings are a court house, a district bridewell, a military barrack, a neat but incommodious parish-church, and a spacious and elegant Roman Catholic chapel.

So far back as about a century ago, linen-yarn sold at the Friday market, to the average value 20, and the occasional value of 30, per week; poultry, including geese and turkeys, were sold the fair of 20th Sept., to an amount which the place famous for them, and which largely supplied both the markets and the shipping of Cork and Kinsale. About the year 1790, the linen of the town became the best frequented in the district, and was the scene of transactions in yarn and cloth to the amount of about 30,000 per annum. The number of linen weavers fully employed in town during a considerable series of years was not less than 600; but in 1833 it decreased to not more than 150.  A traffic in corn was also large, and was encouraged by the erection of storehouses; but this also has declined. Something is done, but not to an extent, which in more favoured districts would draw notice, in the manufacture of cottons. A decline of population from 4,138 to 3,807 between 1821 and 1831 is ascribed solely the declension of trade; and the decay in the linen manufacture is ascribed, in some measure, to the abolition of the bounty of exportation. A weekly market is held on Friday; and fairs are held on April 6, Oct. 10, Nov. 12, and two other dates. The public conveyances, in 1838 were a car to Cork, and a mail coach in transit between Cork and Bantry.  A dispensary here is within the Poor-law union and serves for a district 12.000 inhabitants; and in 1839-40 it received and expended 100 and administered to 4,607 patients. The town gives designation to a Roman parish in the dio. of Cloyne and Ross See Kilgariff.

Clonakilty was incorporated by charter of 11 James I. The old borough limits are a circumference upon a radius of 1- mile English from building called the Old Chapel, near the centre the town; and the limits under the new arrangement comprise an area of about 1,200 yards by 650.The charter styled the corporation, The Sovereign Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Cloughnakilty; appointed them to consist of a sovereign, a commonalty, and from 13 to 24 free burgesses; gave them the right of sending two members to the Irish parliament; and constituted Sir Richard Boyle and his heirs, lords of the town, with power to appoint several of its officers, and direct to a certain extent its corporate affairs. The officers, additional to those in the corporation, were a recorder, a treasurer, a serjeant-at-mace, 3 constables, a toll collector, and weighmaster. The Earl of Shannon, the descendant of Sir Richard Boyle, received the whole of the 15,000 of compensation for disfranchisement at the legislative union; and he afterwards kept up the corporation under his direct patronage. The only corporate property consists of the tolls of fairs and markets, the rents of shambles, and some small profits from a market house which was built at the corporation's expense, on a piece of ground granted by Lord Shannon. The market house cost 600. A court of record, authorized by the charter, was formerly held but after the passing of the act which limited the power of arrest to sums exceeding 20, it was discontinued. A manor court is held on every third Wednesday by Lord Shannon's seneschal; and by a strange practice, is made a court of conscience for the recovery of sums not exceeding 5s. - the seneschul deciding cases simply on the oath of plaintiffs, and without the intervention of a jury. A court of petty-sessions is occasionally held by the sovereign and the recorder, as justices-of-peace for the taking of informations for offences committed within the town; and a court of petty sessions is held also by the county magistrates.

The old name of Clonakilty was Clowncallow. At the breaking out of the Irish rebellion, ann 1641, says Dr. Smith, the charter and other records of this borough were saved by Mr Walter Bird, who at the hazard of his life escaped with them to Bandon. In the streets of this place, two full companies of Lord Forbes regiment were slain by the Irish in 1642; and the third company being Bandonians, made good their retreat a full mile to an old fort in the highway to Ross, which they also maintained till the rest of the regiment, then,at Rathberry came to their relief; and then they all fell upon the Irish and killed above 600 of them. The country around Clonakilty is a congeries of hills, intersected by little vales or hollows, and variegated with protrusions of bare rock, -  the vales watered by many nameless brooks, and the hills made intricate and mottled by the rocky protrusions. Numerous high bold cliffs rise on the sea coast, and occasionally produce close scenes of considerable romance and beauty. -  Area of the town, 196 acres. Pop., in 1831 3,807; in 1841 3,993. Houses 592. Families employed chiefly in agriculture, 196; in manufactures and trade, 442; in other pursuits 18. Families dependent chiefly on property and professions, 72; on the directing of labour, 431; on their own manual labour, 250; on means not specified, 74. Males at and above 5 years of age who could read and write, 779;  who could read but not write, 190; who could neither read nor write, 643. Females at and above 5 years of age who could read and write, 563; who could read but not write, 334; who could neither read nor write, 1,056.