The inhabitants received a charter of incorporation from Jas. I., dated March 25th, 1613, by which the government was vested in a sovereign, twelve burgesses, and a commonalty: the sovereign was empowered to hold a court of record in personal actions not exceeding five marks, and the privilege of returning members to parliament was granted. In 1689, Jas. II. granted another charter, dated subsequently to the accession of Wm. III., which recites that the provost, free burgesses, and commonalty had enjoyed many privileges which had been seized into the King's hands by a Judgment of the Exchequer. From the time of its first incorporation the borough continued to return two members to the Irish parliament till the legislative union, when it was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded as compensation for the abolition of the franchise was paid to Sir John Evans Freke, Bart., who in 1807 succeeded to the title of Lord Carbery, and is the present proprietor; the right of voting was vested in the householders, and the seneschal of the manor was the returning officer. The limits of the old borough cannot now be well defined by any marked boundaries; they included part of the manor, and extended for about a quarter of a mile round the town by land. The corporation is extinct, and the only official person remaining is a water-bailiff now appointed by the proprietor and lord of the manor, by whose authority he collects certain dues from all vessels not belonging to the port which enter it, whether they discharge their cargoes or not.
The village is situated on the eastern shore of the harbour, and immediately around the ruins of the ancient castle; and, though small, is rapidly increasing in size and importance. Several large and handsome houses have been recently erected, and others are in progress; and in 1833 a substantial pier was constructed at the joint expense of the Fishery Board and Lord Carbery. The trade of the port consists chiefly in the export of slate, copper-ore, flax, wheat, oats, and potatoes; and in the import of timber, iron, coal, salt, and general merchandise. In 1835, nine vessels of the aggregate burden of 2030 tons entered inwards, and the same number cleared outwards either with passengers or ballast, as connected with the foreign trade; and vessels of the aggregate burden of 10,300 tons entered inwards, and 299 of the aggregate burden of 17,643 tons cleared out, as connected with the coasting trade. The amount of duties paid at the custom-house for that year was £2059. 18. 6.; but much of the timber being imported for the use of the copper mines, the greater part of the duty was returned. The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port is 99, of the aggregate burden of 6426 tons. The custom-house is at Castle-Townsend, a distance of 10 miles from this place. The jurisdiction of the port extends from Galley Head, on the east, to Mill Cove on the west, and includes the creeks or harbours of Bearhaven, Bantry, Crookhaven, Baltimore, and Castle-Townsend, together with all rivers, bays, and creeks within its limits. The harbour is situated about seven miles (E. by N.) from the south-west point of Cape Clear, and is convenient for shipping bound either eastward or westward. The pier, though small, is a great accommodation to the fishermen as a landing-place on the mainland, for the fishery of Cape Clear; and a small quayage is collected for keeping it in repair. There are neither fairs nor markets. A coastguard station has been established here, which is one of the nine that constitute the district of Skibbereen. The parish church, a new and handsome building with a lofty square tower, is situated in the village: it was erected in 1819, and forms a very conspicuous and beautiful feature in the landscape, as seen from the harbour. A school-house for male and female children was built at the expense of Lord Carbery in 1832: and there is a dispensary for the benefit of the inhabitants of the numerous islands in the bay. The ruins of the castle, on the summit, of a lofty rock over the pier, and commanding every part of the harbour, are extensive and beautifully picturesque.--See TULLAGH.