CHARLEVILLE, an incorporated market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the parish of RATHGOGAN, barony of ORRERY and KILMORE, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 29 miles (N. by W.) from Cork, and 114 1/4 miles (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 4766 inhabitants. This town, so named in honour of Chas. II., is of comparatively recent origin, having been founded by Roger, first Earl of Orrery and Lord-President of Munster, in the year 1661. That nobleman erected a magnificent mansion here for his own residence, in which he kept his court of presidency, and by his influence obtained for the inhabitants a charter of incorporation from Chas. II., dated May 29th, 1671. Charleville House was burnt by the Irish under the command of the Duke of Berwick, in 1690, and by his order, after he had dined in it. In 1691, Col. Lumley came to this place on the 18th of August, with a party of soldiers, when the enemy posted here fled, leaving many of their men killed and wounded. Captain Massey, who had been left behind, fired his pistols at the soldiers of William's army; and he and a cornet, being taken prisoners with protections in their pockets, were hanged as deserters. The town is situated on the mail coach road from Cork to Limerick, near the border of the latter county, and on the north-east side of an elevated tract, from which stretches an extensive plain of rather cheerless aspect. The land to the south is of superior quality, producing abundant crops. At the western end of the town the plantations of Sanders Park, the demesne of C. Sanders, Esq., have a pleasing appearance. It consists principally of two parallel streets communicating by two others crossing them at right angles; one of which is a wide and spacious thoroughfare, the chief place of traffic, particularly on market days. It is neither paved nor lighted, but the inhabitants are well supplied with water from springs and a public pump. Nothing appears to have been done for the improvement of this place for some years; but the lord of the manor, the Earl of Cork and Orrery, is now renewing upon advantageous terms a number of long leases that have recently fallen in, which has given an impulse to its improvement, and several new houses have in consequence been lately erected: the number of houses, in 1831, was 741. A new road, eight Irish miles in length, has been just completed from Charleville to Croom, that will shorten the distance to Limerick. There are three tanyards and a small blanket-manufactory in the town; and immediately adjoining it are two large flour-mills. The market is on Saturday, and is well supplied with provisions. Fairs are held on the 10th of January, March 16th, May 12th, Aug. 15th, Oct. 10th, and Nov. 12th, for fat cattle, pigs, hardware, and other merchandise; the last two are held by patent, the others are of recent establishment. The shambles for butchers' meat are in a small enclosed area at the back of the court-house. A sub-branch of the National Bank of Ireland has been recently established here, in connection with the Branch Bank of Limerick. A military force of two officers and 40 men is stationed here, but there is no permanent barrack; and a constabulary police station has been also established in the town.
By charter granted in the 23rd of Chas. II. to Roger, Earl of Orrery, erecting his lands into a manor, this town was made a free borough, and the inhabitants were incorporated under the designation of the "Sovereign, Bailiffs, and Burgesses of the Borough of Charleville." The corporation consists of a sovereign, two bailiffs, twelve burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen. The sovereign and bailiffs are elected annually from the burgesses, by the corporation, on the Monday after St. John's day, and sworn into office on the Monday after Michaelmas-day. The burgesses are elected by the corporation as vacancies occur by death or otherwise, and the persons proposed are at the same time made freemen of the borough. The sovereign is a justice of the peace within the borough, and acts occasionally in that capacity; he is also coroner and billet-master. The corporation was some years since nearly extinct, the members being reduced to the sovereign and one bailiff only. In 1826 the sovereign and the remaining bailiff re-elected themselves, and also filled up all the vacancies; and the corporation at present consists of a sovereign, two bailiffs, and twelve burgesses, as originally constituted. The charter conferred upon the corporation the privilege of returning two members to the Irish parliament, which was regularly exercised till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid in moieties to the Earls of Shannon and Cork. The sovereign, or his deputy, is usually appointed seneschal of the manor, the greater portion of which extends into the county of Limerick; and as such he holds a court of record, the jurisdiction of which extends to the determination of pleas not exceeding £200 late currency: the proceedings are according to the usual course of common law, and actions are commenced either by arrest of the person, attachment of the goods, or serviceable writ; and under the act of the 7th and 8th of Geo. IV., cap. 59, he has also a civil bill jurisdiction. Petty sessions are held in the town every alternate Monday, by the county magistrates. The court and market-house is a small plain building on the north side of the main street.
The ancient parish church of Rathgogan has been for a long time in ruins, and the present church, erected by the founder of the town, is situated on the south side of the main street: it is a plain building without either tower or spire; the walls have been lately embattled with hewn limestone. The Roman Catholic chapel, a neat and spacious edifice, erected by subscription in 1812, is ornamented with quoins, cornices, and window mouldings of hewn stone; the altar is large and remarkably elegant, and is embellished with several paintings of superior execution; a handsome cupola was added to the chapel in 1829, and adjoining it is a parochial house for the priest. An edifice has been lately erected for the meetings of Bible and other similar associations, also as a place of preaching for occasional preachers. There are several schools, the minuter details of which will be found in the article on the parish of Rathgogan. Among these is a national school recently established, for which a remarkably neat building of hewn limestone has been erected, at an expense of £800, of which £600 was raised by subscription, and the remainder granted by the new National Board. A classical school was founded by the first Earl of Cork and Orrery, who endowed it with £40 per annum, continued by the present earl, who appoints the master: the celebrated Barry Yelverton, Attorney-General for Ireland, subsequently Chief Baron of the Exchequer, and afterwards created Viscount Avonmore, was educated here. A dispensary is supported, and a fever hospital is about to be erected, towards which the Earl of Cork has subscribed £100. Near the town was formerly a charter school for female foundlings, which has been discontinued for many years: the buildings are at present occupied as a dwelling-house by the incumbent, the Rev. J. R. Cotter, the inventor of a new and very powerful bass wind instrument, called the Basso Hibernico, which obtained the patronage of Geo. IV., and was introduced into his band. The interest of a bequest of £100 by the late Mr. Ryan is to be applied towards the support of the national school; and a further bequest of £50 in clothing to the poor of Charleville. At Belfort, near the town, is a spring of remarkably pure water, with a slight mineral tinge; it is held in great veneration by the peasantry, who resort to it in great numbers. John Macdonald, commonly called Shaun Claraugh, an Irish poet, resided here for several years, and was buried at Ballysally, near the town.