The town is finely situated on the northern bank of the river Blackwater, about a mile below its confluence with the Clydagh, in a vale enclosed on the south side by a chain of mountains, but more open on the north, and on both sides richly wooded. It consists chiefly of one main street on the mail coach road from Cork to Limerick, near one extremity of which was Castle Garr, on the site of which is now a modern house; and at the other is Mallow Castle, commanding the river, over which is a stone bridge of eleven arches, connecting the town with the suburb of Ballydaheen, on the opposite bank. Within the last few years the town has been greatly enlarged and much improved; several spacious houses have been built, a new street has been opened to the north of the main street, and the latter has been lengthened by the addition of several respectable private houses at its western extremity. Most of the houses in this street have a projecting square window on the first floor, which has a singular but not unpleasing effect; the principal footpaths are flagged, though the streets are not paved; and the inhabitants are amply supplied with excellent water. The total number of houses, including the suburb of Ballydaheen, was, in 1831, 996, of which number 426 are slated and the remainder thatched; they are generally well built, and the town has, on the whole, a handsome and cheerful appearance. The beauty of its environs, and the tepid mineral waters for which Mallow is celebrated, had made it a place of fashionable resort, during the summer months, and the number of gentlemen's seats in the immediate vicinity had rendered it a desirable place of residence, long before it attained its present importance as a place of trade. The Mallow Club, consisting of an unlimited number of the resident gentry of the town and neighbourhood, elected by ballot as proprietary members, was established here several years since on a very liberal scale. The club-house, situated in the principal street, contains billiard, card, supper, and reading rooms; the latter, which contains also a good library for reference, is open to strangers. There is also a public subscription news-room on a smaller scale. The members of the Duhallow hunt hold their meetings here, and are distinguished for their superior pack of foxhounds. Races are held annually in September on a course about two miles to the east of the town; and balls and concerts occasionally take place, under the patronage of the neighbouring gentry, in the new and spacious assembly-rooms attached to the principal hotel. The military depot, formerly established here, was discontinued on the formation of a larger establishment at Fermoy, but there are still infantry barracks for 7 officers and 103 non-commissioned officers and privates. The mineral waters, in their properties, resemble those of Bristol, but are much softer; one of the tepid springs was at a very early period in repute as a holy well, dedicated to St. Peter, but they were all neglected for medicinal use till the earlier part of the last century. The principal spring is on the north-eastern side of the town, where it rises perpendicularly in a powerful stream from the base of a limestone hill that shelters it on the east. There is another spring called the Lady's well, also warm and of the same quality, though not covered in or used. The water of the spa has a mean temperature of 70° of Fahrenheit, rising in summer to 72° and falling in winter to 68°; it is considered as a powerful restorative to debilitated constitutions, and peculiarly efficacious in scrofulous and consumptive cases, for which the spa is much frequented by persons of fashion from distant parts of the country, being the only water of the kind known in Ireland. The spa house was built in 1828, by C. D. O. Jephson, Esq., M.P., the present lord of the manor and principal proprietor of the town: it is in the old English style of rural architecture, and contains a small pump-room, an apartment for medical consultation, a reading-room, and baths; the whole fitted up in the most complete manner for supplying, at the shortest notice, hot and cold salt-water, vapour, and medicated baths. The approach to the spa from the town is partly through an avenue of lofty trees along the bank of an artificial canal, affording some picturesque scenery; it is in contemplation to form an approach from the north end of the new street, winding round the brow of the hill and through the Spa glen, the present outlet from the lower part of the town being inconveniently narrow. There are no public promenades; but the excellent roads leading through the environs, which abound with scenery of a richly diversified character, afford a variety of pleasant walks; and a road nearly five miles in circuit, called the Circular Drive, which has been made along the southern bank of the river Blackwater, crossing Clydagh bridge in a westerly direction, and returning by the navigation road on the north side, affords excellent opportunities for equestrian excursions. Through a great portion of its length this road is shaded on both sides with rows of lofty trees, and the whole line presents an uninterrupted succession of elegant seats and tastefully embellished demesnes. The season usually commences in May, and terminates in the beginning of October, during which period there is a considerable influx of company; and it is probable that, as the improvements around the Spa are continued, advantage will be taken of the many eligible sites which the vicinity affords for the erection of pleasant lodging-houses.
The inhabitants carry on an extensive and lucrative trade with the opulent and populous districts in the neighbourhood, importing most of their articles of general consumption direct from England. There are in the town and its immediate vicinity three soap and candle manufactories, three tanyards, three flour-mills, of which those belonging to Messrs. W. and K. Brady and Messrs. Molloy and Co., are worked by the river Clydagh, and produce each about 10,000 barrels annually; the extensive brewery and malting establishment of Owen Madden, Esq.; two lime and salt works, and a small manufactory of blankets and flannel, with a dyeing and pressing-house. Branches of the Provincial and Agricultural Banks have been recently established in the town. The projected railway from Dublin to Valencia will, if carried into effect, pass close to the town. About 40 years since, about 3f miles of a line of canal, intended to connect the Duhallow collieries with the sea, was cut and may still be traced adjoining the road to Kanturk, thence called the "navigation road." The principal market is on Tuesday, when large quantities of corn are bought by agents for the Cork merchants; there is a second market on Friday; and butter, celebrated for the sweetness of its flavour, and eggs are brought for sale daily. Fairs are held on the 1st of January, the day before Shrove-Tuesday, May 11th, July 25th, and Oct. 28th, for general farming stock; the January fair is chiefly for pigs, of which more than 2000 were sold in 1836. The marketplace has been recently erected, at the sole expense of Mr. Jephson; it occupies an area 75 yards in length and 50 yards in width, and contains markets for butchers' meat, pigs, sheep, potatoes, and general provisions.
The town received its first charter of incorporation from James I. in 1612, and though a new charter was granted by James II., it was acted on during only a very short period, and the original charter was revived. By that charter the corporation consisted of a provost, twelve burgesses, and a commonalty; the provost was chosen from the burgesses at Midsummer, and sworn into office at Michaelmas; and vacancies in their body, as they occurred, were filled from the commonalty by a majority of the burgesses, by whom also the freemen were admitted by favour: vacancies in the office of provost were to be filled within 15 days, and in that of the burgesses in 7 days. The provost was clerk of the market, and the corporation had power to make bye-laws, to have a mercatory guild, and a common seal: to appoint two serjeants-at-mace and other officers; and to hold a court of record every Friday, for the determination of pleas to the amount of five marks. Probably from the peremptory necessity of filling up vacancies within so short a period, the corporation soon fell into disuse, and it has now ceased to exist. The charter also conferred the privilege of returning two members to the Irish parliament, who for a long time previous to the Union were, after the extinction of the charter, elected by the freeholders of the manor, by whom also the member returned to the Imperial parliament since the Union was elected till the 2nd of Wm. IV.; till which period also the freeholders of the manor had a vote both for the town and for the county. The act of the 2nd of Wm. IV., cap. 88, extended the right of election to the £10 householders, the right of the 40$. freeholders not occupying houses of that value to expire with their lives. The number of registered electors is about 300. A new boundary for electoral purposes has been drawn round the town, including the village of Ballydaheen, and comprising an area of 350 statute acres, of which the limits are minutely detailed in the Appendix; the seneschal of the manor is the returning officer. The manor extends over that part of the parish of Mallow lying north of the Blackwater (except a small portion in the barony of Duhallow), and over part of the parish of Mourne Abbey, on the south side of the river, comprising the townlands of Quartertown and Gortnacraggy; the seneschal holds a court baron every third Wednesday, for the recovery of debts under 40s., and a court leet twice in the year, for the regulation of the markets and the appointment of bailiffs. Quarter sessions for the East Riding of the county are held in April, and petty sessions are held every Tuesday by the county magistrates. A new court-house and bridewell have been erected, the former a handsome building of hewn limestone fronting the market-place, and ornamented with broad pilasters supporting a cornice and pediment; the latter, a commodious and well-arranged building, is at the rear of the court-house. A constabulary police force is stationed in the town.
The parish comprises 8622 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £9067 per annum; the land is chiefly in pasture, and that part of it which is under tillage is fertile and in a high state of cultivation. In the vicinity of the town are quarries of limestone of a superior quality, which are worked to a considerable extent for supplying the neighbourhood with lime. Within a circuit of 5 miles from the town are not less than 50 gentlemen's seats. Mallow Castle, that of C. D. O. Jephson, Esq., is at present being rebuilt in a style more appropriate to the extensive and beautiful demesne in which it is situated: the prevailing character of the building is the Elizabethan; several of the offices are finished, and the whole, when completed, will be a spacious and elegant mansion. The Castle grounds are richly wooded and laid out with great taste; the walks are shaded by fine avenues of stately trees, which intersect the demesne; and though in a retired situation, the grounds afford some pleasing scenery, especially an opening which displays a picturesque cottage, and a fine sylvan view on the banks of the Blackwater. This demesne has been described by Arthur Young, Esq., as one of the best fermes ornee in the kingdom. The other seats in the immediate vicinity are Bally Ellis, formerly the residence of Lord Ennismore, and now of A. G. Creagh, Esq.; Beareforest, lately the residence of R. De la Cour, Esq.; Dromore, of A. Newman, Esq.; Rock-forest, of the representatives of the late Sir James L. Cotter, Bart.; Quartertown, of H. Croker, Esq.; Longueville, of Col. Longfield; Waterloo, of H. Longfield, Esq.; Castle Kevin, of E. B. Thornhill, Esq.; Carrig, of W. H. Franks, Esq.; Annabella, of R. H. Purcell, Esq.; and Firville, of R. Akins, Esq. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Cloyne, and in the patronage of C. D. O. Jephson, Esq.; the tithes amount to £600. The old church was dedicated to St. Anne; the present church, towards the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £3500, in 1818, was built on a site presented by the Jephson family: it is a handsome structure, in the later English style, with a tower and well-proportioned spire; an organ has been lately erected by subscription, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have proposed to grant £20 per ann. to the organist. Adjoining the church are the remains of the ancient edifice, of which the tower and the greater portion of the walls are standing. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parish of Rahan and a small portion of that of Mourne Abbey; the chapel, a large and substantial edifice, is in the town. There are also places of worship for Independents and Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists; attached to that for Independents is a library of about 500 volumes. About 200 children are taught in four public schools, and there are eleven private schools, in which are about 350 children. The parochial school was built at an expense of £300, defrayed by subscriptions aided by a grant from the Lord-Lieutenant's school fund; the infants' school was established in 1834 and is supported by subscription; a school is supported by the Independents, who have also an asylum for a few poor persons of their congregation; and a national school is about to be established. The county infirmary, to which is attached a dispensary, is a neat plain building at the east end of the town; it has at present accommodations for 14 patients, but is capable of containing 30. In the year ending Jan. 5th, 1836, 350 patients had received relief in the infirmary, and 2067 from the dispensary. A fever hospital is about to be erected, and in the mean time a temporary wooden building is appropriated to that use. A charitable loan fund has been recently established, which has a capital of nearly £500, distributed in loans varying from 5s. to £5. The late R. McCartie, Esq., of Mount Ruby, bequeathed the interest of £250, charged on that estate, for distribution among the Protestant poor annually at Christmas. The present church, the ruins of the ancient edifice, and the R. C. chapel, being situated on the south side of the town, are seen to great advantage from the bridge; between them and the river is a broad expanse of meadow, which being occasionally inundated has always a verdant appearance. Mallow Castle and its richly wooded demesne are also most favourably seen from this point of view; and the bridge itself forms a conspicuous and interesting feature in "the distant view of the town. On the lands of Quarter-town, on the south side of the Blackwater, and about a mile to the west of the town, is a chalybeate spring subject to be overflowed by the river; and there is another at Beareforest, about half a mile to the south.