1st January 1837
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A snapshot of pre-famine local history, as described in the "Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" by Samuel Lewis, 1837. (Much of the information collected here was submitted by members of the local gentry and clergy of the time).

WICKLOW (County of), a maritime county of the province of LEINSTER, bounded on the east by St. George's Channel; on the north, by the county of Dublin; on the west, by those of Kildare and Carlow, with detached portions of that of Dublin; and on the south, by that of Wexford.

  • It extends from 52° 35' to 53° 16' (N. Lat.), and from 5° 58' to 6° 55' (W. Lon.); comprising, according to the Ordnance survey, 494,704 statute acres, of which 400,704 consist of improved lands, and 94,000 of unprofitable mountain and bog, &c.
  • The population, in 1821, was 110,767; and in 1831, 121,557.


According to Ptolemy, the inhabitants of this part of the island, and also of the present county of Kildare, were the Cauci, supposed to have been of Belgic-Gaulish extraction. But it is chiefly celebrated as the country of the Byrnes and the O'Tooles, the former of whom occupied the northern and eastern parts, and the latter the south-western. The country of the Byrnes on the western side of the mountains was called the Ranelagh, or Kilconnell, and in Queen Elizabeth's time, Pheagh Mac Hugh's country, from the name of the chief of the Byrnes.

Another sept of the Byrnes inhabited the eastern side, bordering on the sea; while the country of the O'Tooles was called Imale, and comprised the mountain regions surrounding the great glen of Imale. The O'Cullans possessed a tract along the northern confines, but they are scarcely mentioned after the Anglo-Norman invasion, and the Danes appear to have had some settlements on the coast.


After the arrival of the English, the maritime portions of the county most easy of access were partitioned among the adventurers, and the Byrnes were compelled to retire to the mountains, as also were the O'Tooles, who had previously occupied part of the county of Kildare. On the division into counties by King John, this extensive region was included in that of Dublin; but the septs of the mountains did not acknowledge the English jurisdiction until many centuries after. Secured from successful pursuit by their mountain fastnesses, they waged incursive warfare against the surrounding English settlements, and more particularly against the citizens of Dublin, of whom, on one occasion, they slaughtered three hundred at Cullen's-wood, where the latter had assembled for recreation at Easter.

Besides several fortresses built for private protection, royal castles to keep the natives in check were erected at Newcastle and at Castle Kevin near Annamoe, but with little effect. Piers Gaveston, in the reign of Edward II., drove back the septs with considerable slaughter into their mountain fastnesses, after which they became so powerful that they were accustomed to make formal treaties with the English authorities. They were, however, so overawed by the first military expedition of Richard II., that they agreed, with the rest of the native tribes, to evacuate Leinster; but in 1398, after this monarch's return to England with his army, the fulfilment of the agreement was refused; upon which Roger Mortimer, Earl of March, the king's lieutenant, attended by the Earl of Ormond, marched against the septs of Byrne, and drove them from their lands in Wicklow; but at the very moment of their triumph, while feasts were held and knights created in honour of this success, they were disturbed by the intelligence of a victory gained by the neighbouring sept of O'Toole, who slaughtered a considerable number of the king's forces.


The Byrnes retired into Ossory, and there maintained the war with obstinacy; and Mortimer, pursuing them with more courage than circumspection, was surprised, defeated, and slain. About 1402, the septs of Wicklow were severely chastised by the arms of the magistrates of Dublin; and in later times they sued to become English subjects. In the 34th of Henry VIII., the Byrnes of the mountains, who had lately sworn allegiance, earnestly desired that their country might be converted into a distinct county, and called the county of Wicklow; but this request was either neglected or refused.

16th & 17th CENTURY

When the opponents of the English government had acquired increased strength by fomenting religious dissensions, the celebrated Pheagh Mac Hugh Byrne, in the years 1577, 1578, and 1580, in alliance with several disaffected lords, harassed the English pale; and in the last-named year obtained a sanguinary victory over the lord deputy's forces at Glendalough, whither they had penetrated with great difficulty. In 1595, on a reverse of fortune, he made his submission at Dublin. In 1596, his sept was defeated by the British troops, after a sharp action; and in the following year, Pheagh Mac Hugh fell in an engagement with the lord-deputy, Sir William Russell. His son Phelim Mac Pheagh was chosen in his place as chief of the Byrnes, and in 1600 made a humble submission to Queen Elizabeth, together with several other Irish toparchs. An expedition was undertaken against him, however, in the same year; but the country was reduced to comparative tranquillity in 1605, in the reign of James I., and during the lieutenancy of Sir Arthur Chichester, by being erected into a county distinct from that of Dublin, under its present name.

The Byrnes, in the wars of 1641, united with their neighbours of the same party in the counties of Wexford and Carlow, and extended their ravages to the very walls of Dublin. Notwithstanding the cruelties exercised by Sir Charles Coote in his expedition against them, they maintained their cause until Cromwell, after the siege of Drogheda, marched triumphantly through the county, and reduced every town and fort in it; thus terminating the war in this quarter.


In the disturbances of 1798 the county was the scene of many acts of violence, and in the southern part of it several severe conflicts took place. Even after their general suppression, bands of insurgents found a refuge in its mountain recesses, and hence committed extensive depredations, which a large military force was unable to repress. Government at length entered into composition with the principal leaders, in order to restore tranquillity to the country, and cut roads through the wildest districts, and erected barracks at different places in them, which have effected the object proposed, and also tended much to improve the country by facilitating the means of communication through a district previously almost impassable.


The county is partly in the diocese of Ferns, but chiefly in that of Dublin.

For purposes of civil jurisdiction, it is divided into the baronies of Arklow, Ballinacor, Newcastle, Half-Rathdown, Shillelagh, Lower Talbotstown, and Upper Talbotstown. It contains

  • the incorporated sea-port, market and assize town of Wicklow;
  • the incorporated market-town of Baltinglass;
  • the sea-ports and market-towns of Arklow and Bray;
  • the disfranchised borough, market and post-town of Blessington;
  • the market and post-towns of Rathdrum, Carnew, Dunlavan, Tinahely, and Stratford-upon-Slaney;
  • the post-towns of Newtown-Mount-Kennedy, Enniskerry, Ashford, Annamoe, Delgany, Glanealy (Glenealy), and Newbridge;
  • and the disfranchised borough of Carysfort:
  • the principal villages are Bolinolea, Rathnew, Donard, Kilcoole, Roundwood, and Redcross.


It sent ten members to the Irish parliament; two for the county, and two for each of the boroughs of Wicklow, Baltinglass, Blessington, and Carysfort: since the union the two returned for the county at large to the Imperial Parliament have been its sole representatives.

The constituency, as registered up to Hilary term, 1837, consists of 330 £50, 168 £20, and 1154 £10 freeholders; and 41 £20 and 156 £10 leaseholders; making a total of 1849 registered electors: the election takes place at Wicklow. The county is included in the Home circuit: the assizes are held at Wicklow, and there are general sessions held there and at Baltinglass. The county court-house and county gaol are at Wicklow, and there is a district bridewell at Baltinglass. The local government is vested in a lieutenant, 12 deputy-lieutenants, and 71 other magistrates; besides whom there are the usual county officers, including 5 coroners. There are 24 constabulary police stations, having in the whole a force of 4 chief and 23 subordinate constables, and 116 men, with 5 horses.

The District Lunatic Asylum is in the city of Dublin: there are infirmaries, with dispensaries attached, at Wicklow and Baltinglass; fever hospitals with dispensaries at Arklow, Newtown-Mount-Kennedy, Stratford-on-Slaney, and Enniskerry; and dispensaries at Bray, Kiltegan, Rathdrum, Blessington, Carnew, Coollattin, Tinahely, Dunlavan, Delgany, Dunganstown, and Redcross. The Grand Jury presentments for 1835 amounted to £21,706. 16. 7 ¾., of which £744. 10. 4. was for roads, bridges, &c., being the county charge; £10,920. 0. 5 ¼. for roads, bridges, &c., being the baronial charge; £5401. 2. 3 ½. for public buildings, charities, officers' salaries, and incidents; £3743. 13. 11. for the police; and £897. 9. 8. for repayment of advances made by Government.

In the military arrangements, the county is included in the eastern district; it contained several barrack stations for infantry, which have been converted to the use of the constabulary force and other purposes, except that at Baltinglass, which is still occupied as a military barrack and contains accommodation for one officer and 25 men.


The county is somewhat of a rectangular form, about 40 English miles in length from north to south, and 33 in breadth. A vast tract of mountains, composing almost the whole of the baronies of Ballinacor and Upper Talbotstown, with parts of Lower Talbotstown, occupies its entire central portion from the confines of Dublin to those of Carlow, and nearly cuts off all communication between its opposite sides, where there are more fertile districts, thickly inhabited, as the barony of Newcastle on the east, bordering on the sea, and the vales of Blessington and Baltinglass, on the confines of Kildare and Carlow. Its natural divisions are four, the central mountain region, the fertile districts on the east and on the west, and the barony of Shillelagh to the south.

The general direction of the mountain ranges is from north-east to south-west: the declivities towards the north and west are mostly abrupt; while on the south and east, where their ascent is commonly more gradual, basins and hollows are scooped out, forming the most romantic glens. These mountains constitute a splendid background to most of the extensive prospects in this and the adjacent counties, and some of their summits command views of superior magnificence.

The mountains do not form extended chains, but are assembled in lofty groups separated by precipitous ravines, usually narrow and straight. The groups are eight, that of Kippure on the north; those of Djouce, Thonelagee, Comaderry, and Lugnaquilla in the centre; those of Slieve Gadoe and Cadeen on the west; and that of Croghan Kinshela to the south. The summit of Lugnaquilla, the highest in the county and in the south-east of Ireland, is 3070 feet above the level of the sea; that of Djouce is 2392; of Kippure, 2527; of Thonelagee, 2696; of Slieve Gadoe, 2200; of Cadeen, 2158; and of Croghan Kinshela, 2064. The interior of this large tract, though almost uninhabited, has been rendered accessible by the military road; and on its eastern side are the celebrated scenes of Lough Bray, Luggelaw, Lough Dan, Glendalough, and Glenmalur, all embosomed in mountainous recesses of vast depth, and characterised by wildness and sublimity.

To the east of the mountain range, and at the northern extremity of the county, rise two conical mountains called the Great and Little Sugar-loaf, the former 2004 feet high; and Bray Head, a vast mass with a remarkable broken outline, 870 feet high, which projects into the sea to the south of the town of Bray. From the Little Sugar-loaf commences a mountain range of secondary elevation, cultivated in some parts to the very summit, and extending in a direction south by west to the rugged heights of Carrickmacreilly, near Glanealy; and thence sweeping eastward, it joins the range that, to the south of Wicklow, forms the elevated promontory of Wicklow Head.

Between this range and the more elevated mountain chain is a cheerless table land, watered by the Vartrey river, and formerly entirely overspread with bogs and rocks, which yet occupy great portions of it, though cultivation has made considerable advances near the lines of road by which it is now intersected. The most conspicuous of the secondary range are the Downs mountain, Dunran, and the mountains above Glanealy.

Encircled by these mountains from Bray Head to Wicklow Head, and extending to the coast between those promontories, lies a tract distinguished for its fertility and beauty, which justly entitle it to be called the garden of the county. At an elevation greatly below that of the sheltering range, it is diversified by extensive swells and fertile vales enriched in every direction with fine seats, neat villages, and thriving plantations, opening to the sea on the east, towards which the surface gradually declines, until it reaches a flat tract of boggy marsh, extending along the shore from Wicklow to near Greystones, and protected from the sea only by a broad bank of sand and gravel called the Murrough, presenting at the back a beautiful smooth sward.

The streams of the vale find their way through it to the sea at Wicklow and at a place called the Breaches, where the sea is making considerable encroachments. From this shore the view of the encircling amphitheatre of mountains is extremely grand, particularly to those sailing along the coast through the channel between the land and the range of dangerous banks running parallel with it at some miles distance. The encircling range last described displays some of the most splendid of the picturesque scenes of the county, in the Glen of the Downs, Hermitage, Dunran, and the Devil's Glen. Very extensive panoramic views are obtained from the summits of Lugnaquilla and Djouce.

The celebrated valley of the Dargle intersects the elevated grounds between the Sugar-loaf mountain and the confines of Dublin county. The peaked cone of the Great Sugar-loaf appears prominent in every prospect on this side of the county, and commands views of great scope and grandeur, extending northwards to the mountains of Mourne in the county of Down, and eastward to those of North Wales. In the country east of the great mountain chain, and south of Wicklow, the only scenes of peculiar beauty are the celebrated vales of the Ovoca and the Avonmore.

The general aspect of this part of the county is marked by extensive swells and ranges of elevated ground descending to vales of little picturesque beauty, though the road along the coast, from Wicklow to Arklow, presents many fine sea views. One of the southern extremities of the great central mountain tract is Askeaky, close to Aughrim, from which hill a range of mountainous heights stretches south-westward, by Tinahely and the western side of the Aughrim or Derry river, through Shillelagh, to the confines of Carlow and Wexford counties.

The barony of Shillelagh, though much improved of late years through the exertions of the late Earl Fitzwilliam, still wears a rugged and forbidding aspect. The alluvial district to the west of the great mountain range consists for the most part of low, long, and flat hills, with intervening valleys, sometimes spread out into broad meadows of great fertility; the only hills of considerable elevation being those of Baltinglass, 1371 feet high: Brisselstown, 1330; and Spynan's, 1351.

This district is enriched with numerous gentlemen's seats, though some parts exhibit a neglect of improvement, such as the great glen or valley of Imale, between five and six miles long and three to four broad, extending from Stratford-upon-Slaney to the foot of Lugnaquilla mountain, and presenting an appearance of desolate wildness, though containing every inducement to cultivation.


The climate of the mountains, though remarkably mild for their elevation, is necessarily moist, and rain frequently falls among them when the low lands on the east side are free from it; the vapours, carried by the prevailing westerly winds, following the summits of the mountains to the sea at Bray Head and Wicklow Head. Although these low lands are exposed to the chilling effect of the east winds in spring, yet, being completely sheltered on every other side, the climate is more genial than that of any other part of the county; and the vigour with which the arbutus, laurestinus, and other delicate shrubs flourish even in elevated situations is very remarkable.

The soils of the county are various. A great part of the mountain tract is covered with heath and peat to a considerable depth, underneath which is found a coarse gravel, consisting of decayed granite; and where not encumbered with rocks, it is commonly a deep bog. The table land of the Vartrey has for the most part a thin mould interspersed with bogs, and encumbered with vast masses of granite. The soil of the marsh along the coast is a black peat, but that of the firm land bordering on it is commonly a deep loam of the greatest fertility.

Beyond Wicklow to the south, the soil changes into a variety of thin loams and poor gravels on slate rock, extending to the southern confines of the county; marl, however, has been found in one or two places near the Ovoca. Along the banks of the Liffey and the Slaney, on the western side of the mountains, are alluvial strata of limestone gravel, pebble limestone, and loose marl; and in the glen of Imale these are found as high as the base of Lugnaquilla. These strata give a character of fertility to the entire district, except on the border of the county of Dublin, where there is a considerable extent of low hills covered with heath and dwarf furze on a wet and boggy soil, producing very poor herbage in summer, and in winter wholly unprofitable.

These soils acquire their unproductive character from a stratum called "the curb" or "griddle," occurring within a few inches of the surface, totally impervious to water, and, though but from four to six inches thick, so hard as to resist the plough and spade: when broken with the pick-axe, however, and intermixed with the substrata of argillaceous earth and limestone gravel, it forms a productive soil: these hills extend from those of Tallaght to Dunlavan.

The barony of Shillelagh, like the south-eastern part of the county, is covered with various thin soils, based on clay-slate, and much interspersed with rocks and stones, often of granite. The soils in these lower districts are generally of an argillaceous nature, becoming gradually gravelly and heathy in the vicinity of the mountains.

Cultivation has for many years been rapidly extending up the more improvable mountains, and in the richer districts has undergone considerable amelioration, to which the liberal measures of Earl Fitzwilliam, one of the largest proprietors, have greatly contributed. Tillage is the chief object of husbandry. The only crops in the more elevated situations are potatoes and oats in exhausting succession; wheat and barley, and occasionally green crops, are also cultivated in the lower districts, but the land is commonly left to recover itself under pasture. Turnips are cultivated in the south; and rape is grown by a few agriculturists.

Artificial grasses are seldom sown. The enclosed pastures are chiefly fields on which grasses have been left to grow naturally after having been worn out with corn crops; in the eastern part of the county these pastures are luxuriant, particularly near the sea, where cattle are fattened on them. On the banks of the Liffey and Slaney are also many excellent pastures. The upland and mountain pastures, devoted entirely to rearing and feeding store cattle and sheep, are also remarkably good of their kind, and even where bogs most abound there are spots covered with soft grasses. Lugnaquilla, to the very summit, which is nearly flat and clothed with a dry green sward of velvet softness, is a good sheep pasture.

The cattle reared in the northern part of the county are chiefly for the Dublin market; in the southern, for those of Ross and Waterford. The milk in the former is chiefly applied to the feeding of lambs for the Dublin market; and in the vicinity of Rathdrum some butter is made that is in high esteem in that city. But the common application of grass lands is to the feeding of store cattle and the produce of hay. Both cattle and sheep are commonly small; and the sheep of the mountains are usually very wild and active. Lime is one of the principal manures ; the cultivation of the land in Shillelagh entirely depends on the use of lime brought from Carlow county. It is also imported to Bray, Wicklow, and Arklow from Sutton, on the south side of Howth, as no limestone is found in the county, except in the alluvial beds, the pebbles of which have sometimes been burned. Marl and limestone gravel are used very extensively. Oxen are employed by many in the labours of husbandry, sometimes in teams by themselves, but more frequently yoked with horses.

The agricultural implements are of the ordinary improved construction, and the carriages one-horse cars. In the great vale of Newcastle the country is enriched and enlivened with hedgerows of various growth, interspersed with timber trees, but badly plashed; most other parts exhibit an appearance of nakedness from the fences being commonly composed of rough mounds of earth, covered here and there with furze. Walls are sometimes formed by piling the stones on the mountain lands, but so loosely that breaches are constantly occurring. Frequently the land is so encumbered with rocks as to be utterly valueless until these have been blasted or undermined, and buried. The gardens in the barony of Newcastle are generally very productive.

There are a few orchards. Owing to the nature of the country, there is more natural wood than perhaps in any district in Ireland of the same extent: it consists chiefly of coppices, usually cut at 30 years' growth, which enrich some of the most romantic glens. But the finest timber is that in gentlemen's demesnes, with which this county is so much embellished; that in Powerscourt Park and Rosanna is perhaps unequalled in grandeur by any in the island. Large tracts adapted to the growth of timber remain neglected, although Dr. Frizell, of Castlekevin, Henry Grattan, Esq., M.P., and some other proprietors, by their extensive and flourishing plantations on mountains of considerable elevation, have proved the capabilities of such situations. The natural growth of the country is chiefly oak, birch, and hazel.

Of the vast extent of bog and mountain, the greater portion forms the wild region in its centre.

  • The mountainous and uncultivated lands of the entire range were estimated by the surveying engineer, who examined the district with the view of developing its capabilities, at 329,967 acres, of which 97,190 are black bog, and the remainder a moory soil, commonly producing coarse sedgy grass or heath, interspersed in many parts with tracts of pasture land, on some of which large numbers of sheep and young cattle are fed, while others, now unproductive, might be brought into a state of profitable cultivation by draining and manuring.
  • The bogs on the outskirts of the mountains are in some places becoming exhausted by the constant digging for turf; the barony of Newcastle is now beginning to apprehend a deficiency of that valuable article in the marsh extending along the coast northward from Wicklow. The peat of this tract, from its maritime situation, is found to be impregnated with salt, which gives its slight flame a blue colour. To make it fit for use, it is necessary to reduce it to a soft mud and spread it upon the surface to dry, in which state it is divided into lumps of convenient size, and when dry is carried home at the approach of winter; its superior durability compensates for the greater trouble in preparing it than in digging for that of the mountains.
  • In the barony of Shillelagh is a tract several miles in length, called the Derry bog, the principal of the kind south of Lugnaquilla. The ordinary fuel is everywhere peat, though much coal is imported to Bray, Wicklow, and Arklow from Whitehaven, for the gentry and farmers of the surrounding districts.


Wicklow is not less remarkable for the variety and importance of its minerals than for the wild and picturesque beauties of its scenery; it comprises the greater portion of the south-eastern mountain chain of Ireland, composed of formations of granite, mica slate, quartz rock, clay-slate, grauwacke, trap, and porphyry. Nearly the whole of the most elevated and wildest part of the mountain range, in a line from north-east to south-west, is composed of granite, which supports, in geological position, all the other beds, and occupies a tract which, to the north of Lugnaquilla, is about seven miles in breadth; but to the south-west of it, where it descends towards the plains of Carlow, it is greatly expanded.

The granite is in general remarkably pure. The size of the grain varies much; some of the largest and most beautifully grained is found at the Scalp and in Glencree; the finest-grained, at the northern foot of Cadeen, in the glen of Imale. It is sometimes porphyritic, as in Glenismaule, Glencree, and the head of the waterfall is Glenmacanass. Numerous other minerals are found imbedded in the granite, and in the veins of quartz that sometimes traverse it, but so small in quantity as to be considered merely adventitious.

The mica-slate occurs in direct contact with the granite range on each side, and is found in an uninterrupted range along its eastern border from Shillelagh, by Glenmalur, Glendalough, and Luggelaw, to the Scalp, where it is seen distinctly resting on the granite, as in many other places. It is usually fantastically contorted, on a small scale, and of a dark grey hue; and consists of alternate layers of quartz and mica of various thickness: in some places strata of quartz and of granite, and irregular masses of the latter are imbedded in it. In the lower part of Glenmacanass it contains a bed of talc slate, easily worked with the chisel, and hardening in the fire; which qualities fit it for chimney-pieces, hearth-stones, gravestones, and troughs. Lugnaquilla, though composed chiefly of granite, is capped with mica slate, with some alternating strata of granite.

On the western side of the granite range is a similarly incumbent series of mica slate strata, extending no farther south than Baltinglass; nor is it so regular and continuous in its range from the point where it enters from the county of Dublin, north-east of Blessington. Although the glen of Imale is entirely based on granite, this slate is seen forming the summits of many of the high surrounding mountains on the north, east, and south. Brisselstown hill, and its lateral extension to the west, called Spynan's hill, consist of mica slate, fine and minute granular greenstone, and greenstone porphyry: the mica slate in the western part is porphyritic, containing numerous crystals of felspar; and similar translations, as also into greenstone porphyry by an intimate intermixture of hornblende, are observed in various surrounding localities.

Garnet, in general so constant a companion of mica slate, is seldom seen in the strata of this county, but hollow spar occurs in some places. The low range of hills west of Blessington, and the rest of the northwestern border of the county, are based on clay-slate.

On the eastern side of the county, between the mica slate range and the sea, the prevailing rock is clay-slate, but in detached situations are found granite rising from beneath it, and quartz and trap rocks associated with it. The granite of this tract is very remarkable, as seldom comprising quartz; the chief ingredients being simply felspar and mica, forming in one part pure felspar porphyry. The central and southeastern parts of Dunganstown hill are composed of greenstone; but the prevailing rocks to the south are clay-slate and quartz, extending down the Avonmore and Ovoca, and the varieties which they display are Very numerous.

The varieties of clay-slate, which are here all quartzose, abound in contemporaneous veins of pure quartz, which are more or less metalliferous: the western extremity and the brow of Croghan Kinshela mountain consist of granite, with broad veins of quartz towards the east, succeeded by alternations of granite and clay-slate, terminating in interstratifications of clay-slate and greenstone, beyond which is found only the clay-slate, traversed by veins of quartz, sometimes metalliferous. Beds of granular felspar in the prevailing clay-slate are worked for building on the right bank of the Avonmore, north-west of Rathdrum.

Bordering on the Derry or Aughrim river, and likewise near the Ovoca, in its course from Newbridge, are numerous beds of greenstone. Arklow rocks, on the coast, south of the mouth of the Ovoca, present ill-defined columns of greenstone, with four, five, or six sides: the northern part of the hill consists in general of greenstone: on the north-western side is a variety of the character of basalt. Quartz rock forms a prominent naked ridge on Coollattin hill, in Shillelagh, and constitutes also a very extensive mountain range from the banks of the Avonmore above Rathdrum to those of the Vartrey, comprising the high naked ridge of Carrickmacreilly and the picturesque rock of Cronroe.

In the northern extremity of the county it forms the Great and Little Sugar-loaf, Bray Head, and a great part of the neighbouring hills. In no part of the county have organic remains been found in its rocks. It is also remarkable that there is a total absence of metallic ores on the western side of the great granitic mass, while on the eastern they are found in abundance. A vein of lead has been worked and apparently exhausted in the granite brow of Carrigeenduff, on the banks of Lough Dan; another, called the Luganure vein, wholly in granite, intersects the mountain of Comaderry, and is now very productive.

Another great vein which has been worked crosses the upper part of Glendalough; and in the alternating beds of granite and mica slate on the northern side of Glenmalur is the great vein on which are the lead mines of Ballinafinchogue, and which comprises, besides, galena, white lead ore, blende, and copper pyrites. The above minerals are found at all these places, in true veins; but in the only other metalliferous tract, situated in the clay-slate district, they are found only in beds, in contemporaneous veins, or in alluvial deposits. This tract is about ten miles in length, from Croghan Kinshela, across the northern end of the vale of Ovoca, towards Rathdrum. Its most celebrated produce has been the alluvial gold, found in the gravelly deposits of the streams descending from the eastern side of Croghan Kinshela, and discovered in 1796: of this a further notice will be found under the head of Arklow, in the union of which place it is included.

As no trace of auriferous veins could be found in the mountain by the most persevering efforts, the works necessarily ceased when the stream ore was exhausted. Trials were also made in Croghan Moira mountain, but without effect. Metallic substances, however, are diffused through the whole district in disseminated particles, in slight layers, in contemporaneous veins and strings, and in massy beds, which latter are principally composed of copper pyrites and iron pyrites. The rocks have been perforated in various directions by the works of the associated Irish Mine Company, the line of which, extending into Connery and Tigrony hills, occupies more than one thousand fathoms. These are on the north side of the Ovoca, and there are other productive works on the opposite side, especially in Ballymurtagh.

In Kilcashel some trials have been made, and copper-ore has been met with; and indications of copper in Avondale, and of lead in Knockanode, have also been found in the form of slight strings. The abundance of building stone in every part of the county appears from the previous detail: the granite used in the building of the Bank of Ireland, the library of Trinity College, Nelson's Pillar, and several other of the public buildings of Dublin, was raised from the Golden quarry near Blessington, but the clay-slate is seldom found in layers sufficiently thin for roofing; there are, however, good slate quarries in the parishes of Carnew and Dunganstown.


The flannel and frieze manufactures were formerly of considerable extent, the chief market for their produce being Rathdrum, where a handsome flannel-hall was erected by the late Earl Fitzwilliam, but they have entirely declined, and their only vestige is the manufacture of a little frieze for domestic use. The principal fishery is that of herrings at Arklow, which, however, has much declined. They are also taken by a few fishermen at different places along the coast, but the extension of this branch of industry is checked by the want of safe harbours for the boats. Oysters are also taken at Arklow, and carried to Liverpool and Dublin.

The trade of the county consists chiefly in the exportation of its agricultural and mineral produce, and in the importation of the various supplies of foreign articles and manufactured goods necessary for its inhabitants. Although Dublin is a principal market for the northern part of the county, Wicklow is a very improving port, where there are several stores; and grain and cattle are sent from the southern part of the county to New Ross. This branch of the trade is entirely carried on by ordinary land carriage, as the county is devoid of river or canal navigation, or rail-road communication.

The rivers are numerous, but their courses rapid and short, except some of those which flow westward: the principal are the Liffey, the Slaney, the Ovoca, the Vartrey, and the Derry, Daragh, or Aughrim. The principal lines of road are of first-rate excellence: the new mail-coach road to Wexford, through the Glen of the Downs and the Vale of Ovoca, constructed by Grand Jury presentments, is a noble line. A new line of turnpike road on the western side of the county to Carlow, Wexford, Waterford, and Kilkenny, by Blessington and Baltinglass, has also been opened. The crossroads, too, are generally good and in sufficient number: so much has of late years been done in the cutting of new lines of road as to be a popular subject of complaint; but the result is the formation of excellent toll-free lines in every direction. The Military Road, which commences near Rathfarnham, a few miles south of Dublin, and extends southward through the midst of the mountain region, in a line selected with great skill, was planned in 1799, by order of Government, with the view of opening a direct and easy line of communication between the city of Dublin and the barracks of Glencree, Laragh, Drumgoff, and Aughavanagh, which were built after the insurrection in the preceding year: it obtained its name from having been made by some Scotch fencible regiments then quartered in the county.


The vestiges of remote antiquity are comparatively few. Near Enniskerry is a small cromlech, and another on the summit of Lugnaquilla. Raths are numerous: there are a druidical circle and a cromlech in Donoughmore; a cromlech at Baltinglass, and a curiously sculptured stone at Old Court, near Bray. Besides Glendalough, a collection of monastic ruins of peculiar antiquarian interest, there were 11 religious establishments; those of which any remains exist are at Rathdrum, Baltinglass, and Wicklow. Ruins of ancient churches are to be seen on Slieve Gadoe near Donard, at Kilcoole, Killeskey, Kilmacanogue, Aghold, Kilbride near Arklow, Killadreeny, Kilpipe, and Templemichael: besides slight vestiges of several others, all situated in ancient burial-places.

The native septs do not appear to have erected any strong fortresses; those of which any remains exist were built by the English, and serve now to mark the districts in which they had secured any permanent footing. The most remarkable are, the Black Castle at Wicklow, Newcastle, Castlekevin, Dunganstown, Bray, Old Court near Fassaroe, Kindlestown and Rathdown near Delgany, Carnew, Arklow, Kiltimon, Ballivolan in the parish of Killeskey, Kilcommon and Knockrath near Rathdrum, Grange near Baltinglass, and Castlekevin near Annamoe. The present residences of the nobility and gentry are very numerous, and render the county the most richly adorned and the most peaceable in the island: they are all noticed in the parishes or places in which they are respectively situated.

The farm-houses of the principal tenants in the northern and eastern parts are built in a style of superior accommodation, with roomy and convenient offices: those in the southern and western parts were mostly destroyed in the year 179S, but have been rebuilt in an improved mode, with slated roofs. In the vicinity of gentlemen's demesnes are many pretty cottages, and those of the north-eastern part of the county generally have an appearance of superior comfort; but the habitations of the lower tenants and cottiers are for the most part extremely wretched, being roughly formed of sods or stones supporting a thatched roof not impervious to the weather. The squalid misery of these in some of the mountain districts is extreme; in some places even the roof is formed of sods taken from the mountainside. The character of the peasantry is the same as in the country generally; with regard to their language, it is remarkable that while the Irish is often spoken in the contiguous counties, it is never heard here, and scarcely a peasant even of the wildest districts understands it.

Natural curiosities of a minor character, such as mineral springs, are very few; but those of the highest order, exhibited in its mountains and glens, their fantastic rocks and picturesque waterfalls, present a greater variety of sublime features than any tract of equal extent in the island. The most celebrated spots are, the waterfall of Poul-a-Phuca, near Blessington; Luggelaw, included in the modern parish of Calary; the Vale of the Avonmore and the Meeting of the Waters below Rathdrum; the Vale of Ovoca, with its contiguous seats and demesnes, extending by Castle-Mac-Adam towards Arklow; the Glen of the Downs, near Delgany; the Scalp near Enniskerry; the recesses of Glendalough; the Devil's Glen, that of Dunran, and those of Kiltimon and Ballyvolan, in the parish of Killeskey; the Dargle, the Waterfall, and Lough Bray, near Powerscourt; Glenmalur, with its waterfalls, in the parish of Rathdrum; Lough Dan, near Roundwood; and Hermitage and Altadore near Newtown-Mount-Kennedy. The abrupt rocks of vast size at Kilcoole and Cronroe are worthy of especial notice.

Wicklow gives the titles of Viscount and Earl to the family of Howard.


SOURCE: A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland by Samuel Lewis (pub 1837)

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  • What an incredible piece of historical information. I have just read the Wicklow section, from where my family immigrated and now will read about Kildare where my great great grandfather, John  Crampton, lies at rest.

    Thank you Ireland-XO for making this historical information available.


    Saturday 26th August 2023 10:52PM

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