1st January 1837
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From Lewis' Topographical Dictionary of Ireland

KILKENNY, a city and, including Irishtown, a county of itself, and the seat of the diocese of Ossory, locally in the county of KILKENNY, of which it is the chief town, and in the province of LEINSTER, 24 miles (N. E. by N.) from Clonmel, and 57½ (S. W.) from Dublin, on the river Nore and the mail coach road to Cork ; containing 23,741 inhabitants.

This place is supposed by some writers to have derived its name from Coil or Kyle-Ken-Ni, “the wooded head, or hill, near the river; and by others, with more probability, from the dedication of its church to St. Canice, on the removal of the ancient see of Ossory from Aghavoe to this place, about the year 1052, which had been originally founded at Saiger, now Seir-Keran, about 402.

Of the earlier history of the town little is recorded previously to 1173, when Donald O’Brien, King of Thomond, assembled his forces to dispossess the English invaders under Strongbow, who had established themselves and erected a fortress here soon after their landing in Ireland. On this occasion Strongbow retreated to Waterford , and abandoned the castle to the enemy by whom, together with the town, it was demolished, and the surrounding country laid waste.

In 1192, the English appear to have settled themselves firmly at this place; and in 1195, William Le Mareschal, who had succeeded to Strongbow’s possessions, rebuilt the castle on a larger scale and restored the town, which became one of the principal residences of his successors and the head of the palatinate of Kilkenny.

About this time arose that portion of the present town which is more especially called Kilkenny, and which was more immediately connected with the castle, in contradistinction to the original town on the opposite bank of a small river flowing into the Nore, called Irishtown. Each had its separate and independent municipal government, the former under the lords of the castle, and the latter under the bishops of Ossory, who ceded a portion of it to William Le Mareschal, by whom the burgesses of Kilkenny were incorporated and endowed with many privileges, among which was exemption from toll in all his territories of Leinster.

Gilbert de Clare, Earl of Gloucester and Hereford, marrying a daughter of William Le Mareschal, obtained as her dower the county of Kilkenny, which subsequently passed by marriage again to Hugh, grandfather of Thomas Le Spencer, from whom it was purchased by James Butler, third Earl of Ormonde.

A great council of the barons of the English pale was held here in 1294; and in 1309 a parliament assembled at this place, in which severe laws were enacted. against such of the English settlers as should adopt the Irish customs; and anathemas against all who should infringe them were denounced in the cathedral by the Archbishop of Cashel and other prelates who assisted on that occasion.

In 1317, Lord Roger Mortimer, justiciary of Ireland , and the English nobles, held a council here to deliberate on the most effectual means of opposing the ravages of Edward Bruce; and an army of 30,000 men was assembled, and great numbers of families sought refuge in the town under the general alarm. Parliaments were held here in 1327 and 1330, when an army assembled here to drive Brien O’Brien from Urkuffs, near Cashel; in 1331 a parliament was adjourned to this place from Dublin, and in 1341 a grand meeting of the principal nobility took place, assisted by the chief officers of the king’s cities, to petition for the better government of Ireland.

Parliaments were also held in 1347, 1356, and 1367, at which last, held before Lionel, Duke of Clarence, the celebrated statute of Kilkenny was enacted; and also in 1370 and 1374, in which latter Sir William de Windsor was sworn into the office of Lord-Lieutenant. Letters patent were granted in 1375 to the burgesses, and renewed in 1384, authorising them to appropriate certain customs for building and repairing the walls; and in 1399, Richard II., on his progress through the south of Ireland, arrived from Waterford at this place, where he was entertained for fourteen days by the Earl of Ormonde, Robert Talbot, a kinsman of the earl’s, in 1400, encompassed the greater portion of the town with walls; and in 1419 the townsmen received a grant of tolls for murage.

During the contest between the houses of York and Lancaster, the town was taken and plundered by the Earl of Desmond, who was an adherent of the latter; and in 1499 the burgesses, headed by their sovereign, marched out in aid of the Butlers against Tirlagh O’Brien, but were defeated. The last parliament held in the town was held in 1536, and was adjourned to Cashel; but this place still continued to be the occasional residence of the lords-lieutenant, and the chief seat of their government, for which purpose Hen. VIII. granted to the corporation the site and precincts of the Black friars’ monastery, on condition of their furnishing certain accommodation free of expense to the chief governor of Ireland, when in Kilkenny; from which they were subsequently released on payment of a fine of £70, Sir Peter Carew, in his progress to resist the aggressions of the Butlers and Desmonds, in 1568, took possession of the town, which was soon after invested by Fitz-Maurice, brother of Desmond; but the spirited conduct of the garrison compelled him to retire.

In the parliamentary war of 1641 this place was distinguished as the theatre of contention; it was seized by Lord Mountgarret, and in the following year a general synod of the Catholic clergy was held here, and a meeting of deputies from the confederate Catholics from all parts of the kingdom took place in the house of Mr. R. Shee, in the present coal market. The lords, prelates, and commons all sat in the same chamber; and the clergy who were not qualified to sit as barons assembled in convocation in another house; and a press was erected in the city, at which were printed all the decrees of the synod.

On the arrival of Rinuncini, the Pope’s nuncio, the city and suburbs were placed under an interdict, for accepting the peace which had been concluded at this meeting; and in 1648 a plot was discovered for betraying the city and the supreme council into the hands of the nuncio and the party of O’Nial. Cromwell, relying on the promises of an officer of the garrison, advanced before the city though unprepared to besiege it, in the hope of obtaining it by treachery; but the plot was discovered and the agent executed, Having, however, received large reinforcements under Ireton, he again appeared before it on the 23rd March, 1650, and commenced a regular siege; the garrison, originally consisting of 200 horse and 1000 foot, but reduced by the plague to 300, made a resolute defence under Sir Walter Butler, who had been appointed governor by Lord Castlehaven, but was at length compelled to surrender upon honourable terms.

The city, which occupies an area of nearly a square mile, is intersected from north to south by the river Nore, dividing it into two very unequal portions, of which the larger, containing the castle, is on its western bank; and near the northern extremity, on the same side of the river, is that portion of it called Irishtown, containing the cathedral, and separated from the former by the small river Breagh, which here falls into the Nore.

The streets are very irregular, but the city has an air of venerable magnificence, from its castle, cathedral, and the numerous and imposing remains of its ancient religious edifices, and is seen to great advantage from the high eastern bank of the river, and from the rising ground on the road to Clonmel. The houses in the principal streets are generally built of stone, and many of them are spacious and handsome, especially in that part of it properly called Kilkenny, in which the chief modern improvements have taken place; the total number of houses, in 1831, was 2800, since which time the number has increased.

There are two elegant stone bridges over the Nore, erected after designs by Mr. G. Smith, to replace two which were destroyed in 1763 by a great flood; St. John’s bridge consists of three arches, and Green’s bridge connects Irishtown with the opposite bank. The environs are in many parts extremely pleasing, and there is a fine promenade called the Mall, extending nearly a mile along the bank of a canal commenced many years since, but never completed, and also along the banks of the Nore and the base of the castle, beautifully planted with ornamental trees of fine growth.

At a short distance from the city are infantry barracks for l5 officers and 558 non- commissioned officers and privates, a neat range of buildings of modern erection; there is also a temporary barrack for one squadron of horse, The library, established in 1811 by a proprietary, and supported by subscription, contains more than 4000 volumes, and has a newsroom attached to it; it is open to strangers introduced by a subscriber, The Mechanics’ Friend Society, established in 1835, for diffusing information among the working classes, and supported by subscription, has a library of 700 volumes, and a room in which lectures on the arts and sciences are gratuitously delivered. The Horticultural Society holds two meetings in the year; and races are held in September on a course at a short distance from the town, and are generally well attended.

The Kilkenny Hunt has been long established, and is considered as the most celebrated in Ireland . The savings’ bank, established in 1816, under the patronage of the Earl of Ormonde, had, in 1836, deposits to the amount of £23,784, and 801 depositors.

In the 16th century, Piers, Earl of Ormonde, with a view to benefit the town by the introduction of manufactures, brought over several artificers from Flanders and the neighbouring provinces, whom he employed in working tapestry, diapers, and carpets, but the manufacture did not extend beyond the supply of the castle and was soon discontinued.

The manufacture of coarse frieze was extensively carried on here in the reign of Chas. II., but was withdrawn to Carrick-on-Suir, and succeeded by the wool-combing and the worsted trade, which, about the middle of the last century, were superseded by the manufacture of blankets, which became the principal trade both of the city and the county.

In 1821, from 3000 to 4000 persons were employed in this manufacture; but on the expiration of the protecting duties, the trade became greatly depressed, and at present not more than 600 persons are employed in it, and even these at greatly reduced prices; the blankets made here are still in great repute, and are purchased for the supply of the army.

There is also a small manufacture of coarse woollen cloth, but the principal trade is in corn, and in the immediate neighbourhood are several very extensive flour-mills, three large distilleries, four breweries, two tanneries, some extensive yards for curing bacon, some salt-works, and several considerable starch-manufactories.

Coarse linens are woven by the country people for domestic wear, and there is a large bleach-green. About half a mile from the city are quarries of the well known Kilkenny marble, which has a black ground with white veins interspersed with shells and marine exuviae, and is susceptible of a very high polish. It is mostly worked into mantel-pieces of great beauty, and is cut and polished in a mill moved by water power, erected on the bank of the river, about two miles from the town, in the parish of Blackrath; great quantities of the marble are exported.

Limestone is also quarried in various parts of the county of the city. The amount of excise duties paid in the district of Kilkenny, for the year 1835, was £70,665. 16. 11½. The markets are on Wednesday and Saturday, and are amply supplied with corn and provisions of every kind. Two great fairs are held on March 28th and Corpus Christi day; they are great cattle and wool fairs, which regulate the prices of all the others, and are attended by graziers from all parts of Ireland : there are also several other fairs, established by recent patents. An area in the lower part of the spacious old building called the Tholsel is appropriated as a market-house.

The charter granted to the burgesses by William Le Maresehal was confirmed, with all its privileges, by Edw. III., in the 1st year of his reign; and in the 51st of the same reign the sovereign, portreeve, and commonalty of Kilkenny were by a roll enjoined not to interfere with the freedom of the market of Irishtown, the inhabitants of which obtained from Edw. IV. a confirmation of the grant of their market, and the privilege of choosing a portreeve annually, independently of Kilkenny, Edw. VI. confirmed all the ancient privileges of the burgesses of Kilkenny, as enjoyed by them during the reign of Hen. VIII., and granted them the dissolved priory of St. John , with all its possessions, at a fee-farm rent of £16. 6. 4. Elizabeth , in 1574, confirmed the several rights of both boroughs, but, to obviate the disputes that arose from having two corporations in the same town, constituted them one body corporate under the designation of “The Sovereign, Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Town of Kilkenny .” Jas, I., in 1608, made the towns of Kilkenny and Irishtown, with the parishes of St. Mary, St. John, St. Canice, and St. Patrick, a free borough, and in the following year granted additional privileges, erected the borough into a free city, under the designation of the mayor and citizens of the city of Kilkenny, and constituted the city and its liberties a distinct county, to be called the county of the city of Kilkenny, Chas. I., in 1639, granted to the mayor and citizens the monasteries of the Black and Grey friars, with several rectories and other possessions; and Jas. II. gave the citizens a new charter, which never came into operation, the city being governed by the charter of Jas. I. Under this charter the corporation consists of a mayor, two sheriffs, 18 aldermen, 36 common-councilmen, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, treasurer, two coroners, a town-clerk, four serjeants-at-mace, and other officers.

The mayor, who is also custos rotulorum, escheator, clerk of the market, and master of the assay, is chosen annually from the aldermen by the aldermen and councilmen, on the next Monday after the 24th of June, and has power to appoint a deputy, during illness or necessary absence, chosen from such of the aldermen as have served the office of mayor. The sheriffs are elected annually from the common-councilmen by the aldermen and councilmen, on the same day as the mayor.

The aldermen are chosen for life from the common-councilmen by the mayor and aldermen; and the common-councilmen are chosen from the freemen by the aldermen and councilmen, who also appoint the recorder, and the treasurer and town-clerk are appointed by the corporation. There is also a corporation of the staple.

The freedom of the city is obtained by birth, marriage, servitude, and favour of the corporation. The burgesses of lrishtown still continue to elect their portreeve annually under the direction of the Bishop of Ossory; he is clerk of the market, and presides in his court held weekly for the recovery of debts under 40s., but has no magisterial jurisdiction.

Each borough returned two members to the Irish parliament; Kilkenny first in 1374, and Irishtown at a much earlier period; both continued to do so till the Union , when Irishtown was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded in compensation was paid to the Board of First Fruits, to be applied to the uses of that fund. Since that period the city has sent only one member to the Imperial parliament.

The right of election, previously in the freemen of the city and 40s. freeholders of the county of the city, was, by the act of the 2nd of Win. IV., cap. 88, vested in the resident freemen and £10 householders, and in £20 and £10 leaseholders for the respective terms of 14 and 20 years; the 40s. freeholders retain the privilege only for life.

The number of registered voters at the close of 1836 was 808. No alteration has taken place in the electoral boundary of the borough, which is co-extensive with the county of the city: the sheriffs are the returning officers. The mayor, recorder, and all the aldermen who have served the office of mayor, are justices of the peace, and under their charter hold quarterly courts of session, with criminal jurisdiction within the county of the city; and a court of record, called the Tholsel, for the determination of actions to any amount exceeding £20, every Tuesday and Friday.

Assizes for the county of the city, and for the county at large, are held here twice in the year; and quarter sessions for the county of Kilkenny are held in rotation with the towns of Castlecomer, Thomastown, and Urlingford. A peace preservation force is stationed in the city, the expense of maintaining which, for 1835, amounted to £712. 15. 10. The court-house, called Grace’s Old Castle , contains courts both for the city and for the county at large, and is a spacious and handsome modern building, occupying part of the site of the ancient castle of the family of Grace, of whom William Grace, or Le Gras, its first founder, was seneschal of Leinster and governor of Kilkenny. The city gaol is a badly constructed edifice, containing seven cells, but not adapted to the classification of prisoners. The county gaol is a spacious modern building of stone, a little to the west of the city: it contains 48 cells, is well arranged for classification, and has a tread- mill and a well-conducted school.

The SEE of OSSORY, which, like that of Meath, takes its name from a district, was originally established at Saiger, now Seir-Kieran, in the territory of Ely O’Carrol, about the year 402, by St. Kieran, after his return from Rome, where he had remained 20 years in the study of the Christian faith, and had been consecrated a bishop. He was accompanied on his return by five other bishops, who also founded sees in other parts of Ireland , and after presiding over this see for many years is supposed to have died in Cornwall , as stated by the English martyrologists.

Of his successors, who were called Episcopi Saigerenses, but very imperfect accounts are preserved. Carthag, his disciple and immediate successor, died about the year 540, from which period till the removal of the see from Saiger to Aghavoe, about the year 1052, there appears to have been, with some few intervals, a regular succession of prelates.

The monastery of Aghavoe was founded by St. Canice, of which he was the first abbot, and in which he died about the year 600; and after the removal of the see from Saiger, there is little mention of the bishops of Aghavoe, in whose succession there is a chasm of 73 years till the time of Donald O’Fogarty, who was consecrated in 1152, and assisted at the synod of Kells held under Cardinal Paparo, as vicar-general and bishop of Ossory. Felix O’Dullany, who succeeded him in l178, removed the see from Aghavoe to the city of Kilkenny , as a place of greater security, where he laid the foundation of the cathedral church of St. Canice , which was continued at a great expense by Hugh Mapelton, and completed by Geoffrey St. Leger, about the year 1270. Bishop St. Leger gave to the vicars choral his manse and lodgings, formerly the episcopal palace, previously to the erection of the palaces of Aghor and Dorogh; and William Fitz-John, who succeeded in 1302, appropriated the church of Claragh to the abbey of St. John the Evangelist, with a reservation of 20s. to the vicars choral of St. Canice. Richard Ledred, who was consecrated in 1318, beautified the cathedral and rebuilt and glazed all the windows, of which the great east window contained some exquisite specimens of scripture history in stained glass, for which Rinuncini, the pope’s nuncio, in 1645, offered £700; he also built the episcopal palace, near the cathedral. Bishop Hacket, who succeeded in 1460, built the arch of the tower of the cathedral of hewn stone, and appropriated the parish church of Rallybur to the vicars choral; and Oliver Cautwell, who succeeded in 1488, repaired the episcopal palaces, rebuilt the bridge of Kilkenny (which had been destroyed by a flood), and gave the church of St. Mael to the vicars choral of St. Canice.

Milo Baron, who was consecrated in 1527, repaired the episcopal palace and gave a silver staff to the cathedral; and Nicholas Walsh, his successor, was the first who introduced types of the Irish character, in which he had prayer books and a catechism printed in the Irish language. Jonas Wheeler, consecrated in 1613, recovered the lands of Tasscoffin, Grangecoolpobble, Freinston, and Sheskin Wood, which Bishop Thonory had alienated, and obtained a grant of the manor of Breghmoe, in King’s county, which was confirmed to the see in 1619 by Jas. I. Griffith Williams, who succeeded to the prelacy in 1641, laid out £1400 in repairing the cathedral, and £300 in beautifying the chancel; and gave to the see many of his lands in Caernarvonshire and other parts of Wales.

Bishop Parry, in 1672, enriched the see by the recovery of alienated lands; and Thomas Otway, who succeeded in 1679, founded the library of the cathedral in the churchyard, and gave all his books for the use of the clergy of the diocese; he also embellished the cathedral and gave to it a service of communion plate weighing 363 ounces.

The see of Ossory continued to be a separate diocese till 1835, when, on the death of the late Dr. Elrington, Bishop of Ferns and Leighlin, both those dioceses were, under the provisions of the Church Temporalities’ Act of the 3rd and 4th of Win. IV., annexed to it, and their temporalities vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. The diocese, which is one of the five that constitute the ecclesiastical province of Dublin , comprehends the county of the city of Kilkenny , the whole of the barony of Ossory, in Queen’s county, the parish of Seir- Kyran, in King’s county, and the greater part of the county of Kilkenny .

It extends 60 miles in length, and 18 in breadth, and comprises an estimated superficies of 346,000 acres, of which 60,000 are in Queen’s county, 4100 in King’s county, and 281,000 in the county and county of the city of Kilkenny . The lands belonging to the see comprise 21,730 statute acres of profitable land; and the gross annual revenue, on an average of three years ending Dec. 31st, 1831, was returned at £3859. The chapter, consists of a dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, archdeacon, and the seven prebendaries of Blackrath, Aghoure, Mayne, Killamery, Tasscoffin, Kilmanagh and Cloneamery.

The vicars choral, three in number, are a corporate body, endowed with various lands and tithes in the city and county of Kilkenny; the former comprising nearly 269 acres, and, tcgether with the tithes, producing a rental of £200. 1. 10. The economy fund amounts to £444. 1. 1¾., arising from houses and premises in the city, and from tithes in the county. The consistorial court consists of a vicar-general, surrogate, three proctors and two registrars, who are keepers of the records of the see, which are all modern documents, the earliest being wills dated 1634. The total number of parishes in the diocese is 146, comprised in 62 benefices, of which 27 are unions of two or more parishes, and 35 single parishes; of these 11 are in the gift of the crown, 16 in lay and corporation patronage, 5 in joint or alternate presentation, and the remainder in the patronage of the bishop and incumbents.

The total number of churches is 52, and there are also six other places where divine service is performed; and the number of glebe-houses is 36. The cathedral church, dedicated to St. Canice, and situated on a gentle eminence at the western extremity of the city, is a spacious and venerable cruciform structure, in the early English style of architecture, with a low massy central tower supported on clustered columns of black marble, and lofty pointed arches, affording entrances from the nave into the choir and transepts.

The exterior walls, with the exception only of the gables, are embattled, and at the west end the pinnacles form two small spires. The whole length of the building is 226 feet, and the breadth along the transepts 123 feet. The interior is lofty and of chaste and elegant design; the nave is separated from the aisles by an elegant range of five clustered columns of black marble on each side, with lofty and gracefully moulded arches, and lighted by a large west window of elegant design, and a range of five clerestory windows; the aisles are lighted by four windows on each side the choir, of similar character, has a beautifully groined ceiling, embellished with delicate tracery and numerous modillions, and a central group of cherubs, festoons, and foliage of exquisite richness. A transept, on the eastern side, is built by Bishop Pococke, and to chapter-house. On the eastern side of the north transept is a door leading through a dark passage into the chapel of St. Mary, where the parochial vicar of St. Canice formerly officiated; and adjacent to it, on the same side, is the present parish church, containing the tomb of Bishop Gafney, who died in 1576.

In various parts of the cathedral are several ancient monuments, of which the most remarkable is that of Bishop David, near the consistorial court, now much defaced; eight of the bishops of Ossory and several of the noble proprietors of the castle are interred here; and in the transept is a stone seat, called the Chair of St. Kieran.

Within a short distance from the south transept are the remains of an ancient round tower, 108 feet high and 47 feet in circumference at the base, and crowned at its summit with a low battlement. The cemetery is finely planted, and is approached from the town by a flight of marble steps. Near the east end of the cathedral is the episcopal palace, a commodious and handsome residence; and on the south-eastern side is the deanery, a good building.

At the north-western end of the churchyard is the diocesan library, founded in 1692 by Bishop Otway, who left £5 per annum to the librarian, and £5 for coal; it was enlarged in 1756, by Bishop Maurice, who increased the stipend of the librarian by an annuity of £20, and contributed largely to the collection, which now contains 3000 volumes.

In the R. C. divisions, this diocese, as originally constituted, is a separate bishoprick, being one of the three suffragan to the archiepiscopal see of Dublin : it comprises 32 parochial benefices or unions, containing 94 chapels served by 88 clergymen, of whom 32, including the bishop, are parish priests, and 56 coadjutors or curates. The parochial benefices of the bishop are the unions of St. Mary and St. John , Kilkenny, in the former of which is the R. C. cathedral and the bishop’s residence. The diocese is divided into three districts, called the northern division, or Conference of Ballyragget; the middle division, or Conference of Kilkenny; and the southern division, or Conference of Ballyhale, where chapters of the clergy are held.

The county of the city comprehends the parishes of St. Mary, St. Patrick, St. John , and St. Canice, and comprises 16,400 statute acres: the total amount of Grand Jury assessments of 1836 was £2816. The parish of St. Mary is entirely within the city: the living is a perpetual curacy, in the patronage of the Bishop.

The church, for the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits, in 1819, granted a loan of £1200, is an elegant cruciform structure, with a tower and spire, situated in the High-street. The glebe-house, for which the same Board gave £400 and lent £350, is a good residence; and there is a small glebe near the church.

The parish of St. Patrick is about one mile and a half in length, and nearly the same in breadth: the living is a rectory and vicarage, united to the rectory of Aghaboe, and the rectory and vicarage of Urlingford, together constituting the corps of the deanery of Ossory, in the patronage of the Crown; the tithes amount to £500, and of the union to £1176. 3. 1. The parish of St. John comprises 5318 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and valued at £7016 per annum. Fairs, for which patents have recently been obtained, are held here on Feb. 15th, May 6th, Sept. 23rd, and Nov. 10th.

The living is a vicarage, united by act of council, in the reign of Hen. VIII., to the vicarage of Clara, and in the patronage of the Bishop; the rectory is impropriate in the corporation of Kilkenny. The tithes amount to £576. 2., of which £373. 0. 6. is payable to the corporation, and £203. 1. 6. to the vicar; the tithes of the whole union, payable to the incumbent, amount to £293. 1. 6.

The church is part of the ancient monastery of St. John the Evangelist, restored agreeably to the character of the ancient building, which was of elegant design and elaborate execution; it contains the mutilated relics of ancient sepulchral monuments to the Butler, Grace, and Purcel families. There is no glebe-house; the glebe is situated in the parish of Clara, and comprises 15 acres.

The parish of St. Canice, comprises 6159 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the living is a rectory and a vicarage, united by act of council from time immemorial to the rectories and vicarages of Ballybur and St. Martin, together forming the union of St. Canice, belonging to the vicars choral, who receive the tithes of the two first, amounting to £450; those of St. Martin are payable to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. In the R. C. divisions the parish of St. Mary is the head of a union or district, coniprising also a small portion of St. John’s; the parish of St. Patrick is the head of a union, com-prising also the parishes of Castleinch and Outrath, and part of St. Canice; the parish of St. John is the head of a union, comprising also Rathcoole, Kilderry, and Kilmadrum; and the parish of St. Canice is the head of a union, comprising also the parish of St. Maul, and part of Ballybur.

There are four chapels, one in each parish: that of St. Canice is a handsome modern edifice, in the later English style; the others are all plain buildings. Adjoining St. Mary’s, which is the largest, is the residence of the R. C. bishop, and also the Presentation Convent, with a chapel attached to it: there is also a Capuchin friary, and a Dominican abbey, with chapels attached.

The grammar-school, called the college of Kilkenny, was originally founded by Piers Butler, Earl of Ormonde, and a new charter was granted to it by the Duke of Ormonde, in 1684; but it fell into disuse during the war of the Revolution, and Jas. II. founded on its site a royal college, which continued only for a short time, when the original establishment was restored. The house, having gone to decay, was rebuilt in 1782, by parliamentary grants, amounting to £5064, and is adapted to the accommodation of 80 boarders.

Provision is made for the education of scholars on the foundation, to be afterwards admitted into Trinity College, Dublin; and the children of freemen are entitled to instruction at half the usual terms. It was endowed by the Duke of Ormonde with a house for the master in John-street, with eight acres of land attached to it, and with £140 per annum charged on the Ormonde estate, for the maintenance of a master and ushers, and the repair of the house; the salary of the master of the diocesan school, which has been discontinued, is also paid to the master of this school, who is appointed by the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, and is to teach the classics, poetry, and oratory; the Bishop of Ossory, Leighlin, and Ferns, and the Provost of Trinity College are visiters.

Among many eminent men, who have been educated in this establishment, were Stanihurst,. the historian; Swift; Congreve Farquhar; Harris, the continuator of Ware; Provost Baldwin; Dr. Berkeley, Bishop of Cloyne; and several other distinguished literary characters.

At Birchfield, near the city, is a R. C. seminary for the education of students intended for the priesthood. Bishop Pococke bequeathed the whole of his property to the Incorporated Society of Dublin for promoting English Protestant schools, for the foundation of a school for R. C. children from 12 to 16 years of age, to be instructed in the principles of the Protestant religion, and bred to the linen-weaving trade, for which purpose he appropriated his manufacturing house at Lintown, which is amply endowed: there are, at present, about 24 boys in the school, and as many looms in the factory; and the curate of the parish, with a salary of £10, is catechist to the school, which now occupies the building of the old charter-school.

A parochial school for the city at large is supported by a bequest of £100 per annum from the late Mr. Evans, an annual donation from the bishop and dean, and by subscription; and there are also an infants’ school and others. The ladies of the Presentation Convent gratuitously instruct more than 300 female children. The total number of children taught in the public schools exceeds 1100; and there are various private schools, in which are more than 1500 children. There is also an orphan-house for girls, under the patronage of the ladies of the Presentation Convent, for the establishment of which a large sum was given by Mr. Murphy, of this city.

Adjoining the library in St. Canice’s churchyard is an almshouse for eight poor women, founded by Bishop Williams, who endowed it with lands at Fermoy, which were sold by his executors; but the inmates receive small annuities from different estates of the Waring family. In the coal market was an hospital, founded by Thomas, tenth Earl of Ormonde, who died in 1614; he endowed it with the impropriate tithes of Drominberran and Bewley, to which were added those of Inch and Drumboth by the great Duke of Ormonde, who obtained from Chas. II. a charter incorporating the master, brethren, and sisters. The house having gone to decay, a smaller one was built in High-street by the present family, consisting of two stories, with four rooms on each floor, inhabited by eight poor widows, who receive small payments; it is called the Ormonde poor-house.

In Rose-Inn-street is an hospital founded in 1581, by Sir R. Shee, Knt., who endowed it with the tithes of Butler’s-woods and Kilmocahill, in the counties of Kilkenny and Carlow, for the support of twelve poor men and women; but the tithes have long been detained in lay hands, and Gen. St. Ruth bequeathed some property, vested in the French funds; but the inmates, who are now all females, receive only small gratuities, from the family of Shee, by whom they are nominated, and alms collected at the chapel of St. Mary.

In a pleasant situation is a range of almshouses, called St. James’ Asylum, founded and endowed, in 1803, by James Switzer, Esq., for twenty poor widows, twelve Protestant, and eight R. C., each of whom, in addition to residence, receives £20 per annum; in the area in front of the building is a statue of the founder, who was a native of the city.

The widow of Edw. Cramer bequeathed £7. 10. per annum (turnpike debentures) for supplying the poor of St. Mary’s parish with bread, to be distributed at the church by the curate, who also has the distribution of another bequest to the poor of that parish by Mr. Nicholai. Mr. Lewis Chapelier, of John-street, bequeathed, in trust, the interest of £500 to be given every second year, in a sum of £50 late currency, as a marriage portion to the daughter of a reputable tradesman, who should marry a tradesman of the town, both being Protestants. Sir William Fownes bequeathed the rents of two tenements in Patrick-street to charitable purposes; and £8 is accordingly given yearly to the county infirmary, and the rest in charitable pensions.

A large house and garden in Patrick-street, were bequeathed by Gen. St. Ruth, in trust, to pay £12 per annum to the poor; and a bequest for the same purpose by Mr. John Cramer was also made about the same time, but neither has been carried into effect. The late Rev. William Lanigan, P. P. of St. Patrick’s, bequeathed £1600, three per cent. consols., for the support of six poor widows, who receive the dividends, and a house is now being built for their reception.

The Charitable Society, formed in 1740, affords relief to sick tradesmen or their widows; and the Benevolent Society was established in 1785, for the relief of bedridden poor. A charitable loan was instituted by act of parliament in 1792, for lending small sums to poor tradesmen, free of interest; and the Ormonde charitable loan fund, for the same purpose, was established by the Ormonde family in 1834, for granting loans, repayable by small instalments.

The county infirmary was opened in 1767: it contains two male and two female wards, in each of which are 10 beds; external patients receive advice and medicine two days in every week; the average annual income is about £660, and the number of in-patients about 500, and of out-patients about 1059. The fever hospital was built at an expense of £1100, a loan from Government, and subsequently repaid by Grand Jury assessments; and the dispensary, founded in 1819, is supported by presentments and subscription, and a bequest of £100 per annum by the late Mr. Evans, which, in common with other charitable bequests by that gentleman, has been for some time suspended, from the non-payment of interest on certain debts chargeable on estates, for the sale of which proceedings have been for some years pending in the court of Chancery: patients unable to attend are visited at their own houses. There is also a house of industry, with an hospital for lunatics attached to it, which is now appropriated as an auxiliary to the county gaol.

The castle, originally built by Strongbow, and rebuilt by William Le Mareschal, occupies a commanding situation on an eminence overlooking the river Nore: it was enclosed with a wall 40 feet high, and defended by bastions, curtains, and towers of great strength, with a keep on the summit; and contained, in addition to accommodation for a large garrison, a splendid suite of apartments, the baronial residence of the Earls of Ormonde. It was for the greater part rebuilt by the second Duke of Ormonde, but not completed, and occupies at present two sides of a quadrangle, containing three of the round towers of the ancient castle: several of the rooms are hung with tapestry from the manufacture introduced by the Ormonde family, and it contains a fine collection of paintings, among which are numerous portraits of the time of Chas. II.

It is now being partly rebuilt on a splendid scale by the present Marquess, after a design by Mr. Robertson, of Kilkenny, and when completed will occupy three sides of a quadrangle, preserving the ancient towers, with the character of which the additional buildings will carefully harmonise. It commands extensive and interesting views, and will be one of the most magnificent baronial residences in the country.

The other seats in the immediate vicinity of the city are

  • Kilereen, formerly the seat of Sir W. de Montmorency, Bart. , and now the residence of Clayton Bayly, Esq.;
  • Castle Blunden (formerly Clonmoran), of Sir J. Blunden, Bart, Bonnetstown, of P. Collis, Esq.;
  • Rose Hill, of W. Robertson, Esq.;
  • Orchardton, of the Dowager Countess of Carrick;
  • Danville, of Christopher James, Esq.;
  • Kilfeara, of H. Ryan, Esq.;
  • The Cottage, of J. Green, Esq.;
  • Sion, of M. Warren, Esq.;
  • Hebron, of Major Jones; River View, of R. Collis, Esq.; and
  • Johnswell, of A. P. Thomas, Esq.

The priory, or hospital, of St. John the Evangelist, founded by William Le Mareschal in 1220, notwithstanding its long alienation from ecclesiastical uses, was, in 1641, taken possession of by a fraternity of Jesuits, who commenced its restoration; a great part of it was afterwards demolished, and the east window of its church, enriched with delicate tracery, and part of the south side of the choir formed a picturesque ruin till the year 1817, when it was restored, and became the parish church of St. John.

The annals of this house, called the Codex Kilkenniensis, were in high reputation and formed part of the Chandos collection. The Dominican abbey, founded in Irishtown by William Le Mareschal the younger, in 1225, was dedicated to the Holy Trinity; and chapters of the order were held in it in 1281, 1302, 1306, and 1316; part of it was, subsequently to the Reformation, made a shire-house, and in 1640 the whole was repaired.

The remains of the abbey church are extensive and interesting; it was cruciform, with a central tower, which is still in good preservation, crowned with a graduated battlement with angular turrets; the windows and arches are of elegant design, and the nave and south transept are beautiful specimens of rich detail in the decorated English style; part has been lately restored for a R. C. chapel. Among the eminent persons interred in this church were the founder and his brother. The Franciscan abbey was founded previously to the year 1230, and a provincial chapter was held in it in 1267; it extended from the city walls to the river, and of its extensive remains, part has been converted into a brewery.

The body of the church is nearly entire, though without a roof, and is now used as a tennis court; at the west end are the relics of a lofty window of seven lights, and from the centre of the building rises a tower of light and elegant proportions, resting on finely groined arches, and apparently of the date of the 14th century. Within the precincts is a well of pure water, formerly held in great veneration, and still in high repute. John Clyn, an annalist of some celebrity, was a friar of this house.

All these houses after the Reformation were granted to the corporation. Part of a house in the coal-market, now divided into five or six tenements, is said to have been the chamber in which the parliaments held at Kilkenny assembled; it consisted of a hall, 49 feet long and 47 feet wide, under which was a dungeon, 20 feet square; the windows are arched, narrow, and lofty, and are defended with iron bars.

Among the eminent natives of this place were 

  • several bishops of various sees, of whom William Daniel, D. D., a man of great learning, translated the book of Common Prayer from the English, and the New Testament from the Greek, into the Irish language, and was made Archbishop of Tuam in 1609.
  • John Banim, author of the O’Hara Tales, and other works of imagination is also a native of this place. 

Kilkenny gives the title of Earl to the family of Butler.

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

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