Agricultural Interests, Markets, Fairs, &c - Wexford Guide and Directory, 1885

About “Wexford County Guide and Directory,” 1885

George Henry Bassett produced 7 Irish county directories in the 1880s: Antrim, Armagh, Down, Kilkenny, Louth, Tipperary and Wexford. Each provides useful history of the respective counties as well as lists of office holders, farmers, traders, and other residents of the individual cities, towns and villages.

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The directories are naturally an invaluable resource for those tracing family history. However, there are a few points to bear in mind.

  1. This online version of Bassett’s Wexford County Guide and Directory is designed primarily as a genealogical research tool and therefore the numerous advertisements in the original book, many full page, and quite a few illustrated, have been excluded.
  2. The text has been proofed with due care, but with large bodies of text typographical errors are inevitably bound to occur.
  3. Be aware that there were often inconsistencies in spelling surnames in the 19th century and also that many forenames are abbreviated in Bassett’s directories.

With respect to the last point, surnames which today begin with the “Mc” prefix, for example, were often formerly spelt as “M‘,”. For a list of some of the more common forename abbreviations used in the directory, see Forename Abbreviations.

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WEXFORD is called “the model county,” and, in many respects, deserves the appellation. As an agricultural county it chiefly claims attention at the present time. The soil, which is of a cold, clayey nature, is not equal in fertility to that of Kilkenny, but owing to the shelter received by the mountains on the northern and western borders, it is better adapted for tillage. The range of crops includes barley, oats, wheat, potatoes, turnips, mangel-wurzel and beans. Before the “damp seasons” wheat-growing engaged a considerable amount of attention from farmers. In 1862, of 235,826 acres under tillage, there were 21,881 acres of wheat, 65,899 of oats, 39,816 of barley, 5,911 of beans, 24,284 of potatoes, 18,370 ++f turnips, and 2,107 of mangel-wurzel. During late years, wheat has not been a profitable crop for either farmer or miller, and has been a cause of discouragement to both. Barley-growing has been more steadily persevered in, and large malt-houses have been built at Wexford, New Ross, and Enniscorthy to absorb the production of their several districts.

In 1883, of the 575,700 statute acres composing the county, 199,199 acres were under crops, including meadow and clover; 306,187 acres in grass; 390 acres of fallow, or uncropped arable land; 10,223 acres under plantations and woods; 15,948 acres of bog and marsh; 18,429 acres of barren mountain land, and 25,324 acres under water, roads, fences, &c.

In 1884 there were, under wheat, 4,510 acres; oats, 49,646; barley, 35,487; bere and rye, 34; beans and peas, 2,873; potatoes, 22,110; turnips, 18,876; mangel wurzel and beet-root, 3,160; carrots, parsnips, and other green crops, 1,041; cabbage 1,254; vetches and rape, 84. Total under tillage, 139,075; meadow and clover, 60,136. Total extent under crops, 199,211 acres, showing an increase over the previous year of 12 acres.

The live stock statistics for 1884 show that there were in the county 26,148 horses, including those under one year old; 1,513 mules; 7,960 donkeys; 36,892 milch cows; 22,763 two years’ old and upwards; 30,509 one year old and under two years; 29,533 under one year old. Total number of cattle, 119,697. Total number of sheep, 127,721. Total number of pigs, 71,401. Total number of goats, 6,045. Total number of poultry, 547,152.

The improvements in agricultural machinery have been successfully brought under the notice of the farmers by means of district farming societies. Improvements in the breed of cattle and swine have been effected by similar agencies. In butter-making methods, the average standard of excellence is not yet as high as it should be, but the prospects of the immediate future are hopeful. Opportunities for the export of cattle to the English markets have been increased. There is a weekly steamer service between Wexford and Liverpool, and Wexford and Bristol, and the Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway Company have a daily service. Fowl-raising has become an important industry in the county, owing to the facilities for shipment to the large cities of the United Kingdom. Farmers’ wives find in this a means of escape from many difficulties of housekeeping. Every town, and nearly every village, has its fowl market once or twice a week, and there is no more interesting sight to the stranger than the crowds in the marketplaces of the villages. The donkey is a popular animal in every part of the county Wexford, and nearly every donkey-car is fitted with a low back seat, which is movable at pleasure. Donkeys have a monopoly of the carrying trade in fowls. They are ready to the hands of farmers’ wives, and may be used at all seasons without interfering with the operations in which the horse takes such a dignified and valuable part. In the marketplace the donkey-cars are brought into line without the interference of distracting formalities, and the sales proceed in a fairly rapid manner, a fact which is due in a marked degree to the competition of buyers. This is so keen that farmers’ wives are frequently met miles from the markets, and tempted to dispose of their fowls by the road-side. The weather is the only influence that damps the ardour of the fowl speculator. As the greater part of the fowls are killed and drawn before shipment, in hot weather, he is restrained by the fear of loss by spoiling in transit to London.

The markets of the county have many novel features. They are attended by men and women to whom it is the business of life to go from one to another, and spread out cheap wares. Brogue-makers display their handiwork on single boards, stretched from trestles, and upon donkey-carts; glass and delf repose upon straw and hay, often in the middle of the roadway; perambulating clothiers lay out the contents of huge chests under lightly constructed tents. Hawkers stand upon their carts and imitate the methods of auctioneers in disposing of odd dozens of room-paper, and dado remnants; women with coarse flannels and yarns, tinsmiths with kettles and saucepans, toy dealers with jumping jacks, roving confectioners, and onion venders—all of these, and more, attend the village markets, and serve to enliven them by droll and original sayings.

The fairs throughout the county are numerous, in this respect forming a striking contrast to the condition of things one hundred years ago. Well attended fairs and markets are to a town or village what water is to a mill-wheel. They put motion into every branch of effort which depends for success upon the wants of the farmers. In most instances additional fairs have brought additional business to the towns, but there are instances in which the desire for extension has exceeded the requirements of the district, the effect being to injure the character of the established fairs.

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