Castles, Walls, and Gates of Wexford - 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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FROM Danish times the spot now occupied by the Militia Barracks has been the stronghold of Wexford. Before attaining the art of living at peace with their neighbours, it is supposed that the Danes fortified themselves here in one of the characteristic mounds so frequent in the county. Henry II., after entertaining the Irish Princes in Dublin, returned to England, in 1172, by way of Wexford and Millford. Before embarking he gave orders to build a castle, and the site of the Danish fort was chosen by the builder, Lord Jeoffrey de Marisco, illegitimate son of Fitzstephen. In the “inquisition” taken after the death of Adomar de Valence, mention is made of “One stone castle in which are four towers, roofed with slate, a great keep, and four buildings at the back, thatched with straw.” In this castle were confined the hostages of the hostile Septs, in 1352. Its walls commanded the river, town, and approach from the Barony of Forth. For the still greater security of the inhabitants, three castles of the same size as that now at Westgate, formerly stood within the town walls; one at John’s gate, called John’s castle; one at the corner of Oyster Lane, and a third at Crescent Quay, the last two having been removed during the present century. The castle at Westgate is in a good state of preservation, and adds picturesque effect to a distant view of the town. The castle at Oyster Lane was thrown down by the late Mr. Richard Devereux. Mr. William Coghlan, J.P., remembers to have seen the lower floor of it kept as a public oven by a woman named Hayes.

The first walls of Wexford were built by the Danes, who were able from their limits to resist for three days the assaults of Kitzstephen. After the influx of Strongbownian settlers the inhabitants found themselves cramped by the ancient boundary, and a new wall was constructed early in the 14th century, by Sir Stephen Devereux, Governor of Wexford, who also built the castle at West-gate, and assisted the Roches in the re-building of Selskar Abbey. The walls were twenty-two feet high, and four feet thick, of lime and stone, supported on the inside by a rampart of earth 21 feet thick. The outer wall began at the river Slaney, somewhat North of the West-gate, and skirted the town to Paul’s quay. Besides the outer wall, there were two dividing the town itself, one running from the boundary to the river, south of the Bull Ring, the other north of Gibsons’ Lane, at a place called Oldgate. Extensive remains of the outer wall and rampart may be traced in various quarters of the town, beginning at West-gate, and running to King Street. It forms a part of Mr. Cameron Rogers’ house in George Street, and one boundary of his garden for several hundred yards, ending in a tower forty feet high at one side, and forty-five feet at the other, in an almost perfect state of preservation. An old divisional wall forms one side of Wickham’s Brewery house, South Main Street, to a depth of about one hundred feet. A second tower, forty feet in height, belonging to the old wall, is at the back of Joe Murphy’s forge, in Abbey Street. Still another is in Back Street, which runs from Corn Market to Rowe Street. A large square tower stood at the corner of Rowe Street, on the grounds of the Church of the Immaculate Conception, until 1852, when it was thrown down to give increased space and light to the chancel window. About 150 feet of town wall runs through the grounds of Clarence House, High Street, the residence of Mr. Thomas S. Redmond. Clarence House is built on the site of the Palace of Bishop Caulfield, and is secluded from public view by a range of houses, one of which gives a bow-way to it. The ancient rampart is terraced to the grounds, and has two rows of gigantic specimens of many-coloured fox-glove, one of them fully eight feet high. There is also a conservatory and a mulberry tree of great age, having a second growth from the roots, which has already attained a considerable height.

The gates of Wexford were five in number; West-gate, whose former name was Cow-gate; John’s gate, leading from Corn Market to John Street; St. Peter’s gate, near the site of the old Pound; Bride Street gate, and Castle gate, near the place now occupied by the Militia Barracks. In one of the old Corporation leases mention is made of a sixth gate, called Raby’s. All the gates were taken down in 1759, and were re-erected in a less substantial fashion after 1798, remaining till 1835, when they were removed on account of being an obstruction to traffic. They were built of wood, and were so light that children could close theM.

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