Enniscorthy - 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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IN point of situation Enniscorthy has few rivals. It rises from both sides of the Slaney to handsome and fertile heights. There are mountains to the north, west, and south, and in every direction, within a short distance, private residences, in ornamental parks, surrounded by trees. At no point on its course is the river scenery more charming. The traveller approaching by rail from Dublin cannot fail to be impressed by the picturesque features of the town. These include high streets, boldly ascending from the water’s edge on one side, with the grey and weather beaten castle, relieved by many tasteful new buildings. On the other side, Vinegar Hill, bleak and turret-crowned, a grim reminder of the Rebellion of 1798. A momentary glance, and the picture vanishes in the darkness of the long railway tunnel under the town. There is an entire change of aspect where the train emerges. The landscape is smiling indeed, the river winding like a silver thread through rich pastures, until lost to view on the way to the sea.

Enniscorthy is in the middle of the County, 77½ miles by rail from Dublin, and 14 from Wexford. It is one of the small number of Irish towns that have increased in population since 1861. According to the census of that year, it was 5,396. Ten years later it was 5,594, and in 1881 it was 5,666. The lands of the surrounding country are excellent for pasture and tillage, and the produce finds market at Enniscorthy every day in the season, and all through the year on Thursdays and Saturdays. Flour manufacture is the most important of the local industries. There is a growing desire on the part of the leading residents to give the town a special prominence over all others in the county in the respect of manufactures. In the milling branches it already stands at the head. In spite of the drawbacks which have affected this and other places depending largely on the prosperity of the agricultural classes, the trade of Enniscorthy has continued in a thoroughly sound condition. Building operations in nearly every street bear testimony to the progressive spirit of the people. A handsome business house, with terra cotta facings, has just been finished in Slaney Street. There is a new and handsome row of houses called St. John’s Terrace. The Shannon is losing the last of its poorly constructed cottages, which are being replaced by artizans’ dwellings of comfortable style. The record of works accomplished by one builder, Mr. Michael Lynch, would be a very strong proof of advance even though it were the only one offered:—An addition to the flour mills of Messrs. S. & A. G. Davis, at St. John’s; offices for Messrs. Davis Brothers, in Abbey Square; workmen’s cottages on the Ross Road; cottages for the Enniscorthy Labourers’ Cottages Improvement Company; workmen’s cottages for the Enniscorthy Building Company; a large store for Messrs. Samuel Davis & Sons, and a house for the Enniscorthy Branch of the Bank of Ireland, in Abbey Square. The contract for this was something under £4,000. To the height of the first story it is built of Carlow granite, and the second and third stories are of Courtown red brick, with granite window dressings.

The Earl of Portsmouth is the owner of Enniscorthy, but he has no residence in it. Corthae is given as the original name of the town. It was the marriage portion of Basilica, sister of Strongbow. The De Prendergasts succeeded to its possession, and in 1227 it was surrendered to the Bishop of Ferns by Philip, head of the family. The heir, Gerald, four years later, confirmed the act of his father. Donald Fuscus, head of the MacMurroughs, subsequently came into possession of the Castle and Manor, and gave them to the Franciscan Monastery, founded in 1460. The tower of this fell during a storm in 1839, and every vestige of the buildings has since disappeared. Queen Elizabeth gave the Castle, Monastery, and Manor, after the dissolution, to John Travers. Afterwards, Sir Henry Wallop, Knight, obtained possession. The Abbey of St. Johns—of which Gerald de Prendergast was Patron—passed by lease to the Poet Spenser, for a term of years from 1581.

Cromwell’s forces appeared before the Castle in 1649, and found little difficulty in persuading the garrison to surrender and march out. An ancestor of the Carews followed in the ownership of the town, and after a time, in exchange for other property, it was returned to the Wallops. James II. had some adherents among the inhabitants, and passed a night with them on the road to Duncannon. The first Militia Corps in Ireland is said to have been raised at Enniscorthy by Vesey Colclough in 1773–4.

One of the most stirring events of the Rebellion of 1798 occurred at Enniscorthy. A large body of insurgents, after a severe battle, captured it from the King’s forces. It was retaken by a stratagem of the King’s Commander, Gen. Johnson, the main feature of which was a liberal use of intoxicants.

James I. granted a charter to the town vesting its government in a portrieve, twelve free burgesses, and a commonalty, assisted by a recorder, town clerk, and two sergeants at mace. It was a Parliamentary borough before the Union. It is now governed by Commissioners, under the Towns Improvement Act. The streets are lighted with gas, and are well maintained.

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