Wexford and Rosslare Harbours, Wexford Shipping Trade, and Slob Land Reclamation

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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TREACHEROUS but beautiful. This is, unfortunately, a faithful description of the harbour of Wexford. The banks which obstruct its entrance shift so frequently as to render it difficult to accurately trace their movements. Not many years ago reports showed only from three to four feet of water on the bar. In July, 1884, it had improved to eleven feet six inches. An idea of the nature of the banks may be formed from the fact that the Dogger, one of them, five or six years since, was two hundred yards from the mainland. Since then it has come in and joined it. At the period when Wexford enjoyed its greatest foreign trade, the Hantoon channel was open. Now it is closed for trading purposes.

At the time of the very low state of the water upon the bar, the hope of Wexford was centred at Greenore Point, or what is now known as Rosslare Harbour. A Government loan of £75,000 was procured on the strength of a recommendation by Captain Calver, R.N., Hydrographer to the Admiralty, and Mr. Rendel, C.E., Consulting Engineer to the Public Works Loans Commissioners of England. Of this amount £61,000 was expended in building a breakwater at Greenore Point, 1,500 feet in length. The harbour at present is in a condition to give refuge to a certain class of vessels, but it is said that it cannot be generally used until the breakwater has been extended 220 feet further. In anticipation of the speedy completion of the project, a line of railway was built from Wexford to Rosslare Harbour, a distance of nine miles, at a cost of £120,000. The line has been opened for traffic, but the visions of a cross-channel trade from the new harbour are yet unrealized. The distance from Rosslare Harbour to Fishguard is 58 miles, to Milford 64 miles—48 miles less than that from Waterford to Milford.

The prospect of making Rosslare Harbour a station for steam ships trading between New York and Milford was an attractive one, and it was easy to use it as a basis for the opinion that the lands in the vicinity of the Harbour would soon be covered with the stores, warehouses and shops of the “New Wexford.” There is no second opinion as to the great benefits which would be derived from such a harbour as that which was projected for Rosslare; but there has been a diversity of opinion as to the possibility of making the present unfinished harbour a thorough success. A harbour of refuge on the coast of Wexford would be of inestimable value to shipping. Scores of ships have gone to pieces because of the lack of it. Rosslare Harbour has a regularly-constituted authority and Board of Commissioners consisting of three of the Directors of the Waterford and Wexford Railway, the Mayor of Wexford, the Member for the Borough of Wexford, one member nominated by the Wexford Harbour Commissioners, and one member nominated by the Board of Trade. The Waterford and Wexford Line is known locally as the Ballygeary Railway. The original intention was that it should connect Waterford with Wexford, but whether it will ever be extended beyond its present terminus is a question which the future must decide.

While “New Wexford” remains unbuilt it is agreeable to be able to note it as a fact that the shipping trade of “Old Wexford” is showing substantial improvement. Mr. William Coghlan, J.P., who was for many years collector of the port, may be regarded as a good authority on this subject. He remembers it since 1838. It was then very promising. From that year to 1847 it was in a transition state. Between 1847 and 1874 there was a period of considerable prosperity. The highest point of success was reached when the record showed thirty large sailing vessels, principally engaged in the Black Sea trade. Steamers ultimately crowded out the sailing ships; but the decrease in the number of large vessels has been more than counterbalanced by the increase from year to year, during the past decade, in the coasting trade. The Dublin, Wicklow and Wexford Railway and its connections have given a strong stimulus to this development, and the opening of the light railway between Newtownbarry and Tullow, County Carlow, will be an additional help. There are at present 53 coasting vessels, one screw steamer, and two tug-boats, owned in Wexford. This calculation does not take account of the fishing boats of all kinds which carry crews numbering about 150 men.

There is a dock-yard at the southern end of the quay, which is capable of taking upon its slip a vessel of 360 tons register. The late Mr. John Edward Redmond, M.P., whose public services have been commemorated by a large monument near the Railway Station, was the builder of the dock-yard. It was completed in 1832, and the first vessel was launched from it in 1834. The present dock-yard company consists of Mr. Jasper W. Walsh and Mr. P. Lambert, and began its career in 1867. In July, 1884, it gave employment to about 90 men, of whom 40 were ship-carpenters and 20 smiths. It confines its building operations to wooden vessels.

In a chapter on the Harbour of Wexford and its shipping trade, it will not be inappropriate to give an account of the Slob Land Reclamation which has been done in modern times. The late Mr. John Edward Redmond was the first to begin the work. When a very young man he, at his own expense, reclaimed the space between Paul Quay and the end of the Dock Yard. The first Act of Parliament for reclamation purposes was obtained in 1846. Between that time and 1852, when a second Act was procured which repealed the first, a portion of the reclamation was done on the north side of the harbour. The chief partners in it were Sir Edward Grogan, Bart., Mr. John Edward Redmond, and Mr. William Dargan. The total amount reclaimed on the north side, under both Acts, was 2,331 statute acres, of which Sir Edward Grogan held 926 acres, Messrs. Weldon, 656; Representatives of Prendergast, 619; Representatives of Cadwalader Wilson, 130. The south side reclamation made a total of 2,276, of which Mr. J. Woodward Stamford holds 1,189 acres, and Messrs. Weldon, 1,087. Most of the lands are worked by the owners, and produce abundantly. The greater portions are under grass. Black oats is a favourite crop, but the lands are also adapted to wheat, barley, and green crops. Drainage is effectually maintained by means of pumping engines.

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