The earliest charter to Youghal on record, exclusively of those of a temporary nature, is that of the 49th of Edward III., directing that the dues hitherto paid at Cork for certain staple articles should henceforward be paid in the port of Youghal. Another charter of the 2nd of Edward IV. granted to the sovereign and provosts the cognizance of pleas to any amount, both real and personal, and appointed the sovereign clerk of the market, with power to regulate the weights and measures and the assize of bread, also escheator and admiral of the port, which was made a petty limb of the cinque ports of Ireland. A charter of the 2nd of Richard III. changed the titles of Sovereign and Provosts into those of Mayor and Bailiffs, and incorporated the town by the name of "the Mayor, Bailiffs, Burgesses and Commonalty of the Town of Youghal," with cognizance of all pleas real and personal, and a court of record every Friday, the freemen to be free of tolls throughout England and Ireland, and the corporation to have the customs and cocquet from the headland of Ardmore and Capell island to the island of Toureen.

The charter of the 12th of Henry VII. granted the corporation a ferry at Youghal and a mease of herrings from every fishing boat. That of the 7th of James I., which is considered to be the governing charter, after confirming all the privileges in former grants, and licensing two weekly markets and two fairs, granted a corporation of the staple, as in Dublin, the retiring mayor and bailiffs to be mayor and constables of the staple for the ensuing year; the mayor, deputy mayor, recorder, and bailiffs to be justices of the peace and of oyer and terminer for the borough, and for the county of Cork; and licensed the mayor to have a sword borne before him.

The charter granted by James II., in the fourth year of his reign, is not considered valid. The borough appears to have exercised the elective franchise by prescription, as, though no notice of that privilege appears in any of its charters, it continued to send two members to the Irish parliament from the year 1374 till the Union, since which period it has returned one member to the imperial parliament; the right of election was vested solely in the members of the corporation and the freemen, whether resident or not; but by the act of the 2nd of William IV., cap. 88, it has been granted to the £10 householders, and the non-resident freemen have been disfranchised.

A new boundary has been drawn round the town, including an area of 212 statute acres, the limits of which are minutely detailed in the appendix. The number of electors registered up to the beginning of 1836 was 333: the mayor is the returning officer. The mayor is elected from among the burgesses annually; the bailiffs are elected annually at the same court out of the freemen; the aldermen are those burgesses who have been mayors; the burgesses, those freemen who have been bailiffs: the number of each class is unlimited: the freemen are chosen at the court of D'Oyer Hundred, but must be proposed by the mayor; no qualification on the part of the candidate is required.

The court of D'Oyer Hundred is an assemblage of all the members of the corporation, and exercises the right of admitting freemen, disposing of the corporation property, and performing all other corporate acts except the election of officers. There is a class of freemen, called freemen of trade, arising from a power given to the corporation to license foreigners to trade in the town, but they exercise no political functions. The recorder is elected for life at a special meeting of the corporate body, called a court of election. The court of quarter sessions, held by the mayor, bailiffs and recorder, has jurisdiction in all cases, but confines its proceedings to larcenies and misdemeanours punishable by fine and imprisonment.

The court of pleas or record, held before the mayor and bailiffs, or one of them, assisted in special cases by the recorder, takes cognizance of pleas to any amount. The police consists of a chief constable (who is also sword-bearer), and 8 constables: a party of the county police is stationed in the town, under the control of the mayor.

The property of the corporation consists of lands and tenements, yielding about £900 per ann.; of tolls and customs, producing an uncertain amount; and of an annuity from the commissioners of the Blackwater bridge, being the interest on £8500, the purchase money of the ferry. The Mall-house, in which the borough courts are held and the public business of the corporation is transacted, is a handsome structure, built by the corporation in 1779, on a site reclaimed from the slab: it contains, besides the court-rooms, an assembly-room, a reading-room, and the Mayor's offices: adjoining it is an agreeable promenade.

The borough gaol is a lofty square building of four stories, called the Dockgate, surmounted by a lantern and cupola containing the town clock; it was rebuilt in 1777, but is defective in several of the accommodations essential to the health of the prisoners and the proper regulation of the place.

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