The Beauties of Ireland 1826
- by James
Norris Brewer Esq.
- Vol. II
Pages 8 22
County of Carlow.
This small and inland county was made shire-ground by King John, under
the name of Catherlough, or Caterlogh. Its greatest length, as computed
by Dr. Beaufort, is twenty-six miles, and its extreme width twenty-three
miles. On the east and north-east its boundaries meet Wexford and
Wicklow. Kilkenny adjoins its borders on the west. On the north and
north-west lie Kildare and the Queen's County.
This district comprehends the ancient territories of "Hy Cavanagh and Hy
Drone," being the northern part of the principality of Hy Kinselagh.
Its most ancient families are the MacMorough-Kavanaghs; the O'Ryans; the
O'Nolans, and the O'Mores; also the Walls, or Duvals; the St. Aubins; De
La Fraynes; De Berminghams; De Carews -, Landys, or De La Landes; the
Graces; and the Butlers.
Since the time of Queen Elizabeth the following, amongst other families,
have likewise obtained property and influence in this county: The
Bagnals; Eustaces; Burtons; O'Briens of Thomond; Ponsonbys; Hamiltons;
Cokes; Bernards; Vigors'; Vicars'; Burdetts; Bunburys; Beresfords;
Bruens; Bagots; and Brownes. Mr. Wakefield notices amongst the principal
proprietors of landed estates, at the present time, the families of
Kavanagh; Bruen; Burton; and Rochfort.
This county, after the Strongbonian settlement, became a palatinate in
the family of the earl marshal. After the death of William the Marshal,
Earl of Pembroke, and of his five sons successive earls, Carlow fell to
the share of his daughter, the wife of Hugh le Bigot, Earl of Norfolk;
who, in her right, succeeded to the dignity of Earl Marshal of England.
This earl, residing in the latter country, confided the seneschalship,
or stewardship, of Carlow, as did in like manner the Lord De Carew,
Baron of Idrone, the superintendance of his estate in this county, to
Donald-Mac Art Kavanagh, one of the ancient proprietors of the soil, and
a vassal of those noblemen. Instead of executing these trusts, with
fidelity, Donald-Mac Art seized the first favourable opportunity of
shaking off his allegiance to his employers, and, assuming the title of
Macmorongh, claimed the sovereignty of this entire quarter of Leinster,
founding his pretensions upon his descent from Donald Kavanagh, who had
borne the same title, and was the illegitimate son of Desmod Macmorough,
last King of Leinster. Froisard gives a lively, and not uninteresting,
character of this turbulent chieftain, concerning whose descendants some
further particulars occur in our description of Borris, the most
distinguished seat in this district. In the present place it may be
sufficient to observe that the troubles occasioned by Donald's
assumption of local sovereignty, form a prominent feature in. the,
history of the county of Carlow.
The general aspect of this county is agreeable, but partakes less of the
sublime and highly-captivating than is witnessed in many other parts of
Ireland. In compensation of this deficiency there are few harsh effects
of contrast; and the English traveller is often reminded of the equable
but grateful scenery to which he is accustomed in the midland districts
of his native country. The chief elevations approaching towards the
character of mountains, rise on the west side of the river Barrow, and
in the southern part of the county, on the borders of Wexford. This
latter range commences on the north with the rocky acclivities of
Mount-Leinster, and terminates in the Blackstairs mountains, precipitous
in ascent and of a sable hue. The interior of the county is either flat
or gently undulating, and the soil of a calcareous and rich nature. The
navigable river Barrow flows through the county from north to south; and
the Slaney crosses it towards the east; both rivers adding at once to
the fertility and beauty of contiguous districts.
The county is divided into five baronies, named Rathvilly; Catherlogh,
or Carlow; Idrone; Forth; and St. Mullin's, or Molin's. These are again
subdivided into fifty parishes, the whole of which are in the dioceses
The quantity of cultivated and uncultivated land is thus stated in Mr.
Wakefield's Account of Ireland. Cultivated land, 123,516 acres, -
uncultivated land, (mountain and bog) 12,217 acres. Total number of
Much barley, of an excellent quality, is grown in this county, together
with considerable quantities of other grain. Large tracts of rich
pastureland are occupied as dairy-farms, and the butter of Carlow has
the reputation of being the best that is sent to the Dublin market. "The
Dairies," observes the writer last quoted, "consist of from twenty to
fifty cows; and, during the season, produce 1cwt of butter per cow."
Great care is taken in the breed of cattle, and the dairies are
frequently let to persons who agree to give a certain sum per annum, for
what may be termed the usufruct of each cow. The butter is usually sent
to Dublin by means of the canal, and large quantities are thence
forwarded to London. The farms are frequently large, and are often
stocked with fine flocks of long-woollen sheep, many of which are
fattened for market.
This county contains numerous seats of gentry, several of which are
highly embellished. The principal subjects of antiquarian gratification
consist in vestiges of ecclesiastical and military structures, not often
on an extensive scale.
Population of The County of Carlow, According to the returns made under
an act of Parliament in 1812.
Baronies, Half Baronies, Parishes
Number of Houses
According to the returns made in the year 1821, the number of houses was
13,854; and the number of inhabitants, 81,287. Thus, according to those
returns, the increase of inhabitants between the years 1813 and 1821,
would appear to have amounted to 11,721.