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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

County Carlow 1826

The Beauties of Ireland 1826

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Source: Google Books

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 of Leighlin.

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 acres 135,733.

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

Gross Population

Carlow, ……………….



Forth, …………………



Idrone East, …………



Idrone West, ………..



St. Mullin’s, ………...



Rathvilly, …………….



Total ---------



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.

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