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Carlow County - Ireland Genealogical Projects (IGP TM)

County Carlow, Ireland

History of Carlow

Part 1

Carlow postcard found on ebay
Carlow Castle and the River Barrow weir south of Graigue Bridge Map of County Carlow

Carlow Town Coat of Arms

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland,

By Samuel Lewis, 1837

CARLOW, an incorporated borough, market, and post-town, and a parish, in the barony and county of Carlow, and province of Leinster, 18 miles (N. E.) from Kilkenny, and 39 (S. W. by S.) from Dublin; containing 9597 inhabitants, of which number, 9114 are in the borough. This town, called, till within a comparatively recent period, Catherlough, or Catherlagh, is supposed to have derived that name, signifying in the Irish language " the city on the lake," from its proximity to a large sheet of water which formerly existed here.

The erection of the castle has been variously attributed to Eva, daughter of Dermot MacMurrough; to Isabel, daughter of Strongbow, and to King John; but with more probability to Hugh de Lacy, about the year 1180. In the reign of Edward II., the castle belonged to the crown, and was made the head-quarters of the seneschal ship of the counties of Carlow and Kildare, instituted on account of the disturbed state of those districts. About the year 1361, Lionel, Duke of Clarence, established the exchequer of the kingdom at this place, and expended 500 in fortifying the town with walls, of which at present there is not a vestige. James Fitzgerald, brother of the Earl of Kildare, seized the castle in 1494; but it was soon afterwards invested by the lord-deputy, Sir Edward Poynings, to whom, after a siege of ten days, it was surrendered.

In 1534 it was taken by Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, during his insurrection; and in 1577 the town was assaulted by Rory Oge O'More. James I. granted the manor to Donogh, Earl of Thomond, whom he also made constable of the castle. In 1641, the whole county was overrun by the insurgents, and the castle of Carlow was invested by a strong party and reduced to great extremity; a number of Protestants had taken refuge within its walls, and the garrison was about to surrender, when it was relieved by a detachment of the Earl of Ormonde's forces under the command of Sir Patrick Wemys.

On his approach the insurgents raised the siege, and, after burning the town, took flight, but 50 of them were killed in the pursuit. This place was constantly exposed to the assaults of the insurgents; and the castle, after sustaining a siege for nearly a month, ultimately surrendered in May, 1647. It was, in 1650, closely invested by Ireton and the republican army; and after a severe cannonade which greatly injured the castle, the garrison surrendered on conditions to Sir Hardress Waller, whom Ireton had left to conduct the siege.

After the battle of the Boyne, in 1690, William III. led his army southward through this town; and during the disturbances of 1798, it was assaulted by the insurgents on the morning of the 25th of May. The garrison, consisting partly of regular troops and partly of yeomanry, amounting in the whole to 450, repulsed the assailants, though 2000 in number, with the loss of 600 of their men, on which occasion they were obliged to burn several of the houses, in order to compel the insurgents to abandon them.

Carlow Town in the 1830s

Carlow Castle

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland,

By Samuel Lewis, 1837

The town is pleasantly and advantageously situated on the eastern bank of the river Barrow, over which is a bridge of four arches connecting it with the extensive suburban village of Graigue, in Queen's county: it is surrounded by a rich agricultural district, and sheltered by some ranges of hills well cultivated to their summits.

 It is of considerable extent, and contains more than fourteen good streets, of which the two principal, intersecting each other at right angles and continued through its whole length and breadth, divide the town into four nearly equal portions, which are again divided and subdivided by smaller streets into 42 portions; it is rapidly increasing in all directions, and a new street, chiefly for private residence, is now in progress, which, when completed, will be one of its greatest ornaments. Though a place of such high antiquity, it has an air of modern neatness: the streets are paved and kept in repair by county presentments, the two principal by the county at large, and the others by the barony in which the town is situated; and the inhabitants are supplied with water from public pumps.

On the south side of the town is a stream called the Burren, which flows into the Barrow; and on a rising ground above its influx are the stately remains of the ancient castle, towering to the height of 60 feet above the roofs of the houses. There are two subscription reading-rooms; and to the south-east of the town are cavalry barracks for 8 officers and 112 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 90 horses, and an hospital for 20 patients.

Carlow Town Hall


The County of Carlow or Catherlough is within the Province of Leinster - 2,783,137 Acres, 989 Parishes, 101 Baronies 52 Boroughs

The County of Carlow:-

Carlow with an area of 346 square miles is the second smallest county in Ireland. There are 597 Townlands, and seven Baronies in Co. Carlow. The population of this county in 1841 was 86,228. Over the next forty years there was a steady decreased thus in 1861 it fell to 57,137. Then in 1871 to 51,650, and in 1881 to 46,588. The population of the county almost halved in forty years. The Great Famine period played a very big part in this with emigration also to blame.

The population of Carlow County according to the 1991 census was 40,942, with Carlow Town at 11,271. The county is almost triangular in shape and is surrounded by counties Kildare, Wicklow, Wexford, Kilkenny and Laois, and bounded by the River Slaney to the east and the River Barrow to the west.

Area Of County:- 900 sq. km. - 1.25% of the total surface area of the State.

Population:- County Carlow (Contae Cheatharlach) has an overall population of just over 45,000, as of August 2002. The town of Carlow has a population of 17,880.

(Note the increase in both Town and County population since 1991 census)

Principal County Town:- Carlow - Towns of County Carlow

Neighbouring Counties Around County Carlow:-

Kildare   Laois
Kilkenny CARLOW Wicklow
Waterford   Wexford

Carlow Personalities: Sons & Daughters Of Carlow

Common Surnames:- Brennan, Byrne, Cummins Doyle, Devereux, Hogan, Kavanagh, Kelly, Keogh, Kinsella, McDonnell, McDonald, Moran, Nolan, Nowlan, Neill, Ryan, Tyndall, Whelan.

(See County Carlow Surname Registry)


Website Link: Carlow County Council 

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The information contained in these pages is provided solely for the purpose of sharing with others researching their ancestors in Ireland.
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