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Slater's Royal National Commercial Directory of Ireland, 1881

Ennis with the village of Clare [Clarecastle] and neighbourhoods: Description

Ennis, the county town of Clare, is a parliamentary borough, in the parish of DRUMCLIFFE, and barony of Islands, 141 miles s.w. from Dublin, 40 s. by e. from Galway, 25 n.w. from Limerick, and 10 E. (sic) from Tulla., situated on the river Fergus, navigable for vessels of considerable tonnage to the village of Clare.

The place derives its name from Innes or Inish, signifying an island, from the insulation of a considerable space of ground by the river before mentioned. The town, which is large but irregularly built, carries an extensive inland trade, and from the place of export (Clare), large quantities of corn and timber are shipped, and coal received. The Limerick and Ennis and the Athenry and Ennis Junction Railway Companies have stations here, and their lines give railway communication with the principal parts of the kingdom.

Ennis was incorporated by charter of James 1 (1612), and the corporate body styled the “Provost, burgesses, and commonalty of the town of Ennis”. The provost was a magistrate within the old borough, the boundary of which is altered and more strictly defined by the 2nd of William IV. The provost was entitled by charter to hold a court of record for the recovery of small debts; it has, however, fallen into disuse, as have the judicial functions of that officer. The Towns Improvement Act was adopted in part, namely, for cleansing and lighting in 1857.

The general assizes for the county are held in spring and summer; quarter sessions for the eastern division in January, April, July, and October, and petty sessions every Friday. These courts are held in the Court House, Lifford, completed in 1852. It is in the Roman Ionic style, erected at a cost of £12,000; it is one of the most complete edifices for the purpose in the country. It contains a splendid suite of apartments for the county officers; in the hall is a statue, by Kirk, of the late Sir Michael O’Loghlen, Master of the Rolls, the site of the building is well chosen, and it altogether has a very imposing appearance. The bridewell, formerly the county gaol, is a large modern structure.

One of the most important social reforms that has taken place in the borough for some time is the construction and erection of waterworks (about two miles from the town) at a cost of upwards of £9,000. The borough sent two members to the Irish parliament prior to the Union, since which period it has returned one to the Imperial Parliament – the present representative is J. Lysaght Finegan, Esq., 9, Wells St, Gray’s Inn Road, London. The Union workhouse, opened in 1841, is a fine stone building; it will accommodate 1,700 inmates. The Lunatic County Asylum is a magnificent structure, recently erected at a cost of £59,000, and can accommodate 260 patients. The County Infirmary is a convenient building with accommodation for 35 males and 15 females. A Town Hall, which contains a public library, has recently been erected at a cost of about £860.

The O’Connell Monument, erected on the site of the old courthouse, was inaugurated on the third of October 1865. This beautiful column is surmounted by a colossal statue of the liberator. A handsome metal bridge, which connects Bindon Street with O’Connell Square, has been erected at a cost of £2,000. The Provincial Bank of Ireland, the National Bank, and the Munster Bank, Ltd., have each a branch bank here, and there is also a savings bank. There are militia and constabulary barracks in the town, and a military barrack at Clare Castle.

The parish church forms part of the ancient abbey, and was much injured by lightning in 1817, but was renovated by means of a grant from the late Board of First Fruits. The organ was presented in 1825 by the Earl of Egremont. A new church is in course of erection in Bindon Street. The Roman Catholic church is a fine edifice, well finished in the interior; three magnificent altars of Caen stone have been erected and consecrated. The Gothic ceiling, supported by columns, which separate nave from aisle, is of highly-polished wood, stained and varnished. A fine organ was erected in 1858, which cost £550.

A new Roman Catholic Diocesan college has been erected from the designs and under the superintendence of Mr. Francis O’Connor, C.E. architect. The style adopted is domestic Gothic. The building is three stories high, the principal front is 240 feet in length, and the two side fronts 120 feet each. The outer walls are built of ashlar masonry with dressing of cut stone. Accommodation is provided for 160 students, together with apartments for professors, classrooms, dining halls, &c. A clock tower 20 feet square and 140 feet high is placed in the centre of the building. The total cost was £20,000 – Mr. Patrick Kenna of Limerick was the contractor.

A friary of the order of St. Francis has been erected at Willow Bank, on part of the ground of the ancient abbey. It is in the Gothic style of architecture, and was built by voluntary contributions through the exertions of the Rev. Mr. McLaughlin, at a cost of £1,000; at the eastern end is a beautiful stained glass window, which cost £260. The Presbyterian church, opened in 1856, is a neat Gothic structure erected at a cost of £570. The Wesleyans also have a place of worship, and there is a convent and a monastery.

Among the schools is the college on the foundation of Erasmus Smith’s bequest; it consists of several handsome and roomy buildings, situated on a high and healthful site, convenient to the town, and having an extensive pleasure-ground attached. The endowment supplies professors in classics, sciences, and modern languages, and some of the most distinguished men have been educated here. There is also the Killaloe Diocesan College, the Christian Brothers’, a parochial and several good private schools, and those connected with the Convent of Our Lady of Mercy, in which about 600 girls are daily instructed.

Contiguous to the parish church are the interesting remains of, perhaps, one of the finest abbeys in Ireland; it was erected by Donagh Carbrac O’Brien, Prince of Thomond, in 1240, in the purest style of Gothic architecture, for conventual Franciscans, and in the days of its ecclesiastical plenitude must have been a superb structure and an extensive establishment. The grand eastern window is highly imposing – it is thirty feet high, and consists of five lancet-shaped compartments, separated by stone mullions, and is universally admired for its beautifully light proportions and exquisite workmanship. In the chancel is the “Abbot’s Chair” which, with the altar, is richly sculptured with figures in high relief, and some of the ancient monuments, also elaborately sculptured, still exist.

There are four newspapers published in Ennis. The market, a good one, is held on Saturday. Fairs are held on the 3rd Tuesday in April (two days), the 2nd and 3rd of September, and the first Saturday in every month. Population of the parish of Drumcliffe, by the returns made in 1861, 9,708, and in 1871 8,791 of which the town numbered 6,503.

CLARE, a village and parish, two miles to the south of Ennis, may be considered the port of that town, as at that place, as before-mentioned, the exports and imports are made. The Protestant Episcopal church is a small but neat structure and the Roman Catholic church is new and well built, and there is a national school. There is a good barrack here (for military), which would accommodate over 300 men, also a constabulary barracks. A ledge of rocks, at the bridge, prevents the navigation up to the town. This obstruction is to be deplored, as the depth of water below the bridge is sufficient to float vessels of heavy burthens up close to the town of Ennis. Population in 1861, 495, and in 1871, 876.

 


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