Number and size of towns and villages
ENNIS, the capital of the county of Clare, is estimated by the best informed of the inhabitants to contain about 9,000 souls; twenty years ago it was much more; the Assizes and Quarter Sessions are held there;* the cottages for poor people are much better now than twenty years since, but the morals of the people deplorably worse, for the Rev. Mr. Barret, titular Dean of Killaloe, informs me, that formerly there were upwards of 2,000 communicants of his persuasion in Ennis, but at present not more than 900; this great decrease therefore cannot be imputed entirely to a decrease in population, nor, I am certain, to a preference for any other mode of worship.
Killaloe, Kilrush, Innistymon, Six-mile-bridge, Corrofin, Kilfenora, Skarrif, and Miltown, are the principal towns and villages.
Kilrush is rising fast into some consequence, and, if want of capital did not prevent it, would export many articles of agricultural produce, that are now bought on commission for the Limerick merchants. A good quantity of corn and butter is bought by Mr. Patterson, a very active and intelligent inhabitant, who has been of the utmost benefit to Kilrush and the adjoining country. If houses were built in favourable situations on the sea-shore, many, who go to other places, would make this their summer residence, because they could have a daily conveyance by water from Limerick, and many parts of Tipperary, but they complain, that ground for houses is kept up so high, that they are obliged to go elsewhere. Between the Revenue house and Scattery-island, on a sloping bank to the Shannon, there is one of the finest situations for a crescent of houses, that, I am convinced, would take remarkably well. I presume to think that, instead of demanding a high ground rent, it would be greatly for the interest of the proprietor even to make a present of ground plots, to induce people to build. This would not only cause a rapid rise in the rents of the adjacent country, but, by creating a market for the consumption of produce, would extend this rise in the value of land very far into the country. I regret I am not able to state the encrease of exports and imports of this port; had I received an answer to letters I wrote to those best able to answer my queries, or a personal answer from the rector, my statement would not be thus imperfect.**
Miltown, through the exertions of the proprietor, Mr. Morony, is likely to become one of the best inhabited parts of the county; a few years since there was scarcely a house but his own, but now there may be seen in every direction a great number of neat lodges; and, as he is daily adding to the comforts and elegance of the situation, I trust and hope he will be amply repaid for his spirited exertions; he should be a pattern to other proprietors in this and an adjoining county, who, from a mistaken policy in demanding high rents, drive away those, who would improve their estates. Mr. Moronys gardens are amongst the best in the county; though close to the shore of the Atlantic, they produce the greatest abundance of the choicest kinds of fruits and vegetables; but any part of a tree, that rises above the wall, is immediately destroyed; the German tamarisk (tamarix Germanica) seems to stand this situation better than any other tree.
A very handsome church has been lately built at Miltown; but, though it was ridiculed at first as too large, it is found now to be much too small for the great accession of genteel inhabitants; the seats have been arranged, as they should be in every church; there are no churlish pews, but every person sits where he chooses; they all face one way towards the communion table, and are certainly much better adapted to a place of worship than pews.*** Mr. Morony is now building at Spanish Point elegant and commodious hot and cold baths, and a hotel capable of containing upwards of sixty single beds, with spacious assembly rooms, &c. &c. Races are often run here, as another amusement for the lodgers.
A great natural curiosity may be seen near Mr. Hares house, called the puffing hole; it spouts the water to a considerable height with great force, and, when the sun shines, forms at each emission of the water a beautiful iris; there are also several others on this coast, at Doolen, Baltard, Cloghansevan, &c.
Six-mile-bridge was formerly of some note, but is now in a rapid decline; it has the skeleton of a beautiful market-house, the ruins of an oil-mill, and an extensive flour-mill almost in ruins, and quite idle (1807,) but I understand it is likely to be at work soon. It is the estate of the Earl of Egremont, but is rented on a lease for ever.
Newmarket is advancing fast in building and every kind of improvement, but it has the unusual benefit of a resident and attentive landlord.* The Sessions, held in this county in October, are at a very inconvenient time, for it is during the great fair of Ballinasloe, when the greater part of the respectable landholders are there. ** I have been accused by this gentleman of not making a personal application; I went twice to Kilrush for that purpose, but was not fortunate enough to meet him; my mode was generally to send printed queries before I had a personal communication, that the gentlemen might be in some degree prepared, and I had every reason to hope, that the laudable designs of the Dublin Society would not have been sacrificed to etiquette. *** In the month of April 1806, I went to Drogheda church, but after walking up one aisle, and down another, and encountering the broad stare of the congregation, I found there was no admittance for a stranger, and was obliged to walk out of the church; on relating this, I was informed it was not uncommon in that church.
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