Clare County Library
Clare Places and Placenames
Home | Search Library Catalogue | Foto | Maps | Archaeology | Folklore | Genealogy | History | Search this Website | Copyright Notice

Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland 1845


A post and market town, a borough, and the capital of the county of Clare, is situated in the parish of Dromcliffe, barony of Islands, co. Clare, Munster. It stands on the river Fergus, immediately below the influx of the Clareen rivulet, 7 miles south-south-east of Corrofin, 15 south-south-west of Gort, 18 north-west by west of Limerick, 24 west of Killaloe, and 111 west-south-west of Dublin.

General Description The Fergus, while passing the town, is a very prosaic-looking stream, with hardly one feature of beauty, and navigable only for boats; yet it presents none of the dulness of bog-rivers which stagnate like vegetating canals around some Irish towns and villages, and it might, for a cost of about 10,000 expended on the removal of a bar two miles below, be make navigable to the town. The surrounding country, though variegated by some pleasant dells, and occasionally warmed and ornamented by villa-grounds and expanses of good land, is prevailingly very bleak, cold, and craggy; and in the near vicinity commences the great rocky plain, which stretches across the country from the estuary of the Fergus, and along the head of the bay of Galway, to the tumulated rocky district between Oranmore and Loughrea. The town itself, in spite of having some good houses in its interior, and several neat villas on its outskirts, presents a very shabby and even poor and disorderly appearance. The old parts lie huddled together close to the river; the new parts straggle along the great outlets in long lines of cabins and detached houses; and the streets are in general narrow, crooked, irregularly edificed, and without any very feasible claim to cleanliness or comfort. The principal street looks on the map like the backbone of the whole of the compact and old parts of the town; it extends about 630 yards from north-west to south-west, but makes curvatures in correspondence with sinuosities in the course of the river; and nearly all the other thoroughfares of the compact town, consist of mere lanes and alleys, and are related to this main street in the manner of ribs to the spine. The streets or lines of houses along the roads to Kilrush, Corrofin, Inch-Bridge, and Gort, extend outward from the body of the town respectively about 1,050, 900, 650, and 400 yards.

Public Buildings The public buildings consist of the abbey ruins, the parish-church, a large Roman Catholic chapel, a Methodist meeting-house, the Court House, the County Gaol, the County Infirmary, the Fever Hospital, the Lying-in-Hospital, the Workhouse, the Market House, the Town Hall, the Linen Market, three bridges across the Fergus, one bridge across the Clareen, some schools, and one or two other structures of little moment; but, excepting the old abbey, they present no architectural features which deserve special notice, and may be dismissed with the general remark of being, on the whole, sufficiently suited to their respective purposes. - The abbey was built in 1240, for Conventual Franciscan friars, by Donald Carbrac O'Brian, Prince of Thomond; and was repaired, enlarged, and endowed, at various subsequent dates, particularly in 1305 and 1343, by members of the O'Brien and Macnamara families. The part of it which exists contains a window of exquisite workmanship; but in consequence of the original structure having undergone restorations or received additions, of the nave of the ruin having been repaired and covered in, and of the present parochial church appearing to be a distinct edifice jammed up against a fragment of the old ruin, the whole pile looks to the eye an incongruous medley of ancient and modern architecture.- The County Gaol is a thoroughly commodious and well-conducted establishment, - well adapted in at once extent, disposition, and management, for the exhibition of the penitentiary system in a first class prison. A very large addition was recently made to it, consisting of one building in front of the old gaol, containing various accommodations, and three buildings on the other sides of the old gaol, erected principally upon the principle of separate confinement. The entire prison, as now constituted, contains 123 single cells, 40 of which are large and fitted in every respect for the separate system, 8 day-rooms, 11 yards, a good chapel and hospital, a public kitchen and laundry, and a few solitary cells for refractory prisoners. During 1841, the average and the maximum number of prisoners was respectively 125 and 132; the total number, including debtors, was 720; the number of recommittals was 49; and the total expense was 2,383 16s. 7.

Trade Ennis seems to have prospered more in the last century than the present; for the statist of the county says respecting it in 1808, "It is estimated by the best informed of the inhabitants to contain about 9,000 souls; twenty years ago, it was much more;" while in 1831, it was 1,289 less. "The retail trade of Ennis, except in provisions," remarks Mr. Fraser, "is not so extensive as might be expected from its central situation, and the great extent of well-inhabited country westward. This is accounted for by its being too near Limerick, the rapid means of communication, and the conveniences of transport afforded by the Shannon. A considerable extent of agricultural produce is, however, weekly purchased, and forwarded for shipment to Clare; and a little is done in the linen and flannel trade." Connected with the town are a brewery, large flour mills, and a valuable limestone quarry. The Report on Municipal Corporation Boundaries makes short work of both the town and its trade. "Ennis," says that document, "has very little trade, no manufactures, no municipal police or charities, no lamps, no scavengers." Fairs are held on April 25 and Sept. 3. A branch office of the Agricultural and Commercial Bank was established in 1834; one of the Provincial Bank in 1835; and one of the National Bank in 1836. The public conveyances in 1838 were a car to Kilfinnan, a mail-car to Kilrush, 3 coaches to Limerick, and a mail-coach in transit between Limerick and Galway. No point of any railway projected by the Public Commissioners approaches nearer than Limerick. The 'Clare Journal' newspaper is published in Ennis on every Monday and Thursday.

Poor-law Union The Ennis Poor-law union ranks as the 51st, and was declared on July 1, 1839. It lies all in co. Clare, and comprehends an area of 143,339 acres, with a pop., in 1831, of 74,135. Its electoral divisions, with their several pop., in 1831, are, Ennis, 14,083; Inagh, 3,308; Dysert, 3,433; Ruan, 2,860; Inchacronan, 4,601; Clooney, 3,642; Templemaley, 3,420; Quin, 5,017; Newmarket, 3,192; Clonlea, 2,686; Feenagh, 3,150; Bunratty, 2,442; Kilconry, 2,223; Kilchrist, 2,569; Clondagad, 4,650; Killoan, 2,354; Kilmaley, 4,296; and Clare, 3,881. The number of ex-officio guardians is 9, and of elected guardians is 28; and of the latter, 7 are elected by Ennis division, 2 each by the divisions of Inchacronan, Quin, Clondagad, and Kilmaley, and 1 by each of the other divisions. The total nett annual value of the property rated is 122,618 8s. 10d.; the total number of persons rated is 10,278; and of these, 933 are rated for a valuation not exceeding 1,-916, not exceeding 2, - 759, not exceeding 3,-634, not exceeding 4,-and 548, not exceeding 5. The workhouse was contracted for on March 1840,-to cost 6,500 for building and completion, and 2,100 for fittings and contingencies, to occupy an area of 6 acres, obtained for an annual rent of 26,- and to contain accommodation for 800 persons. The date of the first admission of paupers was Dec. 15, 1841; the total expenditure thence till Feb. 6, 1843, was 3,802 13s. 4d.; and the total previous expenditure was 1,172 0s. 1d. The medical charities within the union are the County Clare Infirmary, the Ennis Fever and Lying-in-Hospitals, and six dispensaries at Ennis, Clare, Crusheen, Kilmaley, Newmarket, and Quin. The County Infirmary has capacity for 72 patients, and is a very fine institution of its class; and, in 1839-40, it admitted 751 patients, received 1,615 16s. 6d., and expended 1,334 2s. 1d. The Fever Hospital is a county establishment, provided with 156 beds, but capable of containing 200; and, in 1839-40, it admitted 1,673 patients, received 1,968 12s. 8d., and expended 1,593 12s. 6d. The Lying-in-Hospital became a public institution only in 1839, and was then the only one of its class known to the Poor-Law Commissioners for which a county grant had been obtained; and, in 1839-40, it admitted 111 patients, received 170 12s., and expended 97 3s. The Ennis dispensary serves for a district which in 1831, had a population of 12,392; and, in 1839-40, it received 121, and expended 120.

Municipal Affairs Ennis was incorporated by charter of 10 James I., and has also a charter of 4 James II. The old limits comprise only a part of the present town; but the limits, as fixed by the Boundary Act, comprehend the whole town and a small surrounding district. The charter calls the corporation "The Provost, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Town of Ennis;" and names, as its officers, a provost, 12 free burgesses, and 2 serjeants-at-mace. There are no guilds of trade, and the corporation has no exclusive jurisdiction, criminal or civil. A borough court was formerly held, but has been extinct during about 20 years; a seneschal's court for the manor of Clonrode is held occasionally; a court of petty-sessions is held in general every Friday; a court of quarter-sessions is held thrice a-year; and the court of assize is held twice a-year. The corporation has no revenue, and does not appear to have ever had any property. The cleansing of the town is vested in 21 commissioners, under the Act 9 George IV.; and the assessment for 1842 amounted to 160, and was levied on 545 houses. The town is the station of a resident magistrate, and of a constabulary county inspector; and the headquarters of a constabulary district which comprises the stations of Ennis, Clare, Crusheen, Moyriesk, Quin, and Rathcrony. The borough sends one member to the imperial parliament. Constituency, in 1841, 230; of whom 3 were burgesses, and 227 were householders.

Statistics Area of the town, 469 acres. Pop., in 1831, 7,711; in 1841 9,318. Houses 1,319. Families employed chiefly in agriculture, 496; in manufactures and trade, 790; in other pursuits, 513. Families dependent chiefly on property and professions, 105; on the directing of labour, 840; on their own manual labour, 797; on means not specified, 57. Males at and above 5 years of age who could read and write, 2,117; who could read but not write, 384; who could neither read nor write, 1,217. Females at and above 5 years of age who could read and write, 1,423; who could read but not write, 767; who could neither read nor write 2,342.

History The original name of the town was Innis-Cluan-Ruadha; and is now divided between the town itself and the manor in which it lies,-Ennis and Clonrode. A mansion or castle of O'Brien, toparch of Thomond, stood in Ennis; and may readily be imagined as the centre of much of the rude magnificence and many of the obscure and incessant broils which characterized the tanistic period. When the O'Brien who was lord paramount of Thomond in the reign of Henry VIII., laid down his toparchical designation and accepted the title of Earl of Thomond, his indignant clansmen fired his dwelling, and were restrained only by the chief-justice of the North Munster Irish from burning the Earl himself. In our own day, Ennis figured as the scene of O'Connell's return to parliament on the eve of Catholic Emancipation, and afterwards as the centre of a wide-spread and overwhelming predial insurrection.

The Parliamentary Gazetteer of Ireland, 1845
Courtesy of Clare Local Studies Project

<< Ennis