CIVIC ANNALS : Clonmel, Co. Tipperary
Clonmel, it has been said, may be considered in its corporate capacity as of the prescriptive class of borough endowed with civic rights anterior to written authority. The first event on record in connection with the town carries us back to the period of the invasion of Ireland by Henry II. Henry, through the submission of the Irish princes and governors of the south, soon became established in his newly acquired authority. As he marched from Waterford to Lismore, he parcelled out the principal estates to certain of his valiant knights, who had proved his more devoted adherents. To one of these – Otho de Grandison – was given all Tipperary. One of Otho’s earliest acts was the erection of Clonmel into a borough, according to the powers conferred upon him.
At a Parliament held in Dublin A.D. 1300, to which all the boroughs of Ireland were required to send representatives, Clonmel appears as “from the borough of De Grandison at Clonmel,” on which occasion its representatives voted an assessment upon it for the service of the State to the amount of twelve marks. In the reign of Edward II., “The Provost and Commonality of Clonmel” sued the king to relieve them from some difficulties; and in the year 1313 a charter of amercement was granted, which proved that, whatever they had done amiss, the royal favour was not forfeited.
In 1329 the King’s Escheator was commanded to take possession of all the lands and tenements which had belonged to Otho de Grandison, then deceased (2nd Edward III). This seizure by the Royal Escheator was consequent upon the existing state of tenures, whereby, upon any alienations, a license should issue from the Crown to legalise them. The alienation in this case was from Peter, heir male of Otho de Grandison, to Maurice, son of Thomas Earl of Desmond, then a minor, and was duly certified in Chancery.
Edward III. seems to have held the ancient and loyal borough of Clonmel in his especial favour, for we find from the Patent Rolls that on the 20th January, in the forty-fifth year of his reign, he granted “to the Provost and Commons’ of the town” a charter giving them full license to elect annually a sovereign from, their co-burgesses; a privilege which, it is to be innferred, had formerly been exercised by the De Grandison family. The manor and lordship of Clonmel soon after fell to the Butlers, and at a time when the sovereign was showering honours thickly upon them.
In Morrins’ Patent and Close Rolls (p. 376) we find, what is termed “The Governing Charter of Clonmel,” dated July 5th, in the sixth year of the reign of James 1. (1608). It recites as follows :-
“That the town of Clonmel was an ancient Borough, situate in the Liberty of Tipperary and Waterford – fortified from the time of its foundation by forts and walls, erected by English lieges : springing from an ancient race using English habits, customs, and laws – That the inhabitants duly rendered laudable service to Englishmen, with the loss of their blood and life. – That the town was contiguous to the Suire, with a port convenient for navigation, having a Bridge long and nigh; fortified with towers, castles, and bulwarks; in the reparation of which the inhabitants had expended considerable sums of money, but now, in consequence of the poverty of the inhabitants, had become ruined and decayed; and the residents, in consequence of the Plague and the Burning of the Town, are reduced to great poverty, and likely to remain so unlesse aid be speedilie given.- And as the town is convenient for the King’s Commissioners, Justices, and Army.- In consideration of the fidelite and obedience of the inhabitants which they have manifestly exhibited :-
“HIS MAJESTY GRANTS
” ‘ That the town and suburbs and the entire extent of land and water on every side within the ancient limits BE FOR EVER A FREE BOROUGH INCORPORATE, consisting of a Mayor, Two Bailiffs, Free Burgesses and Commons (23 Burgesses) – of whom the Mayor and Bailiffs shall be three. License was also given to appoint a man learned in the law to be Recorder of the Town: a Clerk of the Tholsell : a Sword-Bearer: three Sergeants-at-Mace, and so many inferior officers as shall he necessary for the service of the town. – To have a Common Seale, engraved with such inscription as to them shall seem expedient, to seal all Writings, Evidences, and Muniments of the Town; and another seale or signet wherewith to seale all Testimonials, Certificates, and Attachments.
” ‘They may have a Guild Mercatory [Chamber of Commerce], and a hall appurtenant. No foreign merchant shall sell by retail any merchandise in the town without special license unlesse the wares be bought or sold from day to day at the usual times and places.
” ‘They may have two markets, namely – on every Tuesday and Saturday, and the Mayor shall be Clerk : They shall have the Assize of Bread, Wine, and Beer, and the Mayor may wear such robes and garments as the Mayor of Waterford.
” ‘They shall have a Quay or Wharf in the town upon the Suire, and take from each ship coming to load or unload, for the maintenance of the quay, 4d. for every ton weight imported or exported: and they shall have the pontage or custom of the Bridge as they anciently had without molestation or impediment. All their goods and chattels shall be free of lastage, pontage, passage, pavage, anchorge, quayage, gravage, and wharfage, in all cities and towns, in as ample a manner as the citizens of Kilkenny.
” ‘They may acquire Manors, Lands, and Tenements; Advowsons and Services of the annual value of £20 : and they shall have all waifs and strays occurring in the Town, and may quietly enjoy all their lands, tenements, houses, mills, orchards, and pastures – the ancient burgage of the town. – July 5th, 6 James I.'”
This charter continued in operation until James II. forced its surrender by quo warranto! An “Exempliification” of the charter of 1608 was subsequently granted by King William III, and taken out at the instance of John Moore, Esq., Mayor of Clonmel. It is this “Exemplification” which is at present to be found amongst the records of our municipal corporation.
There is an old tradition that the victims of the violent epidemic which occurred here were interred in The old burial-ground of St. Nicholas, in the south suburbs of the town, and near the Goaten Bridge. The ancient name of the place – now all but forgotten – was Teampull a plau, or “The Church of the Plague.”
About a mile from Clonmel, in the south-eastern suburbs of the town, there has existed from time immemorial an unfailing chalybeate spring, protected by a low, arched building, resembling a crypt. This once famous Spa – which, in the olden time, drew many a wanderer in search of health from distant parts of Ireland – stands upon a portion of the corporate estate, now held under lease by Mr. Bagwell, of Marlfield, with, however, all public rights reserved. A stone tablet, built into the wall of the old structure, with its ancient-looking inscription, introduces us to one of the earliest “Mayors of Clonmel.” There were Sovereigns who governed this time-honoured and historic borough for three hundred years before; but Mayors, from the days of James 1., ruled with greater power, and represented a higher degree of civic dignity. The inscription runs simply thus :-
MAYOR OF CLONMEL
In 1667, the plan of Sir Peter Pett for introducing the woollen manufacture into Ireland was carried into effect by the Duke of Ormond, then Lord-Lieutenant; and, in order to provide a sufficient number of workmen, five hundred families of the Walloons were invited over from Canterbury to settle here. The manufacture continued to flourish for some time, but at length fell into decay, in consequence of the prohibitory statutes passed by the English Parliament soon after the Revolution. It is now in part revived in this neighbourhood. At Ballymacarberry, about seven miles from Clonmel, the Nire Vale Woollen Factory is worked by a Dublin company. Its romantic situation is greatly admired; and visitors will rejoice to hear the whirl of machinery and the hum of cheerful industry mingling with the mU,sical flow of the river. Mr. J. Mulcahy has another woollen factory, also at full work, adjoining Ardfinnan Castle.
Returning to Clonmel, we are not altogether devoid of manufacturing industry. Free trade and the importation of foreign grain levelled a blow at the manufacture of flour, and many of our large mills, which have often excited the stranger’s curiosity, now in their half-employed condition, tell only of a vast industry that has been lessened in extent, but is still an important one. The Clonmel Brewery, the most extensive manufacturing concern in Clonmel – Messrs. Thos. Murphy & CO. – has recently been considerably enlarged. The Clonmel Brand, in beer as well as butter, is in high repute on the other side of the Channel. This year a very large boot and shoe factory, fitted up with the finest machinery, and giving employment to nearly one hundred hands, was opened at Suir Island, Clonmel, by Mr. James Myers. ‘
The visitor will find Clonmel wearing a clean and thriving appearance. Its streets – from almost every one of which views of the adjacent mountains are had are spacious, handsomely edificed, and well regulated. The town is now under the immediate charge of the Corporation. Commercial enterprise serves to fill our various establishments with articles of the best class, rendering a visit to the metropolis unnecessary. Clonnmel was the residence from early childhood of the celebrated and beautiful Marguerite, Countess of Blesssington, third daughter of Mr. Edmond Power, who was the publisher of one of the earliest newspapers printed here. She was first the wife of the unfortunate Captain Farmer, to whom she was married at St. Mary’s Church, Clonmel; afterwards of the Earl of Blessington. Her salons in London were as popular as those of Holland House, and were the resort of the learned men of the day. To support her expenditure, she entered upon a career of authorship which knew no relaxation throughout the remainder of her life. She died at Paris. in 1849. Here also was born, in the year 1713, Laurence Sterne, the distinguished novelist; and remoter still, Bonaventura Baron, who wrote numerous works, during a long residence in Rome, where he died in 1696. Clonmel gives the title of Earl, in the peerage of Ireland, to the noble family of Scott. Captain Thomas Scott was an officer in the service of William III.; and his grandson, John Scott, Esq., was made Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench and Baron Earlsfort in 1874, Viscount Clonmell in 1789, and Earl of Clonmell in 1793.
The Suir bisects both the parish and town of Clonmel ; and during the whole of its transit, as well as over long stretches both above and below, it is rich in the beauties of landscape. Nearly all the parish is a gallery of fine scenes, all interesting, many much diversified, and some sweetly and even grandly powerful. From Merlin, the residence of S. Fayle, Esq., situated on the right bank of the river, close to Clonmel, a magnificent view over the valley of the Suir is laid open – not surpassed, in richness and variety, by any of the celebrated vales of England and Wales. In the immediate environs of the Waterford portion of the town are some very handsome villas. West of the town is Marlfield, the beautiful estate and residence of the Bagwell family, and where, during the last Royal Agricultural Show at Clonmel, the then Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland (Lord Wodehouse) was entertained with splendid hospitality. Adjoining Marlfield is the beautiful demesne of Knocklofty, the seat of the Earl and Countess of Donoughmore, remarkable for its fine old timber and the richest of woodland scenery. Two miles from the town, on the road to Caher, is Barne, the handsome mansion of Stephen Moore. Esq., D.L.; and four miles on the on the same road is Woodrooffe, the extensively wooded demesne of Samuel Perry, Esq., D.L. On the way to Cashel are Rathronan House and Knockeevan, the seats respectively of George Gough, Esq., and General Sir John Bloomfield Gough, G.C.B. Below the town, at from two to three miles, are Newtown, the seat of the Osbrone family; Tickencor Castle; the interesting and extended mountain ravine of Glenpatrick; and the magnificent woods of Gurteen.
(1) The figure “6” has been partly cut away so as to make it resemble “0” at first sight.
My Clonmel Scrapbook
Compiled & Edited James White
Second 1000 ; Published E. Downey & Co., Waterford ; 1907 ; No. ISBN