Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Ireland

Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary Ireland comprises of several counties, cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland.

  • Place
    Cavan Town
  • County
    Cavan
  • Parish
    Urney
  • Content
    CAVAN, an incorporated market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough) in the parish of URNEY, barony of UPPER LOUGHTEE, county of CAVAN (of which it is the chief town) and province of ULSTER, 25 1/2 miles (S.E. by S.) from Enniskillen (Co. Fermanagh) and 55 (N.W. by W.) from Dublin; containing 2931 inhabitants.

    This town was, from a period of remote antiquity the seat of the O'Reilly's tanists of the district now forming the county to which it gives name, and who had a castle here, of which there are no other remains than some vaults and part of the foundation. A monastery for friars of the order of St. Dominick was founded here in 1300, and dedicated to the Blesed Virgin, by Giolla-Jisoa-Ruadh O'Reilly, dynast of Breffny; but about the year 1393, the monks were expelled by the same sept, and others of the Franciscan order substituted in their place. In 1468 the monastery, and Bally-Reilly, the castle above noted were burnt by the English under the Lord-Deputy Tiptoft, Earl of Worcester; but the former appears to have been restored previously to the year 1499, and to have been occupied by friars of the order of the Strict Observance. It was again reformed by John, son of Cahal O'Reilly, in 1502, and provincial chapters of the order were held in it in 1521, 1539, and 1556. Owen O'Nial, the celebrated general of the Irish army, who died by poison, as is supposed, at Claughoughter, was buried in this abbey, in 1649. There are no remains of the establishment, which was commonly called Keadue; the tithes now belong to the Dean of Kilmore, and in his title are described as "the rectory of Keadue."

    In the early part of the reign of Jas. I., the lord-deputy pitched his tent to the south of the town, which is described as being a very unimportant place, for the purpose of reducing this part of the country to the observance of English laws and customs. Under the partition of lands made pursuant to an inquisition as stated in the article on the county, ten poles were allotted to the town of Cavan, which the king proposed to incorporate; ten poles to the castle, and 14 to the maintenance of a free school to he erected in the town. In 1610, Jas. 1. granted the inhabitant,; a charter of incorporation, in the preamble of which it is stated that the town was the only place of trade in the county, and the only town where the justices could conveniently meet for their assize and gaol delivery, and that the inhabitants during the late insurrection, had supplied the garrison and performed good and acceptable service to queen Elizabeth, from time to time, according to their best abilities. The commissioners for the plantation of Ulster reserved and set out eight poles of land, adjoining the town, to be granted to the new corporation; and the charter constituted the town and all lands within the compass of one mile from the stone house or castle in which Walter Bradie then dwelt, with the exception of the castle of "the Cavan," or O'Reilly's castle, and the two poles of land called Rosgolyan, the Borough of Cavan.

    This place was the scene of some skirmishing in the time of Cromwell, and till very lately a house was standing in the principal street, in which he is said to have resided for several weeks. In 1690, some of the forces of Jas. ll., having assembled here for the purpose of attacking Belturbet, the Enniskilleners, under their victorious leader Wolsey, marched hither with a view to take them by surprise; but the Duke of Berwick having arrived with a considerable reinforcement, they had, with a force of only 1000 men, to contend with 4000 of the enemy. Wolsey, however, attacking them with spirit, the native forces of James fled at the first onset, when the Enniskilleners burst into the town and began to plunder it; those who had fled to the fort now sallied out to renew the engagement. Wolsey, as the only means of recalling his men, set fire to the town, and having rallied his forces, completed the victory with great slaughter. Human bones have been found in great numbers on the side of the hill overhanging the town, where the battle took place.

    The town is situated on the road from Dublin to Enniskillen, and consists of several streets, of which the principal contains some well-built houses; there are infantry barracks capable of accommodating six officers and 130 non-commissioned officers and privates. A large garden, handsomely laid out in walks and planted, was left by the will of the late Lady Farnham, under certain restrictions, as a promenade for the inhabitants.

    Though in the midst of a manufacturing district, there is little trade carried on. The market, originally granted in the 1st of Jas. 1. to John Binglie, gent., and subsequently by the charter of the 8th of Jas. 1. to the corporation, is on Tuesday, but is chiefly for potatoes and meal, a very small quantity of yarn is brought for sale. Fairs, chiefly for young cattle and horses, are held on Feb. 1st, April 4th, May 14th, June 30th, Aug. 14th, Sept. 25th, and Nov. 12th, and a chief constabulary police force has been established here.

    Farnham, the seat of Lord Farnham, is one of the noblest ornaments of the county, for though the house does not possess much exterior magnificence it is surrounded by a demesne of nearly 3000 acres, comprising the richest pastures and the greatest variety of scenery, adorned with wood and water, and every where improved by art. Lough Oughter, on one side of it, spreads out from under the woods of Killy, and encircles many beautiful islands crowned with the finest timber. One of these, named Cloughoughter, was the place of confinement of the venerable Bishop Bedell, when in the hands of the insurgents, in the war of 1641 : the tower in which he was imprisoned is now a fine ruin. Nearly adjoining the demesne is Castle Saunderson, the seat of A. Saunderson, Esq., surrounded by a luxuriant demesne commanding the most beautiful views of Lough Erne. Clover Hill, an excellent mansion, the seat of J. Sanderson, Esq., has also a very beautiful demesne, richly adorned, and bordered by a spacious lake.

    Under the charter of Jas. I., the corporation consists of a sovereign, two portreeves, twelve burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, and other officers. But the regular appointment of these officers has been discontinued for several years; the sovereign and deputy are stationary in office, and are now the only representatives of the corporation. The town and the lands enumerated in the charter are held at a fee-farm rent of £1 English currency per annum. The same charter conferred the privilege of returning two members to the Irish parliament, which was exercised till the period of the Union, when £15,000 awarded as compensation for the abolition of the franchise was paid in moieties to Theophilus Clements and T. Nesbitt, Esqrs. The charter granted to the corporation a borough court of record, to be held before the sovereign and two or more burgesses, every three weeks; but this court has not been held since 1796. The assizes, and the Hilary and Midsummer quarter sessions, are held here; petty sessions are also held every week. The county court-house is a fine spacious building, with a portico in front. The county gaol is a very spacious building, to which additions have been recently made on the radiating principle; it contains in the whole 68 cells, 8 day-rooms, and 10 airing-yards, in one of which is a tread-mill, and is well is adapted fo rthe classification of prisoners; a good school has been established in it. The average number of prisoners is 120; and the whole expense of the gaol, for 1835, was £ 1,190.3.5 1/2

    The parish church of Urney is situated in the town.

    The R. C. chapel, erected in 1824, at an expense of £1,000 is a neat building; over the altar is a painting of the Descent from the Cross.

    On the confines of the town is a classical school of royal foundation, under the charter of the 2nd of Chas. I., which vested several townlands in the counties of Armagh, Cavan, Fermanagh, Donegal, and Tyrone, in the primate and his successors in trust for the endowment of schools in each of those counties. By a late act of parliament the management has been transferred to a Board of Commissioners of Education : the nomination of master rests with the lord-lieutenant. The school-house, erected in 1819, at an expense of £800, is a spacious building, calculated for the reception of 100 pupils, and beautifully situated on a lawn bounded by a branch of the river Erne, and surrounded with an amphitheatre of hills. The income arising from the endowment is :£641.13.5. per annum, out of which the master receives a salary of £400, and the remainder is appropriated to the repayment of a loan from Government for the buildings. Several parochial and Sunday schools are supported by subscriptions; and a handsome school-house has been erected in the town, in which a school is supported by Lord Farnham. The county infirmary is a plain building capable of receiving 52 patients. There is an alms- house for a poor widow, supported by private subscription.

    In Swellan lake, about a quarter of a mile from the town, have been found, at different times, some of the largest horns of the elk that have been discovered in Ireland. The celebrated Dr. Sheridan, the friend and correspondent of Dean Swift, was for many years master of the royal school of this place, and was frequently honoured with visits from the dean; a bower in the garden, called Swift's bower, is still in existence.
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