Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Co. Kerry

Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary comprises of several counties, cities, boroughs, parish and villages – with historical and statistical descriptions – of Ireland. Here are From-Ireland.net’s records for Co. Kerry.


  • Place
    Glenbegh
  • County
    Kerry
  • Parish
    Glenbegh
  • Content
    GLENBEGH, or GLENBEHY, a parish, partly in the barony of IVERAGH, but chiefly in that of DUNKERRON, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 13 miles (S. W.) from Milltown ; containing 2449 inhabitants.

    This parish, which is situated on the south eastern shore of the bay of Dingle, derives its name from its deep seclusion and from the small river Birchen, or Begh, which rises in the mountain lakes and intersects it in its rapid course into the sea. It comprises 25,686 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, of which nearly two-thirds are mountain pasture, bog, and rock ; and forms an extremely wild and romantic glen surrounded by steep and rugged mountains on all sides except towards the sea, where it is enclosed by a range of low but steep hills, forming a sheltered vale, through which the river Begh pursues the whole of its impetuous course. The highest of the mountains are the Drung and Cahir-Canaway, over which the old road passed into the remoter parts of the baronies of Iveragh and Dunkerron, along a range of precipitous cliffs overhanging the bay. The situation is picturesque and romantics but its aspect is wild and savage in the extreme ; and previously to the commencement of the present improvements, the glen was the inaccessible and secure retreat of lawless violence and the abode of misery and destitution.

    With the exception of a small detached portion, called the West Fraction, nearly the whole of the parish is the property of Lord Headley, who, in 1807, began a series of improvements, which, though gradual in their progress, have completely changed the appearance of the district and the moral and social habits of its population. The first step was the employment of the people, at his lordship's expense, in providing a facility of communication between the several farms on the estate ; and many miles of good road were made, affording easy access to every part of this extensive district ; a new line of mail coach road has been constructed, avoiding the steep and dangerous pass over the mountains, and preserving an easy level throughout the whole of this previously impenetrable and isolated part of the country. Since the formation of these roads, the old heavy hurdles or drags have been discontinued, and carts and wheel carriages have been brought into general use, by which great facilities have been afforded for procuring sea-weed as manure, which has greatly increased the fertility of the soil. The wretched huts, which scarcely afforded shelter to the labourers, have, given place to neat and comfortable cottages, generally built of stone, most of them containing two rooms and a dairy, and several having two chambers with a dwelling- room and offices, and gardens enclosed and well planted ; the old hovels have been converted into sheds for cows and pigs, and every requisite for domestic cleanliness and comfort has been provided. These houses have been erected on an economical plan, at the joint expense of his lordship and the tenants, who being regularly employed in profitable labour, derive from their industry not only the means of present support but a provision for old age. The enclosure, draining, and cultivation of waste land on the mountains and bogs have been greatly promoted, by granting to the tenants stipulated allowances for those purposes. Plantations also have been made by his lordship with very great success, and more than 350 acres have been covered with thriving trees. A spacious chapel has been erected, at the joint expense of his lordship and the tenantry ; and a school, in which some hundreds of children have been taught, is partly supported by his lordship. All these improvements were effected within little more than seven years, and the tenantry were in a prosperous and thriving condition, and paid their rents with punctuality till the great depression in the prices of produce in 1815 and 1816.

    In 1850 his lord-ship undertook the embankment of 650 acres of land from the sea, which was effected by the labour of the tenantry in liquidation of their arrears : this tract has been permanently secured by a sea wallop great strength, which effectually excludes the tide, and now produces excellent crops of potatoes, oafs, and hay. In 1826 a survey of the whole estate was made and further improvements undertaken and carried into effect; 80 farms were laid out varying in extent from land sufficient for 10 to what is sufficient for 40 cows ; the various houses were surveyed, and proportionate allowances granted for additions or new buildings ; all the best lines of road completed, and the whole regulated upon a plan of mutual benefit to landlord and tenant, and operating powerfully to their reciprocal advantage.

    The air of this coast is highly salubrious, and several pretty sea-bathing lodges and cottages have been built at Rossbegh, and furnished under the auspices of Lady Headley for the reception of visitors, for whose accommodation a comfortable inn has also been established ; the plantations have now attained considerable maturity, and accord an abundant supply of timber ; and a steep bank of about 160 acres, previously considered impracticable for planting, is universally admired for the richness and beauty of its foliage. Glencare, the seat of R. Newton, Esq., is situated on Lough Cara, on the borders of the parish. The scenery of this secluded lake is extremely beautiful and romantic, and has been rendered still more picturesque from the recent plantations on its shores.

    The parish is in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and is a rectory and vicarage, forming part of the union of Cahir : the tithes amount to £130.

    In the Roman Catholic divisions it is the head of a union or district, comprising also part of the parish of Killorglin, and containing a chapel here and another at Glencare, on the border of Killorglin parish. A school held in the R. C. chapel of Glenbegh is principally supported by Lord Headley ; and there is a private school, in which about 100 children are educated.