Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary, Co. Wicklow

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. Wicklow.


  • Place
    Arklow
  • County
    Wicklow
  • Parish
    Arklow
  • Content
    ARKLOW, a sea-port, market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of ARKLOW, county of WICKLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 12 miles (S.) from Wicklow town ,and 40 miles (S. by E.) from Dublin; containing 6309 inhabitants, of which number, 4383 are in the town.

    This place, formerly called 'Arclogh' and 'Alercomshed', appears to have been occupied as a fishing station from time immemorial. It was included in one of those grants of territory for which Hen, II., in 1172, caused service to be done at Wexford ; and by an original charter, preserved among the rolls of Kilkenny Castle, it appears that John, Lord of Ireland, granted and confirmed the castle and town of Arclogh, with all their appurtenances, to Theobald Fitzwalter, hereditary lord-butler of Ireland. Fitzwalter founded here a monastery, which he dedicated to the Blessed Virgin, for monks of the Cistertian order, whom he brought from the abbey of Furness, in Lancashire. The barony, which with the chief butlery always descended to the next heir male, was inherited by Theobald, the third of that name, who died here on the 26th of September, 1285, and was buried in the abbey church, under a tomb ornamented with his effigy. In 1281, a battle was fought near this place between the English and the Irish, in which the latter were totally defeated by Stephen de Fulborne, Bishop of Waterford and Lord Justiciary of Ireland; and in 1316, the O'Tooles and O'Byrnes, who had risen in arms and burnt Arklow, Bray, and Newcastle, with all the neighbouring villages were defeated on the 16th of April by Edward le Boteler. In 1331, the castle was taken by the O'Tooles, but was retaken by Lord de Birmingham; and in the year following it was again taken by the Irish, who were finally repulsed by Sir Anthony Lucy, who repaired the fortifications and strengthened the garrison.

    In 1641, the castle was surprised by a party of insurgents, and the garrison put to the sword; and being after-wards held for the royalists, it was, in 1649, assaulted by Oliver Cromwell in his victorious march southward, and on its surrender was totally demolished. During the disturbances of 1798, a battle was fought near Arklow bridge, between the king's troops, under the command of Gen. Needham, and the insurgents, in which the latter were defeated and their leader shot; among the slain on the side of the royal forces was Thomas Grogan Knox, Esq., of Castletown, cornet of the 5th dragoon guards, to whose memory a neat marble tablet has been placed in the church.

    The town is situated on the acclivity of a hill extending along the right bank of the river Ovoca, and on the mail coach road from Dublin to Wexford. The Ovoca, after winding through the beautiful and romantic vale to which it gives name, passes under a bridge of nineteen arches at this place, and discharges itself into the sea., about 500 yards below the town. It is divided into the Upper and Lower Towns, which latter is called the "Fishery;" and in 1831 it contained 702 houses. The houses in the Upper Town, which consists of one principal street, are neatly built; those in the Lower Town, which is chiefly inhabited by fishermen, are mostly thatched cabins. The inhabitants are amply supplied with water from numerous excellent springs, but no works have been established to convey it to their houses and the only improvement that has recently taken place is the macadamising of the principal street, and the laying down of foot pavements. On the site of the ancient castle are barracks for two companies of infantry.

    The principal trade is the fishery, which was formerly very an lucrative, having two seasons in the year; one in May, which has lately ceased; and the other in November, which, though still continued, has become so unproductive as scarcely to remunerate the persons employed in it. The fishery, in 1835, employed about 200 boats in the herring fishery and in dredging for oysters, of the latter of which great quantities are taken off the coast in some years, and sent to different parts of Ireland and to England.Formerly much of the copper ore from the Wicklow mines, which are situated nearly midway between this town and Rathdrum, was shipped from this port during the summer season; and some trade is still carried on in the importation of coal. The want of a safe harbour in which the fishermen might shelter during bad weather, which for two or three seasons has prevailed on this coast, has been severely felt, there being no port between Kingstown and Waterford into which they can run for shelter, and many lives are annually lost. The harbour is accessible only for small boats, as the passage is sinuous and subject to shifting Bands.

    The market is on Thursday; and fairs are held on Jan. 11th, March 22nd, April 19th, May 14th, June 28th, Aug. 9th, Sep. 25th, and Nov. 15th, chiefly for the sale of woollen cloth, cattle, sheep, and pigs. A constabulary police station has been established here; and on the north side of the river, in the parish of Kilbride, is a coast-guard station belonging to the Gorey district. The petty sessions for the barony of Arklow are held every Thursday, in a neat court-house rented by the magistrates for that purpose, and of which the lower part is appropriated to the use of the savings' bank.

    The parish, which is situated at the south-eastern a extremity of the county, and intersected by the river Ovoca, comprises 5851 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. The surface is broken, abrupt, and mountainous ; the soil towards the coast, and in the inlets between the hills is rich, and abounds with excellent marl, which, together with lime, is used for manure. The system of agriculture has been greatly improved, under the auspices of the Agricultural Society; the drill husbandry is practised where the soil will admit of it, and green crops have been partially introduced. The mountain of Croghan Kinshela, towards the close of the last century, became an object of intense interest from its supposed production of native gold; a peasant fishing in one of the streams which descended from it discovered, at different times, small particles of gold, which for about 12 years he continued to sell privately to a goldsmith, till, in September 1796, the discovery became known, and thousands of persons engaged in the search for this precious metal, Several masses of extraordinary size were found, one of which weighed nine, another eighteen, and a third twenty-two ounces; and so great was the number of the peasantry allured to the spot by the hope of enriching themselves, that in the short space of six or seven weeks, during which the washing of the sands was continued, not less than 2666 ounces of pure gold were obtained, which were sold for £ 10,000. After the people had continued their searches for little more than six weeks, Government took possession of the mine, and stationed a party of the Kildare militia to prevent further encroachment; all act of parliament was passed for working it, and Messrs. Weaver, Mills and King were appointed directors of the operations. Steam-works were established on several rivulets which descended from the mountain; and from this time till May 1798, when the works were destroyed in the insurrection of that disturbed period, the total quantity of gold found was 944 oz., 4 dwts., and 15 grs., which was sold for £3675 8sh. 0d. In 1801 the mining operations were resumed, and on the representation of the directors, Government was induced to extend the search upon a more systematic principle: the stream-works were continued to the heads of the several streams, and the solid mass of the mountain was more minutely examined, by cutting trenches in every direction down to the firm rock. The veins already known, and such as were afterwards discovered by the process of trenching, were more extensively explored and their depth minutely ascertained, by means of a gallery, or level, driven into the mountain at right angles to the general range of their direction. The mineral substances thus obtained were subjected to a rigid chymical analysis, but in no instance was a single particle of gold discovered; the result of these operations convinced Government that no gold existed as an inherent ingredient in any of the veins which traversed the mountain, and the works were consequently abandoned.

    The environs of Arklow are much admired for the beauty, richness, and variety of their scenery; the banks of the Ovoca are embellished with handsome seats, and the sides of the vale with woods of luxuriant growth. Shelton Abbey, the seat of the Earl of Wicklow, though in the parish of Kilbride, forms a conspicuous and interesting feature in the scenery of this parish ; it is beautifully situated on the north bank of the river, and at the base of a range of hills of gentle elevation, richly wooded with oak and birch. The mansion, which was remodelled some years since by the Messrs. Morrison, is a low quadrilateral edifice with two principal fronts, richly embellished with decorated pinnacles, and resembling all ecclesiastical structure of the 14th century, converted into a baronial residence at a subsequent period; the entrance-hall is wainscoted with carved oak, and the ceiling delicately enriched with fan tracery, of which the pendants are gilt; the great hall, gallery, and state apartments, are all in a style of corresponding richness and elegance; the library contains all exceedingly valuable collection of works made by a learned member of the family; and the cloisters are in a style of appropriate beauty. The demesne, which comprises more than 1000 statute acres, is ornamented with some of the most stately beech and chestnut trees in the island; and the whole forms one of the most delightful retreats in this romantic part of the country. During the temporary sequestration of the family estates at the time of the Revolution, Jas. II., on his flight to Waterford, after the battle of the Boyne, was entertained at Shelton Abbey by the party then in possession ; and there is still a road within the demesne which is called King James's road.

    Glenart, a castellated mansion belonging to the Earl of Carysfort, and at present occupied by his lordship's brother, the Hon. Capt. Proby. R, N is situated on the south bank of the Ovoca, nearly opposite to the abbey, on a gentle slope in a very retired spot, commanding from the high grounds some fine views of the sea and of the richly wooded hills of Shelton Abbey and Bally-Arthur. Ballyrane, the seat of the Rev. T. Quin, is a handsome modern house, pleasantly situated within a mile of the town, of which it commands a fine view, and also of the sea. Lambarton, the seat of Capt, Hore, R,N., is beautifully situated in the midst of fine plantations, and commands delightful views of the sea and the demesnes of Shelton and Bally-Arthur, terminating in the magnificent range of mountains in the neighbourhood of Lugna-quilla. Emma Vale, the seat of D. Wright, Esq., is situated about a mile to the south west of the town; the house has been enlarged and improved, the plantations are tastefully laid out, and the prospect comprehends a fine view of Glenart woods and mansion, Bally Arthur and the distant part of Shelton demesne, and an extensive range of mountain scenery, Elton, about half a mile to the south, is a commodious house occupying a healthful situation.

    The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Dublin and Glendalough, to which the greater portion of the rectory, which formerly belonged to the abbey of Woney, was united in the year 1673, subject to a reserved rent of £3-12sh. ; and to which also the vicarage of Enorily and the perpetual curacies of Killahurler, Kilbride, and Templemichael, and part of the rectory of Kilgorman, were united from time immemorial till 1833, when they were, with the exception of Killahurler and Kilgorman, separated from it by act of council and made a distinct benefice; leaving only Arklow and Killahurler, with part of Kilgorman, to constitute the vicarial union, which is in the patronage of the Archbishop. The other portion of the rectory is impropriate in W. Johnson and D. Howell, Esqrs. The tithes amount to £230-15s 4¾ d., of which £46 8s 7½ d., is payable to the lay impropriators, and the remainder to the incumbent; and the gross tithes of the union payable to the incumbent amount to £250 8s. 8d. The church, situated in the principal street of the town, was erected in 1823, at an expense of £2000, of which sum £1100 was granted on loan by the late Board of First Fruits ; and in 1829 it was enlarged, at an expense of £1200; granted by the same Board, in consideration of which grant the additional sittings are free. It was built after a design by Mr. Johnson, and is in the later English style, with a square tower. A grant of £249 has been lately made by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners for its repair.

    In the R, C. divisions this parish is the head of a union or district, which comprehends the parishes of Arklow, Killahurler, and Ballintemple, in the county of Wicklow, and of lnch and Kilgorman in the county of Wexford. The chapel is a handsome modern structure, situated opposite to the remains of the ancient castle ; and there are chapels also at Johnstown, Castletown, and Ballycowgue, to all of which schools are attached.

    There is a small place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists.

    About 320 children are instructed in the several public schools, of which, a boys' school is supported by the Trustees of Erasmus Smith's charity, two for girls are aided by Mrs. Proby, and an infants' school is maintained by voluntary contributions; and there are six private schools, in which are about 240 children, and Sunday schools. A fever hospital and dispensary was erected in 1821, at an expense of £550, of which sum, £400 was presented by the grand jury , and the remainder was raised by subscription ; it is a neat square building, in a healthy situation just without the town.

    The only relic of the ancient castle is a small fragment mantled with ivy, situated on an eminence above the river and adjoining the barracks. The cemetery of the Cistertian abbey is still used as a burying place by the Roman Catholics. Arklow gives the title of Baron, in the peerage of Ireland, by creation, to his Royal Highness the Duke of Sussex, and by tenure to the noble family of Butler, Marquesses of Ormonde.