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A look at Abbeyfeale in the 1840s

ABBEYFEALE, a parish, in the union of Newcastle, barony of Glenquin, county of Limerick, and province of Munster, 10 miles (W. by S.) from Newcastle, on the mail-coach road from Limerick to Tralee, containing 5492 inhabitants, of whom 699 are in the village. This place obviously derives its name from a Cistercian abbey founded here, in 1188, by Brien O’Brien, and from its situation on the river Feale : the abbey, in 1209, became a cell to that of Monasternanagh, or Nenay, in the barony of Pubblebrien. The village, situated in a wild mountainous district, was once almost inaccessible ; but since the construction of some new lines of road great alterations have taken place, much improvement in the condition of the people has resulted from the facilities thus afforded of taking their little produce to market, and the inhabitants are now industriously and profitably employed. Here are a hotel, and some respectable houses; but the greater number are thatched cabins. The village has a receiving-house in connexion with the post-offices of Tralee, Killarney, and Newcastle; and is a constabulary police station. Fairs arc held on the 29th of June and Sept. 24th, chiefly for cattle, sheep, and pigs; and also on the first Tuesday in each month. The parish comprises 18,150 statute acres, of which 1620 are arable, 12,800 pasture, and above 3700 waste land and bog: a considerable portion of the waste, however, is gradually being brought into cultivation, and the system of agriculture is steadily improving. From long previous neglect, the lands in many parts have become marshy and cold, and in some places are covered to the depth of several feet with a loose turbary, which, in the total absence of timber, affords excellent fuel, and of which great quantities are sent to Newcastle, whence limestone is brought in return and burnt with coal of indifferent quality procured here for that purpose only. The farms have generally large dairies, and a considerable quantity of butter is forwarded to Cork and Limerick. On the great line of road from Limerick to Tralee is Wellesley bridge, a handsome structure, about two miles to the west of the village; and to the east is Goulburn bridge. The new road leading through the heart of the mountains from Abbeyfeale to Glin, a distance of 12 miles, was opened after the spring assizes of 1836, previously to which there was scarcely any possibility of access to this secluded district, which for that reason was, in the year 1822, selected as their head-quarters by the Rockites, who dated their proclamations ” From our camp at Abbeyfeale.” The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Limerick, and in the patronage of the Crown ; the rectory is impropriate in Richard Ellis and Thomas G. Bateman, Esqrs. The tithe rent-charge is £240, payable to the impropriators; the clerical duties are performed by the curate of an adjoining parish, who is paid by subscription, aided by the Additional Curates’ Fund Society. The church, a small edifice in the early English style, with a lofty square tower, was erected near the village in 1812, the late Board of First Fruits giving £S00. There is neither glebehouse nor glebe. The Roman Catholic parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church; the old chapel, situated in the village, was erected on the site of the ancient monastery, a small portion of which was incorporated with it. A new chapel was built in 1846, on a site given by R. Ellis, Esq. On the bank of the river, a mile from the village, are the ruins of Purt, or Portrenard, Castle, built by a branch of the Geraldine family, to command the pass of the Feale , it is strongly built, and occupies a bold situation. Four fairs are held at this place respectively on the 2nd May, 18th July, 13th Oct., and 15th December.

Extract from: Lewis – A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland
Photo from: The Lawrence Collection

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