About PetersPioneersLimerick, 1837

Home Page

From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837, by Samuel Lewis

LIMERICK, a city and county of itself, situated on the river Shannon, locally in the county of Limerick (of which it forms the capital), and in the province of MUNSTER, 51 miles (N.) from Cork, and 94 (S. W.) from Dublin; containing, in 1821, 59,045, and in 1831, 66,554 inhabitants, of which number, 44,100 are in the city and suburbs, and the remainder in the rural district. This ancient and important city, supposed by some writers to have been the Regia of Ptolemy, is called Rosse-de-Nailleagh in the Annals of Multifernan; and is believed to have been the place described under the name of Lumneach, as forming the western extremity of the southern half of the island as divided A. M. 2870 and 3970, which name appears to have been modified by the English into its present designation. St. Patrick is said to have visited it about the middle of the fifth century; but the first authentic notices of Limerick represent it as a Danish settlement. The place was first plundered by them in 812, and about the middle of the same century they made it one of their principal maritime stations, surrounding it with walls and towers which enclose the area now occupied by the English town. For nearly a century their power continued to increase, until Brien Boroimhe assumed the dominion of Munster and Thomond, when he expelled the Danes from Inniscattery, and reduced Limerick, allowing the inhabitants however to continue in it, subject to their own laws and customs, on payment of an annual tribute, said to have been fixed at 365 tuns or casks of wine of 32 gallons each. In 1064, Turlogh, King of Munster, received here the homage of Donsleibhe, King of Ulidia; and his successor Murtogh, having given Cashel to the church, removed the seat of royalty to Limerick in 1106, from which time it continued to be the residence of the kings of Thomond, or North Munster, until its conquest by the English: from this circumstance, his successors were styled indiscriminately kings of North Munster or of Limerick. The Danes of Limerick did not embrace Christianity until the 11th century, and in the following they elected their first bishop. In 1153, Turlogh O'Conor, King of Connaught, besieged the city, and compelled the Danes to renounce the authority of Turlogh O'Brien, and drive him west of the Shannon.

A succession of intestine wars among the native princes was carried on until the landing of Hen. II., who soon after obtained possession of it and placed a garrison there; but after his departure, Donald O'Brien, King of Thomond, regained possession of it. In 1175, Raymond le Gros, with the assistance of the King of Ossory, invested it, and by fording the river in the face of the enemy, so daunted them that he entered it without opposition, obtained a great booty, and secured it by a garrison; but on the death of Earl Strongbow, it was again evacuated by the English and subsequently burned by order of Donald, who declared that it should no longer be a nest for foreigners. In 1179, Hen. II. gave the kingdom of Limerick to Herebert Fitz-Herebert, who having resigned his claim to an inheritance so uncertain, it was granted to Philip de Braosa, and he, aided by Milo de Cogan and Robert Fitz-Stephen, advanced against the city, which the garrison set on fire. This so dispirited Braosa, that he immediately retreated, and so assured was Donald O'Brien afterwards of the security of his metropolis, that, in 1194, he founded the cathedral church of St. Mary, on the site of his palace. In 1195, the English appear to have regained possession of the city, for it was then governed by a provost; but Mac Arthy of Desmond forced them once more to abandon it.

King John afterwards renewed the grant to Philip de Braosa, with the exception of the city of Limerick, the cantred of the Ostmen, and the Holy Island, which he committed to the custody of William dc Burgo, who formed a settlement there which from that period set at defiance all the efforts of the Irish. A strong castle and bridge were erected; and, encouraged by the privileges offered to them, English settlers flocked hither in great numbers, between whom and the inhabitants of the surrounding country amicable relations appear to to have been soon established, for, among the names of the chief magistrates for the ensuing century, besides those which appear to be English, Norman or Flemish, and Italian, there are several purely Irish. Money was coined here in the reign of John. In 1234, the city was taken, after a siege of four days, by Richard, Earl Marshal of England, then in rebellion; and by the continued wars in the surrounding country, especially among the O'Briens, De Burgos, De Clares, and Fitzgeralds, its progress in commercial prosperity appears to have been greatly checked. In 1308, Pierce Gaveston, the viceroy, passed through Limerick with an army, and compelled O'Brien to submit, but the tranquillity was of short duration. In 1314, De Clare burned the suburbs; and in 1316, Edward Bruce terminated his career of conquest southward at this place, and kept his court here until the following Easter. The hostilities of the O'Briens and others of his allies, and the unbounded authority assumed by the Earl of Desmond and other Anglo-Norman leaders, rendered additional military defences necessary for the protection of the city, and various grants were made by Edw. II. for enclosing the suburbs with a stone wall, and for repairing the castle. In 1331, the Earl of Desmond was committed to the custody of the Marshal of Limerick.

In 1337, a dispute arose between the merchants of Limerick and Galway, respecting tolls, which, notwithstanding the interference of the Lord-Justice, finally led to open hostilities. In 1340, Limerick was for a short period the head-quarters of Sir William Windsor, chief governor, when marching into the west against the O'Briens. During the whole of the fifteenth century, the fortifications, which, prior to the grants of Edw. II., had comprised only the part of the city insulated by the Shannon, and called the English town, were extended so as to include the portion on the southern bank of the river, called the Irish town, the defences of which were completed by the erection of St. John's gate and the neighbouring works, begun in 1450, but not finished until 1495. In the reign of Edw. IV., Connor O'Brien, prince of Thomond, drove the English from various parts of Munster, and compelled the citizens of Limerick to pay him an annual tribute of 60 marks. Another remarkable proof of the distracted state of the country is afforded by a statute of the 28th of Hen. VI., from which it appeared that, owing to the prevailing power of the "Irish enemy and English rebels," in the surrounding country, the inhabitants were under the necessity of deriving their supply of provisions principally from France, which was sent only on condition of the ships being placed under the special protection of the King of England. In 1467, a mint was established in the city; in 1484, Gerald," Earl of Kildare, held a parliament there; and in 1495, the brotherhood of the guild of merchants was erected.

In the reign of Hen. VII. the city recovered some degree of prosperity; but in 1524 it was harassed by the open hostilities, both by sea and land, resulting from the commercial jealousies between it and Galway, until these were at length terminated by a formal treaty, and by an injunction from the King, in 1536, requiring a better demeanour from the men of Galway. In the reign of Hen.VIII., Alderman Sexton, of this city, took a distinguished part in favour of the British interest. In 1542, the proclamation declaring Hen. VIII. king of Ireland was received with demonstrations of the greatest joy, and in the following year Sir Anthony St. Leger held a parliament here, in which divers important acts were passed. Towards the close of Mary's reign, the Lord-Deputy Sussex arrived here to suppress a revolt of some inferior branches of the O'Brien family against their chief, on which occasion the Earl of Thomond and all the freeholders of his country swore fealty to the crown of England. During the entire reign of Elizabeth, and throughout the wars that devastated the whole surrounding province, Limerick maintained the most unshaken loyalty, and was made a centre of civil and military administration. Sir Henry Sydney, Lord-Deputy, who visited it in 1567, in 1569, and in 1576, states that he was received here with greater magnificence than he had hitherto experienced in Ireland. At this period Limerick is described as a place well and substantially built, with walls extending round a circuit of about three miles.

On the arrival of Sir William Pelham, Lord-Deputy, in 1579, the mayor appeared before him attended by 1000 citizens well armed; and in 1584, the city militia amounted to 800 men, being double that of Cork, and a third more than that of Waterford, demonstrating that Limerick was then the most important city in the island next to Dublin. During the Earl of Desmond's rebellion, the city was for some time the head-quarters of the English army. From the commencement of the reign of Jas. I. until the war of 1641, it enjoyed undisturbed tranquillity: and notwithstanding accidental conflagrations, in 1618 and 1620, considerable improvement in the construction of buildings and public works took place. The customs' duties for the year ending Lady-day, 1633, amounted to no less a sum than 1619. 1. 7 3/4. In 1636 it was visited by the Lord-Deputy Wentworth, who was splendidly entertained by the mayor for nine days, and on his departure presented to the corporation a valuable cup of silver gilt. On the approach of the insurgent army under Lord Ikerrin, Lord Muskerry, and General Barry, in 1642, the gates were thrown open by the citizens; the royal garrison, consisting only of 200 men, who had shut themselves up in the castle, were compelled to surrender after an obstinate defence; after which the magistrates sent representatives to the Catholic convention at Kilkenny, and made every exertion to repair and strengthen the fortifications. In 1646, when it was attempted to proclaim the pacification that had just been concluded between King Charles and the parliament, the attempt was met by violence; and afterwards, the supreme council, headed by Rinuncini, the pope's nuncio, removed hither, to encourage the besiegers of the neighbouring castle of Bunratty, on the Clare side of the Shannon, in which the parliamentarians had placed a garrison. In 1650, the Marquess of Ormonde marched into the city, in the hope of securing it for the king; but the nuncio's party having deprived him of all power, he at length quitted the kingdom, leaving the command of the royalist troops to the Earl of Castlehaven, who induced the magistrates to accept his offer to defend them against the threatened attack of Ireton. The latter, however, did not commence operations until the spring of 1651; and the siege being protracted until the approach of winter, famine, misery, and death made formidable ravages among the ranks of both parties. The attempts of the Irish forces to relieve the place were defeated, but a sally by O'Nial, who commanded the garrison, nearly proved fatal to the besiegers. The privations of the inhabitants at length compelled them to turn out all useless persons, who, to prevent them from communicating the plague, which then raged amongst them, to the parliamentarian forces, were, at the command of Ireton, immediately whipped back; and dissensions gradually arose among the besieged, as to the propriety of capitulating. The resistance of the clergy to a surrender being at length overbalanced by some officers who took possession of one of the gates and turned the cannon against the city, the place was surrendered to the besiegers on condition that the garrison should march out unarmed, and the inhabitants be allowed time for removing, with their effects, to any place where they might be appointed to live. Twenty-four persons were excluded by name from the benefit of this treaty: the soldiers, who marched out to the number of 2500, were greatly reduced by disease contracted by the sufferings of a protracted siege of six months. After the surrender, the emblems of royalty were removed, the magistrates displaced, and for five years the city was subjected to a military government. In 1653 an act was passed permitting the English adventurers, officers, and soldiers to purchase the forfeited houses at six years' purchase; and a charter was granted conferring upon the citizens the same privileges and franchises as those enjoyed by the city of Bristol. In 1656, the municipal government was restored, by the election of a mayor and twelve English aldermen.

At the Restoration, Sir Ralph Wilson, the governor, declared in favour of the King. He was shortly after succeeded by the Earl of Orrery, who was instructed to endeavour to procure good merchants, English and Dutch, to inhabit the place, and cause it to flourish by trade. All the banished merchants were again restored to their freedom and privileges, on entering into recognizances for their peaceful demeanour; and the inland trade increased so rapidly that, in 1672, the tolls of the gates were let for upwards of 300 per annum. During a progress through Munster made by the Duke of Ormonde, lord-lieutenant, he was received at Limerick with great distinction, being attended by the principal nobility and gentry of the county, and the cavalry militia of each barony. The same year was remarkable for a great drought in the Shannon, insomuch that the mayor and citizens perambulated the English town, dry-shod, outside the walls; and the following year a storm, with a high tide, did great damage.

The accession of Jas. II. caused an alteration in the religious ascendancy of the corporation; and after the battle of the Boyne, the Earl of Tyrconnel established his viceregal court in the city. Soon after this it was invested by King William in person, at the head of 20,000 veterans. The siege, undertaken at a late period of the season, was rendered particularly harassing by the formidable obstacles opposed to the besiegers by the fortifications and natural defences of the town, the abundance of its munitions of war, and the circumstance of the flower of the Irish army being assembled in and around it, under Gen. Boiseleau, the Duke of Berwick, and other distinguished leaders, who were enabled to obtain supplies of every kind from Connaught, and by sea, where the French fleet rode undisturbed. The operations of the English army were also greatly checked by the loss of its battering train, which had been intercepted and destroyed by Gen. Sarsfield, in a gallant attack, within twelve miles of William's camp. Nevertheless, a breach having been at length effected, the besiegers thrice penetrated into the town, and as often were beaten back, until after a desperate contest of four hours, in which they lost 1700 men, they were obliged to retire; William himself being compelled to raise the siege and withdraw towards Clonmel. But in the August following, William's army, now commanded by General de Ginkell, again invested the town; and the garrison having been abundantly supplied, and in expectation of succour from France, the siege was protracted and sanguinary. One of the most serious conflicts at this period was that in which 600 Irish were slain, 150 drowned, and above 100 taken prisoners, in the defence of Thomond bridge, the gates having been closed upon them too speedily, by which their retreat was cut off. Operations were at length terminated by the celebrated treaty of Limerick, ratified on Oct. 1st, and said to have been signed on a large stone near Thomond bridge, within sight of both armies. Two days after, the French fleet arrived on the coast, and on the 14th entered the Shannon, with a reinforcement of troops and 30,000 stand of arms and ammunition. Both parties now made strenuous exertions to retain the Irish soldiers in their service: 3000 were prevailed upon to enter into that of the victorious monarch; but the remainder, amounting to upwards of 19,000 men, embarked for France, and formed the foundation of the Irish brigade, afterwards so celebrated in the wars of Europe.

After the embarkation of the Irish troops, the inhabitants, who had been compelled by the bombardment to quit their dwellings, on their return found their effects destroyed, and the entire city a scene of desolation and misery. While all classes were engaged in repairing their losses, the poorer by erecting small huts under the walls, the richer by re-edifying their houses, and the soldiers by restoring and enlarging the fortifications, a new and unthought of casualty nearly involved the whole in a second destruction: one of the towers on the quay suddenly fell, and 250 barrels of gunpowder which it contained blew up with a tremendous explosion, by which 240 persons were crushed to death or dreadfully maimed, some being struck dead by stones which fell a mile from the town. For more than 60 years after the siege, the fortifications were kept in complete repair, a garrison and several companies of city militia maintained, and every precaution of an important military station observed. In 1698, the Marquess of Winchester and the Earl of Galway, lords justices, on a tour of inspection, visited the city, which in the same year suffered most severely by a storm and high tide. In 1703 an act was passed providing that no Roman Catholic strangers should reside in the city or suburbs, and that the present inhabitants of that persuasion should be expelled, unless they gave sufficient securities for their allegiance; but in 1724 these restrictions were removed. During the Scottish rebellion in 1745, similar precautions were used, but no symptom of disaffection was discovered. In 1751, a storm, accompanied with high tides, overflowed a great part of the place, and did great damage. In 1760, Limerick was declared to be no longer a fortress, and the dismantling of its walls and other defences was immediately commenced and completed by slow degrees, as the extension of the various improvements rendered it necessary. On the breaking out of the American war, three Volunteer corps were formed under the name of the Limerick Union, the Loyal Limerick Volunteers, and the Limerick Volunteers.

After the termination of the American war the improvement and extension of the city were renewed with unexampled spirit: and although contested elections and alarms of insurrection in the neighbouring districts at times disturbed its tranquillity, they never retarded its improvement. During the French invasion in 1798, the city militia distinguished itself by the stand it made at Collooney under Col. Vereker, who in consequence received the thanks of parliament. In 1803, a design was formed by those engaged in Emmett's conspiracy to take the city by surprise: and the plan was conducted with so much secrecy that it was unknown to the military commandant in Limerick until the evening preceding the intended day of attack; but the prompt and decisive measures adopted prevented the apprehended danger. In 1821, symptoms of insubordination in the liberties led to a proclamation declaring the county of the city to be in a state of disturbance, and to require an extraordinary establishment of police, which was accordingly sent and is still maintained. In the winter of 1833 the city again suffered severely by storms and high tides.

The city, situated in an extensive plain watered by the Shannon, is composed of three portions, the English town, the Irish town, and Newtown-Pery. The first and oldest occupies the southern end of the King's Island, a tract formed by the Shannon, here divided into two streams, of which the narrowest and most rapid is called the Abbey river. This part, the houses of which are chiefly built in the Flemish fashion, is said to resemble the city of Rouen in Normandy: but, since the erection of the New town, it has been deserted by the more wealthy inhabitants, and exhibits a dirty and neglected appearance. The Irish town is also very ancient, being allotted to the native inhabitants so early as the reign of King John: here the streets are wider and the houses more modern; both these parts were strongly fortified. The suburb called Thomond-gate, situated on the county of Clare side of the river, at the end of Thomond bridge, was formerly the only entrance to the ancient city, and was protected by a strong castle: it is now of considerable extent: close to the foot of the bridge is the stone on which the treaty of Limerick was signed. Newtown-Pery, built wholly within the last fifty years on elevated ground, parallel with the course of the river, below the union of its two branches, on a site, formerly called the South Prior's . Land, which became the property of the Pery family about 1770, is one of the handsomest modern towns in Ireland: a very handsome square has been lately erected in it. There are six bridges; Thomond bridge, leading from King John's Castle in the English town to Thomond-gate, on the county of Clare side, is the most ancient. It was built in 1210, and subsequently widened, and consists of 14 unequal arches, which were turned on wicker work, the marks of which are still apparent in the cement; its roadway is perfectly level: it is now being taken down, and will be replaced by a new bridge (the foundation stone of which was laid in 1836, and which is to be opened in 1839), by the corporation, which has procured a loan of 9000 from the Board of Works to effect it: the estimated expense is 12,600. Wellesley bridge, erected in 1827, consisting of five large and elegant elliptic arches, crosses the Shannon from the New town to the northern, or county of Clare, shore. Its roadway is level and its parapet is formed of a massive open balustrade; on the city side is a swing bridge over a lock through which vessels pass to the upper basin and quays. The New bridge, crossing the Abbey river, and connecting the New town with the English town, was finished in 1792 at an expense of 1800; it consists of three irregular arches. Baal's bridge, higher up on the same branch of the river, is a beautiful structure of a single arch, built in 1831 to replace an ancient bridge of the same name, which consisted of four arches with a range of houses on one of its sides. On the same branch of the Shannon is Park bridge, an old lofty structure of five irregular arches. Athlunkard bridge, consisting of five large elliptic arches, crosses the Shannon about a mile from the city; it was erected in 1830 by means of a loan of 9000 from the Board of Public Works, 6000 from the consolidated fund, and a grant of 1000 from the Grand Jury of the county of Clare; it forms a communication between Limerick and Killaloe. The environs, though flat, are generally very beautiful; the soil extremely rich; and the sinuous course of the Shannon, in many points of view, presents the appearance of a succession of lakes; but the landscape is deficient in wood. Of the four principal approaches, that from Clare, by Wellesley bridge, is the best; the others are through lines of cabins, crooked and deficient in cleanliness. In the vicinity of the city are several good houses and neat villas, but by no means so numerous as its wealth would lead strangers to expect 5 as the rich merchants chiefly reside in the New town. Among the seats in the neighbourhood, those most worthy of notice are Mount Shannon, that of the Earl of Clare, one of the finest mansions in the south of Ireland; Hermitage, of Lord Massy, Clarina Park, of Lord Clarina; and Doonass, on the opposite side of the Shannon, of Sir Hugh Dillon Massy, Bart.: in the city are the mansions of the Earl of Limerick and of the Bishop. The streets, which are spacious, intersect each other at right angles, and are occupied by elegant houses, splendid and well-stocked shops, and merchants' stores. Patrick-street, George-street, and the Crescent form a continuous line of elegant houses, extending about a mile from the New bridge. The total number of houses, in 1831, was 4862.

The city is lighted with gas under a contract made in 1824 with the United London Gas Company: the original engagement was confined to the New town, but it has been extended by the liberality of the corporation to the Irish town and Dublin road, and by private subscriptions to part of the English town. Works for supplying it with water were commenced in 1834 by a London company; the two tanks are about a mile from the city, at Cromwell's Fort, near Gallows' Green, on the site of two forts occupied by Cromwell and Wm. III.; their elevation is 50 feet above the highest part of the city, and 72 feet above the river, from which the water is raised through a metal pipe 12 inches in diameter by two steam-engines, each of 20-horse power. In excavating for a foundation for the tanks, several skeletons, cannon and musket balls, armour, and divers remains of military weapons were found; and in forming the new line of road along the Shannon, on the county of Clare side, heaps of skeletons were found, some of which were 15 yards in length and 6 feet in depth; they are supposed to be the remains of those who died in the great plague. In military arrangements, Limerick is the head-quarters of the south-western district, which comprises the counties of Clare and Limerick, with the town of Mount-Shannon, in the county of Galway; the county of Tipperary, except the barony of Lower Ormond, but including the town of Nenagh; and that part of the county of Kerry north of the Flesk. There are four barracks; the Castle barrack in the English town for infantry, capable of accommodating 17 officers and 270 non-commissioned officers and privates, with an hospital for 29 patients; the New barrack, on the outside of Newtown-Pery, adapted for 37 officers, 714 infantry and cavalry, and 54 horses, with an hospital for 60 patients; the Artillery barrack, in the Irish town, for 6 officers, 194 men, and 104 horses, with an hospital for 35 patients; and an Infantry barrack, in St. John's-square, for 4 officers and 107 men: a military prison, lately built in the new barrack, has 6 cells. There is also a city police barrack. The Limerick Institution, founded in 1809, and composed of shareholders and annual subscribers, has a library containing upwards of 2000 volumes. There are four newspapers, three published twice a week, and one weekly. An elegant theatre, erected some years ago by subscription, at a cost of 5000, was so inadequately supported that the building was at length sold to the Augustinian monks. The assembly-house, built in 1770, at an expense of 4000, is not now used for its original purpose, the balls commonly taking place at Swinburne's hotel; part of it is occasionally used for dramatic performances. The hanging gardens, constructed in 1808 by William Roche, Esq., M.P., at an expense of 15,000, form a singular ornament to the town; they are raised on ranges of arches of various elevation, from 25 to 40 feet, the vaults thus formed being converted into storehouses for wine, spirits, and other goods, now occupied by Government, at a rent of 500 per annum. On this foundation are elevated terraces, the highest of which has a range of hothouses, with greenhouses at the angles. The facade of these gardens extends about 200 feet, and the top of the highest terrace, which is 70 feet above the street, commands a most extensive prospect of the city and the Shannon.

Considerable efforts for the encouragement of the linen and cotton manufactures were not long since made, but failed. The former branch of industry has of late greatly declined; it had existed in the county for more than a century, and, by the exertions of the Chamber of Commerce, the weavers were enabled to manufacture that description of linen best adapted to command a sale; a weekly market was formed; and a linen-hall was erected, in which markets were held every Friday and Saturday. Premiums were also given by the Chamber of Commerce, until this branch of their public exertions was undertaken by the Agricultural Association, a committee of which, united with the Trustees for the Promotion of Industry in the county, met for the purpose in the committee-room at the linen-hall every Saturday. This united committee, besides annual subscriptions from its own body, which are applicable to all improvements in agriculture, has under its management a fund of about 7000, allocated to the county by a Board of Directors in London, for the purpose of promoting the linen, woollen, cotton, and other trades among the poor. The glove trade, formerly of great celebrity, has declined considerably, most of the gloves sold under the name of Limerick being now manufactured in Cork. A manufactory was formed in 1829, at Mount Kennett, for tambour lace and running, better known by the name of Irish blonde, which is here brought to great perfection and gives employment to about 400 young females; the wrought article is sent to London. A lace-factory, established in 1836, in Clare-street, by Wm. Lloyd, Esq., employs 250 young females who are apprenticed to it: the produce is sent to London. A muslin-factory, in the Abbey parish, employs 100 boys as apprentices. The distillery of Stein, Browne and Co., at Thomond-gate, produces 455,000 gallons of whiskey annually. There are also seven breweries, each of which brews porter, ale, and beer to a total amount of 5000 barrels annually; the consumption both of these and of the distillery is chiefly confined to the neighbourhood. There are several iron-foundries, cooperages, and comb-manufactories, but all on a small scale. In the liberties of the city are several extensive flour-mills, which grind upwards of 50,000 barrels of flour annually; and not far from the town are two paper-mills and two bleach-greens. The supply of fuel is abundant, large quantities of coal being imported from England; but turf, of which a very large supply is brought up and down the Shannon, is still the chief fuel of the lower classes, and is also much used in manufactories and in the kitchens of the higher ranks. An abundance of fish is procured by the exertions of the inhabitants towards the mouth of the river, and on the neighbouring coasts; and besides a salmon fishery, leased by the corporation, trout, eels, perch, and pike, are taken in the river, and, lower down, all kinds of shell and flat fish. In the month of May, numerous temporary causeways are formed several yards into the river on each side, by the poor, on which they fish with nets for eel fry; the quantities taken are so great that each individual fills a couple of washing tubs with them every tide. The corporation by their charter claim an exclusive right to all fishing from the city to Inniscattery island.

The trade of the port is comparatively of modern origin. The first return of the customs on record, made in 1277, gives an amount of 6. 18. In 1337 they were only 8 marks; in 1495, 9. 0. 10.; in 1521, 6. 7. 4.; in 1537, 9. 8. 4 1/2.; and in 1607, when King James called for a return of the customs of all the ports in Ireland, those of Limerick are stated to be 15. 14. 8., while at Waterford they were 954. 18. 2., and at Cork 255. 11. 7. But they increased rapidly during the. reigns of Jas. I. and Chas. I.: in 1633 the customs had risen to 1619. 1. 7 3/4. During the war of 1641 they diminished considerably, but after the Restoration again rose, insomuch that, in 16/2, the customs were 1906. 19. 8., and the tolls at the city gates 310. 12. 4. In 1688, during the government of Lord Tyrconnel, they fell to 801. 3. 4. It was not till the middle of the last century that Limerick took a position among the principal commercial ports, and now it is a great place of export for the agricultural produce of the most fertile tracts in Ireland. From Kerry, Tipperary, Clare, and Limerick, are sent in corn, provisions, and butter, which are exported to London, Liverpool, Bristol, and Glasgow. The exports for the year ending the 1st of September, 1835, were, beef, 1364 tierces; pork, 14,263 tierces and barrels; butter, 72,630 firkins; bacon, 81,839 cwts.; lard, 9697 cwts.; wheat, 117,874 barrels; barley, 32,847 barrels; oats, 285,623 barrels; flour, 22,725 cwts.; oatmeal, 16,320 cwts.; eggs, 26,214 crates; besides hams, tongues, spirits, porter, ale, flax, linen, wool, feathers, and salmon, the estimated value of all which exceeded a million sterling. The chief imports are timber, coal, iron, flax-seed, tallow, pitch, tar, hoops, staves, wine, and fruit. The number of vessels entered inwards from foreign ports in 1835 was 51, of the aggregate burden of 12,408 tons of British shipping, and 3 of 698 tons of foreign. The number of vessels cleared outwards during the same period was 31, of the aggregate burden of 7980 tons. The number entered inwards coastways was 494, of 53,078 tons; 44 of these were from Irish ports: the number cleared outwards was 561, of 62,349 tons, 43 of which were for Irish ports. On the 5th of Jan., 1836, there were 71 vessels of 5008 tons belonging to the port: the customs for the year ending on that day amounted to 142,843. 10., and for the subsequent year, to 146,222. 17. 9. The excise duties of the Limerick district, for 1835, were 71,616. 6. 6 1/4.

The situation of Limerick, about sixty Irish miles from the sea, and its extent of river navigation, render the port an object of peculiar importance; but it labours under several disadvantages. For a great port, it is too high up the river: its navigation is obstructed and intricate, with insufficient water for large vessels in the higher parts of the channel; no funds are applied to the maintenance of the navigation, which is almost entirely neglected: ships may discharge ballast in any part without restriction, and the proprietors of adjoining lands may create any obstructions they please. At each side of the narrow arm of the Shannon that encircles the English town are several quays accessible only to boats; and at Merchants' Quay is the Long Dock, where the turf and fish boats unload. From the Custom-house, at the mouth of the Abbey river, various detached quays, erected by private individuals, extend along the united channel, but they are in a very bad condition; the ground around them is rugged and hard, so that vessels lying there are frequently damaged. The water-bailiff receives dues to the amount of about 400 per ann., levied on all vessels arriving in the port; and other dues, amounting to about 80 per annum, are received by the mayor on salt and coal imported. The Chamber of Commerce, consisting of opulent and most respectable merchants, has supreme interest in the navigation of the port, and from its funds has been defrayed the greater portion of the expense that has been incurred by whatever improvements have been made, although it has no right or control over the river. The commissioners appointed by act of parliament, in 1823, have power to levy certain taxes for the erection of the Wellesley bridge, and of docks to accommodate vessels frequenting the port: their revenue now averages 1500 per annum, and they have jurisdiction over the pilotage of the river. These commissioners have obtained from Government a loan of 55,384 under a mortgage of the tolls on exports and imports, tonnage, dock dues, &c. It was their intention to construct a floating dock, but the original plan has been abandoned, and , an act has been recently obtained to carry into effect a design by Thos. Rhodes, Esq., who in 1833 was appointed by Government to survey the port, with a view to provide a safe harbour for shipping. His plan proposes, by constructing a dam or weir across the river at Kelly's Quay, to convert that part of the river above into floating docks, which are to be formed by excavating and levelling the bed of the river along the present quay walls; and a new line of quays is to be built, on which bonded warehouses, storehouses for grain, &c., may be erected. On the north side of the river is to be a dock-yard, with two slips or inclined planes, and a graving dock; and on the south side, another graving dock. It is also proposed to form a line of embankments on each side of the river, for reclaiming considerable tracts of waste land, which might be drained, and the water discharged by tide sluices through the embankments. The total amount required to carry these plans into execution is estimated at 82,756. 10. No part of the work has been yet commenced; but 40,000 has been granted, and the quays are already contracted for, to be finished in 1838: they are to extend 3030 feet, from Kelly's Quay to the custom-house. A cut from the Abbey river continues the navigation, partly in the river and partly by an artificial canal for 15 miles, to Lough Derg, which was transferred by Government to a private association, called the Limerick Navigation Company, on their undertaking to expend 3000 in the rebuilding of Baal's bridge, which had previously interrupted the communication between the canal and the tide-water of the river, and still continues to do so in a great degree; and about the same period a new and important impulse was given to the trade on the Shannon, by the establishment of the Inland Steam-navigation Company, by which a communication has been opened by steam with Kilrush and other places in the estuary of the Shannon, and by packet boats to Killaloe, whence there is a communication by steam through Lough Derg to Portumna, Banagher, and Athlone.

The hay and straw markets are held in two enclosures on Wednesday and Saturday; the wheat market is large, and has sheds all round its enclosure; the butter market, a spacious and lofty building, is open daily throughout the year. There are two potato markets, one in the English, the other in the Irish town, where vast quantities are daily sold. There are also two meat markets, each plentifully supplied with butchers' meat and poultry; but the supply of fish and vegetables is often deficient. The smaller of these markets, called the Northumberland buildings, has attached to it large apartments for public meetings, a bazaar, and commercial chambers; there are four annual fairs, on Easter-Tuesday, July 4th, Aug. 4th, and Dec. 12th. To the August fair is attached a privilege by virtue of which no person, for fifteen days after it, can be arrested in the city or liberties on process issuing out of the Tholsel court. The principal commercial edifices are the Custom-House and the Commercial-Buildings. The former, situated at the entrance of the New town from the old, was completed in 1769, at an expense of 8000, and consists of a centre and two wings, built with hewn stone and handsomely ornamented: a surveyor's house and habitations for boatmen have been erected at the pool. The Commercial Buildings were erected in 1806, at a cost of 8000, by a proprietary of 100 shareholders. They consist of a large and well-supplied news-room on the ground floor, above which is a library and apartments for the Chamber of Commerce, which was incorporated in 1815, for the protection of the trade. Their fund arises from fees on the exports and imports of the members; the surplus is employed in promoting the commercial interest of the city, improving the navigation, and aiding the manufactures. The post-office is a small building, in a situation so inconvenient that none of the coaches can approach it. The mails start for Dublin, Cork, Tralee, Waterford, and Galway.

The corporation exists both by prescription and charter, and its authority is confirmed and regulated by statute. The first documentary grant of municipal privileges was by John, Earl of Morton and Lord of Ireland, in 1199, conferring the same liberties and free customs as were enjoyed by the citizens of Dublin, which were secured and explained by a charter of the 20th of Edw. I. Charters confirming or extending these privileges were granted in the 1st of Hen. IV., 1st of Hen. V., 8th of Hen. VI., 2nd of Hen. VII., 6th of Edw. VI., and 17th and 25th of Elizabeth: the former charter of this last-named sovereign granted, among other new privileges, that a sword of state and hat of maintenance should be borne before the mayor within the city and liberties. The governing charter, granted by James I. in 1609, constituted the city a county of itself, excepting the sites of the king's castle and the county court-house and gaol; conferred an exclusive admiralty jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, over so much of the Shannon as extends three miles north-east of the city to the main sea, with all its creeks, banks, and rivulets within those limits; constituted the mayor, recorder, and four of the aldermen annually elected, justices of the peace for the county of the city; and incorporated a society of merchants of the staple, with the privileges of the merchants of the staple of Dublin and Waterford. By the "New Rules" of the 25th of Chas. II., the lord-lieutenant and privy council were invested with the power of approving and confirming the appointment of the principal officers of the corporation, who were thereby required to take the oath of supremacy, and the election of all corporate officers was taken away from the body of freemen, and vested in the common council; the discussion of any matter connected with municipal affairs in the general assembly of freemen, or Court of D'Oyer Hundred, which had not previously passed the common council, was forbidden under penalty of disfranchisement; and it was provided, as in other corporate towns, that foreigners and other Protestant settlers in the town should be admissible to the freedom. James II. granted a new charter after the seizure of the franchises under a decree of the exchequer, but the judgment of that court having been subsequently set aside, it became void; and the constitution of the municipality continued unaltered until the year 1823, when an act of the 4th of Geo. IV., c. 126, commonly called the "Limerick Regulation Act," partially remodelled the powers of the corporation. Numerous incorporated trading companies or guilds were established under these different charters, several of which still exist, but are not recognised as component parts of the corporation, and do not appear to have ever exercised any corporate rights. The guild of merchants incorporated by James I. having become extinct, was revived by the act of 1823, but has never since met, nor has any attempt been made to enforce its charter, its objects being effectually accomplished by the Chamber of Commerce. The corporation, under the charter of James I., is styled "The Mayor, Sheriffs, and Citizens of the City of Limerick;" and consists of a mayor," two sheriffs, and an indefinite number of aldermen, burgesses, and freemen, aided by a recorder, four charter justices, a town-clerk (who is also clerk of the crown and of the peace for the county of the city), chamberlain, common speaker, water-bailiff (which office is to be abolished under the New Bridge Act), sword-bearer, high constable, petty constables, serjeants-at-mace, weigh-master, crane-master, and other inferior officers. The mayor (which office and title were enjoyed by Limerick ten years before they were granted to London), the sheriffs, recorder, and town-clerk are annually elected by the common council on the 2nd Monday after the 24th of June; the four charter justices by the same body on the 2nd Monday after the 29th of September. The chamberlain is elected from among the burgesses for life or during pleasure, by the mayor, sheriffs, and recorder. The aldermen are elected for life from among the burgesses by the common council: the title, however, is a mere honorary distinction, usually conferred on the person who has served the office of mayor. The common speaker is elected every two years, under the provisions of the act of 1823, by the body of freemen assembled on the first Tuesday after June 24th, in the court of D'Oyer Hundred, and must be approved of by the common council before he can be sworn into office: the other officers are appointed respectively by the common council, the mayor, and the sheriffs. The freedom is obtained by birth, for the eldest son, or marriage with any daughter, of a freeman, also by apprenticeship to a freeman within the city, and by gift of the corporation: the admissions of freemen are made by the common council, subject to the approbation of the court of D'Oyer Hundred. The act of 1823 requires the council to hold quarterly meetings on the first Monday after June 24th, second Monday after Sept. 29th, and the first Mondays in January and April; extraordinary meetings are convened on requisition of the mayor. All acts of the corporation, except the election of officers, must be now approved of and confirmed by the freemen at large in the court of D'Oyer Hundred, which was re-established by the act of 1823, after having for about seventy years previously fallen into almost total disuse, and is now held on the day following each of the four stated quarterly meetings of the common council, and also within a specified time after the extraordinary meetings of that body: it is composed of the entire body of freemen, and a certified minute of all proceedings at the meetings of the common council must be transmitted by the town-clerk to the common speaker, who presides over the court, for its approval. The city returned two representatives to the Irish parliament from the period of its earliest convocations until the Union, after which it sent one member to the Imperial parliament; but under the act of the 2nd of Wm. IV., c. 88, it sends two. Besides the freemen, the right of voting belonged to the freeholders of the county of the city, estimated in 1831 at about 2000, making the total number of electors at that period 2413. The above-named act has extended the franchise to 10 householders, and to 20 and 10 leaseholders for the respective terms of 14 and 20 years; the non-resident freemen, except within seven miles, have been disfranchised; and the 40s. freeholders retain the privilege only for life. The number of electors, according to a return to an order of the select committee of the House of Commons, dated Feb. 14th, 1837, was 3186; of whom 912 were freeholders, 14 rent-chargers, 34 leaseholders, 1946 10 householders, and 280 freemen: the sheriffs are the returning officers.

The liberties are divided into North and South by the Shannon: the limits of the North liberties vary from one to four statute miles, comprising 1714 acres, as rated to the Grand Jury cess; the South liberties extend from four to five statute miles, comprehending 14,754 acres assessed, making in all 16,458 Irish acres, equal to about 26,600 statute acres, exclusively of the site of the town; the small island of Inniscattery, about 60 miles distant, at the mouth of the Shannon, forms a part of the parish of St. Mary, and is within the jurisdiction of the corporation. The mayor is a justice of the peace within the county of the city, and ex officio a magistrate for the county at large; he is admiral of the Shannon, and, with the recorder and aldermen, has very extensive magisterial and judicial powers connected with the exclusive admiralty jurisdiction given by the charter of Jas. I., being empowered to appoint all the officers of a court of admiralty, which court, however, has fallen into disuse; he is a judge in local courts, and is named first in the commission with the judges at the assizes for the county of the city; and is a coroner within the county of the city and the parts of the Shannon comprised within the admiralty jurisdiction, and clerk of the markets. The other magistrates are the recorder and four charter justices; six additional justices are appointed by the lord-lieutenant under the authority of the act of 1823. The county of the city has an exclusive criminal jurisdiction exercised by its magistrates at the court of quarter sessions and at petty sessions; assizes are held for it twice a year by the mayor and the judges travelling the Munster circuit. The court of quarter sessions is held before the mayor, recorder, and other justices, for the trial of such cases as are not reserved for the assizes. Petty sessions are held every Wednesday and Saturday before the mayor and five or six of the civic magistrates. The chief civil court is the Tholsel or city court, in which the mayor and sheriffs preside as judges, assisted by the recorder, when present, as assessor, and the town-clerk as prothonotary: it is held under the charter of Henry V., which gave pleas, real and personal, to any amount arising within the county of the city: the court sits every Wednesday; the process is either by attachment against goods, action against the person, or latitat, but the last is seldom resorted to. A court of conscience is held by the mayor every Thursday, by prescription, for the recovery of debts under 40s. late currency. The assistant barrister for the county of Limerick sits twice a year for the trial of civil bill cases within the county of the city. The ordinary revenues of the corporation are derived from rents of houses and lands in the city and liberties, the fishery of the salmon weir, tolls and customs (which yield by far the greatest portion), and the cleansing of the streets in the old city, producing a gross income of between 4000 and 5000 per annum. The peace preservation police consists of a chief magistrate, 1 chief officer of the second class, 49 men and 4 horses; 37 men are stationed in the city barracks, and the remainder in the liberties: their expense for the year ending June 1st, 1836. was 1852. 1. 6., two-thirds of which was paid from the Consolidated Fund, and the remainder by Grand Jury presentment. This force is occasionally employed beyond the limits of the civic jurisdiction. The city is also the head-quarters of the revenue police of the district, the other stations of which are Gort, Ennis, and Cashel; it consists of a sub-inspector, a sub-officer, serjeant, and 15 privates. There are a lieutenant, two deputy-lieutenants, and 15 magistrates, including those already noticed. The amount of Grand Jury presentments for 1835 was 6311. 16. 4., of which 620. 15. 9. was for repairs of roads, bridges, &c.; 3894. 9. 11. for public buildings, charities, salaries, and incidents; 525. 10. 4 1/2. for police, and 1271. 0. 3 1/2. for repayment of Government advances.

The city court-house was erected in 1763, at an expense of 700 only: it is 60 feet by 30, fronted with hewn stone, with a rustic gateway. The Exchange, erected in 1778 at an expense of 1500, is one of the chief ornaments of the old town; the front is of hewn stone, and is adorned with seven Tuscan columns connected by a handsome balustrade. The council-chamber is a fine room of the Ionic order; and there are various convenient municipal offices. The county court-house, on Merchants'-quay, an elegant structure, completed in 1810, at an expense of 12,000, is a quadrangular building of hewn stone, with a portico, supported by four lofty pillars, and surrounded by a light iron balustrade: it contains civil and criminal courts, jury-rooms, and other offices. The city gaol, in the old town, is a gloomy quadrangular edifice, with which the old county gaol is now united; but the buildings do not admit of proper classification, or sufficient means of employment. Yet, notwithstanding these disadvantages, it is remarkably well regulated, orderly, and clean. The new county gaol, which occupies a remarkably favourable situation on the south-east side of the city, was completed in 1821, at an expense of 23,000, and 2000 more was afterwards expended on additions: it has a noble castellated appearance, and its internal construction and arrangement are exceedingly well contrived. The grand entrance is composed of hewn stone, and is of the Doric order. In the centre is a polygonal tower, 60 feet high, containing on successive stories the governor's residence, the committee-room, a chapel, and an hospital, and having round the second story an arcade commanding the several yards. Five rays of buildings diverge from this tower, forming ten wards, each communicating by a cast-iron bridge with the chapel, and containing in the whole 22 apartments for debtors, and 103 cells for criminals. Between the wall immediately surrounding these and the outer wall is a space containing two tread-wheels, the female prison, various offices, and some ornamented plots. The whole is supplied with excellent water from two springs.

Home Page