This place, formally called Achad Garvan, of the same import as its present appellation Dun-Garvan, derived that name from St. Garvan, who in the 7th century founded an abbey here for canons regular of the order of St. Augustine, of which there are no vestiges. Raymond le Gros, one of the earliest English adventurers, in 1174, brought hither the plunder he had taken in Offaly and Lismore, which he put on board some vessels he found lying at anchor; but, being detained by contrary winds, was attacked by the men of Cork, whom he repulsed with the loss of eight of their vessels, with which he sailed away in triumph.
Soon afterwards the town, which then formed the frontier barrier of the dependencies of Waterford, was, together with other territories, totally surrendered to Hen II, by Roderic, Sovereign of all Ireland; and a castle was erected for its defence by King John, who is also supposed to have surrounded the town with a wall strengthened with towers. The same monarch granted the custody of the castle, and of the territories of Waterford and Desmond, to Thomas Fitz-Anthony, at a yearly rent of 250 marks, but retained the fee in the Crown; during the minority of Edw I., it was granted to John Fitz-Thomas at a yearly rent of 500 marks, but was subsequently recovered by Edward in a judgement against Thomas Fitz-Anthony. In 1447, the castle, honour, lands, and barony of Dungarvan, together with other extentsive territories, were granted to John Talbot, Earl of Shrewsbury; but the unsettled state of affairs during that period prevented the improvement of the town either in extent or importance.
In 1463, an act was passed at Wexford, setting forth that, "whereas the lordship of Dungarvan was of old the greatest ancient honour belonging to the King in Ireland, and that by war and trouble, and want of English governance, it is for most part totally destroyed; for the relief and succour whereof it is ordained that the portreeve and commonalty, their heirs and successors, may have and enjoy all manner of free grants, liberties, privileges, and customs as the tenants and inhabitants of the honourable honour of Clare in England enjoyed, with a further power to take customs of all kinds of merchandise bought and sold within the franchises, as the mayor and commons of Bristol did, to be yearly expended on the walls and other defences of the town, under the inspection of the Hon. Sir Thomas, Earl of Desmond, and his heirs.
By another statute of the same parliament, the entire fee farm of the town was granted to the said Earl during his life. In the 4th of Hen.VIII., an act was passed confirming the castle and all its dependencies to the Crown; but in the 26th of this reign the manor was granted to Sir Pierce Butler, who was likewise created Earl of Ossory, and appointed seneschal, constable, and governor of the castle and manor of Dungarvan, in to which the Earl of Desmond had forcibly intruded. In the reign of Edw. VI., Robert St. Leger, brother to the Lord-Deputy St. Leger, was confirmed in the government of the castle, to which he had been appointed in the preceding reign, on condition of keeping a proper ward in it; and other constables for the crown were subsequently appointed with extensive powers and emoluments, to one of whom, Henry Stafford, a commission of martial law, extending over the whole county of Waterford, was directed, in the first year of the reign of Elizabeth.
In 1575, the Lord-Deputy, Sir Henry Sidney, came from Waterford to this place, where he met by the Earl of Desmond, who, with great professions of loyalty, offered his services in reducing the country to obedience; but towards the close of the year 1579, when Sir William Pelham, then Lord-Justice, was at Waterford, the Earl led a large insurgent force to this place, with which the 400 foot and 100 horse, which had been sent against him, were unable to contend. In the 2nd of James I. The manor was granted to Sir George Thornton, but subsequently was with the castle, by act of parliament, vested in the Earl of Cork, from whom it descended to its present proprietor, the Duke of Devonshire. In the 7th of his reign James, in reward of the loyalty of the inhabitants during the reign of Elizabeth, granted them a new charter of incorporation; but early in the rebellion of 1641, they broke their allegiance, and took part with the King's enemies; in March 1642 the town was, however taken by the Lord President of Munster, who placed in it a royal garrison, but it was soon after retaken by surprise, and the English inhabitants were plundered. The insurgents, while in occupation of this place, exported merchandise to France, and in return received warlike stores for fortifying the town and castle, of which they kept possession till 1647, when they were taken by Lord Inchiquin with a force of 1500 foot and the same number of horse. The town remained in the possession of the Royalist party till December 1649, when Cromwell, having abandoned the siege of Waterford, advanced to besiege it; after a regular investment and a few days seige, in the course of which several neighbouring fortresses were taken by detachments from his army, the town surrendered at discretion. It is said that Cromwell ordered all the inhabitants to be put to the sword, but recalled his mandate in consequence of a female drinking to his health as he entered the town, which, with the exception of the castle and the church, he saved from being plundered by his troops. The charter of the inhabitants was renewed by Richard Cromwell in 1659, and in 1689 a new charter was granted by James II., which, on the accession of William, was annulled.
The town, which contains 1570 houses, is situated at the head of a spacious bay to which it gives its name, on a peninsula formed by two arms of the bay; and under the auspices of His Grace the Duke of Devonshire has been much improved. It consists of one principal street, called Mulgrave-street, extending from west to east, and dividing in the latter direction into two short branches leading to the mouth of the port; from these several others branch off in various directions towards the line of quays, which extends along the shore. On the south and west are extensive ranges of inferior houses, and on the north is Devonshire-square, from which a handsome street leads to the bridge across the inlet, a massive structure of one arch 75 feet in span, erected at an expense of £50,000 by the Duke of Devonshire, in 1815, and communicating, by a causeway 350 yards in length, with the suburb of Abbeyside, on the main shore.
The inhabitants were formerly supplied with water from the small river Phynisk, brought by an aqueduct, constructed about the middle of the last century, by aid of a parliamentary grant; this source of supply having cut off, wells have been sunk in various parts of the town, but the supply of pure water is rather scanty, that of the wells being fit only for culinary purposes. Immediately adjoining the town are fine springs of pure water, which might be conveyed into it at little expense. The barracks for infantry are adapted for four officers and sixty non commissioned officers and privates.
From its favourable and very healthy situation on the coast, this town has become a place of resort for sea-bathing, and hot and cold baths are at present in progress of erection. The fishery on the Nymph bank has always afforded employment to a considerable number of inhabitants, and the grant of the tonnage bounty tended greatly to its increase. In 1823, 163 boats and about 1100 men were employed in the fishery, and more than 1000 tons of excellent fish were procured for the supply of the surrounding country; the sum granted in bounties (since withdrawn) was £2647; and as the wives and children of the fishermen were engaged in cleaning and salting the fish, the total number of persons that derived employment was not less than 3000. There are at present 80 hookers, of an aggregate burden of 1600 tons, has greatly declined of late years, is now increasing. There are also 93 four-oared row boats engaged in fishing and cutting sea weed; besides 34 coasting vessels belonging to the port, of an aggregate burden of 2800 tons. The aggregate burden of all these is 4720 tons, and the number of men employed in them, 1229, besides whom more than 3000 persons on shore are employed in various capacities in connection with them.
At Ballinacourty, on the eastern side of the parish, the property of T. Wyse, Esq., M.P. a pier for the protection of fishing boats was erected in 1832, partly by subscription, and partly by a grant from the late Fishery Board. The trade of the port consists chiefly in the exportation of corn, live stock, butter, and other provisions to the ports of English channel; and the importation of timber, coal, culm, and the usual foreign supplies. The harbour affords goods shelter for vessels drawing from 14 to 15 feet of water at any time of the tide; vessels drawing 18 feet of water may enter at spring tides, but larger ships can enter only at or near high water of spring tides. There are 3 feet at low water in the shallowest part of the channel, and at the quays there is a dept of 14 feet at high water of spring tides, and 10 feet at neap tides. The south-western recesses of the bay are separated from the rest by a bank called Cunnigar Point, between which and the town it is proposed to throw up an embankment for the purpose of reclaiming the inner recesses of the bay. According to a survey made for this purpose by Mr. Kearney, it is proposed to exclude the tides from the back strand, by making a causeway 122 perches in length, with stone walls on each side, from the garden on the east side of the churchyard to Cunnigar bank, with a roadway 22 feet wide, and sufficient openings with sluices at the bottom to discharge the surface and spring water when the tides are out. It is also proposed to cut a canal from the river Brickey, near Two-mile bridge, through the low grounds of Killongford, and along the southern verge of the back strand, for the purpose of discharging into the outer bay the waters of the Brickey, and the streams that flow into it from the hills on the south, and, by constructing a lock at the eastern end of the canal, of continuing the navigation for sand and other boats to Ballyharraghan, Killongford, and Two-mile bridge, as at present; the low parts of the Cunnigar bank, over which the waves are drifted in high tides by strong easterly winds, will be secured by an embankment of dry stone. The estimated expense of carrying these works into effect is £14,621.9.9.; and the quantity of land that would be thus reclaimed, 1234 acres, of which by an additional expendture of £1500 for draining and enclosing it, 1007 acres would be fit for cultivation. The causeway, among other advantages, would afford a short and easy passage to the fine bathing strand of the Cunnigar, and thus render the town, from the superior accommodation it would afford for sea-bathing, the beautiful scenery in its vicinity, and the excellence of the roads in every direction, best-frequented watering-place on this part of the coast.
Its situation is peculiarly healthy, from the constant current of air blowing or passing near it, caused by the parallelism of two chains of mountains running nearly east and west, leaving between them a valley in which the town lies considerably protected from the north winds; in consequence, the cases of sickness are very few compared with the population. The market days are Wednesday and Saturday, chiefly for corn and provisions; and fairs are held on Feb. 7th, June 22nd, Aug. 27th, and Nov. 8th. The market-places for the sale of meat and fish were erected at the expense of the Duke of Devonshire. A chief constabulary police station has been established here.
By charter of Jas. I. the parish of St. Mary, and that of Nugent within the ancient liberties, were erected into the Borough of Dungarvan: the corporation consisted of a sovereign and twelve brethren or free burgesses, with a recorder, town-clerk, and three serjeants-at-mace, of whom one was the water-bailiff; and the borough was invested with powers and privileges nearly equal to those of any city or borough in the kingdom, which were exercised for a considerable time, till the corporation at length fell into decay. The bounds of the manor, though irregular and even uncertain, comprise an area of about 10,000 statute acres and a population of 11,858, including nearly the whole of the parish of Dungarvan East and West, together with Kilrush, and the townland of Ballyharraghan in the parish of Ringagonagh; the townlands of Knockampoor, Canty, and Ballymullalla, though entirely detached from the rest of the manor, form also part of it, while several lands much nearer the town and some wholly surrounded by the manor do not belong to it. A seneschal is appointed by the Duke of Devonshire, with power to hold a court every three weeks, for the recovery of small debts.
Previously to the Union, the borough returned two members to the Irish parliament, and since that period has sent one member to the Imperial parliament. The elective franchise, vested by the charter of Jas. I. in the sovereign and burgesses, has since the corporation fell into disuse, been exercised by the inhabitants of the town occupying houses of the yearly rent of £5, and the freeholders of the manor, the seneschal being the returning officer. The commissioners appointed to settle the boundaries of boroughs proposed a boundary closely encircling the town, and also to raise the household qualification to £10: but a select committee subsequently determined that, as all £5 householders throughout the manor were than entitled to vote, the limits of the franchise should be so far restrict only as to exclude some of its widely detached portions, and to include some small portions of land locally within its limits, though not previously forming any part of it. The total number of electors registered up to 1835 was 620, of whom 30 were freeholders above £10,300 fourty shilling freeholders, and 200 £10 and 90 £5 householders; about 120 are supposed to have since died.
The quarter sessions of the peace for the western division of the county are held here in January, April, and October; and petty sessions are held every Thursday. It is now under the consideration of the privy council to make Dungarvan the assize town, as being in the centre of the county. The county sessions-house is a neat and well arranged building, at the entrance into the town from the bridge; and attached to it is a bridewell, containing ten cells, two day-rooms and two airing yards.
The parish is divided by the inlet on which the town is situated into East and West Dungarvan, of which the former comprises the more ancient parishes of Abbeyside and Ballinrode or Nugent's. On the south-east side of the channel the sea has made great encroachments. Limestone and large masses of conglomerate, or pudding-stone, are found in abundance; of the former, considerable quantities are sent in boats from Ballinacourty to Bonmahon, Stradbally, and other places along the coast.
The finest view is obtained from the summit of Cushcam, on the north-east, from which are seen the castle of Clonea, the ruins of a church, and a widely extended strand, beyond which are the improvements of Clonkoskoran, and in the distance the town of Dungarvan, with its various towers as if rising form the sea. In the neighbourhood are Ballinacourty, the residence of R. Longan Esq., commanding a fine view of the harbour and of the bay; Bay View, of R. B. H. Low, Esq., Duckspool, of J.M. Galwey, Esq., Tournore, of B. Boate, Esq., Moonrudh, of the Rev. S. Dickson, vicar of the parish, a modern edifice; and the Hermitage of W. H. Barron, Esq.; all situated on the south-eastern side of the harbour, and commanding fine marine views. On the opposite side of the bay is the marine villa of the Rt. Hon. H. Villiers Stuart., lieutenant of the county of Clonkoskoran, the seat of Lady Nugent Humble., is beautifully situated among thriving plantations, near the mail coach road from Dungarvan to Waterford, about two miles from the town; Springmount to the west of the town, is the pleasant residence of T.E.Keily, Esq., and in the same direction is Coolnagower, the residence of W. Giles., Esq. The living is a vicarage in the diocese of Lismore, and in the patronage of the Duke of Devonshire, in whom the rectory is impropriate: the tithes amount to £1337.12.3., of which £891.14.10., is payable to the impropriator, and £445.17.5. to the vicar. The glebe comprises about 13 acres and a few houses and gardens in the town.
The church is a handsome structure of hewn stone, with a tower, erected in 1831 by a loan of £800 from the late Board of First Fruits, and occupies a site commanding a fine view over the harbour and the bay. In the Roman Catholic divisions the parish is divided into West and East Dungarvan. In the former is a new R.C. chapel, dedicated to Assumption of the Blessed Virgin: it occupies a commanding site on the south side of the town, given by the Duke of Devonshire who has also at various times contributed nearly £1500 towards its erection; the remainder of the expense was defrayed by a collection made in London by the Rev. P. Fogarty, and divers other contributions. It is in the later English style of architecture: the roof is finely groined and supported on ranges of lofty and well-proportioned columns; the building is lighted by 14 windows of ample dimensions, and it is intended to open a large east window of stained glass; at the west end will be erected a lofty tower, under which will be the principal entrance, and over it a place has been reserved for an organ; the altar is elaborately grand: this large and handsome chapel has been erected from the designs and under the superintendence of Geo. Payne, Esq., architect from Cork.
In the East division there are two chapels one at Abbeyside, the other at Ballinroad. Here is a convent of the order of the Presentation, in which are 16 nuns, who employ themselves in the gratuitous instruction of the poor female children; and there is a chapel belonging to friars of the order of St. Augustine, the duties of which are performed by two friars, who derive their support from voluntary donations and collections at the chapel gate. A school for boys and another for girls are partly supported by the interest of a bequest of £2000 from the late Pierse Barron, Esq., out of which also the school-house was built. The girls school is under the superintendence of the ladies of the convent, and the boys school under that of the "Brethren of the Christian Schools," who have a residence at Shandon, adjoining the town: a branch of the boys school is held at Shandon school-house. A new school-house has been erected at an expense of £1200, of which £100 was contributed by the Duke of Devonshire, and the remainder was defrayed by its founder, theVery Rev. Dr. Foran, P.P.; it stands on an eminence commanding an extensive and beautiful view, and is a very spacious edifice, capable of conveniently accommodating 800 boys. There is also a school for which a school-house was given by John Odell esq., who allows the master a salary of £12.12. per annum. About 1050 children are educated in the public schools and 550 in eleven private schools. Here are a fever hospital and a dispensary, towards which the Duke of Devonshire and the Marquess of Waterford contribute largely.
There are some interesting remains of the ancient castle, and of the walls and defences of the town; the former are those of a massive keep in a quadrilateral area, surmounted with a wall defended by a circular tower at each angle, and formerly mounted with canon; the entrance is by a narrow passage under a tower gateway, flanked by circular bastions, and within the enclosure are the modern barracks. Some of the towers of the town walls are still remaining in connection with modern buildings; and to the west of the town is Cromwell's mount, supposed to have thrown up by his forces while besieging the town.
In the Abbeyside division are the ruins of a lofty square castle, of which nothing more is known than it was an anciently the property of the McGrath's. The are no traces of the abbey founded by St. Garvan, but nearly adjacent to the last-named castle are the ruins of a religious house founded in the 13th century for Augustinian friars, probably by the McGrath's, who with the O'Briens of Cumeragh, were the chief benefactors. The remains form an interesting pile; the walls, windows, and arches are still entire: the old conventual church consists of a narrow nave and chancel connected by an arch of elegant design supporting a light and enriched tower, 60 feet high and still in good preservation; the entrance, at the west end, is by small pointed doorway, and a large east window admits a fine view of the sea; below the window is a tombstone of Donald McGrath, dated 1400; on the foundation of some of the ancient cells the R.C. chapel of Abbeyside has been erected, the bell of which hangs in the old tower, and the walls and entrances of the ancient abbey are preserved in good order.
An hospital for lepers, dedicated to St. Bridget, was also founded here, but nothing further has been recorded of it. At Two-mile bridge is a powerful chalybeate spa, which has its origin in the summit of a neighbouring mountain, from a basin containing a considerably portion of iron ore; thence it percolates the earth and, after a course of about 4 miles, issues out at the foot of the mountains; it has been found to contain, on analysis as much carbonate of iron as the strongest chalbeate spas of Cheltenham and Leamington. At Shandon are two caves in the limestone rock, one on the sea shore, about 40 feet square, with a long passage leading to inner apartments; the other is in the middle of a plain field, near the river Colligan; in both are stalactites. To the west of the town is a large barrow, surrounded by a fosse. Dungarvan gives the inferior title of Viscount to the Earl of Cork and Orrery.