In 1644 the castle of Ballymacow, near the town, was taken from Sir Phillip Perceval by the Irish, but was soon after restored by order of the supreme council at Kilkenny, in consequence of its seizure having been a violation of cessation of hostilities previously concluded.
The town is situated about half a mile to the south of the river Bride, and consists chiefly of two streets; it contained, in 1841, 436 houses, many of them built and of respectable appearance. The wool-combing business was formerly carried on extensively, but at present the principal trade is in grain, which is brought from Fermoy and the neighbouring markets to be shipped here.
The manufacture of coarse lace affords employment to several hundred females: an extensive ale and porter brewery was established in 1835, by Messrs. Anthony and Terry, which produces annually 3,000 barrels; and attached to it a large malting concern. There are also very extensive flourmills, which were built in 1822, and produce annually 10,000 barrels of flour; they are set in motion by a powerful stream which rises to the south of the town and falls into the river Bride at Tallowbridge, The Bride, which bounds the parish, is navigable to within a quarter of a mile of the bridge at Tallowbridge; and at Janeville quay, about two miles distant, lighters of 30 to 40 tons' burthen unload their cargoes of coal, culm, and timber; the river Bride, from its junction with the Blackwater, affording a facility of water carriage to Youghal.
A new line of road has been constructed to Youghal, opening an improved communication between this place and the neighbouring towns. The National Bank has a branch here. The market is on Saturdays; and fairs are held on March 1st, Trinity-Monday, Oct. 10th, and Dec. 8th: the market-house is a well-arranged building. A charter of incorporation was granted by James I., in the 11th of his reign, to the inhabitants, under the designation of the "Sovereign, Free Burgesses, and Commonalty of the Borough of Tallagh;" and the town, and the surrounding lands within a mile and a half of the parish church, were constituted a free borough.
By this charter the corporation was to consist of a sovereign, not less than 13 nor more than 24 free burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, with a recorder and other officers. The sovereign, who with the recorder, was a justice of the peace, was chosen annually by the lord of the manor from the free burgesses nominated for that purpose by the sovereign and a majority of that body, by whom vacancies in their number were filled up from among the freemen, and freemen were also admitted. The charter conferred upon the corporation the privilage of returning two members to the Irish parliament, which it continued to exercise till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. There was a court of record in which the sovereign and recorder presided, with jurisdiction extending to £20; but, long before the disfranchisement of the borough, the corporation had ceased to exercise any municipal functions, and soon afterwards it became extinct.
The seneschal of the manor for some time continued to hold a court with jurisdiction to the extent of £15; but this has been also discontinued, and the only pleas now cognizable in the manor court are for debts not exceeding 40s. A chief constabulary police force is stationed in the town. The parish comprises 5027 statue acres: about 400 are pasture, 100 mountainous but in cultivation, and the remainder chiefly under tillage; the soil is fertile, and the system of agriculture improved; there is neither waste land nor bog.
The surrounding district produces abundance of grain of all kinds, and there are some extensive dairies. Kilmore Hill is a handsome seat on the new line to Youghal, about a mile from the town. The living is a rectory, in the diocese of Lismore, episcopally united in 1817 to the vicarage of Kilwatermoy, and in the patronage of the Duke of Devonshire. The tithe rent-charge of the parish is £276.18.6; the glebe comprises about 5 acres, and the tithe for the whole benefice is £343.7.8. The church, for the repairs of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners recently granted £259, is a spacious structure: in the aisle is a monument of marble, erected by the parishioners to the Rev. H. Brougham, their rector, who died in 1831. The Roman Catholic parish is co-extentsive with that of the Established Church: the chapel is a handsome cruciform edifice, with a tower of hewn stone; the interior is neatly arranged; the high altar is of elegant design, and over a small altar of marble is a monument to the Rev. Denis O'Donnell, late P.P. with emblematic sculpture beautifully executed, representing Religion and Charity.
A convent of the order of the Presentation was erected in 1836, at an expense of £1500, on a site of two acres presented by the Duke of Devonshire; the Rev. O'Donnell had bequeathed £1000 towards the erection of the buildings, and the Rev. E.Condon, under whose superintendence they were completed, supplied the remainder. Almhouses have been erected under the will of John Boyce, Esq., who endowed them for the reception of six aged couples, to each of whom he assigned £10 per annum: the buildings, which are very neat and well adapted to the purpose, are situated at the southern entrance to the town.
Near the Roman Catholic chapel are also almshouses for widows, erected, and endowed with £30 per annum, by a bequest of the Rev. D O'Donnell. There are a dispensary and a fever hospital, to which the Duke of Devonshire liberally contributes; and a house of recovery has been erected with funds charged on the estate of the late Mr. Boyce, who bequeathed £50 per annum to be applied in promoting the convalescence of the patients.
To the west of Tallow-bridge, but within the parish of Lismore, is a ancient castle of Lisfinny, built by the Earl of Desmond, now converted into a handsome residence; and on the confines of the parish, bordering on the County Cork, are some vestiges of the castle of Kilmacow, which also belonged to that family.