The following is a description of Castlebar early in the 19th Century
CASTLEBAR, a market and post town, a parish (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the barony of Carra, County of Mayo, and province of Connaught, 44 miles (SW) from Sligo, and 125 miles (W by N) from Dublin; containing 11,805 inhabitants, of which number 6,373 are in the town. This place owes its rise and importance to the ancestor of its present proprietor, Sir John Bingham, who, in 1609, obtained for it the grant of a market and fair. In 1613, Jas, 1 granted the inhabitants a charter of incorporation, under which the government of the town was vested in a portreeve, fifteen free burgesses and a commonalty, with power to hold a court of record every Monday for the recovery of debts not exceeding five marks. The charter also conferred upon the portreeve and free burgesses the right of returning two members to the Irish Parliament; and in 1620, the inhabitants received a grant of a second annual fair.
After the quelling of the disturbances of 1798, in the autumn of that year the French, under the command of General Humbert, having landed in the bay of Kilcummin on the 22nd of August, made themselves masters of that town, and proceeded to Ballina, of which they took possession on the 24th. On the following day Gen. Hutchinson arrived at this place from Galway, and being joined on the evening of the 26th by Lieut-Gen. Lake, every disposition was made for the reception of the invaders, who, after an obstinate contest, made themselves masters of the town, of which they kept possession for some days; but learning that the Marquess Cornwallis was approaching with his army, Gen. Humbert abandoned the place, and retreated with his forces towards Sligo.
The town is situated on the river of Castlebar, which has its source in Lough Lanark, and on the mail coach road from Ballinsloe to Westport: it consists of one principal street nearly a mile in length, from which diverge several smaller streets and lanes; and in 1831 contained 909 houses, some of the best of which are built around the green, which forms a pleasant promenade; the streets are paved and kept in repair at the expense of the county. The barracks, a fine range of buildings recently erected, and commodiously adapted for artillery and infantry, are arranged for 60 men of the former, and for 24 officers and 565 non-commissioned officers and privates of the latter. The linen manufacture, which was formerly more extensive, is still carried on here; and a considerable quantity of linen and linen yarn is sold in the linen-hall, a neat building at the entrance of the town from Ballina. There are a tobacco and snuff and a soap and candle manufactory, a brewery, and a tannery; and the general trade of the town, with the exception only of the linen trade, is gradually improving.
The market is on Saturday; and the fairs are held on May 11th, July 9th, Sept.16th, and Nov.18th. A branch of the Agricultural and Commercial Bank of Ireland has been established in the town, in which are also a chief constabulary and revenue police station. Under the charter of Jas.1the corporation continued to return two members to the Irish Parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised, and the sum of £15,000 awarded as compensation, was paid to Richard, Earl of Lucan. From that period till 1824 the corporation occasionally elected officers, but exercised little or no magisterial jurisdiction; the court of record has been consequently discontinued.
The assizes for the county are held here, and also the quarter sessions in January and October; petty sessions are also held every Saturday. The court- house is an extensive and well - arranged building with a castellated front, erected in 1834, at the expense of £23,000: the arrangement is on the radiating principle, with the governor's house in the centre; it is well adapted for due classification, and contains 140 cells, with day and work rooms and airing yards, in one of which is a treadmill applied to the raising of water; in the upper part of the governor's house is the chapel, accessible to the prisoners by corridors communicating with it by neat iron bridges; the female prisoners are divided into two classes, under the care of a matron and assistant, and an excellent school has been established; the average number of prisoners (which in 1835 was 181) will allow a separate cell to each at night, and during the day they are employed chiefly in breaking stones. The total expense for 1835 was £2083.1.3.
The parish, which is also called Aglish, comprises 13,342 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act; about 1400 are bog and waste, and the remainder arable and pasture. The lands are principally under tillage; the soil is good, and the system of agriculture much improved. The surrounding scenery is beautifully picturesque and finely varied, terminating in a distant view of the mountains by which the landscape is nearly surrounded. Castlebar, the seat of the earl of Lucan, is romantically situated on the brow of a steep eminence overhanging the river, and attached to it is an extensive and well – wooded demesne, affording a pleasant promenade to the inhabitants of the town. The other seats are Spencer Park, that of Major O Malley, D.L.; Mount Gordon, of Patrick Boyd, Esq.; Ballynew, of the Rev. H. Pasley, J.P.; and Rocklands, of John C. Larminie, Esq. Many of the inhabitants are employed in quarrying excellent limestone used for building; and turf is carried by water for several miles to the town through the lake and Castlebar River.
A manorial court, at which debts to any amount were recoverable, was formerly held by a seneschal appointed by Lord Lucan; it has been discontinued for some years, but is about to be revived. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Tuam, united by act of parliament, in 1711, to the rectories and vicarages of Breafy, Turlough, and Kildeeamoge, and the vicarage of Islandedin, forming the union of Castlebar, in the patronage of the Archbishop. The church, a handsome structure in the later English style, with a lofty square embattled tower, was erected in 1828, by aid of a gift of £2000 from the late Board of First Fruits; there is also a church in parish of Turlough. There is no glebe house: the glebe of the union comprises four acres; and the tithes of the parish amount to £190. In the RC divisions the parish is the head of a union or district; including also Ballyhane and Breafy, and comprising two chapels, at Castlebar and Ballyhane; the former is a spacious slated edifice. There is a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists.
A handsome building has been erected in the town for the parochial school, at an expense of £ 220, of which £90 was granted from the rector's school funds; the rector principally supports the boy's school, and contributes also to that of the girls, and both are aided by local subscriptions. At Castlebar and Clonkeen are national schools, to one of which Lord Lucan gives an annual donation of 10. In these schools are about 370 boys and 300 girls; and there are also eight pay schools, in which are about 200 boys and 70 girls. The county infirmary, a large building, is situated at the south end of the town; there are also a dispensary for the barony of Carra, and one for the town. At the head of Lough Lanark, near the town, is an ancient burial place, commanding a fine view of the distant mountains; and on the other side of the lake are the ruins of a fortified residence. The Earl of Lucan enjoys the inferior title of Baron Lucan of Castlebar.