Newport History in Co. Mayo

Historical articles on Newport

Newport from the 18th century

This town was founded by the Medlycot landlords through their lessee, a Captain Pratt, in the early years of the 18th century. Some of the 18th century houses remain on Medlycot Street and their exposed stone facades testify to their great age. The site of the town was chosen by Captain Pratt because of its green field nature and its potential for shipping. Though subject to tidal influences, the quay can provide up to 4.5 metres of water, enough for 18th century trading ships of 500 tonnes or less.

The town prospered in the 18th century. Houses were built, churches flourished, and trade was brisk. The Society of Friends were among the first inhabitants, though no trace of them remains today. Catholics, Protestants, Presbyterians and Methodists all had churches in the town. In the mid 18th century, the Land Agent, James Moore, controlled the town and it's hinterland. He was a successful business man who encouraged building and trade. Travel writer, Dr. Pococke, said in 1752; "The market of Newport consists of frieze, yarn and different sorts of corn, beef a penny, a goose for 6 pence and they have a merchant who imports very good French wine at £16 a hogs head." By the late 18th century the O'Donel family had acquired the Medlycot estate, and built Newport House, overlooking the harbour from the north side.

Newport continued to develop. The 19th century saw the town and the surrounding district's population explode to over 12,000 people - then disaster; the famine left a shattered community, emigration or starvation. Out of the disaster of famine one man began to develop trade and industry to sustain the town. Martin Carey began his career as a small trader and by the end of the century the Carey family had erected, or caused to be erected, many of the buildings that remain to this day, one such building is the grain drying store. A display of history and heritage is situated in the furnace room, whose arching walls were designed to spread the heat from the central fireplace, to dry the corn spread on the porous floor in the room above. The genierosity of Martin Carey in the early years of the 20th century provided the town with the magnificently situated and exceptionally beautiful St. Patrick's Church, Martin Carey provided over half the costs of the building, £10,000, in his will of 1910. The church was completed in 1918.

This essay was written by JPMcDermott of the Newport Historical Society from sources in the National Library of Ireland and the National Archives of Ireland. Other sources available from The County Library, Castlebar, County Mayo.

Email:  mcd@anu.ie