Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for LONGFORD

LONGFORD, an incorporated market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the parish of TEMPLEMICHAEL, partly in the barony of LONGFORD, but chiefly in that of ARDAGH, county of LONGFORD (of which it is the chief town), and province of LEINSTER, 20 miles (N. W.) from Mullingar, and 58 ½ (W. N. W.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Carrick-on-Shannon; containing 4516 inhabitants. This place, anciently called Athfadha, was at a very early period the site of a monastery, of which St. Idus, a disciple of St. Patrick, was abbot; and in 1400 a Dominican abbey was founded here in honour of the Blessed Virgin, by O'Ferral, prince of Annaly. This house was destroyed by fire in 1429, and Pope Martin V. and his successor, Eugene IV., granted indulgences to all who should contribute to its restoration. The establishment appears to have subsisted till the dissolution, after which it was successively granted to different parties in the reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, and was finally given to Francis,. Viscount Valentia, in 1615, by Jas. I., who had previously granted a market and fair to be held at this place. Francis, Lord Aungier, who had become proprietor of the town, obtained from the same monarch the grant of an additional market and two more fairs in 1619. The castle, which from its strength had become a post of importance, was, in 1641, taken by the insurgents from the O'Ferrals, and the garrison put to the sword. Francis, Lord Aungier, Baron of Longford, in 1657, obtained from Chas. II. the erection of his lands into a manor, with the power of holding a court of record before his seneschal, with jurisdiction to the amount of £200; of appointing bailiffs for his manor court, and maintaining a gaol for the manor and town of Longford, which, under the same charter, was incorporated by the designation of the "Sovereign, Bailiffs, and Burgesses of the Borough and Town of Longford."

The town is situated on the small river Camlin, and in 1831 contained 720 houses, many of which are well-built and of handsome appearance; the streets are watched, cleansed, and paved by assessments on all houses above the value of £5 per annum. At the end of the principal street are the cavalry barracks, adapted for 9 officers and 222 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 147 horses, and an hospital for 24 patients. About half a mile beyond these are the artillery barracks for 4 officers and 136 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 55 horses, and an hospital for 16 patients. The trade of the town has considerably increased since the extension into it of a branch from the Royal canal, and it now ranks among the best markets for grain, pork, bacon, and butter. The linen trade has revived, but not to its former extent. A branch of the bank of Ireland has been established since 1834; a spacious market-house, and corn stores along the canal, have been erected by the Earl of Longford; several new houses have been built, and some new streets laid out, and the town is rapidly improving. There is a large distillery, in which, on an average, about 50,000 gallons of whiskey are annually made and 35 men employed; there are also a large brewery and a tannery. At the termination of the new cut from the Royal canal a basin for boats has been constructed by the Earl of Longford, who has also erected a butter market and shambles at his own expense. A passage boat to Dublin plies daily on the Royal canal, affording facility of intercourse with the metropolis and other towns; and the situation and other local advantages of the town are favourable to the extension of its trade. The markets are on Wednesday and Saturday; the latter, which is the principal market, is amply supplied with corn, butter, bacon, pigs, hemp, and flax, and is numerously attended. The fairs are on March 25th, June 10th, Aug. 19th, and Oct. 22nd; the June and October fairs are most frequented.

The corporation consists of a sovereign, two bailiffs, 12 burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, two serjeants-at-mace, and inferior officers. The sovereign who may appoint a deputy and is a justice of the peace, coroner, and clerk of the market, and the bailiffs are chosen annually from the burgesses on the Monday after Christmas-day, and sworn into office on the Monday after the 29th of September; the burgesses fill up vacancies as they occur by a majority of their own body, by whom also freemen are admitted; the recorder and town-clerk are appointed by the lord of the manor, who is patron of the borough and generally sovereign, and the inferior officers by the corporation. The corporation by their charter returned two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. The manor courts have fallen almost into disuse, trifling causes only being summarily decided by the seneschal; and the corporation exercises but few municipal functions, having little more than a nominal existence. A court is held by the deputy-sovereign on Monday and Saturday, chiefly for the adjustment of claims for labour. The assizes for the county are held here regularly, and the quarter sessions alternately here and at Ballymahon; petty sessions are held at Newtown-Forbes, about 2 ½ miles distant, and there is a chief constabulary police station in the town. The court-house is a neat building; and a gaol, well adapted to the classification of prisoners, was erected in 1825, on the radiating principle, containing 8 day-rooms and airing-yards, in one of which is a tread-mill, with separate cells for the prisoners, who are instructed by the schoolmaster and matron; three looms are also kept in the gaol for the employment of such as can weave. To the north-east of the town is Carrickglass, the handsome seat of the Rt. Hon. T. Lefroy, L.L.D., the demesne of which is watered by the Camlin. In the vicinity are Mount Jessop, the residence of F. Jessop, Esq.; Clonbolt, of R. Armstrong, Esq.; and, about two miles distant Castle Forbes, the seat of the Earl of Granard. The parish church, a handsome edifice, is situated in the town; and there are also a R. C. chapel, and places of worship for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster and Wesleyan Methodists. The county infirmary and dispensary are in the town, and there are 12 houses, built by Lord Longford, inhabited rent-free by the poor. The town gives the title of Baron to the Pakenham family.

(Samuel Lewis, A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland (1837); Transcription © Derek Rowlinson, 2005-10. Reproduced from LibraryIreland. We are deeply grateful to LibraryIreland for allowing us to use their transcription.)

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "an incorporated market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough)"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Ardagh IrlBarony       Longford IrlBarony       Longford IrlC
Place names: <EM>ATHFADHA</EM>     |     LONGFORD
Place: Longford

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