Kenmare – general view 1865- 1900 Robt French from the Lawrence Collection, NLI

An excerpt from Samuel Lewis Kenmare – A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837:

Kenmare, a post-town and parish, in the barony of GLANEROUGH, county of KERRY, and province of MUNSTER, 30 1/2 [?] miles (S.) from Tralee, and 160 miles (S.W.)from Dublin, on the new road from Killarney t.o Glengariff; containing 4957 inhabitants, of which number, 1072 are in the town.  After the Restoration, Sir William Petty, who obtained an extensive grant of land in this district, planted a colony of English here in 1670, at an expense of £10,000; established iron-works and a fishery on an extensive scale; and contributed much to the improvement of this wild part of the country.

In 1685, the natives began to annoy these settlers, who at first cast up an entrenchment at Killowen, which they ultimately surrendered and after being deprived of the whole of their property were suffered to embark for England with a very small quantity of Provisions. The colony, however, was re-established soon after King William’s conquests and the fishery resumed.

Estate Office, 1865-1900 by Robt. French from Lawrence Collection, NLI.

The town, formerly called Nedeen, is situated near the north-eastern extremity of the great river, or rather bay, of Kenmare, and consists chiefly of one wide street of neat and well-built houses, from which another diverges towards the Sound. The number of houses, in 1831 was 170, and since that period several others have been erected, in consequence of the encouragement for building given by the proprietor, the Marquess of Lansdowne.  An excellent road to Killarney, through a rocky and mountainous district, was opened about ten years since, previous to which this remote district had been almost excluded from communication with the surrounding country; and another to Glengariff and Bantry, over the range of mountains separating the counties of Cork and Kerry, is now in progress. The latter will cross the Sound at Kenmare by a handsome suspension bridge, to which the Marquess has engaged to contribute £3,000, and will open a line of communication between Bantry and Killarney, commanding a succession of the most sublime and picturesque scenery.

A commodious and excellent hotel in the town, and several lodging-houses near the strand, afford accommodation to visitors resorting hither during the bathing season, who are chiefly attracted by the romantic scenery and fine salmon fishing of the river Blackwater, which flows into the bay of Kenmare, about six miles below the town. A news-room is supported by subscription.  Under the hotel is a sort of market-house for potatoes, and it is expected that a regular market for provisions will be established, in the consequence of the probable influx of visitors on the opening of the new road from Bantry.

Cross Rd village 1865-1900 by Robt French from Lawrence Collection, NLI.

Fairs are held on Feb.22nd, April 17th, May 22nd, July 1st, Aug 15th, Sept 26th, Nov 20th & Dec 15, each of which is continued for two days. Fairs are also held at the village of Cross-roads, near the Roughty bridge, on Jan 1st, March 17th and Easter-Monday.  Petty sessions are held on the first Monday of each month; and there is a small but neat bridewell in the town, where there is also a chief station of the constabulary police. A court for the manor of Dunkerron is generally held every third week, in which small debts are recoverable: its jurisdiction also extends over parts of the baronies of Glanerough and Iveragh.  A little below the town is a substantial pier, built about four years since at an expense of £1200:  it has a depth of sixteen feet at high water of spring tides, and vessels of large size may at all times come within a mile of it.

The parish comprises a large tract of rocky mountain and bog, a considerable portion of which is easily reclaimable, from an abundance of limestone that in various places breaks the surface of the ground; the portion in tillage is mostly of a clayey soil. The system of agriculture, though still in a backward state, is gradually improving. 

The seats are Lansdowne Lodge, the residence of the Marquess’s agent, J. Hickson, Esq.; Greenlane, of Mrs. Mayberrry; Killowen House the occasional residence of H. Orpen Esq., of Cork, and Rockwell, Beechmount, and Roughty Lodge, at present unoccupied.  The Latter two and Greenlane are on the property of Trinity College, to which a large portion of the parish belongs; the remainder (with the exception of the small glebe) is the property of the Marquess of Lansdowne.

Great Southern Hotel, Kenmare 1865-1900 by Robt. French from Lawrence Collection, NLI.

It is in the diocese of Ardfert and Aghadoe, and is a rectory and vicarage, with the rectory of Tuosist united, together constituting the union of Kenmare, in the gift of the Crown. The tithes amount to £212.6s.2d., and the entire tithes of the union to 438.19s.9d.,: there is a glebe of four acres. The church is a neat structure with a steeple, built in 1814, partly by subscription, and partly by a loan of £520 from the Board of First Fruits: it is situated on a gentle eminence, about half a mile east of the town, at the termination of a fine avenue of trees extending nearly the whole of the distance, and commands an extensive view of the Kenmare estuary and the surrounding scenery.  In the R.C. divisions, the parish is the head of a union or district, which includes the greater part of Kenmare and the whole of Templenoe; the remainder is included in the district of Tuosist. The chapel in Kenmare is a spacious building, and there is another at Templenoe. A meeting house for Wesleyan Methodists is about to be erected.

A large public school is partly supported by an annual contribution of £10 from the Marquess of Lansdowne, by whom the building was erected; in which, and in two private schools, about 220 children are educated. A large school-house has also been lately built adjoining the new road from Glengariff to Kenmare, at the joint expense of the Marquess and the National board.  The ruins of the old church still remain, also those of a small chapel, supposed to have been built by Sir Wm. Petty called Cromwell’s Fort; and at Cahir was formerly a castle, of which the foundation only is now visible.

There are several raths in the parish; and near the church are the remains of a druidical circle. On the little river Finnihy, near the town, are the ruins of an ancient foot bridge, similar to that on the river Inny, in the barony of Iveragh. (See DROMOD.) At Cahir are vestiges of a lead mine, supposed to have been worked at some former period; and on the east bank of the river Sheen are the remains of the iron smelting-works established by Sir Win. Petty, consisting of a walled enclosure: the bogs abound with remains of the ancient forests from which these works were supplied with fuel. Kenmare gives the title of Earl to the family of Browne.

Reprinted from:   A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland 1837, Samuel Lewis

Photos from The Lawrence Collection at the National Library of Ireland.