powered by FreeFind
Ireland Gazeteer

Youghall in 1843

YOUGHALL, or YOUGHAL, is a sea-port, borough, and market-town, and a parish in the barony of Imokilly, county of Cork, and province of Munster, in Ireland, about 94 Irish or 119 English miles south-west by south from Dublin, and 22 Irish or 28 English miles east by north from the city of Cork, both measured in straight lines.

The town stands on the western shore of the mouth of the Blackwater, which here separates the extreme eastern extremity of the county of Cork from the adjacent county of Waterford.

Youghall is a town of remote antiquity, and is supposed to derive its name, which signifies 'a wooded place,' from its situation at the base of a range of hills which was formerly covered with a dense forest.

As early as the year 1209 it is supposed to have received a charter of incorporation from King John, which charter, according to Lewis, is still preserved in the archives of Lismore Castle; but, according to the Report of the Commissioners on Municipal Corporations in Ireland, no traces of such a charter could be found among the records of the corporation, though it was supposed that there was a copy of it in the British Museum. If so, it is not noticed in the catalogue of charters in that collection.

In 1224, according to the account given by Archdall, in his 'Monasticon Hibernicum,' Maurice Fitzgerald commenced building a castle there, but, in consequence of an act of disobedience by his eldest son subsequently changed his design, and erected an abbey or monastery for Franciscan friars in its stead. This building was completed by Thomas, the second son of the founder, and it was the earliest foundation in Ireland for the order of St. Francis. Thomas Fitzgerald, and subsequently many other noblemen of the house of Desmond, were buried here.

This friary, of which Archdall says there are no traces remaining, was on the south side of the town; and on the north side was founded, in 1268 or 1271, by another member of the same family, a Dominican Friary, called the Friary of St. Mary of Thanks, of which a few fragments yet exist.

The town appears at that time to have attained some importance, as the customs paid at the port, in 1267, amounted to £103.

In 1317 Sir Roger Mortimer landed there with a party of knights, who shortly compelled Edward Bruce to retire from the neighbouring country into Ulster.

In 1579 the Earl of Desmond, on being proclaimed a traitor, plundered the town and carried off the spoil to his castles in Waterford; and though the Earl of Ormonde sent a body of troops to take possession of Youghall, upon hearing of this attack, they were speedily compelled to evacuate the town, with great slaughter, by the forces of the seneschal of Imokilly. The mayor was subsequently hanged for refusing to receive an English garrison, and neglecting to defend the town without it.

During this rebellion Youghall suffered so much that the inhabitants deserted it, but after the retreat of the insurgents in 1580 they returned, and a garrison of 300 foot was planted there for their defence.

In 1582 the seneschal of Imokilly surprised the town, and scaled the walls, but his forces were soon repulsed by the garrison.

Youghall again became the scene of military proceedings in the reign of Charles I. In 1641 it was defended against the insurgents by the Earl of Cork, and in the following year the principal insurgents were indicted for high treason at a session held in the town.

In 1644 the native Irish were driven out of the town, and their property was seized; and in the following year, notwithstanding the weakness both of the defences and of the garrison, the town withstood a siege by Lord Castlehaven.

In 1649 the inhabitants embraced the cause of the parliament, and Cromwell made Youghall his head-quarters for some time previous to the siege of Clonmel, after which he embarked from this town for England.

In 1660 the estates and franchises of the ‘innocent Papist’ inhabitants, which had been taken away during Cromwell's ascendancy, were restored by virtue of letters patent under the privy seal.

In 1690, soon after the reduction of Waterford, Youghall surrendered to the army of William III.

The population of the town of Youghall was returned in 1831 at 9,608, and that of the remainder of the parish at 1,719, making a total for the parish of St. Mary, Youghall, of 11,327 inhabitants.

The area of the whole parish is there given as 4,596 English acres; but in the fuller and more accurate returns for 1841 the area of the rural portion of the parish is given as 4,489 acres, and that of the town as 341 acres, making a total of 4,830 acres, to which is to be added the tideway, amounting to 656 acres.

The population and number of houses in 1841 were as follows:—














Rural portion












There were, at the date of this return, no houses building in the town or parish. Of the above number of inhabitants, excluding those under five years old, 2,130 males and 1,634 females could read and write; 669 males and 997 females could read only; and 1,940 males and 3,314 females could neither read nor write.

The town of Youghall is built along the western shore of a harbour of the same name, which is capable of receiving vessels of 400 or 500 tons at spring-tides, and which, opposite the southern end of the town, has an average breadth of about half a mile, but expands considerably above the old ferry, about the middle of the town, which was, until recently, the only means of communication with the opposite shore, and the width of which, being reduced by a long, narrow promontory from the opposite or Waterford shore, is not more than from 400 to 500 yards.

The harbour is safe and commodious; but though vessels drawing 12 feet water may float off the town, the entrance is obstructed by a bar, on which there are only 5 feet of water at low tides, and 13 feet at high-water of neap tides.

The hill which bounds the town on the west approaches so near to the shore that the town can only extend itself north and south, its breadth from east to west nowhere exceeding, and being in most places within, about a quarter of a mile.

The length within the present parliamentary borough boundary from south to north-north-west is rather more than one mile and three-quarters, but this is not all built upon.

The ancient limits can be traced in several places by remains of the wall, but the modern town extends beyond them, and they did not, even before the passing of the Irish Boundary Act, in the 2nd and 3rd of William IV, form the limits of any jurisdiction, the liberties of Youghall being co-extensive with the parish.

The parliamentary boundary established by that act, which comprised 212 acres, does not coincide with either the ancient wall or the parish boundary.

Though irregularly built, the town contains some good houses. The streets are pitched, but not flagged, lighted with gas, and cleansed under the provisions of an act of the 9th of George IV.

A great part of the town belongs to the Duke of Devonshire, who has been a great benefactor to the place.

Youghall is much frequented for sea-bathing during the summer season, having a fine, smooth, and level strand extending nearly three miles along the western shore of the bay.

Although merely a creek to Cork, the port of Youghall has a considerable trade, for the accommodation of which there are extensive and commodious quays, and a custom-house.

It consists chiefly in the exportation of agricultural produce, and the importation of coal, culm, timber, Staffordshire ware, porter, and groceries.

The number of vessels registered as belonging to the port in 1835 was 28, and their aggregate burthen was 2,998 tons; but of these all but two were employed in the coasting trade.

The duties paid at the custom-house in that year amounted to £561 15 shillings 2 pence, and the principal exports were 156,653 barrels of oats, 12,827 barrels of wheat, 16,973 barrels of barley, 13,123 sacks of flour, 832 barrels of rye, 8,593 firkins and 419 kegs of butter, 641 sacks of biscuit, 2,190 bales of bacon, 6,429 live pigs, 866 head of cattle, 434 sheep, 40 hogsheads of lard, 613 gallons of whiskey, and a considerable quantity of dried salmon.

The number of vessels that cleared outwards was 420 with cargoes and 46 in ballast; and the number that entered was 459 with cargoes of coal, culm, and timber, and 26 in ballast.

Manufactures of woollen and porcelain were formerly carried on at Youghall, but now the chief manufactures are of bricks, coarse pottery, ropes, and malt liquors. There are also establishments for the purchase and exportation of salmon in ice, which, a few years since, exported to the annual value of £2,500; and near the town is a quarry of good building-stone.

Youghall is a Coast-guard station, under which are some subordinate stations in the neighbourhood.

It has a daily market, but the chief market is on Saturday, and there is a fair on Ascension-day. The town contains convenient market-places for meat and fish; a public library, established in 1825 by subscription, and possessing upwards of 800 volumes; two reading-rooms; a literary and scientific institution; and a savings-bank.

On an eminence to the north of the town are infantry barracks for 6 officers and 180 men.

The borough courts were, prior to the dissolution of the corporation, held in a handsome building, called the Mall-house, erected in 1779, where also balls and concerts are held.

The borough gaol is a lofty square building, erected in 1777, and called the Dock-gate.

The living is a rectory, formerly annexed to the warden-ship of the college of St. Mary, Youghall, but now forming a distinct living. The tithes amount to £521 3 shillings 3 pence.

The collegiate establishment was founded in 1464, by one of the earls of Desmond, and the collegiate church was a magnificent Gothic structure, of which the nave and aisles have been converted into a parish church; the north transept is used as a vestry, and the south transept, which is considered the property of the Duke of Devonshire, and contains monuments of the founder and of many of the earls of Cork and other members of their family, is fast going to decay; while the chancel or choir is a beautiful ruin.

There is a small chapel-of-ease, built in 1817, near the south end of the town on the cemetery of the ancient Dominican friary; and the town also contains a handsome Roman Catholic chapel; a convent for nuns of the Presentation order, attached to which are a small chapel and female national schools; and places of worship for the Society of Friends, Independents, and Primitive and Wesleyan Methodists.

The parish has numerous schools, affording instruction to near 1,800 children, among which are the Youghall United Schools, which are self-supported and managed by a committee; a national school for upwards of 500 boys, supported partly by grants from the Board of Education and partly by collections at the Roman Catholic chapel; the convent school, above alluded to, for 600 girls; an infants' school, supported by subscriptions from Protestants; and an endowed school for 18 boys, founded by the Earl of Cork in 1634.

Adjoining to the latter are some almshouses, founded by the same person and at the same time, but recently rebuilt. There is also a Protestant almshouse, established by subscription in 1834, and a parochial-poor establishment. Other alms-houses, founded by Mr. Romayne, have fallen into decay, there being no endowment for their maintenance.

Youghall has an infirmary, a fever hospital, a dispensary, a lying-in hospital, and other benevolent institutions, one of which has for its object the improvement of straw-plaiting, and the moral and religious instruction of persons engaged in that occupation.

According to the Report of the Corporation Commissioners, Youghall is supposed to be a borough by prescription.

Besides the supposed charter of King John, previously mentioned, the town received, according to the above authority, three charters from Edward III, three from Richard II, one from Henry IV, two from Henry V, one from Edward IV, two from Richard III, one from Henry VII, three from Elizabeth, two from James I, one from Charles II, and one, which was not considered valid, from James II.

The first charter of James I, granted in 1609, was the governing charter until the corporation was dissolved by the act 3 and 4 Victoria c.108, for the regulation of municipal corporations in Ireland, in which Youghall was placed in Schedule B, or among towns which had the option of obtaining new corporations.

The title of the dissolved corporation was, 'The Mayor, Bailiffs, Burgesses, and Commonalty of the town of Youghall;' and the annual income amounted to about £914 8 shillings 1 penny, of which £454 8 shillings 1 penny consisted of rents of land and buildings; £400 was an annuity from the Blackwater Bridge Company, being the interest on the sum of £8,500 for the purchase of the ferry, and about £60 from tolls and customs.

The right to the election of members of parliament, as well as the existence of the borough, appears to rest on prescription, but members have been sent ever since the year 1374. Two were elected until the Union, since which there has been but one.

The constituency was altered and extended under the Irish Reform Act, and the number of voters registered at the beginning of 1833 was 333.

About a mile and a half north-east of the town, the Blackwater is crossed by a light and elegant timber bridge, which connects Youghall with the county of Waterford. It was erected in 1830, at an expense of £22,000 exclusive of £8,500 to the corporation for the ferry. This bridge is 1,787 feet long, including a drawbridge of 40 feet, and 22 feet wide between the railings; and it is supported by 57 sets of piers or pillars. It was formed by a company, to whom government advanced £10,000 by way of loan; but the speculation has not proved remunerative.

Among the interesting objects in the vicinity of the town is the house; called Myrtle Grove, which some say was erected, and which doubtless was for a considerable time inhabited, by Sir Walter Raleigh, in 1586.

Raleigh was mayor of the town in 1588, and here, according to tradition, the first potatoes brought by him from America were planted, in Hall's 'Ireland,' however, it is stated that the house, which is still standing, though somewhat modernized, is said to have been originally the residence of the wardens of the collegiate church, and to have been altered to the character of an English manor-house by either Sir George Carew or Sir Richard Boyle, both of whom resided there. Of the other residences in the neighbourhood may be mentioned College House, a handsome modern edifice, belonging to the Duke of Devonshire, on or near the site of an ancient house built in 1464, which has been taken down.

The gates of the town have been removed, excepting one which is very dilapidated, and another which has been rebuilt; and there are still one of the ancient round towers, and considerable remains of the old wall, especially on the western side of the town.

There are several ancient houses in the town and neighbourhood, among which are Tynte's castle, in the main street, and the remains of Kilnatoragh castle, on the river Toragh, at the northern extremity of the parish.

On the old Cork road are remains of a Danish fort, which appears to have been of great extent. Near the town are two chalybeate springs, which are but little used.