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Ireland Gazeteer

Tralee in 1843

TRALEE, the assize-town of the county of Kerry, in the province of Munster in Ireland, 159 miles in a direct line south-west of Dublin, or 192 miles by the mail-road through Naas, Maryborough, Roscrea, Nenagh, Limerick, Rathkeale, Tarbert, and Listowel; 73 miles south-west of Limerick, and 74 miles west-north-west of Cork, through Macroom and Killarney.

Tralee derives its name (‘Traigh-lee,’ ‘the strand or shore of the Lee') from its position near the outfall of the little river Lee into the shallow and unsafe bay of Tralee.

There was anciently a Dominican friary, under the invocation of the Holy Cross, founded (A.D. 1213) by John FitzThomas, one of the great Geraldine family.

The knights of St. John of Jerusalem had also a commandery in this neighbourhood.

In the Irish wars of Queen Elizabeth a body of Irish was routed at Tralee (A.D. 1600) with great slaughter by Sir Charles Wilmot.

The earl of Desmond had a castle here, which having come, on the forfeiture of the earl, into the hands of Sir Edward Denny, served as a place of refuge for the English families resident in and about the town when Tralee was entered by the insurgents in the great rebellion of 1641.

The castle held out for six months, but was at last obliged to surrender. The town was soon after burned, to prevent its falling into the hands of Lord Inchiquin.

It was again burned (A.D. 1691) on the approach of King William's army.

Tralee is in the barony of Trughenackmy: the parish is about four miles in length and one and a half in breadth, and has an area of 4,391 acres, statute measure: the population in 1831 was as follows:—









Town & Borough







Rest of parish














The borough comprehends not only the town, but a considerable rural district around it: it does not however comprehend the whole parish.

The population of the borough, in 1821, was only 7,547; so that the increase in ten years (1821-31) was 2,021: and the population has considerably increased since 1831.

The town is irregularly laid out on a low site, north of the river Lee, and at some little distance from the bay, it is liable from its situation to be flooded when there are spring-tides in the bay and the stream of the Lee is swollen.

The streets are repaired by county presentment, and are partially paved and flagged, but not lighted; neither is there any nightly watch. An attempt to introduce the provisions of the new paving and lighting act (9 Geo. IV, c. 82) was resisted by the inhabitants.

The sewers in the town are bad, and the streets are very dirty. There is no regular market-place, and the business of the market is conducted in the streets.

Some of the streets are lined with respectable dwelling-houses (several of them of a superior description) and good shops; and the town has undergone great improvement within the last few years.

The church is a large and handsome building, with a square tower crowned with pinnacles: the congregation averages 700 persons, and is increasing.

There is a large and handsome Roman Catholic chapel (attended by 3,000 persons), a small Methodist meeting-house, and another small one for Independents.

Detached from the town, half a mile to the south-east, are the county gaol and a barrack; they are both substantial buildings; the gaol, built on the radiating principle, is capable of accommodating more than 200 prisoners; the barrack is capable of accommodating nearly 500 men, and has an hospital for 30 patients.

A considerable brewery and a distillery are near the gaol. The county court-house, a handsome building of modern erection, is in the town; and in the same street as the court-house is the county club and news-room.

There are an extensive brewery, besides that already mentioned, and a smaller brewery, both in the town.

The trade of Tralee is considerable, and it has been for some years rapidly progressive.

In 1831, 991 persons were employed in the town and borough in retail trade and handicraft; and there were 214 capitalists, bankers, professional, and other educated men.

There are two weekly markets, well supplied, and five yearly fairs. There are three banking establishments.

The town is well supplied with fish, and on reasonable terms.

Tralee is a port, but vessels have had to take in and discharge their cargoes at Blennerville, on the shore of the bay, a mile and a quarter distant: a ship-canal is in progress, perhaps finished by this time, by which vessels of 300 tons will be enabled to come up to the town, at the west end of which a large basin has been constructed.

The port is visited yearly (taking the average of the seven years from 1827 to 1833) by about seven vessels (having a total of 1500 to 1600 tons) from foreign parts; in the same years nearly forty coasters (about 3000 tons) from Great Britain entered inwards, and about twenty-five coasters (800 to 1000 tons) from other ports in Ireland; while about fifty-five coasters (about 4000 tons) cleared out for Great Britain, and about fifteen or sixteen coasters (500 to 700 tons) for other ports in Ireland.

The trade with Great Britain, especially the export trade, was steadily increasing through that interval; but the trade with other ports of Ireland was decreasing.

The chief foreign goods imported were timber, deals, and staves; the chief article of import from Great Britain was coals; and the chief exports were wheat and oats, both rapidly increasing; barley, also increasing; and butter, which was diminishing.

The corporation of Tralee (consisting of a provost, twelve free burgesses, and other officers) was created by charter of James I.

It never had any property except the tolls on the Tuesday market and on one of the fairs: it has been abolished by the late act (3 & 4 Victoria, c. 108) for regulating the Irish municipal corporations.

Before the abolition there was a provost's court, which was a court of record for all personal actions not exceeding the sum of five marks.

Petty sessions were held by the provost and some of the county magistrates twice a week.

There was no borough gaol.

The assizes for the county of Kerry are held here ; and the assistant-barrister for the county sits at quarter-sessions and for the trial of civil bills four times in the year.

Some of the county police are stationed in the town.

Tralee returns one member to parliament. By the Irish Boundary Act (2 & 3 Wm. IV., c. 89), a boundary was adopted for parliamentary purposes, more restricted than the existing municipal boundary, but comprehending all the town, and allowing space for its extension.

The number of electors on the register in 1839-40 was 296, namely 285 ten-pound householders and 11 freemen.

Tralee is a rectory in the diocese of Ardfert, and in the province of Cashel, now united to that of Dublin: the gross yearly value of the living is estimated at £454, 7 shillings, 7 pence, the net value at £377, 16 shillings; there is a glebe-house fit for residence.

In the Roman Catholic division the parish is united with the greater portion of three adjacent parishes. There is a nunnery of the order of the Presentation.

There were in the year 1835 nine day-schools in the parish of Tralee: one of these, a free-school, with an average attendance of 50 children, was under the superintendence of the rector, and was supported by a grant from Erasmus Smith's fund, and by contributions from the clergy of the establishment; a second free-school was under the same superintendence; two others, free-schools, with an average attendance of 500 children, were under the superintendence of the Roman Catholic clergy, and were partly taught by the nuns of the Presentation; the other five schools, with an average attendance of 35 children each, were respectable schools, kept by ladies, and supported by the payments of the pupils.

The county fever-hospital, the county infirmary, with a dispensary attached, are at Tralee; and there are two asylums for the poor, a neat row of almshouses, a temporary asylum for lunatics before sending them to the district asylum at Limerick, and a prosperous savings' bank.

Races are held near the town, and a yearly regatta in the bay. There is a chalybeate spring about three miles west of the town, it is not in Tralee parish, on the northern shore of the bay, round which a small watering-place has risen up, called 'the Spa of Tralee,' or more concisely 'Spa.'

There is an excellent strand for bathing. There are several gentlemen's seats round Tralee. Good limestone for building is quarried near the town.