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Ireland Gazeteer

Kells in 1839

Kells is in the barony of Upper Kells, nearly 40 miles from Dublin through Navan.

It is a town of great antiquity, and, previous to the arrival of the English, had a monastery of regular canons. It was fortified by the English with a castle and walls.

The monastery, which had been plundered, was endowed with new grants by Hugh de Lacy; and Walter de Lacy, son of Hugh, founded another monastery for Crouched friars.

The town became flourishing, but the dissolution of the monastic establishments and the repeated wars which desolated the country caused its decay.

Kells is pleasantly situated on the south bank of the Blackwater.

The principal street is very broad; the streets generally are well kept, and the town presents an appearance of neatness.

The population of the town, in 1821, was 3,618: in 1831 it had increased to 4,326: the population of the whole parish was 6,839.

The market, which is held on Saturday, has so increased as to have rendered an enlargement of the market-place necessary.

The quarter-sessions for the division are held twice in the year at Kells, twice at Navan. There are a bridewell and a fever hospital. It is the station of a chief constable and fifteen others of the county constabulary police.

There is a corporation, consisting of a sovereign, two provosts, and twenty-four burgesses; with a recorder and other officers. The sovereign, the provosts, and a few of the burgesses constitute the common-council or managing body: they have no jurisdiction.

Kells returned members to the Irish parliament from the time of Elizabeth to the Union.

The parish is at the head of a parochial union, both in the Established Church and among the Catholics.

The parish church is an ancient building ; near it is an ancient round tower, unroofed, about 90 feet high.

There are two fine old crosses, one in the church-yard and one in the street near the market-place; also an ancient stone roofed cell or chapel.