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Ireland Gazeteer

County Westmeath in 1839

Ecclesiastical and Legal Divisions.

The county is almost entirely in the diocese of Meath; a small portion on the north-west side is in the diocese of Ardagh, which was till lately held by the archbishop of Tuam, but is now to be permanently united to the diocese of Kilmore. Both Kilmore and Meath are in the ecclesiastical province of Armagh.

West Meath is included in the home circuit: the assizes are held at Mullingar, where are the county court-house and gaol. Quarter-sessions for the county are held at Mullingar and Moate-a-Grenogue, where are a court-house and a bridewell.

West Meath returned ten members to the Irish parliament, two for the county, and two each for Mullingar, Athlone, Kilbeggan, and Fowre. At present it returns three to the Imperial parliament, viz. two for the county, who are elected at Mullingar, and one for the borough of Athlone.

The police force of the county, on the 1st of January, 1836, consisted of 1 magistrate, 7 chief constables, including sub-inspectors (viz. 4 of the first and 3 of the second class), 50 constables, and 222 subconstables, with 9 horses. The expense of maintaining the constabulary for 1835 amounted to £10,051 4 shillings 9 pence, of which £5,480 16 shillings was chargeable against the county.

The county gaol at Mullingar has lately experienced a very extensive change for the better. A commencement has been made of the system of instruction in trades. But the discipline of the female side still requires very much attention: the accommodation is very insufficient, and there is no classification.

There are two schools in the prison, and a tread-mill for those sentenced to hard labour. The Moate bridewell is on a tolerably large scale, with every accommodation requisite for classifying the prisoners, and is clean and well kept. (Appendix to Fourteenth and Fifteenth Reports of Inspectors-General, 1836.)

The number of committals for criminal offences in 1836 was, for offences against the person, 282 (of whom 184 were convicted, 98 acquitted or discharged); for offences against property committed with violence, 43 (20 convicted, 23 acquitted or discharged); for offences against property committed without violence, 164 (112 convicted, 52 acquitted or discharged); for malicious offences against property, arson, &c., 22 (8 convicted, 14 acquitted or discharged); for forgery and offences against the currency, 7 (2 convicted, 5 acquitted or discharged); for other offences, 243 (226 convicted, 17 acquitted or discharged): making a total of 761 persons committed, of whom 552 were convicted and 209 acquitted or discharged. Only one person was executed. Of the persons committed, 633 were males (5 of them under sixteen years) and 128 females (2 under sixteen); 342 could read and write, 118 could read only, and 296 were entirely ignorant. Of 5 the degree of instruction they had received could not be ascertained.

The Lunatic Asylum for the counties of West Meath, King's, Queen's, and Longford, is at Maryborough, in Queen's County: of 131 patients in this institution on the 1st of January, 1837, 28 belonged to this county.

The county infirmary is at Mullingar. There were, in the year 1833, a fever hospital at Castle Pollard, and fourteen dispensaries in different parts of the county, supported in equal proportions by grand jury presentments and private contributions.