The times, they are a changing…

Enniscorthy, like many other towns across Ireland, is to lose its Town Council, bringing to an end hundreds of years of its local authority. This blog posting is not about the benefits or drawbacks of the changes to local government, but about the lesser- known history of local government in the town in days gone by.

 Local government in Enniscorthy- on a formal basis- dates back to the early seventeenth century. James I, combining reform with a desire to have an Irish parliament on his side, granted charters to forty boroughs in the years 1612-13. As each borough elected two members of parliament, this deluge of new boroughs (in areas of the country previously unrepresented) resulted in a swelling of the ranks of parliamentarians- many of whom, it may be presumed, were loyal to the crown, rather than to their constituents. (1) As a result, from then until the Act of Union in 1801, Enniscorthy returned two MPs to the Irish Parliament in Dublin. (2)

 In March 1613 the borough of Enniscorthy was granted a royal charter, and an additional one in 1690 under James II. (3)  In the early years of the charter cleanliness was taken seriously: in 1702 the Portreeve ordered that every tenant that held a lease from the Corporation have the area around their house paved; in 1713 it was ordered that pigs be penned, to prevent them from roaming the streets. This was followed, some years laters, by an order that townspeople were obliged to sweep the streets outside their houses every Friday (4). An 1835 parliamentary report on local authorities included Enniscorthy in its findings, and found that things were not what they should be. Based on the two charters, it found that the Corporation consisted of the Portreeve (elsewhere known as the mayor), Free Burgesses and a commonalty, that is to say, people without a special rank or position. The Portreeve and a deputy Portreeve were elected on June 24th annually, and sworn into office on September 29th. Their electors were twelve Free Burgesses; these were (initially) townspeople with full rights of citizenship. Such people were appointed for life. However, the Newtown Act of 1748 altered this requirement, permitting non- resident burgesses (5) A number of town officers also existed: a recorder, a town clerk, two serjeants at mace, and a bellman.

 Additionally, the charter allowed the town to hold a market every Thursday, and a fair twice yearly- August 15th and September 8th. (6) An attack on the Lady Day fair (August 15th) in 1569 resulted in large loss of life, as well as the seizure of goods and animals by the attacking Butlers and Kavanaghs; and the destruction of Enniscorthy Castle.

 In other towns the recorder was a legal professional who served as a part-time judge, but in 1830s Enniscorthy, this apparently did not happen. The function of the serjeants at mace was to act in a constabulary role but by the time of the parliamentary report, the town was served by a number of county police, who were under the control of the Portreeve within the limits of the town. The Portreeve received an annual salary, which in the 1830s was £7-8 per year, around €6,200- €7,100 in modern terms.

The Portreeve also operated what may be termed in today’s language, a small claims court. It dealt with claims worth under (in 1830s currency) £3 6 shillings and 8 pence, or €2,400 in 2014 prices. (7) Despite the existence of these office holders, there appears to have been little work done by the corporation: it did not light, pave or cleanse the town, and it would take further reforms, later in the nineteenth century, for local government to transform the town by the Slaney. A 1785 survey of the Earl of Portsmouth’s estate- much of Enniscorthy at the time belonged to the Wallop family- reported that water was carried into the town centre by wooden pipes from the Moyne, and that the streets were “very badly paved”(8). Some time in the intervening years, neglect had taken root. As a result of the parliamentary report, Enniscorthy’s system of local government, like similar administrations across the country, was abolished in the 1840s (9).

Reform initially came with the establishment of the Town Commissioners in February 1851: their role was “the lighting, cleansing and watching of the town” (10) Under their responsibility was a town boundary which stretched from St. John’s Bridge- Bellefield- Moyne – Dublin Road – Rectory Gate – Solsboro Road – Drumgoold Cross Roads- “Bear Meadows Gate”; these boundaries were later altered to a limit of 80 perches (or 1,680 feet) from the Market Square (11). Street lighting- provided by the Gas Company- arrived in January 1852, surviving until 1924 when the Urban District Council (as it was by then known) introduced electric lamps (12). These Commissioners gave way to a new body with the same title, but with expanded powers, in June 1855 (13).



(1) Potter, M. (2013) ‘The greatest gerrymander in Irish history? James I’s 40 boroughs of 1612-13’ History Ireland 21(2) online:

(2) Hanna, W. & King, M. (1835) Report into Municipal Corporations in Ireland, Volume 8 495-497 at 495-6

(3) Ibid. 495

(4) Edwards, R. (2010) “Enniscorthy: ‘Mean village to fine town’” in Tóibín, C. (ed.) Enniscorthy: A History 111-130 at 114


(6) Hanna & King 496-7

(7) Valuations made using calculator on

(8)  ‘Survey of Portsmouth Estate 1785’ Enniscorthy 2000 32-38 at 34

(9) Tóibín, M. ‘A Century Passes: Enniscorthy 1846-1946’ Enniscorthy 2000 113-131 at 123

(10) Ibid.

(11) Ibid. 124

(12) Ibid. 125

(13) Ibid. 123



Edwards, R. (2010) “Enniscorthy: ‘Mean village to fine town’” in Tóibín, C. (ed.) Enniscorthy: A History

Hanna, W. & King, M. (1835) Report into Municipal Corporations in Ireland, Volume 8

Potter, M. (2013) ‘The greatest gerrymander in Irish history? James I’s 40 boroughs of 1612-13’ History Ireland 21(2) 

Tóibín, M. ‘A Century Passes: Enniscorthy 1846-1946’ Enniscorthy 2000 113-131




Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

A little bit of Hollywood comes to Enniscorthy

Readers of our local newspapers here in the south east will have noted the imminent arrival of film cameras to Enniscorthy, here to bring to the big screen an adaptation of Colm Toibin’s Brooklyn.




Born and raised in the town, Mr. Toibin has a link to our very own Castle, as his father, Michéal Toibín, was instrumental in the establishment of the Wexford County Museum at Enniscorthy Castle in the early 1960s; we’re very proud to see mention of the Castle in The Heather Blazing:

Brooklyn, though, is not the first movie to be filmed here. Back in the 1960s the town hosted production crews on two separate occasions. The first was in 1969 and Underground, starring Robert Goulet- who would later feature in The Naked Gun 2½ – and Daniele Gaubert. Enniscorthy became a town in Nazi- occupied France, and the Castle a prison (echoing its previous history as such an institution).

Earlier, in 1967 Enniscorthy had become the set for The Violent Enemy, a drama about an IRA plot to set off a bomb at an English factory.  Enniscorthy appears from 3.14 in this Youtube link: 

Are we to witness a new film boom in our Slaneyside town?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Recognise anyone?

The Enniscorthy Eucharistic Gathering takes place from Friday 31 May to Sunday 2 June. As part of the event, Enniscorthy Castle will host a temporary exhibition of religious artifacts and photographs of Enniscorthy from the early 20th century up to recent times. The images below- almost all courtesy of Ibar Carty, Enniscorthy- give a flavour of the collection. See anyone you know?




For more information on the Enniscorthy Eucharistic Gathering, see

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | 1 Comment

Relaunch weekend

Friday the twenty-fourth of May saw the greatly-anticipated relaunch of the National 1798 Rebellion Centre. It was a busy day for Knights and Rebels staff but the work was richly rewarded as positive comment abounded!


The event and ended with some rousing 1798 songs.

Chair of Wexford County Council, Cllr Kathleen Codd Nolan, got the speeches underway.


She was followed by Mr Pat Rath, Chair of Wexford Local Development, who made a very passionate and rousing speech.



Councillor Sean Doyle then performed the official opening, ably assisted by the media.


After a short speech from our manager, Jacqui Hynes, an interdenominational blessing was conducted by representatives from the Roman Catholic, Anglican, and Presbyterian churches.


Following which, tea, coffee and Nice Things were enjoyed by all. There may even have been some wine! It was also time to look forward to the weekend, when rebels and redcoats would meet once again!


(Picture by Patrick Browne)

For more photographs from our Rebellion weekend take a look at and if you missed us on the RTÉ One 6.01 news on Friday evening, there’s a link on the RTÉ website.*



* Author’s note: The link appeared to be broken when this blog post was written; when it is fixed it will be put up here 



Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment


The National 1798 Rebellion Centre has been a hive of activity in recent weeks as work continues on its renovation process. As well as becoming more interactive and friendly for our younger visitors, the use of new appliances means a Centre which is more energy efficient and less costly to run.

The photos accompanying this latest blog post help give a flavour of what lies ahead for visitors to the new-look Centre.

Model of Enniscorthy as it would have appeared in 1798

Model of Enniscorthy as it would have appeared in 1798

Blacksmith's Forge

Blacksmith’s Forge

Victim of the dreaded guillotine

Victim of the dreaded guillotine

Shoulder a musket or try out a costume

Shoulder a musket or try out a costume

Launch weekend is the 25th and 26th of May. Rebellion is coming- will you be there?

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Everybody needs good neighbours

On a windy Tuesday, while struggling to raise the Tricolour above the Castle, your correspondent had cause to look over the town of Enniscorthy. One building which caught the eye was our near neighbour, St. Mary’s Church.Image




Peering over the Castle (all 156 feet and six inches), St. Mary’s has had a chequered history. The current structure was built between 1844-1846 and replaced an earlier building, destroyed in the rebellion of 1798. Designed by Joseph Welland – who also designed a variety of other churches around the country; see link at the end of this blog post- construction cost £4,000; the tower and spire were added, at a cost of £1,000, in 1850. Fourteen years later the present organ, built by Telford in 1815, was installed. In 1994, when St. Aidan’s Cathedral was undergoing a process of refurbishment, the church became a house of worship for Catholic and Protestant alike.

The destruction of St. Mary's, Enniscorthy by Cruikshank

The destruction of St. Mary’s, Enniscorthy by Cruikshank

Inside, flanking the pews, are memorials to the dead. This is a striking feature of the church; walking in the porch one is met by an impressive piece commemorating parishioners who died in the First World War.

Great War memorial at St. Mary's

Great War memorial at St. Mary’s

The Rector of St. Mary’s at the time was Canon H. Cameron Lyster, who went on to describe his experiences in the town in the first quarter of the twentieth century in his 1933 book, An Irish Parish in Changing Days. The generally peaceful nature of the parish and town was shattered with the 1916 Rising and then the outbreak of the Civil War in June 1922- although violence arrived in Enniscorthy in early July. During the Rising, fearful of any further violence, a Peace Committee was established in the town, of which Canon Lyster was a member. The Committee, fearful of additional violence and bloodshed, appealed to the rebels to lay down their arms; isolated and poorly armed, their occupation of the town was futile. While their appeals to the better nature of the rebel leaders had no direct consequences (it took a trip to the capital under military escort by two of the leaders, Seamus Doyle and Sean Etchingham to obtain a surrender order from Padraig Pearse), Canon Lyster had marked himself out as a civilian leader in Enniscorthy.

His leadership skills were very much required just over six years later. In July 1922 the Civil War, which had begun in late June in Dublin, spread south to Enniscorthy. Troops from the Free State Army occupied Enniscorthy Castle under the command of a native of the town, Séan Gallagher. Anti- Treaty forces were already in the town; they were reinforced on July 4 by men lead by Ernie O’Malley. Identifying the Castle as a key location in the town, O’Malley ordered an attack. This was to be a multi-pronged assault, with a suspected Free State position at the Post Office in Abbey Square to be taken, along with the Castle and the former RIC barracks at Abbey Square. In order to pin down the defenders of the Castle, snipers had been posted in the tower of St Mary’s from July 1 onwards. The following day was a Sunday, and local Catholic clergy persuaded the Irregulars to leave their post to allow Sunday service take place. Afterwards, the Irregulars re-occupied the church.

View of Enniscorthy Castle from St Mary's. Bullet damage above upper left window

The stand-off between the two sides, interrupted at various times by exchanges of gunfire, lasted until July 5. The arrival of O’Malley and his men tipped the scales in favour of the Irregulars, and Gallagher surrendered the Castle that day.

After the fighting was over, Lyster inspected his church. The defenders of the Castle had put up a stout fight, as can be seen in the photos below. A claim for £50 in damages was submitted by the Representative Church body.

Damage at St. Mary's

A close examination reveals the damage

See also for further images


Linked posts in text
Lyster, HC (1933) An Irish Parish in Changing Days London: Francis Griffiths
Wilkinson, KS (2000) ‘St. Mary’s Parish, Enniscorthy’ in Enniscorthy 2000: Book of the Millennium
Reporter, A. (1922) ‘Enniscorthy Notes: Claim by Representative Church Body’, Enniscorthy Guardian Jul. 15, 6
Reporter, A. (1922) ‘Enniscorthy Notes: Clergy Thanked’, County Wexford Free Press Jul. 22, 8

Photos embedded in text by author, KC.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Shedi- A short photo blog



Time for a cuppa? Plenty of work done with a mug close by




Plans for a trip to visit another Shed



Pikes, made by the Shedi, lie in readiness for August


Making props



Model making


Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , | Leave a comment