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Local Studies Department

Lewis's Topographical Dictionary 1837

Towns & Villages
NAAS

NAAS, an incorporated market, post, and assize town (formerly a parliamentary borough), and a parish, partly in the barony of SOUTH SALT, but chiefly in that of NORTH NAAS, county of KILDARE, and province of LEINSTER, 17¾ miles (N. E. by N.) from Athy, and 15¾ (S. W.) from Dublin, on the great southern road to Cork; containing 4777 inhabitants, of which number, 3808 are in the town. This place, which is of very great antiquity, was at a very early period the residence of the Kings of Leinster; and after the invasion of Ireland by the English, was granted by John, Earl of Morton, to William Fitzmaurice, together with the adjacent territory and various important privileges, with a market and a very extensive jurisdiction in all pleas except those of the crown. It was soon after surrounded with a wall and strongly fortified; several castles were erected and many houses built; and from its central situation within the English pale, it rapidly rose into importance. A priory was founded here in the 12th century by the Baron of Naas, for Canons Regular of the order of St. Augustine, and dedicated to St. John the Baptist, which flourished till 1316, when the town was sacked by the Scots; but it was soon restored. In 1355, a convent for Dominican Friars was founded here by the family of Fitz-Eustace. Hen. V., in the 2nd year of his reign, granted to the "Portreeve, Burgesses, and Commonalty of the town of Naas" certain tolls for 20 years, to enable the inhabitants to wall their town. In 1419 a parliament was held at this place, and in 1484, a convent for friars eremites of the order of St. Augustine was founded, but by whom is uncertain.

The Lord-Deputy Skeffington, in 1534, took the town from Lord Thomas Fitzgerald, who was then in open rebellion and had made himself master of it. In 1569, Queen Elizabeth granted a charter, which, without reciting or alluding to any previous charter, declares that the town of Naas shall be a free and undoubted borough. In 1577, between 700 and 800 thatched houses were burned on the night of a festival, by Roderick Oge O'Moore and Cormuck O'Conor, at the head a party of insurgents from the country to the west of the English Pale. The character of Elizabeth was confirmed and extended by James I in 1609; and the borough, which was supposed to have existed only by prescription, was incorporated by the designation of the "Sovereign, Provosts, Burgesses, and Commonalty of Naas." A new charter was afterwards granted by Charles II, in 1628, but the town has been always governed by the charters of Elizabeth and James I. It was garrisoned by the Earl of Ormonde in 1648, and after experiencing many vicissitudes, in which it suffered severely, was finally taken for Cromwell by Cols. Hewson and Reynolds, in 1650.

During the disturbances of 1798, this place was the scene of the first open act of insurrection; a party of insurgents attacked the town on the 24th of May, but were repulsed by the garrison, commanded by Lord Gosford, which, in anticipation of an assault, had been previously reinforced. The insurgents sustained for some time the attack of the Armagh militia and of Sir W.W. Wynne's fencible corps, but retreated after the loss of about 150 of their men.
The town is pleasantly situated in a fine, open, and fertile tract of country, gently undulating and enriched with wood, and beautifully contrasted on the south east by the varied outline of the Wicklow mountains. It consists principally of one main street, extending about half a mile along the great southern road, which at one extremity of the town divides into two branches, forming respectively the mail coach roads to Kilkenny and Limerick; and, at the other extremity, of a street at right angles to the former, continued along the road to Kilcock and Maynooth; and of several smaller streets. The total number of houses is about 600, of which only a few are handsomely built and the remainder of indifferent appearance; the streets are neither paved nor lighted, but the inhabitants are amply supplied with water from wells. The infantry barracks, about a quarter of a mile from the town, a handsome pile of building with a cupola above the principal range, are adapted for 17 officers and 412 non-commissioned officers, with stabling for four horses and an hospital for 30 patients.

Races are annually held on a course about a mile from the town, on the Limerick road, and continue five days, usually preceding the Curragh Midsummer meetings. The principal trade is in corn, which is generally bought by the neighbouring millers; in the neighbourhood are several extensive flour-mills, each capable of producing from 8000 to 10,000 barrels annually. A considerable traffic is also derived from its situation on a great public thoroughfare, and from the influx of persons attending the assizes and quarter sessions. A branch from the Grand Canal, commencing about a mile below Sallins, passes through the town and terminates at Corbally, in the parish of Carnalloway; it was completed in 1789, at an expense of £12,300, and affords great facility of conveyance for corn, coal, culm, and turf, and various articles of merchandise, which are brought to the town in great quantities for the supply of the surrounding neighbourhood.

The markets are on Monday and Thursday, and are abundantly supplied with corn and with all kinds of provisions, and with abundance of poultry, which is sold in large quantities for the Dublin market. Fairs are held on March 17th, Ascension-day, Whit-Monday, Aug. 10th, and Nov. 22nd, for cattle, sheep, and pigs. The market-house is a neat and well-arranged building, erected by the Earl of Mayo, who is proprietor of the town. In the centre of the town is a large barrack for the chief constabulary police force stationed here.
By the charters of Elizabeth and Jas. 1st, the corporation consists of a sovereign, two provosts, and an indefinite number of burgesses and freemen, assisted by a serjeant-at-mace, a town-serjeant, a billet-master and three weigh-masters. The sovereign, who is a justice of the peace, and master of the say for leather; and the two provosts, who with him are clerks of the market, are annually elected, on the feast of St. Michael, by the burgesses and freemen, who are themselves elected by the corporation at large, as vacancies occur, the latter by favour only; and all the other officers are similarly appointed: no coroners have been appointed by the corporation since the act for making county coroners. The corporation sent two members to the Irish parliament till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. It was impowered to hold a court of record for determining all personal pleas arising within the borough, which has long since fallen into disuse.

The Lent assizes are held here, and the quarter sessions for the county in April and October, in rotation with Kildare, Athy, and Maynooth; petty sessions are also held every Monday before the county magistrates. The county court-house, in the High-Street is a neat building, consisting of a centre and two wings faced with granite, and having a receding portico of four columns, supporting a cornice and pediment. The county gaol, completed in 1833, at an expense of £14,000, is a substantial and well-built edifice of hewn limestone, on the radiating principle, consisting of four detached ranges of building, one of which contains rooms for debtors and an hospital, and the other three, 60 cells and 7 day-rooms, ten airing-yards, and a neat chapel; it is well adapted for classification; the entrance is between two semicircular bastions.
The parish which is also called St. David's, comprises 5027 statue acres, as applotted under the tithe act; the land is of good quality, and, with the exception of some extensive pastures, is chiefly under tillage; the system of agriculture is improved, and the surrounding district is in a high state of cultivation. The environs abound with diversified scenery, and are embellished with several handsome seats, of which the principal are Palmerston, the seat of the Earl of Mayo, an extensive pile of building, with a family chapel attached to it, and situated in a pleasing demesne, the grounds of which are tastefully laid out and kept in excellent order; Oldtown, the family residence of the Very Rev. T.J. Burgh, Dean of Cloyne; Furnace, of E. Beauman, Esq.; and Forenaghts, of the Rev. R. Wolfe. The living is a vicarage, in the diocese of Kildare, united to the adjoining rectory of Carogh, and in the patronage of the Very Rev. T. J. Burgh; the rectory is appropriate to the funds of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, to provide for the perpetual curacy of Belfast. The tithes amount to £290.1.9 of which £126 is payable to the perpetual curate of Belfast, and the remainder to the vicar.

The glebe house is a very ancient building and all that remains of one of the numerous castles of Naas; the glebe comprises 33¾ acres; and the gross value of the benefice is £300.15.1 per annum. The church, for the repair of which the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £276, is a neat edifice, in the early English style, with a massive square tower, which was added to it after its erection. The R.C. parish is co-extensive with that of the Established Church; the chapel, dedicated to St. David, is a spacious and handsome edifice, in the early English style, erected by subscription in 1833; adjoining it is a convent for nuns of the order of the Presentation, with a spacious school-room attached. There is a place of worship for Independents. About 270 children are taught in four public schools, of which the parochial school is supported by subscriptions, aided by the vicar; and the Diocesan school, of which the master has a salary of £70, by the bishop and clergy of the diocese. There are ten private schools, in which are about 320 children. There are a dispensary and fever hospital; and an almshouse, originally built by Patrick Lattin, Esq., in 1590, and twice rebuilt by his descendants, who allow the inmates a small annual sum of money.

The late Gen. Thomas bequeathed £20 per annum to the poor; and in 1782, Lord Naas bequeathed to the inhabitants a burial-ground, which is subjected to burial fees, situated about half a mile from the town, on the road to Dublin. The only remains of antiquity are the moat and St. David's Castle, the present glebe-house. Near the old gaol is a modernised house, now a baker's and butcher's shop which was formerly one of the numerous castles of this place, of which all the others have long since disappeared in the progressive improvements of the town. There are no remains of any of the monasteries, all of which subsisted till the dissolution. The rath, in the centre of the town, is a high conical mount, where the states of Leinster are to have held their general assemblies; at the foot of it was a religious house, of which only the cemetery is now remaining. About a mile from the town, on the Limerick road, is Jigginstown, a spacious brick mansion, commenced by the unfortunate Earl of Strafford, but never finished, the walls of which and the vaulted cellars, from the excellent quality of the bricks and cement, are still in a very perfect state. Naas gives the title of Baron to the Earl of Mayo.

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