"COUNTY CARLOW, an inland county of the province of Leinster, Ireland, bounded on the N. by the counties of Kildare and Wicklow, on the E. by the counties of Wicklow and Wexford, on the S. by Wexford, and on the W. by Kilkenny and Queen's County. It is about 30 miles in length from N. to S., and 20 miles in breadth at the southern extremity. In form it approaches a triangle, and comprises an area of 346 square miles, or 221,342 acres, of which about 184,000 are under cultivation, the remainder consisting of mountain, bog, plantation, and water.
The county is situated between 52° 28' and 52° 53' N. lat., and between 6° 30' and 7° 10' W. long. The population of the county in 1861 was 57,232, distributed into 11,318 families, occupying 10,254 houses, against 68,078 in 1851, showing a decrease in the decennial period of 10,846, or 15.93 per cent. The great bulk of the population are Roman Catholics, as shown by the government returns, viz. 50,613 Roman Catholics, 6,241 Established Church, 107 Presbyterians, 182 Methodists, 43 Society of Friends, and 46 of all other persuasions.
This district, anciently called Catherlogh, formed part of the territory of Hy-Kinsellagh, and comprised the two divisions called Hy-Drone and Hy-Cavanagh, belonging to the MacMurroughs, kings of Leinster. The earliest historical fact in connection with the county is the holding of a synod at Old Leighlin, in 630, for the settlement of the dispute as to the time for the celebration of Easter. The county was ravaged in the 9th and 10th centuries by the Danes, who plundered the abbey of Achadfinglass about 865, and that of St. Mullins in the following century. At the period of the English expedition under Strongbow, in the 12th century, Dermot MacMurrough, who had invited him, was King of Leinster. William Earl Marshal having married Eva, daughter of Strongbow, succeeded in her right to nearly the whole of Leinster; and in 1216, a few years before his death, Carlow was made by King John a shire within the Pale. On the death of William Earl Marshal, and the division of the principality between his five daughters, the lordship of Carlow passed to Maud, his eldest daughter, who brought it by marriage to Roger Bigod, Earl of Norfolk. It came subsequently to the Howards, and was forfeited to the crown in the reign of Henry VIII.
The annals of the period are full of stories of predatory invasions, depredations, outrages, and struggles between the natives and the settlers of the Pale. In 1394, Carlow with other districts having revolted and fallen into the hands of the Irish chieftains, Richard II. made an attempt to recover possession of them; and on that occasion the Irish chiefs did homage and swore fealty to him at Ballygorey, near Carlow. The revolt was renewed, and the king made a second attempt to subdue the country, in 1399, but without success. About a century later Carlow Castle was seized by the Fitzgeralds, and held by them till 1537, when Lord Thomas Fitzgerald headed a rebellion, and the lordship was resumed by the crown. In 1567 it was claimed by Sir Peter Carew, a descendant of Sir John Carew, lord of Drone. He succeeded in obtaining possession of the lordship, and by energy and courtesy did much to promote the settlement and progress of the district. Fresh insurrections occurred on the part of the Kavanaghs and O'Byrnes, which were suppressed about 1600.
During the civil war in the reign of Charles I., the English garrison in Carlow Castle was besieged by the Irish, who were attacked in 1642 by the Duke of Ormond, and compelled to raise the siege. The town of Carlow was attacked by the rebels in May, 1798. Other places in the county were attacked by them, among which were Hacketstown, Borris, and Bagenals-town.
The surface of the county is mostly level, with gentle undulations. The southern part, however, is hilly and rugged, lying between the Wexford range called Mount Leinster and Blackstairs mountains on the E., and some lofty hills skirting the valley of the Barrow on the W. Mount Leinster a granite ridge, rises to the height of 2,604 feet, and Blackstairs, also granite, to the height of 2,400 feet. The county is well watered, having the navigable river Barrow on the S., and the Slaney, also navigable, in the N. part. The Barrow touches the county a little to the W. of Carlow, where the Burren joins it, flows along the S. border to Cloydagh, whence it crosses by Leighlin Bridge and Bagenalstown, to Goresbridge, again forming the boundary. The Slaney enters near Rathvilly, runs S-E. to Tullow, receives the Durreen at Aghade, and flows eastward to Newtown Barry. The prevailing rock in the S. part of the county is granite. Limestone appears along the course of the Barrow, and slate on the N.E. side. The granite is easily split, and is much used for paling. The limestone is firm, dark-coloured, and takes a polish like marble. The Castlecomer coal-beds extend into this county. The climate is mild and healthy, and the soil remarkably fertile, except in the hilly districts.
There is a considerable extent of good pasture-land, with numerous dairy-farms, on which large quantities of butter are made for exportation. Carlow has long ranked high as a farming district; a reputation due not only to its rich soil, but its energetic and resident landowners, who have introduced improved methods and implements of agriculture. Wheat, oats, potatoes, barley, and turnips are cultivated. There area great number of extensive flour-mills along the Barrow. Much cattle is reared and fattened for the market.
For civil purposes the county is divided into 7 baronies, viz., those of Carlow, Drone East, Drone West, Forth, St. Mullin's Upper, St. Mullin's Lower, and Rathvilly. It contains 35 parishes, with parts of several others, 1 corporate borough, and 5 market towns. Carlow is the county town. The other market towns are Tullow, Bagenalstown, Leighlin Bridge, and Hacketstown. Carlow is the seat of a Poor-law Union, the assize town, and the headquarters of the county police, of which the four districts are Carlow, Tullow, Bagenalstown, and Borris. Quarter sessions are held at the first three of these towns. The county returns two members, and the borough of Carlow one, to the imperial parliament.
The county is included in the Home circuit and in the military district of Kilkenny. The local government is entrusted to a lord-lieutenant, high sheriff, 8 deputy-lieutenants, and a body of about 50 magistrates. Carlow has no manufactures. The pursuits of agriculture, malting, and various branches of the provision trade, are the main employments of the inhabitants. The remains of antiquity are chiefly military, comprising castles at Carlow (founded, it is believed, by the De Lacys), Leighlin Bridge, Clogrenan (the seat of the Ormonds), Clonmore, near Hacketstown, Clonmullen, and some others. Large cromlechs exist near Carlow and Tobinstown.
The principal ecclesiastical remains are at Old Leighlin, St. Mullin's, Tullow, and Achadfinglass. Among the seats of the nobility and gentry are Garrihill, the seat of Viscount Duncannon; Ballintemple, that of Sir T. Butler, Bart.; Borris Castle, of T. Kavanagh, Esq., a descendant of the MacMurroughs; Erin Dale, Castlemore, and Moyle. A branch of the Great Southern and Western railway enters the county on the N., and passes by Carlow to Bagenalstown, whence it is continued to Wexford, and westward to Kilkenny.
The chief roads are from Carlow south-westward along the valley of the Barrow to Leighlin Bridge, Bagenalstown, and Goresbridge; north-eastward to Grangeford and Tullow, and thence to Clonegal; and northward to Hacketstown. Another road runs from Bagenalstown to Myshall and Clonegal."