Carlow in the Eighteenth Century

In the opening decades of the eighteenth century two famous mapmakers Thomas Moland and Charles Columbine turned their attention to Carlow. Thomas Moland listed five streets in his survey of 1703. It shows Dublin Street crossed by Tullow Street and Castle Street. It also shows the mill at the bridge over the Burren River. The general distribution of houses along the town centre streets is also demonstrated. The map is not an exact replication of the built area of the town but Horner says that it is "a reasonably accurate general impression of the extent of the town in 1703". Columbine's map dates from 1735. It shows buildings and important local landmarks such as the Castle, the Barracks, Market and Session Houses. In the intervening years between the Moland and the Columbine maps there was considerable development in the built up area of Carlow. Houses were built along Dublin Street and the Dublin Road and there is evidence of extended housing in Burren Street and Castle Street also.

By the closing decades of the eighteenth century Carlow was a prosperous town which had benefited from the opening of the turnpike roads and the commercial importance of the Barrow Navigation. Its network of streets, among them Dublin Street, Tullow Street, Castle Street and Burrin Street were the principal areas of business and trade. These streets are still important shopping locations in Carlow town centre. It is obvious from an analyses of Richard Lucas' "General Directory of the Kingdom of Ireland" for 1788 that linen merchants were particularly prevalent. In fact there were ten linen drapers based in the vicinity of the town centre and one shop owner was described as a "linen dealer". Most of these traders sold linen in combination with other goods, for instance they were sometimes grocers and hardware merchants too and some were also described as woollen drapers. The significance of linen in the local economy was also reflected in the presence of two flax manufacturers called John and James Heappeny located in Tullow Street and Castle Street. Further evidence of cloth manufacture was found in the business of Samuel Haughton who was described as a "Merchant, clothier and wool comber" and Francis Byrne of Dublin Street was classed as a "Bleacher, Miller and Damask Weaver". The significance of the River Barrow and its navigation was reflected in the occupation of one gentleman called Joseph Crisp. He was listed as the proprietor of the Accommodation Stores in Carlow and Monasterevan "for the convenience of conveying goods to and from Dublin by Canal".

The professions too were well represented in Eighteenth Century Carlow town including Surgeons, Attorneys at Law and Apothecaries. Thomas Berne was a teacher of Mathematics and a Land Surveyor and Nicholas Gordon was a Collector of Excise. Educational establishments included a Boarding School for "young ladies" under the management of a Mrs. Redman in Dublin Street. Carlow College also known as St. Patrick's College opened in 1793 for the education of Catholic youth and the training of Catholic clergy. Its foundation was facilitated by the relaxation of the Penal Laws and the fact that it was no longer obligatory that the permission of the Protestant Bishop be sought to open a Catholic school. It still occupies its original site at College Street in the centre of Carlow town.

Carlow was indeed an important Leinster town at the end of the Eighteenth Century. However it was not to escape the ravages of the 1798 Rebellion and this module will explore the unfolding of those unfortunate events, identify famous local personalities and discuss the aftermath of this important period in the history of County Carlow and in the entire island of Ireland.

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