MICHELSTOWN, COUNTY CORK
1837 Samuel Lewis' TOPOGRAPHICAL DICTIONARY OF IRELAND
MITCHELSTOWN, a market and post-town, in the parish of BRIGOWN, barony of CONDONS and CLONGIBBONS, county of CORK, and province of MUNSTER, 24 1/4 miles (N. by E.) from Cork, and 101 (S. W.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Cork; containing 3545 inhabitants. This place formed part of the extensive possessions of the White Knight, otherwise called Clongibbon, from whom part of the barony derived its name, and who was descended by a second marriage from John Fitzgerald, ancestor of the illustrious houses of Kildare and Desmond. The White Knight erected here a castle, which was reduced by the insurgents in 1641, but was retaken by the English, and was afterwards besieged by the Earl of Castlehaven, to whom it surrendered in 1645. Margaret Fitzgerald, who was sole heiress of the White Knight, married Sir William Fenton, and their only daughter conveyed this portion of the estates by marriage to Sir John King, who was created Baron Kingston by Chas. II., in 1660, and was ancestor of the present Earl of Kingston. The town is situated on the declivity of a hill, washed at its base by the small river Gradogue, which is here crossed by a stone bridge, and falls into the river Funcheon within the demesne of Mitchelstown Castle. It consists of two principal streets, called respectively George-street and Cork-street, of which the latter is the chief thoroughfare, and the former is terminated by the church at, the southern extremity, and at the other leads into a spacious and handsome square, the north side of which is occupied by the extensive buildings of Kingston College; on the east side is a large and handsome hotel, which contains a news-room, supported by subscription; and immediately opposite is the entrance to the demesne of Mitchelstown Castle. The principal streets, which are parallel with each other, are intersected at right angles by four smaller streets; the total number of houses, in 1831, was 535, most of which are well built and of respectable appearance; the square and principal streets are paved, but the footpaths are not flagged. The inhabitants are amply supplied with water raised by pumps in various parts of the town; of these, one in King-square, of superior construction, worked by machinery and enclosed with an iron railing, was erected by the Earl of Kingston in 1825. Great improvements have been made under the auspices of the Earl of Kingston, who is proprietor of the town; a new road to Lismore has been completed, and a continuation of the line to Limerick is about to be opened, which will give to an extensive, fertile, and improving district facilities of access to the market of Mitchelstown; the former line, by diminishing to within 14 miles the distance to the river Blackwater at Lismore, now affords the advantage of water conveyance for coal, culm, timber, and other articles at a moderate charge. A very considerable trade is carried on in corn, butter, and pigs, which last are purchased in great quantities chiefly by merchants from Cork, Youghal, and Limerick. A large tanyard and currying concern has been established in the town; and at Gurrane, on the river Funcheon, is an extensive bleach-green, with flax and tucking mills, and machinery for carding and spinning wool, to which a power-loom for the manufacture of blankets has been lately added by the proprietors, Messrs. J. and F. Atkins. A branch of the National Bank has been established in the town. The market is on Thursday, and is amply supplied with corn, butter, pigs and sheep, and with provisions of all kinds; the corn is chiefly bought on commission. Fairs for cattle, sheep, pigs, and various kinds of merchandise, are held on Jan. 10th, March 25th, May 23rd, July 30th, Nov. 12th, and Dec. 2nd; a fair called the Brigown fair is also held on the 6th of December. The market and court-house, situated in Cork-street, a very neat and well-arranged building, was erected in 1823, at an expense of £3000, by the Earl of Kingston, and occupies part of an area called the Market-square. A chief constabulary police force is stationed in the town; and in the immediate vicinity are the barracks, a neat range of building, adapted for 3 officers and 72 non-commissioned officers and privates. Petty sessions are held in the court-house every Wednesday; and a court for the manor of Mitchelstown, formerly held every third Monday, for the recovery of debts not exceeding 40s., is now held occasionally in the upper part of the market-house. Its jurisdiction extends over the parishes of Brigown, Marshalstown (with the exception of the Killee estate), Mologga, Farihy, Nathlash, and Kildorrery, in the county of Cork, and Kilbehenny and Ballylander, in the county of Limerick.
The parish church, situated at the south end of George-street, is an elegant structure of modern erection, in the later English style, with a lofty embattled tower surmounted by a beautiful and finely proportioned octagonal spire, and is seen to great advantage from King-square through the vista of George-street. The R. C. chapel, situated on an eminence above the market-house, is a handsome cruciform edifice, in the later English style of architecture, and flanked in the front with two octangular towers surmounted by cupolas; it is embellished with a window of elegant design, and strengthened at the angles with buttresses terminating in pinnacles. Kingston College, a handsome and extensive range of building, was partly erected during the lifetime of its founder, James, Lord Kingston, who endowed it with £25,000, to be vested in trustees, consisting of the Archbishop of Cashel and the Bishops of Cloyne, Waterford, and Limerick, to be appropriated, after the completion of the buildings, to the maintenance of a chaplain, 12 poor gentlemen, and 18 poor gentlewomen, with preference to such as have been tenants on the Kingston estates. The chaplain, whose duty it is to read morning and evening prayers daily, to preach a sermon every Sunday morning, and to administer the sacrament at Easter, Whitsuntide, and Christmas, has a stipend of £120, with a house and garden; and the inmates, who must be members of the Established Church, receive each £40 per annum, and have a house and garden between every two. The buildings consist of 16 dwelling-houses, with a chapel in the centre of the range, beneath which is the vault of the Kingston family. The fever hospital, to which a dispensary is added, was built in an airy and healthful situation to the south-east of the town, at the expense of Lord Kingston, in 1823; it contains four wards and 13 beds. A portion of the residue of a fund collected in London for the relief of the poor during the famine in Ireland, amounting to £569, was borrowed at 2 1/2 per cent. from the loan committee of Cork, and is appropriated as a loan fund for the relief of the poor of the town and neighbourhood.
Mitchelstown Castle, the splendid seat of the Earl of Kingston, is a noble and sumptuous structure of hewn stone, in the castellated style, erected after a design by Mr. Pain, of Cork, at an expense of more than £100,000. The buildings occupy three sides of a quadrangle, the fourth being occupied by a terrace, under which are various offices: the principal entrance, on the eastern range, is flanked by two lofty square towers rising to the height of 106 feet, one of which is called the White Knight's tower, from its being built on the site of the tower of that name which formed part of the old mansion; and at the northern extremity of the same range are two octagonal towers of lofty elevation. The entrance hall opens into a stately hall or gallery, 80 feet in length, with an elaborately groined roof, richly ornamented with fine tracery, and furnished with elegant stoves of bronze, and with figures of warriors armed cap-a-pie; at the further extremity is the grand staircase. Parallel with the gallery, and forming the south front and principal range, are the dining and drawing-rooms, both noble apartments superbly fitted up and opening into the library, which is between them: the whole pile has a character of stately baronial magnificence, and from its great extent and elevation forms a conspicuous feature in the surrounding scenery. Near the Castle is a large fish-pond, and from a small tower on its margin, water is conveyed to the baths and to the upper apartments of the castle, and across the demesne to the gardens, by machinery of superior construction. The gardens are spacious and tastefully laid out; the conservatory is 100 feet in length and ornamented with a range of beautiful Ionic pilasters. The demesne, which comprises 1300 statute acres, is embellished with luxuriant plantations, and includes a farming establishment on an extensive scale, with buildings and offices of a superior description, on the erection of which more than £40,000 was expended; it is in contemplation to erect an entrance lodge, on the model of Blackrock castle, near Cork. It is estimated that the castle, with the conservatories, farm, and the general improvement of the demesne, has cost its noble proprietor little less, if not more, than £200,000. About half-way between this town and Cahir are the magnificent caverns which, from their being visited by persons generally making this place their head-quarters, are sometimes called the Mitchelstown caverns ; they are situated in the parish of Templetenny, in the county of Tipperary, under which head they are described.