1902 Encyclopedia > Wicklow, Ireland


WICKLOW, a maritime county of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, is bounded on the E, by St George's Channel, N. by the county of Dublin, S. by Wexford, and W. by Carlow and detached portions of Kildare. The area is 500,178 acres or about 781 square miles.

Physical Features.-The coast is precipitous and picturesque, hut very dangerous of approach owing to sandbanks. There are no inlets that can be properly termed bays, The harbour at Wicklow has lately been improved; but that of Arklow is suitable only for small vessels. To the north of the town of Wicklow there is a remarkable shingle beach, partly piled up by the waves and currents. The central portion of the county is occupied by a granite mountain range, forming one of the four principal mountain groups of Ireland, The direction of the range is from north-east to south-west, and the highest elevations are generally attained along the central line. The range consists of long sweeping moorlands, rising occasionally by precipitous escarpments into culminating points, the highest summits being Kippure (2473 feet), Duff Hill (2369), Douce Hill (2:384), and Lugnaquilla (3039). The range rises from the north by a succession of ridges intersected by deep glens, and subsides towards the borders of Wexford and Carlow. Though the range is metamorphic, it is also in part intrusive, and its formation has been accompanied by a considerable elevation of Silurian rocks, beyond which it does not penetrate, notwithstanding that the Cambrian rocks occupy a large tract along the sea coast. In the valleys there are many instances of old river terraces, the more remarkable being those at the lower end of Glenmalure and the lower end of Glendalough. It is in its deep glens that much of the peculiar charm of Wicklow scenery is to be found, the frequently rugged natural features contrasting finely with the rich and luxuriant foliage of the extensive woods which line their banks. Among the more famous of these glens are the Dargle, Glencree, Glen of the Downs, Devil's Glen, Glenmalure, Glen of Ismail, and the beautiful vale of`Ovoca. The eastern districts of the county are occupied by clay slate or quartzite, the latter of which presents frequently a smooth polished surface and shows indications of Glacial erosion. Evidences of Glacial action also appear in the moraines of Glemnalure and Glendalough. The principal rivers are the Liffey, on the north-western border ; the Vartry, which passes through Devil's Glen to the sea north of Wicklow Head ; the Avonmore and the Avonbeg, which unite at the "meeting of the waters" to form the Ovoca, which is afterwards joined by the Aughrirn and falls into the sea at Arklow ; and the Slaney, in the west of the county, passing southwards into Carlow. There are a number of small but romantic lakes in the valleys, the principal being Loughs Dan, Bray, and Tay or Luggelaw, and the loughs of Glendalough.

,lfinemis.---Lead is raised at Imgganure (near Rathdrum), the principal lead mine in Ireland. In 1796 gold was discovered near Croglian Kinshela, but not in quantities to render working remunerative. Auriferous silver occurs in the slaty strata. There are important copper mines at Ovoca, where sulphur and iron are also dug. Slates for roofing are quarried at Dunganstown and elsewhere. Limestone, limestone gravel, and marl are obtained near the sea and in the river valleys.

Ayricultnie.-Accoraing to the latest landowners' return, Wicklow was divided among 1041 proprietors, possessing 497,656 acres, at an annual valuation of X254,800, or about 10s. 2:1d. per acre. There were also about 2500 acres of waste land. Of the proprietors 531, or rather more than a half, possessed less than 1 acre each. The following possessed over 8000 acres each Nenimis, 8042 ; J. S. Moore, 8731 ; It, A. G. Cunningliame, 10,479 earl of Meath, 14,718 ; marquis of Downshire, 15,766 ; earl of Carysfort, 16,292 ; J. Mandeville Hugo, 17,937 ; earl of Wicklow, 22,104 ; marquis of Waterford, 26,035 ; Viscount Powerscomt, 36,693 ; and earl Fitzwilliam, 89,891. The climate near the sea is remarkably mild, and permits the myrtle and arbutus to grow. The land in the lower grounds is fertile ; and, although the greater part of the higher districts is covered with heath and turf, it affords good pasturage for sheep. There is a considerable extent of natural timber, as well as artificial plantations. Out of a total area of 499,894 acres in 1886 105,642 or 21.1 per cent. were snider crops, 234,890 or 47 per cent. under grass, 175 acres fallow, 19,479 or 3.9 per cent. woods and plantations, 29,028 or 5.8 per cent. bog and marsh, 94,347 or 18'9 per cent. barren mountain land, and 16,333 or 3.3 per cent. water, roads, fences, &-c. The total number of holdings in 1886 was only 8072 and their size is much above the average for Ireland, 70 being above 500 acres in extent, 973 between 100 and 500 acres, 2615 between 30 and 100 acres, 2646 between 5 and 30 acres, 855 between I and 5 acres, and 913 not exceeding 1 acre each. Between 1849 and 1886 the area under crops decreased from 126,251 to 105,642 acres ; but within the last ten years the decrease was not so marked, the area in 1876 being 111,488 acres. The area under meadow and clover has been gradually increasing : in 1849 it was 50,793 acres, and, while in 1876 it was 60,086 acres, in 1886 it was 60,390. The area under green crops shows very slight fluctuations : in 1849 it was 18,837 and in 1886 it was 18,114. Potatoes and turnips, which occupied respectively 10,847 and 5304 acres in 1886, have not perceptibly altered in the proportions of the areas. 'flue decrease in the area under corn crops has, on the other hand, been remarkable ; from 56,616 acres in 1849 it fell to 31,361 in 1876 and to 27,129 in 1886. The area under wheat in 1849 was 7817 acres, but between 1876 and 1886 it decreased from 3639 to 814 acres. The area under oats has decreased from 44,527 acres in 1849 to 26,920 in 1876 and 25,344 in 1886 ; the area under barley, here, and other corn crops being in these years 4272, 1480, and 971 acres respectively. The number of horses in 1886 was 11,300 (of which 7206 were used for agricultural purposes), asses 3465, mules 351, cattle 81,577 (of which 24,523 were milch cows), sheep 169,334, pigs 22,329, and goats 6278.

Communication.-The Dublin, -Wicklow, and Wexford Railway skirts the coast from Bray to the town of Wicklow, after which it bends westward to Rathdrum, and then passes by the vale of Ovoca to Arklow. At Wooden Bridge a branch goes off south-west-wards to Shillelagh.

Manufactures and Trade.-Except in the Ovoca district, where the milling industry is of some importance, the occupations are chiefly agricultural. The manufacture of flannel, which formerly gave employment to a considerable number of people, is now in a very depressed condition. Herring and round fish are caught off the coast, but these fisheries are much neglected. There, is, however, a rather prosperous oyster fishery at Arklow. Of late years the harbour at Wicklow has been improved, the bed of the river deepened, and a steam-packet pier erected.

Administration and Population.-According to De Burgo's estimate, the population of Wicklow in 1760 amounted to 43,872 ; the parliamentary census of 1812 placed it at 83,109 ; by 1S21 it bad increased to 110,767, and by 1841 to 126,143, but by 1861 it had diminished to 86,451, by 1871 to 78,697, and by 1881 to 70,386 (males 35,101, females 35,285). Roman Catholics in 1881 numbered 79-9 per cent. of the population, Protestant Episcopalians 18.3 (an unusually large proportion for the south of Ireland), Presbyterians 0'4, Methodists 1.0, and other denominations 0.4. The number of persons who could read and write numbered 57'4 of the population, able to read only 12.8 per cent., illiterate 29.8. There were none who could speak Irish only, and the number who could speak Irish and English was 243. Wicklow, which formerly returned two members to parliament, was in 1885 formed into two parliamentary divisions, an eastern and a western, each returning one member. The principal towns are part of Bray (4387), a fashionable watering-place, the other part (2148) being in Dublin ; Wicklow (3391), the county town ; and Arklow (4777), a fishing-station of some importance. The county is divided into eight baronies and contains fifty-nine parishes. According to the Protestant Episcopal arrangements, it is in the dioceses of Dublin and Glendalough, with portions in those cf Leighlin and Ferns. It is in the home or Leinster circuit ; and assizes are held at Wicklow and quarter-sessions at Bray, Baltinglas.s, Tinahely, Arklow, and Wicklow. There are ten petty sessions districts within the county, and portions of four others. It includes two poor-law unions and portions of the unions of Naas, Rathdown, and Shillelagh. It is in the Dublin military district.

History and Adtiquities.- On the division of the district of the Pale by King John into twelve counties Wicklow was inelmbll in Dublin county. It was made a separate county by James I. in 1605. It sided with the royal cause during the Cromwellian wars, but on Cromwell's advance submitted to Lim without striking a blow. During the rebellion of 1798 some of the in,urgents took refuge within its mountain fastnesses. Au engagement took place between them and General Holt near Aughriru, which was speedily decided in Molt's favour ; a second was fought at Arklow between them and General Needham with a similar result. Of the ancient cromlechs there arc three of some interest, one near Enniskerry, another on the summit of Lugnaquilla, and a third, with a druidical circle, at Donoughruore. There are comparatively unimportant monastic remains at Rathdrum, Baltinglass, and Wicklow. The ruins in the vale of Glendalough, known as the "seven churches," are, with the doubtful exception of Clonmacnoise, the most remarkable ecclesiastical remains in Ireland. They owe their origin to St Kevin, who lived in the vale as a hermit, and is reputed to have died on 3d June 618. On the site of St Kevin's cell an extensive-monastic establishment was founded, and around it a town sprang up, which was long famed as a seat of learning. The buildings which constitute the "seven churches" are the round tower, one of the finest in Ireland, 110 feet in height and 51 in circumference ; St Kevin's kitchen or church, of which the nave, 25 feet by 15, with a curious high-pitched roof and a round belfry (supposed to be the earliest example of a round belfry springing from the roof or gable), still remains ; a structure within the cemetery called the cathedral, in a state of great dilapidation, but from its position and dimensions seemingly well entitled to its name ; the lady chapel, chiefly remarkable for its doorway of wrought granite, in a style of architecture allied to the Greek ; Trinity church, consisting of nave (29 feet 6 inches by 17 feet 6 inches), chancel (13 feet 6 inches by 9 feet), and a basement story, and presenting some of the finest characteristics of the ancient architecture of Ireland, including a very beautiful specimen of the square-headed doorway ; the monastery, or St Saviour's abbey, with peculiar ornamental sculpture, and supposed to contain the tomb of St Kevin ; and the Refeart or cemetery church. In the cemetery and all along the valley there are a large number of monuments and stone crosses of various size and style. The cave known as St Kevin's bed shows evidence of having been artificiallyconstrncted, but is probably only an enlarged natural cavity. Of the old fortalices or strongholds associated with the early wars those of special interest are Black Castle, near Wicklow, originally founded by the Norse invaders, but taken by the Irish in 1301, and afterwards rebuilt by William FitzWilliam ; the scattered remains of Castle Kevin, the ancient stronghold of the O'Tooles, by whom it was probably originally built in the 12th century ; and the ruins of the old castle of the Ormondes at Arklow, founded by Theobald FitzWalter (died 1285), the scene of frequent conflicts up to the time of Cromwell, by whom it was demolished in 1649, and now containing within the interior of its ruined walls a constabulary barrack. The fine mansion of Powerscourt occupies the site of an old fortalice founded by De la Poer, one of the knights who landed with Strongbow ; in the reign of Henry VIII. it was taken by the O'Tooles and 0' Brynes. (T. F. H.)

About this EncyclopediaTop ContributorsAll ContributorsToday in History
Terms of UsePrivacyContact Us

© 2005-19 1902 Encyclopedia. All Rights Reserved.

This website is the free online Encyclopedia Britannica (9th Edition and 10th Edition) with added expert translations and commentaries