Of the tribes mentioned by Ptolemy, the Coriondi appear to have inhabited this portion of Ireland; and although from a very early period it was included in the native kingdom or principality of Thomond, it is said to have had at one time a separate political existence, under the name of Aine-Cliach, or Eoganach-Aine-Cliach, and to have been divided into five cantreds, governed by subordinate chieftains. That of Carrigoginniol belonged to the O'Kiarwicks, and afterwards to the O'Briens, whence the name of Pubblebrien was given to the barony; Uaithney, now the barony of Owneybeg, belonged to the O'Ryans; Cairbre Aobhdha, or Kenry, to the O'Donovans; Hy-Cnocnuil-Gabhra, now the baronies of Upper Connello and Coshma, to the McEneirys and O'Sheehans; and Connalla, now Lower Connello, to the O'Kinealys and O'Thyans. At the time of the English invasion, the O'Hurleys, Mac Sheehys, O'Gormans, O'Collins, O'Coins, O Scanlans, and O'Hallinans, were also among the principal families. About the middle of the ninth century, the Ostmen made themselves masters of the city of Limerick and of the island of Inniscattery, in the Shannon; and maintained their power in both places until the commencement of the eleventh century, when Brien Boroimhe, King of Thomond, compelled them to become his tributaries. The city subsequently became the chief seat of the rulers of Thomond, of the O'Brien family, whence their country was often called the Kingdom of Limerick.
Hen. II. granted this kingdom to Herebert Fitz-Herebert; who having soon after resigned his claim, it was bestowed upon Philip de Braosa, and the grant was renewed to him by Rich. I., with the exception of the city and the cantred of the Ostmen, which were committed to the custody of William de Burgo, who established a settlement there that defied all subsequent attacks of the natives. Braosa's grants having been forfeited, various Anglo-Norman settlements were made in the county (which was one of the twelve formed by King John, in 1210) under Theobald Fitzwalter, ancestor of the Butler family, Hamo de Valois, William Fitz-Aldelm, and Thomas, son of Maurice Fitzgerald. With these the O'Briens of Thomond had part possession; Donogh O'Brien, lord of Thomond, having been enfeoffed of the extensive lands of Carrigoginniol by King John. The Irish of Thomond often proved themselves formidable enemies of the English settlers. In 1367, they took prisoner, at Manister-Nenagh, the Lord-Justice Gerald Fitzgerald and many persons of distinction; and in the war between the houses of York and Lancaster, the county was entirely overrun by them. During the rebellion of the Earl of Desmond in the reign of Elizabeth, that nobleman possessed the towns of Kilmallock, Askeaton, Rathkeale, and Newcastle, then the four chief places in the county, and the confiscation of his estates after his death caused the transfer of a considerable portion of its fertile lands to new proprietors. It suffered a similar fate in the wars of 1641 and 1688, each of which considerably increased the number of English settlers.
Early in the last century, Lord Southwell brought over a number of German Protestants, whom he settled at Court-Mattras, or Castle Matres, near Rathkeale; other colonies were also planted in various places through the county; their descendants have increased greatly in number and are now generally distinguished by the name of Palatines. For a long time they were objects of great hatred to the native peasantry. The feeling has gradually but not wholly subsided, and they are now chiefly noted for their habits of cleanliness and order and for their superior skill in agriculture and rural economy. In the year 1762, a most alarming spirit of insurrection showed itself in this part of the country; the peasantry assembled in great numbers, chiefly by night, dug up corn-fields, levelled enclosures, houghed or killed the cattle of the gentry, and even put to death or treated with great cruelty individuals obnoxious to them from their harsh mode of collecting the tithes and taxes: from wearing shirts over their clothes in order to know one another in the night, they were called Whiteboys. Some very severe statutes were enacted to suppress this spirit, the execution of which being enforced by a large body of the military, tranquillity was after some time restored, several of the leaders of the insurrection were executed, and many of their followers transported. A similar insurrection broke out in 1786, in which the hostility of the insurgents was directed against the same objects as before; they even assembled and traversed the country in military array during the open day, compelling every person they met to take an oath against the payment of tithes or taxes; they were, however, soon put down by the strong arm of the law, aided by the military. But the pause was of short duration. A new association appeared in 1793, tinder the name of Defenders, who had so well matured their plans that they made a simultaneous attack upon the towns of Kilfinan and Bruff, and though repulsed from the former by the spirited resistance of the inhabitants, supported by the Palatine yeomanry, they succeeded in gaining possession of the latter; but were shortly driven out of it with some loss of life by a detachment of the army, against which they ventured to make a stand. In 1803, a project was conceived of seizing the city of Limerick, as a means of co-operating with the insurgents in Dublin under Emmet; but on learning that preparations were in progress to oppose them, they dispersed. Symptoms of disturbance again showed themselves in 1809; and in 1815 the spirit broke out in an insurrection of peculiar violence, which raged during that and the greater part of the succeeding year, but was ultimately subdued by the operations of the insurrection act. In 1817, a general failure of the crops occasioned a very distressing famine, which, though relieved by issues of public money and liberal contributions of benevolent individuals, entailed on the districts most visited by the dearth a frightful scourge of contagious disease. In 1820 succeeded the distresses occasioned by the failures of nearly all the principal banks in Munster; the scarcity of provisions caused by the failure of the crops in the following year reduced the peasantry to the last stage of calamity; the consequence was an insurrection more maturely planned and vigorously executed than any that had preceded. In every quarter of the county predatory bands appeared under the directions of an invisible chief, styled Captain Rock, declaring their determination to reduce high rents, tithes, and taxes, and threatening with destruction all proprietors of land who should attempt to disobey their mandates. The outrages of the insurgents increased and extended in spite of the exertions of the gentry, military, and Catholic clergy; Abbeyfeale, on the borders of Limerick and Kerry, became their chief place of rendezvous. The police were augmented; large bodies of regular troops were sent into the county and quartered generally in the western baronies, yet still the insurgents kept up a kind of guerilla warfare: several parties of them were attacked by surprise and deprived of their arms, yet when dispersed in one quarter they shewed themselves suddenly in another, committing their devastations often in the open day; the churches of Kilkeedy, Ballybrook, and Athlacca, together with several gentlemen's houses, were burnt by them, and the plundered property publicly and systematically divided among the captors. Several wealthy and influential persons were murdered, amongst whom was a Roman Catholic clergyman, who rashly attempted to exhort them to submission to the laws; and it was only under the application of the insurrection act, and the most vigorous exertions of the magistracy, that the spirit of violence was at length suppressed.
The county is chiefly in the diocese of Limerick, with some small portions in those of Emly and Killaloe. For purposes of civil jurisdiction it is divided into the baronies of Clanwilliam, Lower Connello, Upper Connello, Coonagh, Coshma, Costlea, Kenry, Owneybeg, Pubblebrien, and Small County; Lower Connello is subdivided into the barony of Lower Connello East, and the division of Shanid; and Upper Connello, into that of Upper Connello East, and the division of Glenquin: these arrangements have been found necessary from the great extent of the baronies, which comprised fully one half of the county; the new divisions were named after the castles whose ruins are conspicuous near their respective centres. It contains the ancient corporate towns of Askeaton and Kilmallock; the market-town of Kilfinane; the market and post-towns of Rathkeale, Newcastle, Bruff, Ballingarry, Pallaskenry, and Glin; the post - towns of Castle-Connell, Shanagolden, Croom, Cahirconlish, Pallasgreine, Adare, and Broadford; and the penny-posts of Abbeyfeale, Barrington's Bridge, Patrickswell, and Drumcollogher. Previously to the Union, it sent six members to the Irish Parliament, two for the county at large, and two for each of the boroughs of Askeaton and Kilmallock; but, since that period, the two returned to the Imperial Parliament for the county at large have been its only representatives. The number of electors registered at the close of the year 1835 was 2891, of whom 27 were £100, 457 £50, 506 £20, and 1727 £10 freeholders; 9 £50, 17 £20, and 133 £10 leaseholders; and 15 rent-chargers: the place of election is the city of Limerick. The county is in the Munster circuit: the assizes are held in the county town, where the court-house, county gaol, and house of correction are situated. Quarter sessions are held at Limerick, Newcastle, Rathkeale and Bruff; and there are bridewells at each of these places and also at Glin, Kilfinnane, and Croom. The local government is vested in a lieutenant, 17 deputy-lieutenants, and 98 other magistrates, with the usual county officers and 3 coroners. There are 38 constabulary police stations, having in the whole a force of 1 sub-inspector, 5 chief and 44 sub-constables and 132 men, with 6 horses; besides which there is a force of the "Peace preservative police," consisting of 1 chief constable and 74 men, who have 10 stations, at which there are 41 of the men, the remainder being distributed among the ordinary constabulary force. The lunatic district asylum for this county and those of Clare and Kerry is in the city of Limerick: there are four fever hospitals, besides that of Limerick, and 24 dispensaries, supported by county presentments and private subscriptions in equal portions. The amount of Grand Jury presentments in the year 1835 was £32,088. 5. 3., of which £1838. 4. 8. was for the public roads of the county at large; £9089. 4. 11. for those of the baronies; £16,651. 2. 7., for public establishments, officers' salaries, buildings, &c.; and £4509. 13. 1. for the police. In military arrangements the county is included in the south-western district.
Its general aspect is flat, though diversified by many small hills, and in some parts by mountains of considerable elevation. The whole western district, from Loughill to Drumcollogher, is composed of an unbroken range of mountain, stretching in a vast but regular and beautiful curve. On the south-east, the plain country is bounded by the Galtees, rising precipitously to a great elevation, forming the boundary of Limerick, and stretching thence far into the county of Tipperary. On the north-east the barony of Ovvneybeg embraces the skirts of the Slieve Phelim mountains, which form an extensive group penetrating the interior of Tipperary. In the neighbourhood of Pallasgreine are several hills of considerable height and beauty. The Ballingarry hills, lying near the centre of the county, and rising abruptly from a fertile plain, are very conspicuous; the principal elevation is Knockferine, a conical mountain, said to be one of the highest in the county. Another conspicuous height is Knockpatrick, between Shanagolden and the Shannon. From the banks of this river stretches southeastward a vast tract of land which is justly considered to be the richest in Ireland, the soil being in general a deep mellow loam, for the most part based on limestone and fit for every kind of culture. The most productive tract, comprising about 100,000 acres, is in the neighbourhoods of Bruff, Kilmallock, Athlacca, and Hospital, forming part of the district called, from the extraordinary richness of its soil, "the Golden Vale," which extends through this county in length from Pallaskenry to Kilfinane, and Kilfrush, a distance of thirty-two miles, and in breadth from Drehidtarsna, by the city of Limerick, to Abington, a distance of eighteen. The corcasses, or low meadow lands, which extend from the Mague along the Shannon to Limerick, have a substratum of yellow and blue clay, covered with a black mould, occasionally mixed with sand and gravel. The soil of other parts of the county not occupied by mountain, particularly to the west of the river Deel, consists of a light loam resting on limestone or stiff clay, and well suited both for pasture and tillage. In several of the lower districts there are small detached portions of bog, which kind of land is exceedingly valuable in some places, bringing the high rent of £1 per rood; when reclaimed, it is peculiarly adapted to the culture of hemp, though very little either of flax or hemp is grown in the county. A great part of the surface of the western mountains also is a light turbary, but not so good as that in the low grounds. The climate is remarkably good, and the weather less variable than in any other county in Ireland; an effect which has been much promoted by the drainage and cultivation of the bogs. It is said that in some seasons the heat of the summer's sun is scarcely powerful enough to ripen thoroughly the heavy crops of grain. The entire face of the country, notwithstanding its great natural fertility, presents a very denuded appearance, from the want of trees; hedgerows being very uncommon, and timber trees in any number being seldom seen except in the immediate vicinity of the residences of the wealthier proprietors.
Although a considerable proportion of the soil is calculated to produce abundant crops, having been regarded by Mr. Arthur Young as the richest that he had ever seen, yet not more than a fourth is under tillage, the remainder being wholly devoted to the fattening of black cattle and sheep; and it is here worthy of observation, that in some leases there is a special clause under heavy penalties to prevent more than one acre in 20, and in some cases more than one in 50, being broken up or in any way cultivated. Even where no such clause exists, if a farmer begins to bring his land into tillage, it is regarded as a certain indication of approaching poverty. Many of the landholders round Dromin, Bruff, Bulgadine, Kilpeacon, Crecora, and Lough Gur are very wealthy, and have stocks of from 400 to 600 head of cattle. In the baronies of Clanwilliam and Small County, the quantity of pasture far exceeds the arable land. The barony of Kenry is the most remarkable for the abundant crops and fine quality of its grain. The wheat crops are everywhere very heavy; and the produce of potatoes is about sixty barrels, in some instances one hundred barrels, of twenty-one stone each per acre. The tillage, except on large farms which are mostly in the hands of gentlemen, is generally conducted in a slovenly manner, and even the wealthier landholders are not wholly exempt from the charge of negligence. In some parts the land is much divided, and wretchedly exhausted by the impoverishing system of subletting. The crop of the greatest importance to the peasant is the potatoe, the cultivation of which is chiefly by the spade: the potatoe is generally followed by wheat, then oats or potatoes again, and thus in succession until the ground is wholly exhausted, when it is left to recruit its powers by the unassisted efforts of nature. This system of subdivision, though too common, is by no means universal. It exists to a great extent in the neighbourhood of Kildeemo, where scarcely half a dozen persons in the district keep a horse, and even more so around Tankards-town, near Kilmallock; the con-acre system is also on the increase in the neighbourhood of Galbally and other parts of the county. Still there are many good and extensive practical farmers, and many landlords who discountenance altogether the system of parcelling out and subletting; and the tillage farms, in many instances, are managed under the most approved systems: some few are drained and well fenced, but these are rare. Irrigation is little if at all practised; indeed, the soil is so productive by nature, that most farmers deem any outlay for its improvement a superfluous expenditure; some even of the more intelligent assert that sowing grass seeds, in laying down land, completely destroys it for the next 7 years. Flax grows here to an extraordinary height; but notwithstanding the efforts of the Limerick chamber of Commerce and the Agricultural Society, the farmer is not yet convinced that it will prove a remunerating crop. This and the contiguous county of Clare are famous for their orchards, which produce the much-esteemed Cackagay cider. The most celebrated districts for its manufacture are those round Pallaskenry, Adare, Croom, Rathkeale and Kilpeacon. The greatest variety of apple is to be seen around the farm-houses of the Palatines. Dairy farms are very numerous and large, varying from 150 to 600 acres, the management of which appears to be well understood. The cattle are chiefly crosses between the Leicester, the Devon, the Durham, the Teeswater, the Kerry, and the old or native Irish; and the breed, called by the Cork and Kerry farmer "the Limerick heifer," appears to be admirably adapted to the soil. The horses are mostly light, being a cross between the Suffolk and Ayrshire; in the neighbourhood of Adare, Croom, and Kilmallock, a very useful and active kind of horse is to be met with. The breed of sheep has been greatly improved by crosses with English stock, principally the Leicester, and in some parts of the county, considerable flocks are kept. That of pigs embraces every variety, but a mixture of the Berkshire and Irish appears to fatten with the least trouble and to be the most profitable. The agricultural implements are generally of the newest and most improved construction, particularly the plough and the harrow: the old Irish car is quite banished, except among the very poorest people and its place is supplied by a light cart, composed of shafts, and a frame resting on a pair of wheels, on which is placed an oblong basket of wicker work, capable of containing a large quantity of field or garden produce, and removeable at pleasure, when timber or other bulky articles are to be conveyed on it. The fences are in some places stone walls; in others large ditches or banks of sods, with a deep trench on both sides. In some places, furze is planted on the tops of the banks; the thorn fence is very rare. The agricultural association for the county holds its meetings regularly in Limerick: it is energetically supported; many premiums have been distributed and much encouragement for improvement held out both by instruction and example, but little advantage has been derived as yet from its spirited efforts.
In a geological point of view the county comprehends four formations, calcareous, coal, sandstone, and basalt. The calcareous district comprises the greater portion of the champaign part of the entire county, extending with little interruption from Newcastle, in the west, to Abington in the north-east, and from Mount-Trenchard on the Shannon to the eastern boundary of the county south of Kilfrush, comprising the greater part of the vales of the rivers that are tributary to the Shannon. The range is almost uniformly from east to west, and the dip or inclination westward. It presents a great variety both in structure and colour, the stone being raised in some places in blocks of very great size, and in others in thin laminae; the prevailing colour is light grey, and it is susceptible of a high polish. It presents its greatest varieties near Croom and Manister-Nenagh. Near Askeaton are some indications of lead ore, but not of a character that would encourage any great outlay in tracing the veins: there are indications of a very valuable ore near Tory hill. The coal formation forms the western boundary of the limestone field. The coal lies in thin seams, the lower increasing in goodness of quality and in thickness, but no attempts of any importance have yet been made to raise this mineral except on a small scale and from the upper stratum, which is merely a thin seam of coal shale. The ironstone that alternates with the coal is only used in road-making; nor is it probable that any vigorous researches will be made in quest of coal, while bog fuel can be had in abundance on the surface. Besides the coal-field above described, there are thin seams in a glen between Castlereagh, Galbally, and the town of Tipperary. The old red sandstone formation comprises the hills of Ballingarry, Knockaderry, and Kilmeedy, which rise abruptly from a limestone plain and range from the Deel to the Maig in a direction east and west. The new red sandstone comprises the mountains of Castle Oliver, the Long mountain, the Black mountain and others from Charleville to Glenbrohane, forming the boundary between Cork and Limerick, and merging into the Galtees. The basalt shews itself in the hill of Ballygooly on the verge of Lough Gur, in those of Knockruadh, Knockgreine, Cahirnarry, Carrigoginniol and the hill of Newcastle. At Linfield, near the Dead river, it rises to a height of nearly 200 feet, presenting a perpendicular colonnade of massive pillars towards the north, and bearing a striking resemblance to the promontory of Fair head in Antrim. Some of these pillars are 109 feet long, and approximate to a pentagonal or hexagonal form; but in general the basalt of this county is amorphous. To the south-east of this range is Knockgreine, "the Hill of the Sun," 500 feet high, with a base of limestone and a summit of basalt. It everywhere contains a large portion of iron. Oxyde of iron and iron clay are found in great quantities at the foot of the hills, and near Bohermore are procured specimens containing shells with an appearance of partial calcination. There are appearances of greenstone and millstone grit in several places: near Doon is a very valuable bed of excellent freestone. Specimens of very pure copper ore have been collected near Abington, and some attempts made to trace the vein. At Rathmore, in Manister-Nenagh parish, is a large bed of inferior pipe clay. Slate, but of inferior quality, is obtained in the demesne of Daragh and at Towerlegan; and in the mountains near Athea are procured large, thin, smooth, and very superior flagstones.
The manufactures and commerce, except an inconsiderable supply of coarse frieze, coarse linen and flannel for domestic use, and a manufacture of linen and cotton checks at Glin, centre wholly in the city of Limerick, under the head of which they are described. There are bleach-greens, principally for domestic use, at Newcastle, Castle-Connell, and Lingland; and paper-mills at Ballygooley, Anacotty, and Rossbryn, the two latter in the liberties of the city; also very extensive flour-mills at Askeaton, Cahirass, Rathkeale, Croom, Corbally, Kilmallock, and Sunville, where great quantities of flour are annually shipped for London, Liverpool, and the Clyde. The exports are butter, grain, flour, and salted provisions; the whole of which are either shipped at Limerick or sent to Dublin by the canal, but the great outlet is by the Shannon. This noble river forms the northern boundary of the county. Below the pool of Limerick it expands into a wide estuary, and after a course of about 17 miles, mingles its waters with those of the Fergus, forming an arm of the sea several miles wide, interspersed with islands of very various character, and discharging itself into the Atlantic between Loop Head and Kerry Head, about 60 miles from Limerick. All the rivers of the interior are branches of the Shannon; they are the Maig or Mague, the Commogue, the Daun or Morning Star, the Deel, and the Mulcairne. The Deel is navigable to Askeaton, and the Maig to the parish of Adare. On the south-west the county is bounded for some distance by the Feale river, flowing by Abbeyfeale; and on the south-east for about three miles by the Funcheon. Except the short canal above Limerick, made in 1759, to facilitate the navigation of the Shannon, there is no artificial navigation within the county. The roads are everywhere remarkably good, particularly those leading respectively from the city of Limerick to Tipperary, a new and excellent level line; to Cork, of which a great portion is new, and the old portions have been much improved; to Tralee, a new mail line greatly improved, widened, and levelled; to Tarbert, on the banks of the Shannon, a new, level, and excellent road; and lastly, the Dublin line, which, though good, is decidedly inferior to any of the others, being circuitous and hilly, and at Annacotty both narrow and dangerous. A new line of road has recently been opened leading through the mountains from Abbeyfeale to Glin, which will be of great advantage to that part of the country; another is now being formed between Croom and Charleville, on the western bank of the Maig, intended for the mail line between Limerick and Charleville; and a third from Kilfinane to Mitchelstown, intended for a shorter and more direct mail line from Limerick to Fermoy and Cork.
The vestiges of antiquity are numerous and of great variety of character. There were two ancient round towers; that at Ardpatrick fell a few years since; the other, at Carrigeen, is in good preservation. Of the earlier and ruder kind of pagan relics are the cromlech on Bailenalycaellach hill, and two others near it; fortifications on Knocktow; a large fort at Friarstown; a large and very perfect moat at Kilfinane and another at Pallasgreine; a tumulus at Bruree; an earthen fort of great height near Croom; stone circles at Grange; a large dun or intrenched mount, with raths and other circular fortifications, at Kilpeacon; a circular fort divided into segments near Shanid castle, and traces of an ancient city in Cahir park. The number of religious houses that have been founded here is about 35, exclusively of those in the city and its liberties: there are still remains of those of the Trinitarians, Augustinians, and Franciscans, at Adare; of Monaster na Geailleach; of Askeaton abbey; of Kilshane abbey, in the parish of Ballingarry; several extensive ruins of the ancient college at Mungret; of Galbally friary; of Kilflin monastery; of Kilmallock abbey; of Monaster-Nenagh abbey; and of the fine old abbey in the parish of Rochestown, all of which are more particularly described in their respective parishes. There are upwards of 50 ruins of churches: it is, however, but right to observe, that in many instances new structures have been built in more eligible situations, and every parish has now a church, or is united to a parish in which there is one. So numerous were the castles rendered necessary by the former unsettled state of the country, that they are sometimes found within half a mile of each other; there are still ruins, more or less extensive, of nearly one hundred, which, with the modern seats of the nobility and gentry, are also noticed in their respective places. The peasantry differ little in their manners, habits, and dwellings from the same class in the other southern agricultural counties; their dwellings being thatched cabins, their food potatoes with milk and butter occasionally, their fuel turf, their clothing home-made frieze and cheap cottons and stuffs: their attachment to the neighbourhood of their nativity, and their love of large assemblages, whether for purposes of festivity or mourning, are further indications of the community of feelings and customs with their countrymen in the surrounding counties. Among the natural curiosities may be included Lough Gur, with its romantic knolls, islands, and cave; the Castle-Connell chalybeate and astringent spa; and the sulphuric spring at Montpelier, in the parish of Kilnegariff. Bones and horns of the moose deer have been found in many parts of the county, from five to ten feet deep in boggy ground; five pairs of horns were found at Castle Farm, near Hospital, and seven pairs near Knocktow. In many parts of the county old fireplaces of the primitive inhabitants are occasionally turned up, containing burnt black earth, charcoal, sooty and siliceous stones.
A succession of intestine wars among the native princes was carried on until the landing of Hen. II., who soon after obtained possession of it and placed a garrison there; but after his departure, Donald O'Brien, King of Thomond, regained possession of it. In 1175, Raymond le Gros, with the assistance of the King of Ossory, invested it, and by fording the river in the face of the enemy, so daunted them that he entered it without opposition, obtained a great booty, and secured it by a garrison; but on the death of Earl Strongbow, it was again evacuated by the English and subsequently burned by order of Donald, who declared that it should no longer be a nest for foreigners. In 1179, Hen. II. gave the kingdom of Limerick to Herebert Fitz-Herebert, who having resigned his claim to an inheritance so uncertain, it was granted to Philip de Braosa, and he, aided by Milo de Cogan and Robert Fitz-Stephen, advanced against the city, which the garrison set on fire. This so dispirited Braosa, that he immediately retreated, and so assured was Donald O'Brien afterwards of the security of his metropolis, that, in 1194, he founded the cathedral church of St. Mary, on the site of his palace. In 1195, the English appear to have regained possession of the city, for it was then governed by a provost; but Mac Arthy of Desmond forced them once more to abandon it.
King John afterwards renewed the grant to Philip de Braosa, with the exception of the city of Limerick, the cantred of the Ostmen, and the Holy Island, which he committed to the custody of William dc Burgo, who formed a settlement there which from that period set at defiance all the efforts of the Irish. A strong castle and bridge were erected; and, encouraged by the privileges offered to them, English settlers flocked hither in great numbers, between whom and the inhabitants of the surrounding country amicable relations appear to to have been soon established, for, among the names of the chief magistrates for the ensuing century, besides those which appear to be English, Norman or Flemish, and Italian, there are several purely Irish. Money was coined here in the reign of John. In 1234, the city was taken, after a siege of four days, by Richard, Earl Marshal of England, then in rebellion; and by the continued wars in the surrounding country, especially among the O'Briens, De Burgos, De Clares, and Fitzgeralds, its progress in commercial prosperity appears to have been greatly checked. In 1308, Pierce Gaveston, the viceroy, passed through Limerick with an army, and compelled O'Brien to submit, but the tranquillity was of short duration. In 1314, De Clare burned the suburbs; and in 1316, Edward Bruce terminated his career of conquest southward at this place, and kept his court here until the following Easter. The hostilities of the O'Briens and others of his allies, and the unbounded authority assumed by the Earl of Desmond and other Anglo-Norman leaders, rendered additional military defences necessary for the protection of the city, and various grants were made by Edw. II. for enclosing the suburbs with a stone wall, and for repairing the castle. In 1331, the Earl of Desmond was committed to the custody of the Marshal of Limerick.
In 1337, a dispute arose between the merchants of Limerick and Galway, respecting tolls, which, notwithstanding the interference of the Lord-Justice, finally led to open hostilities. In 1340, Limerick was for a short period the head-quarters of Sir William Windsor, chief governor, when marching into the west against the O'Briens. During the whole of the fifteenth century, the fortifications, which, prior to the grants of Edw. II., had comprised only the part of the city insulated by the Shannon, and called the English town, were extended so as to include the portion on the southern bank of the river, called the Irish town, the defences of which were completed by the erection of St. John's gate and the neighbouring works, begun in 1450, but not finished until 1495. In the reign of Edw. IV., Connor O'Brien, prince of Thomond, drove the English from various parts of Munster, and compelled the citizens of Limerick to pay him an annual tribute of 60 marks. Another remarkable proof of the distracted state of the country is afforded by a statute of the 28th of Hen. VI., from which it appeared that, owing to the prevailing power of the "Irish enemy and English rebels," in the surrounding country, the inhabitants were under the necessity of deriving their supply of provisions principally from France, which was sent only on condition of the ships being placed under the special protection of the King of England. In 1467, a mint was established in the city; in 1484, Gerald," Earl of Kildare, held a parliament there; and in 1495, the brotherhood of the guild of merchants was erected.
In the reign of Hen. VII. the city recovered some degree of prosperity; but in 1524 it was harassed by the open hostilities, both by sea and land, resulting from the commercial jealousies between it and Galway, until these were at length terminated by a formal treaty, and by an injunction from the King, in 1536, requiring a better demeanour from the men of Galway. In the reign of Hen.VIII., Alderman Sexton, of this city, took a distinguished part in favour of the British interest. In 1542, the proclamation declaring Hen. VIII. king of Ireland was received with demonstrations of the greatest joy, and in the following year Sir Anthony St. Leger held a parliament here, in which divers important acts were passed. Towards the close of Mary's reign, the Lord-Deputy Sussex arrived here to suppress a revolt of some inferior branches of the O'Brien family against their chief, on which occasion the Earl of Thomond and all the freeholders of his country swore fealty to the crown of England. During the entire reign of Elizabeth, and throughout the wars that devastated the whole surrounding province, Limerick maintained the most unshaken loyalty, and was made a centre of civil and military administration. Sir Henry Sydney, Lord-Deputy, who visited it in 1567, in 1569, and in 1576, states that he was received here with greater magnificence than he had hitherto experienced in Ireland. At this period Limerick is described as a place well and substantially built, with walls extending round a circuit of about three miles.
On the arrival of Sir William Pelham, Lord-Deputy, in 1579, the mayor appeared before him attended by 1000 citizens well armed; and in 1584, the city militia amounted to 800 men, being double that of Cork, and a third more than that of Waterford, demonstrating that Limerick was then the most important city in the island next to Dublin. During the Earl of Desmond's rebellion, the city was for some time the head-quarters of the English army. From the commencement of the reign of Jas. I. until the war of 1641, it enjoyed undisturbed tranquillity: and notwithstanding accidental conflagrations, in 1618 and 1620, considerable improvement in the construction of buildings and public works took place. The customs' duties for the year ending Lady-day, 1633, amounted to no less a sum than £1619. 1. 7 3/4. In 1636 it was visited by the Lord-Deputy Wentworth, who was splendidly entertained by the mayor for nine days, and on his departure presented to the corporation a valuable cup of silver gilt. On the approach of the insurgent army under Lord Ikerrin, Lord Muskerry, and General Barry, in 1642, the gates were thrown open by the citizens; the royal garrison, consisting only of 200 men, who had shut themselves up in the castle, were compelled to surrender after an obstinate defence; after which the magistrates sent representatives to the Catholic convention at Kilkenny, and made every exertion to repair and strengthen the fortifications. In 1646, when it was attempted to proclaim the pacification that had just been concluded between King Charles and the parliament, the attempt was met by violence; and afterwards, the supreme council, headed by Rinuncini, the pope's nuncio, removed hither, to encourage the besiegers of the neighbouring castle of Bunratty, on the Clare side of the Shannon, in which the parliamentarians had placed a garrison. In 1650, the Marquess of Ormonde marched into the city, in the hope of securing it for the king; but the nuncio's party having deprived him of all power, he at length quitted the kingdom, leaving the command of the royalist troops to the Earl of Castlehaven, who induced the magistrates to accept his offer to defend them against the threatened attack of Ireton. The latter, however, did not commence operations until the spring of 1651; and the siege being protracted until the approach of winter, famine, misery, and death made formidable ravages among the ranks of both parties. The attempts of the Irish forces to relieve the place were defeated, but a sally by O'Nial, who commanded the garrison, nearly proved fatal to the besiegers. The privations of the inhabitants at length compelled them to turn out all useless persons, who, to prevent them from communicating the plague, which then raged amongst them, to the parliamentarian forces, were, at the command of Ireton, immediately whipped back; and dissensions gradually arose among the besieged, as to the propriety of capitulating. The resistance of the clergy to a surrender being at length overbalanced by some officers who took possession of one of the gates and turned the cannon against the city, the place was surrendered to the besiegers on condition that the garrison should march out unarmed, and the inhabitants be allowed time for removing, with their effects, to any place where they might be appointed to live. Twenty-four persons were excluded by name from the benefit of this treaty: the soldiers, who marched out to the number of 2500, were greatly reduced by disease contracted by the sufferings of a protracted siege of six months. After the surrender, the emblems of royalty were removed, the magistrates displaced, and for five years the city was subjected to a military government. In 1653 an act was passed permitting the English adventurers, officers, and soldiers to purchase the forfeited houses at six years' purchase; and a charter was granted conferring upon the citizens the same privileges and franchises as those enjoyed by the city of Bristol. In 1656, the municipal government was restored, by the election of a mayor and twelve English aldermen.
At the Restoration, Sir Ralph Wilson, the governor, declared in favour of the King. He was shortly after succeeded by the Earl of Orrery, who was instructed to endeavour to procure good merchants, English and Dutch, to inhabit the place, and cause it to flourish by trade. All the banished merchants were again restored to their freedom and privileges, on entering into recognizances for their peaceful demeanour; and the inland trade increased so rapidly that, in 1672, the tolls of the gates were let for upwards of £300 per annum. During a progress through Munster made by the Duke of Ormonde, lord-lieutenant, he was received at Limerick with great distinction, being attended by the principal nobility and gentry of the county, and the cavalry militia of each barony. The same year was remarkable for a great drought in the Shannon, insomuch that the mayor and citizens perambulated the English town, dry-shod, outside the walls; and the following year a storm, with a high tide, did great damage.
The accession of Jas. II. caused an alteration in the religious ascendancy of the corporation; and after the battle of the Boyne, the Earl of Tyrconnel established his viceregal court in the city. Soon after this it was invested by King William in person, at the head of 20,000 veterans. The siege, undertaken at a late period of the season, was rendered particularly harassing by the formidable obstacles opposed to the besiegers by the fortifications and natural defences of the town, the abundance of its munitions of war, and the circumstance of the flower of the Irish army being assembled in and around it, under Gen. Boiseleau, the Duke of Berwick, and other distinguished leaders, who were enabled to obtain supplies of every kind from Connaught, and by sea, where the French fleet rode undisturbed. The operations of the English army were also greatly checked by the loss of its battering train, which had been intercepted and destroyed by Gen. Sarsfield, in a gallant attack, within twelve miles of William's camp. Nevertheless, a breach having been at length effected, the besiegers thrice penetrated into the town, and as often were beaten back, until after a desperate contest of four hours, in which they lost 1700 men, they were obliged to retire; William himself being compelled to raise the siege and withdraw towards Clonmel. But in the August following, William's army, now commanded by General de Ginkell, again invested the town; and the garrison having been abundantly supplied, and in expectation of succour from France, the siege was protracted and sanguinary. One of the most serious conflicts at this period was that in which 600 Irish were slain, 150 drowned, and above 100 taken prisoners, in the defence of Thomond bridge, the gates having been closed upon them too speedily, by which their retreat was cut off. Operations were at length terminated by the celebrated treaty of Limerick, ratified on Oct. 1st, and said to have been signed on a large stone near Thomond bridge, within sight of both armies. Two days after, the French fleet arrived on the coast, and on the 14th entered the Shannon, with a reinforcement of troops and 30,000 stand of arms and ammunition. Both parties now made strenuous exertions to retain the Irish soldiers in their service: 3000 were prevailed upon to enter into that of the victorious monarch; but the remainder, amounting to upwards of 19,000 men, embarked for France, and formed the foundation of the Irish brigade, afterwards so celebrated in the wars of Europe.
After the embarkation of the Irish troops, the inhabitants, who had been compelled by the bombardment to quit their dwellings, on their return found their effects destroyed, and the entire city a scene of desolation and misery. While all classes were engaged in repairing their losses, the poorer by erecting small huts under the walls, the richer by re-edifying their houses, and the soldiers by restoring and enlarging the fortifications, a new and unthought of casualty nearly involved the whole in a second destruction: one of the towers on the quay suddenly fell, and 250 barrels of gunpowder which it contained blew up with a tremendous explosion, by which 240 persons were crushed to death or dreadfully maimed, some being struck dead by stones which fell a mile from the town. For more than 60 years after the siege, the fortifications were kept in complete repair, a garrison and several companies of city militia maintained, and every precaution of an important military station observed. In 1698, the Marquess of Winchester and the Earl of Galway, lords justices, on a tour of inspection, visited the city, which in the same year suffered most severely by a storm and high tide. In 1703 an act was passed providing that no Roman Catholic strangers should reside in the city or suburbs, and that the present inhabitants of that persuasion should be expelled, unless they gave sufficient securities for their allegiance; but in 1724 these restrictions were removed. During the Scottish rebellion in 1745, similar precautions were used, but no symptom of disaffection was discovered. In 1751, a storm, accompanied with high tides, overflowed a great part of the place, and did great damage. In 1760, Limerick was declared to be no longer a fortress, and the dismantling of its walls and other defences was immediately commenced and completed by slow degrees, as the extension of the various improvements rendered it necessary. On the breaking out of the American war, three Volunteer corps were formed under the name of the Limerick Union, the Loyal Limerick Volunteers, and the Limerick Volunteers.
After the termination of the American war the improvement and extension of the city were renewed with unexampled spirit: and although contested elections and alarms of insurrection in the neighbouring districts at times disturbed its tranquillity, they never retarded its improvement. During the French invasion in 1798, the city militia distinguished itself by the stand it made at Collooney under Col. Vereker, who in consequence received the thanks of parliament. In 1803, a design was formed by those engaged in Emmett's conspiracy to take the city by surprise: and the plan was conducted with so much secrecy that it was unknown to the military commandant in Limerick until the evening preceding the intended day of attack; but the prompt and decisive measures adopted prevented the apprehended danger. In 1821, symptoms of insubordination in the liberties led to a proclamation declaring the county of the city to be in a state of disturbance, and to require an extraordinary establishment of police, which was accordingly sent and is still maintained. In the winter of 1833 the city again suffered severely by storms and high tides.
The city, situated in an extensive plain watered by the Shannon, is composed of three portions, the English town, the Irish town, and Newtown-Pery. The first and oldest occupies the southern end of the King's Island, a tract formed by the Shannon, here divided into two streams, of which the narrowest and most rapid is called the Abbey river. This part, the houses of which are chiefly built in the Flemish fashion, is said to resemble the city of Rouen in Normandy: but, since the erection of the New town, it has been deserted by the more wealthy inhabitants, and exhibits a dirty and neglected appearance. The Irish town is also very ancient, being allotted to the native inhabitants so early as the reign of King John: here the streets are wider and the houses more modern; both these parts were strongly fortified. The suburb called Thomond-gate, situated on the county of Clare side of the river, at the end of Thomond bridge, was formerly the only entrance to the ancient city, and was protected by a strong castle: it is now of considerable extent: close to the foot of the bridge is the stone on which the treaty of Limerick was signed. Newtown-Pery, built wholly within the last fifty years on elevated ground, parallel with the course of the river, below the union of its two branches, on a site, formerly called the South Prior's . Land, which became the property of the Pery family about 1770, is one of the handsomest modern towns in Ireland: a very handsome square has been lately erected in it. There are six bridges; Thomond bridge, leading from King John's Castle in the English town to Thomond-gate, on the county of Clare side, is the most ancient. It was built in 1210, and subsequently widened, and consists of 14 unequal arches, which were turned on wicker work, the marks of which are still apparent in the cement; its roadway is perfectly level: it is now being taken down, and will be replaced by a new bridge (the foundation stone of which was laid in 1836, and which is to be opened in 1839), by the corporation, which has procured a loan of £9000 from the Board of Works to effect it: the estimated expense is £12,600. Wellesley bridge, erected in 1827, consisting of five large and elegant elliptic arches, crosses the Shannon from the New town to the northern, or county of Clare, shore. Its roadway is level and its parapet is formed of a massive open balustrade; on the city side is a swing bridge over a lock through which vessels pass to the upper basin and quays. The New bridge, crossing the Abbey river, and connecting the New town with the English town, was finished in 1792 at an expense of £1800; it consists of three irregular arches. Baal's bridge, higher up on the same branch of the river, is a beautiful structure of a single arch, built in 1831 to replace an ancient bridge of the same name, which consisted of four arches with a range of houses on one of its sides. On the same branch of the Shannon is Park bridge, an old lofty structure of five irregular arches. Athlunkard bridge, consisting of five large elliptic arches, crosses the Shannon about a mile from the city; it was erected in 1830 by means of a loan of £9000 from the Board of Public Works, £6000 from the consolidated fund, and a grant of £1000 from the Grand Jury of the county of Clare; it forms a communication between Limerick and Killaloe. The environs, though flat, are generally very beautiful; the soil extremely rich; and the sinuous course of the Shannon, in many points of view, presents the appearance of a succession of lakes; but the landscape is deficient in wood. Of the four principal approaches, that from Clare, by Wellesley bridge, is the best; the others are through lines of cabins, crooked and deficient in cleanliness. In the vicinity of the city are several good houses and neat villas, but by no means so numerous as its wealth would lead strangers to expect 5 as the rich merchants chiefly reside in the New town. Among the seats in the neighbourhood, those most worthy of notice are Mount Shannon, that of the Earl of Clare, one of the finest mansions in the south of Ireland; Hermitage, of Lord Massy, Clarina Park, of Lord Clarina; and Doonass, on the opposite side of the Shannon, of Sir Hugh Dillon Massy, Bart.: in the city are the mansions of the Earl of Limerick and of the Bishop. The streets, which are spacious, intersect each other at right angles, and are occupied by elegant houses, splendid and well-stocked shops, and merchants' stores. Patrick-street, George-street, and the Crescent form a continuous line of elegant houses, extending about a mile from the New bridge. The total number of houses, in 1831, was 4862.
The city is lighted with gas under a contract made in 1824 with the United London Gas Company: the original engagement was confined to the New town, but it has been extended by the liberality of the corporation to the Irish town and Dublin road, and by private subscriptions to part of the English town. Works for supplying it with water were commenced in 1834 by a London company; the two tanks are about a mile from the city, at Cromwell's Fort, near Gallows' Green, on the site of two forts occupied by Cromwell and Wm. III.; their elevation is 50 feet above the highest part of the city, and 72 feet above the river, from which the water is raised through a metal pipe 12 inches in diameter by two steam-engines, each of 20-horse power. In excavating for a foundation for the tanks, several skeletons, cannon and musket balls, armour, and divers remains of military weapons were found; and in forming the new line of road along the Shannon, on the county of Clare side, heaps of skeletons were found, some of which were 15 yards in length and 6 feet in depth; they are supposed to be the remains of those who died in the great plague. In military arrangements, Limerick is the head-quarters of the south-western district, which comprises the counties of Clare and Limerick, with the town of Mount-Shannon, in the county of Galway; the county of Tipperary, except the barony of Lower Ormond, but including the town of Nenagh; and that part of the county of Kerry north of the Flesk. There are four barracks; the Castle barrack in the English town for infantry, capable of accommodating 17 officers and 270 non-commissioned officers and privates, with an hospital for 29 patients; the New barrack, on the outside of Newtown-Pery, adapted for 37 officers, 714 infantry and cavalry, and 54 horses, with an hospital for 60 patients; the Artillery barrack, in the Irish town, for 6 officers, 194 men, and 104 horses, with an hospital for 35 patients; and an Infantry barrack, in St. John's-square, for 4 officers and 107 men: a military prison, lately built in the new barrack, has 6 cells. There is also a city police barrack. The Limerick Institution, founded in 1809, and composed of shareholders and annual subscribers, has a library containing upwards of 2000 volumes. There are four newspapers, three published twice a week, and one weekly. An elegant theatre, erected some years ago by subscription, at a cost of £5000, was so inadequately supported that the building was at length sold to the Augustinian monks. The assembly-house, built in 1770, at an expense of £4000, is not now used for its original purpose, the balls commonly taking place at Swinburne's hotel; part of it is occasionally used for dramatic performances. The hanging gardens, constructed in 1808 by William Roche, Esq., M.P., at an expense of £15,000, form a singular ornament to the town; they are raised on ranges of arches of various elevation, from 25 to 40 feet, the vaults thus formed being converted into storehouses for wine, spirits, and other goods, now occupied by Government, at a rent of £500 per annum. On this foundation are elevated terraces, the highest of which has a range of hothouses, with greenhouses at the angles. The facade of these gardens extends about 200 feet, and the top of the highest terrace, which is 70 feet above the street, commands a most extensive prospect of the city and the Shannon.
Considerable efforts for the encouragement of the linen and cotton manufactures were not long since made, but failed. The former branch of industry has of late greatly declined; it had existed in the county for more than a century, and, by the exertions of the Chamber of Commerce, the weavers were enabled to manufacture that description of linen best adapted to command a sale; a weekly market was formed; and a linen-hall was erected, in which markets were held every Friday and Saturday. Premiums were also given by the Chamber of Commerce, until this branch of their public exertions was undertaken by the Agricultural Association, a committee of which, united with the Trustees for the Promotion of Industry in the county, met for the purpose in the committee-room at the linen-hall every Saturday. This united committee, besides annual subscriptions from its own body, which are applicable to all improvements in agriculture, has under its management a fund of about £7000, allocated to the county by a Board of Directors in London, for the purpose of promoting the linen, woollen, cotton, and other trades among the poor. The glove trade, formerly of great celebrity, has declined considerably, most of the gloves sold under the name of Limerick being now manufactured in Cork. A manufactory was formed in 1829, at Mount Kennett, for tambour lace and running, better known by the name of Irish blonde, which is here brought to great perfection and gives employment to about 400 young females; the wrought article is sent to London. A lace-factory, established in 1836, in Clare-street, by Wm. Lloyd, Esq., employs 250 young females who are apprenticed to it: the produce is sent to London. A muslin-factory, in the Abbey parish, employs 100 boys as apprentices. The distillery of Stein, Browne and Co., at Thomond-gate, produces 455,000 gallons of whiskey annually. There are also seven breweries, each of which brews porter, ale, and beer to a total amount of 5000 barrels annually; the consumption both of these and of the distillery is chiefly confined to the neighbourhood. There are several iron-foundries, cooperages, and comb-manufactories, but all on a small scale. In the liberties of the city are several extensive flour-mills, which grind upwards of 50,000 barrels of flour annually; and not far from the town are two paper-mills and two bleach-greens. The supply of fuel is abundant, large quantities of coal being imported from England; but turf, of which a very large supply is brought up and down the Shannon, is still the chief fuel of the lower classes, and is also much used in manufactories and in the kitchens of the higher ranks. An abundance of fish is procured by the exertions of the inhabitants towards the mouth of the river, and on the neighbouring coasts; and besides a salmon fishery, leased by the corporation, trout, eels, perch, and pike, are taken in the river, and, lower down, all kinds of shell and flat fish. In the month of May, numerous temporary causeways are formed several yards into the river on each side, by the poor, on which they fish with nets for eel fry; the quantities taken are so great that each individual fills a couple of washing tubs with them every tide. The corporation by their charter claim an exclusive right to all fishing from the city to Inniscattery island.
The trade of the port is comparatively of modern origin. The first return of the customs on record, made in 1277, gives an amount of £6. 18. In 1337 they were only 8 marks; in 1495, £9. 0. 10.; in 1521, £6. 7. 4.; in 1537, £9. 8. 4 1/2.; and in 1607, when King James called for a return of the customs of all the ports in Ireland, those of Limerick are stated to be £15. 14. 8., while at Waterford they were £954. 18. 2., and at Cork £255. 11. 7. But they increased rapidly during the. reigns of Jas. I. and Chas. I.: in 1633 the customs had risen to £1619. 1. 7 3/4. During the war of 1641 they diminished considerably, but after the Restoration again rose, insomuch that, in 16/2, the customs were £1906. 19. 8., and the tolls at the city gates £310. 12. 4. In 1688, during the government of Lord Tyrconnel, they fell to £801. 3. 4. It was not till the middle of the last century that Limerick took a position among the principal commercial ports, and now it is a great place of export for the agricultural produce of the most fertile tracts in Ireland. From Kerry, Tipperary, Clare, and Limerick, are sent in corn, provisions, and butter, which are exported to London, Liverpool, Bristol, and Glasgow. The exports for the year ending the 1st of September, 1835, were, beef, 1364 tierces; pork, 14,263 tierces and barrels; butter, 72,630 firkins; bacon, 81,839 cwts.; lard, 9697 cwts.; wheat, 117,874 barrels; barley, 32,847 barrels; oats, 285,623 barrels; flour, 22,725 cwts.; oatmeal, 16,320 cwts.; eggs, 26,214 crates; besides hams, tongues, spirits, porter, ale, flax, linen, wool, feathers, and salmon, the estimated value of all which exceeded a million sterling. The chief imports are timber, coal, iron, flax-seed, tallow, pitch, tar, hoops, staves, wine, and fruit. The number of vessels entered inwards from foreign ports in 1835 was 51, of the aggregate burden of 12,408 tons of British shipping, and 3 of 698 tons of foreign. The number of vessels cleared outwards during the same period was 31, of the aggregate burden of 7980 tons. The number entered inwards coastways was 494, of 53,078 tons; 44 of these were from Irish ports: the number cleared outwards was 561, of 62,349 tons, 43 of which were for Irish ports. On the 5th of Jan., 1836, there were 71 vessels of 5008 tons belonging to the port: the customs for the year ending on that day amounted to £142,843. 10., and for the subsequent year, to £146,222. 17. 9. The excise duties of the Limerick district, for 1835, were £71,616. 6. 6 1/4. The situation of Limerick, about sixty Irish miles from the sea, and its extent of river navigation, render the port an object of peculiar importance; but it labours under several disadvantages. For a great port, it is too high up the river: its navigation is obstructed and intricate, with insufficient water for large vessels in the higher parts of the channel; no funds are applied to the maintenance of the navigation, which is almost entirely neglected: ships may discharge ballast in any part without restriction, and the proprietors of adjoining lands may create any obstructions they please. At each side of the narrow arm of the Shannon that encircles the English town are several quays accessible only to boats; and at Merchants' Quay is the Long Dock, where the turf and fish boats unload. From the Custom-house, at the mouth of the Abbey river, various detached quays, erected by private individuals, extend along the united channel, but they are in a very bad condition; the ground around them is rugged and hard, so that vessels lying there are frequently damaged. The water-bailiff receives dues to the amount of about £400 per ann., levied on all vessels arriving in the port; and other dues, amounting to about £80 per annum, are received by the mayor on salt and coal imported. The Chamber of Commerce, consisting of opulent and most respectable merchants, has supreme interest in the navigation of the port, and from its funds has been defrayed the greater portion of the expense that has been incurred by whatever improvements have been made, although it has no right or control over the river. The commissioners appointed by act of parliament, in 1823, have power to levy certain taxes for the erection of the Wellesley bridge, and of docks to accommodate vessels frequenting the port: their revenue now averages £1500 per annum, and they have jurisdiction over the pilotage of the river. These commissioners have obtained from Government a loan of £55,384 under a mortgage of the tolls on exports and imports, tonnage, dock dues, &c. It was their intention to construct a floating dock, but the original plan has been abandoned, and , an act has been recently obtained to carry into effect a design by Thos. Rhodes, Esq., who in 1833 was appointed by Government to survey the port, with a view to provide a safe harbour for shipping. His plan proposes, by constructing a dam or weir across the river at Kelly's Quay, to convert that part of the river above into floating docks, which are to be formed by excavating and levelling the bed of the river along the present quay walls; and a new line of quays is to be built, on which bonded warehouses, storehouses for grain, &c., may be erected. On the north side of the river is to be a dock-yard, with two slips or inclined planes, and a graving dock; and on the south side, another graving dock. It is also proposed to form a line of embankments on each side of the river, for reclaiming considerable tracts of waste land, which might be drained, and the water discharged by tide sluices through the embankments. The total amount required to carry these plans into execution is estimated at £82,756. 10. No part of the work has been yet commenced; but £40,000 has been granted, and the quays are already contracted for, to be finished in 1838: they are to extend 3030 feet, from Kelly's Quay to the custom-house. A cut from the Abbey river continues the navigation, partly in the river and partly by an artificial canal for 15 miles, to Lough Derg, which was transferred by Government to a private association, called the Limerick Navigation Company, on their undertaking to expend £3000 in the rebuilding of Baal's bridge, which had previously interrupted the communication between the canal and the tide-water of the river, and still continues to do so in a great degree; and about the same period a new and important impulse was given to the trade on the Shannon, by the establishment of the Inland Steam-navigation Company, by which a communication has been opened by steam with Kilrush and other places in the estuary of the Shannon, and by packet boats to Killaloe, whence there is a communication by steam through Lough Derg to Portumna, Banagher, and Athlone. The hay and straw markets are held in two enclosures on Wednesday and Saturday; the wheat market is large, and has sheds all round its enclosure; the butter market, a spacious and lofty building, is open daily throughout the year. There are two potato markets, one in the English, the other in the Irish town, where vast quantities are daily sold. There are also two meat markets, each plentifully supplied with butchers' meat and poultry; but the supply of fish and vegetables is often deficient. The smaller of these markets, called the Northumberland buildings, has attached to it large apartments for public meetings, a bazaar, and commercial chambers; there are four annual fairs, on Easter-Tuesday, July 4th, Aug. 4th, and Dec. 12th. To the August fair is attached a privilege by virtue of which no person, for fifteen days after it, can be arrested in the city or liberties on process issuing out of the Tholsel court. The principal commercial edifices are the Custom-House and the Commercial-Buildings. The former, situated at the entrance of the New town from the old, was completed in 1769, at an expense of £8000, and consists of a centre and two wings, built with hewn stone and handsomely ornamented: a surveyor's house and habitations for boatmen have been erected at the pool. The Commercial Buildings were erected in 1806, at a cost of £8000, by a proprietary of 100 shareholders. They consist of a large and well-supplied news-room on the ground floor, above which is a library and apartments for the Chamber of Commerce, which was incorporated in 1815, for the protection of the trade. Their fund arises from fees on the exports and imports of the members; the surplus is employed in promoting the commercial interest of the city, improving the navigation, and aiding the manufactures. The post-office is a small building, in a situation so inconvenient that none of the coaches can approach it. The mails start for Dublin, Cork, Tralee, Waterford, and Galway. The corporation exists both by prescription and charter, and its authority is confirmed and regulated by statute. The first documentary grant of municipal privileges was by John, Earl of Morton and Lord of Ireland, in 1199, conferring the same liberties and free customs as were enjoyed by the citizens of Dublin, which were secured and explained by a charter of the 20th of Edw. I. Charters confirming or extending these privileges were granted in the 1st of Hen. IV., 1st of Hen. V., 8th of Hen. VI., 2nd of Hen. VII., 6th of Edw. VI., and 17th and 25th of Elizabeth: the former charter of this last-named sovereign granted, among other new privileges, that a sword of state and hat of maintenance should be borne before the mayor within the city and liberties. The governing charter, granted by James I. in 1609, constituted the city a county of itself, excepting the sites of the king's castle and the county court-house and gaol; conferred an exclusive admiralty jurisdiction, both civil and criminal, over so much of the Shannon as extends three miles north-east of the city to the main sea, with all its creeks, banks, and rivulets within those limits; constituted the mayor, recorder, and four of the aldermen annually elected, justices of the peace for the county of the city; and incorporated a society of merchants of the staple, with the privileges of the merchants of the staple of Dublin and Waterford. By the "New Rules" of the 25th of Chas. II., the lord-lieutenant and privy council were invested with the power of approving and confirming the appointment of the principal officers of the corporation, who were thereby required to take the oath of supremacy, and the election of all corporate officers was taken away from the body of freemen, and vested in the common council; the discussion of any matter connected with municipal affairs in the general assembly of freemen, or Court of D'Oyer Hundred, which had not previously passed the common council, was forbidden under penalty of disfranchisement; and it was provided, as in other corporate towns, that foreigners and other Protestant settlers in the town should be admissible to the freedom. James II. granted a new charter after the seizure of the franchises under a decree of the exchequer, but the judgment of that court having been subsequently set aside, it became void; and the constitution of the municipality continued unaltered until the year 1823, when an act of the 4th of Geo. IV., c. 126, commonly called the "Limerick Regulation Act," partially remodelled the powers of the corporation. Numerous incorporated trading companies or guilds were established under these different charters, several of which still exist, but are not recognised as component parts of the corporation, and do not appear to have ever exercised any corporate rights. The guild of merchants incorporated by James I. having become extinct, was revived by the act of 1823, but has never since met, nor has any attempt been made to enforce its charter, its objects being effectually accomplished by the Chamber of Commerce. The corporation, under the charter of James I., is styled "The Mayor, Sheriffs, and Citizens of the City of Limerick;" and consists of a mayor," two sheriffs, and an indefinite number of aldermen, burgesses, and freemen, aided by a recorder, four charter justices, a town-clerk (who is also clerk of the crown and of the peace for the county of the city), chamberlain, common speaker, water-bailiff (which office is to be abolished under the New Bridge Act), sword-bearer, high constable, petty constables, serjeants-at-mace, weigh-master, crane-master, and other inferior officers. The mayor (which office and title were enjoyed by Limerick ten years before they were granted to London), the sheriffs, recorder, and town-clerk are annually elected by the common council on the 2nd Monday after the 24th of June; the four charter justices by the same body on the 2nd Monday after the 29th of September. The chamberlain is elected from among the burgesses for life or during pleasure, by the mayor, sheriffs, and recorder. The aldermen are elected for life from among the burgesses by the common council: the title, however, is a mere honorary distinction, usually conferred on the person who has served the office of mayor. The common speaker is elected every two years, under the provisions of the act of 1823, by the body of freemen assembled on the first Tuesday after June 24th, in the court of D'Oyer Hundred, and must be approved of by the common council before he can be sworn into office: the other officers are appointed respectively by the common council, the mayor, and the sheriffs. The freedom is obtained by birth, for the eldest son, or marriage with any daughter, of a freeman, also by apprenticeship to a freeman within the city, and by gift of the corporation: the admissions of freemen are made by the common council, subject to the approbation of the court of D'Oyer Hundred. The act of 1823 requires the council to hold quarterly meetings on the first Monday after June 24th, second Monday after Sept. 29th, and the first Mondays in January and April; extraordinary meetings are convened on requisition of the mayor. All acts of the corporation, except the election of officers, must be now approved of and confirmed by the freemen at large in the court of D'Oyer Hundred, which was re-established by the act of 1823, after having for about seventy years previously fallen into almost total disuse, and is now held on the day following each of the four stated quarterly meetings of the common council, and also within a specified time after the extraordinary meetings of that body: it is composed of the entire body of freemen, and a certified minute of all proceedings at the meetings of the common council must be transmitted by the town-clerk to the common speaker, who presides over the court, for its approval. The city returned two representatives to the Irish parliament from the period of its earliest convocations until the Union, after which it sent one member to the Imperial parliament; but under the act of the 2nd of Wm. IV., c. 88, it sends two. Besides the freemen, the right of voting belonged to the freeholders of the county of the city, estimated in 1831 at about 2000, making the total number of electors at that period 2413. The above-named act has extended the franchise to £10 householders, and to £20 and £10 leaseholders for the respective terms of 14 and 20 years; the non-resident freemen, except within seven miles, have been disfranchised; and the 40s. freeholders retain the privilege only for life. The number of electors, according to a return to an order of the select committee of the House of Commons, dated Feb. 14th, 1837, was 3186; of whom 912 were freeholders, 14 rent-chargers, 34 leaseholders, 1946 £10 householders, and 280 freemen: the sheriffs are the returning officers.
The liberties are divided into North and South by the Shannon: the limits of the North liberties vary from one to four statute miles, comprising 1714 acres, as rated to the Grand Jury cess; the South liberties extend from four to five statute miles, comprehending 14,754 acres assessed, making in all 16,458 Irish acres, equal to about 26,600 statute acres, exclusively of the site of the town; the small island of Inniscattery, about 60 miles distant, at the mouth of the Shannon, forms a part of the parish of St. Mary, and is within the jurisdiction of the corporation. The mayor is a justice of the peace within the county of the city, and ex officio a magistrate for the county at large; he is admiral of the Shannon, and, with the recorder and aldermen, has very extensive magisterial and judicial powers connected with the exclusive admiralty jurisdiction given by the charter of Jas. I., being empowered to appoint all the officers of a court of admiralty, which court, however, has fallen into disuse; he is a judge in local courts, and is named first in the commission with the judges at the assizes for the county of the city; and is a coroner within the county of the city and the parts of the Shannon comprised within the admiralty jurisdiction, and clerk of the markets. The other magistrates are the recorder and four charter justices; six additional justices are appointed by the lord-lieutenant under the authority of the act of 1823. The county of the city has an exclusive criminal jurisdiction exercised by its magistrates at the court of quarter sessions and at petty sessions; assizes are held for it twice a year by the mayor and the judges travelling the Munster circuit. The court of quarter sessions is held before the mayor, recorder, and other justices, for the trial of such cases as are not reserved for the assizes. Petty sessions are held every Wednesday and Saturday before the mayor and five or six of the civic magistrates. The chief civil court is the Tholsel or city court, in which the mayor and sheriffs preside as judges, assisted by the recorder, when present, as assessor, and the town-clerk as prothonotary: it is held under the charter of Henry V., which gave pleas, real and personal, to any amount arising within the county of the city: the court sits every Wednesday; the process is either by attachment against goods, action against the person, or latitat, but the last is seldom resorted to. A court of conscience is held by the mayor every Thursday, by prescription, for the recovery of debts under 40s. late currency. The assistant barrister for the county of Limerick sits twice a year for the trial of civil bill cases within the county of the city. The ordinary revenues of the corporation are derived from rents of houses and lands in the city and liberties, the fishery of the salmon weir, tolls and customs (which yield by far the greatest portion), and the cleansing of the streets in the old city, producing a gross income of between £4000 and £5000 per annum. The peace preservation police consists of a chief magistrate, 1 chief officer of the second class, 49 men and 4 horses; 37 men are stationed in the city barracks, and the remainder in the liberties: their expense for the year ending June 1st, 1836. was £1852. 1. 6., two-thirds of which was paid from the Consolidated Fund, and the remainder by Grand Jury presentment. This force is occasionally employed beyond the limits of the civic jurisdiction. The city is also the head-quarters of the revenue police of the district, the other stations of which are Gort, Ennis, and Cashel; it consists of a sub-inspector, a sub-officer, serjeant, and 15 privates. There are a lieutenant, two deputy-lieutenants, and 15 magistrates, including those already noticed. The amount of Grand Jury presentments for 1835 was £6311. 16. 4., of which £620. 15. 9. was for repairs of roads, bridges, &c.; £3894. 9. 11. for public buildings, charities, salaries, and incidents; £525. 10. 4 1/2. for police, and £1271. 0. 3 1/2. for repayment of Government advances.
The city court-house was erected in 1763, at an expense of £700 only: it is 60 feet by 30, fronted with hewn stone, with a rustic gateway. The Exchange, erected in 1778 at an expense of £1500, is one of the chief ornaments of the old town; the front is of hewn stone, and is adorned with seven Tuscan columns connected by a handsome balustrade. The council-chamber is a fine room of the Ionic order; and there are various convenient municipal offices. The county court-house, on Merchants'-quay, an elegant structure, completed in 1810, at an expense of £12,000, is a quadrangular building of hewn stone, with a portico, supported by four lofty pillars, and surrounded by a light iron balustrade: it contains civil and criminal courts, jury-rooms, and other offices. The city gaol, in the old town, is a gloomy quadrangular edifice, with which the old county gaol is now united; but the buildings do not admit of proper classification, or sufficient means of employment. Yet, notwithstanding these disadvantages, it is remarkably well regulated, orderly, and clean. The new county gaol, which occupies a remarkably favourable situation on the south-east side of the city, was completed in 1821, at an expense of £23,000, and £2000 more was afterwards expended on additions: it has a noble castellated appearance, and its internal construction and arrangement are exceedingly well contrived. The grand entrance is composed of hewn stone, and is of the Doric order. In the centre is a polygonal tower, 60 feet high, containing on successive stories the governor's residence, the committee-room, a chapel, and an hospital, and having round the second story an arcade commanding the several yards. Five rays of buildings diverge from this tower, forming ten wards, each communicating by a cast-iron bridge with the chapel, and containing in the whole 22 apartments for debtors, and 103 cells for criminals. Between the wall immediately surrounding these and the outer wall is a space containing two tread-wheels, the female prison, various offices, and some ornamented plots. The whole is supplied with excellent water from two springs.
The cathedral, which is said to have been founded and endowed by Donald O'Brien, King of Limerick, and is dedicated to St. Mary, was enlarged by Donat O'Brien about the year 1200, greatly adorned by Bishop Eustace del Ewe early in the fourteenth century, partly re-edified by the citizens in 1490, much improved by Bishop Adams in the 17th century, carefully restored after the wars of the same century, and improved at various subsequent periods. It is a venerable Gothic building, in the English town, surrounded with graduated battlements, and has at the west end a square tower 120 feet high, containing eight bells, and surmounted by turrets at the angles. The interior is composed of a nave and choir, separated from the aisles by pointed arches: the choir is 91 feet by 30, with a fine window at the east end: the bishop's throne and the stalls of the dignitaries exhibit some curious carved work: there is a powerful organ. In the nave and aisles are several recesses, formerly endowed as chapels by various families; two of these now form the consistorial court and the vestry; and under the arches separating the aisles from the choir are galleries, for the corporation and the officers of the garrison. At the communion table is a handsome modern Gothic screen. Among the numerous monuments, besides those of several prelates, the most remarkable is the splendid tomb of Donogh, the great Earl of Thomond, on the north side of the choir, composed of three compartments, of marble of different colours, and surrounded and supported by pillars of the Ionic, Corinthian, and Composite orders, and decorated with his arms and various trophies. There is also a fine monument of the Galway family. The chapter consists of a dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, archdeacon, and the 11 prebendaries of St. Munchin, Donoghmore, Ballycahane, Kilpeacon, Tullybracky, Killeedy, Disert, Ardcanny, Croagh, Athnett, and Effin. The corps of the deanery consists of the rectory of St. Mary, the rectories and vicarages of St. Nicholas and Cappagh, and the rectories of Cahirnarry, Bruree, and Mungrett. The deanery lands comprise 80 1/2 statute acres, let on lease at a rent of £88. 2. 5. and an annual renewal fine of £13: 16. 11.; the gross annual income, including these lands, is £1568; the deanery-house is in the city. The dean enjoys the right of presentation to the vicarages of Mungrett and Bruree, and to the perpetual cure of Cahirnarry. The corps of the precentorship consists of the rectories and vicarages of Kilfenny and Loughill, the rectories of Nantinan, Shanagolden, Knocknagaul and Dromdeely, and the vicarage of Morgans; the precentor has the right of presentation to the vicarage of Dromdeely: that of the chancellorship consists of the rectory of Rathkeale, the rectories and vicarages of Kilscannell, Clounagh, Clounshire, and the entire rectory of Dundonnell; of the treasurership, the rectories of St. Patrick and Cahirvally, the rectory and vicarage of Emlygrennan, and the chapelry of Kilquane; and of the archdeaconry, the rectories of St. Michael and Ardagh, and the entire rectory of Kildimo. The economy fund arises from the tithes of the union of Kilmallock, and the rents of several very valuable glebes, amounting on an average to £1400 annually. The diocesan school-house was erected in 1611 in the city; but having fallen into decay some years since, it was sold by the Board of Education, and the proceeds, with the addition of £400, presented by the corporation, have been expended in the purchase of a new site; but the house has not yet been built. In 1823, the Diocesan schools of Killaloe and Kilf'enora were united with that of Limerick, and the income augmented to £150 per ann. The school is held in the private residence of the head-master. The total number of parishes is 92, of which 17 are unions, 3 without provision for cure of souls, and the remainder single parishes. The total number of churches is 42, with 2 chapels of ease, besides five places of worship in school-houses or other buildings licensed for divine service: the number of glebe-houses is 28.
In the R. C. divisions the see is a separate diocese, being one of 7 suffragan to the archbishop of Cashel, and comprising 39 parochial benefices or unions, containing 78 chapels, the spiritual duties of which are performed by 37 parish priests, two administrators of the bishop's mensals, 54 coadjutors or curates, and two supernumeraries, besides whom there are 4 superannuated sick or unemployed clergymen. The bishop's parishes are those of St. John and St. Patrick, both in the county of the city; his residence is at Park-house, near the city. The cathedral is the church of St. John.
The parishes within the bounds of the county of the city are those of St. Michael, which comprehends all the New town; St. Mary, St, Nicholas, St. John, St. Munchin, and St. Laurence, in which the old town, including the suburb of Thomond-gate is included; and Cahirnarry, Cahirvally, Derrygalvin, Donoughmore, Killeely, Kilmurry and St. Patrick, together with parts of those of Abington, Carrigparson, Crecora, Kilkeedy, Kilnegarruff, Knocknegaul, Mungrett and Stradbally, in the rural district of the city; besides which is the extra-parochial district of St. Francis's abbey The parish of St. Michael, or New town of Limerick, being exempt from the payment of Grand Jury cess, two local acts have been passed for its interior regulation, in the 47th and 51st of George III., under which the sum of £461. 10. 9. is raised towards defraying the expenses of the City Gaol, Fever Hospital and House of Industry, being, in fact, in aid of the Grand Jury cess of the county of the city. The Old town, though containing 29,000 inhabitants, pays to this tax no more than £35, which, as it is the only local assessment, indicates the degree of poverty that prevails there. The remainder of the Grand Jury cess, amounting on an average to upwards of £6000 per annum, is levied entirely off the agricultural districts by a tax of from 7s. to 8s. per acre, being about twice as much as the assessment on the adjoining lands in the county at large. Under the act of the 51st of Geo. III., besides the payment of the sum above mentioned, rates are levied on the New town for paving, lighting, watching, and cleansing that part of the city, to the extent of 3s. in the pound on inhabited houses above the value of £10 per annum, and of 4d. in the pound on uninhabited houses and stores: houses under the value of £10 are exempt. A sum of about £65 is also raised for the purpose of burying paupers and taking care of foundlings. The number of houses assessed in 1835 was 914, valued at £28,766, at the rate of 2s. 3d.; the number of stores was 146, valued at £10,257, at the rate of 3 1/2d. The assessment amounted to £3388. 16. 9. The commissioners for assessing the tax, twenty-one in number, are inhabitants of the city, and seven of them retire from office every second year. The living is a rectory, united, from time immemorial, to part of the rectory of Kildimo and the rectory of Ardagh, which three parishes constitute the union of St. Michael and the corps of the archdeaconry of Limerick, in the patronage of the Bishop. The tithes amount to £90 per annum: the gross income of the archdeaconry, including the rent of a small glebe, is £620. 17. 8. per annum. The church was destroyed in the siege of 1651 and has not been rebuilt, but there is a chapel of ease, called St. George's, built and endowed in 1789 by the Pery family: it is a plain commodious edifice; its east window, which is very lofty, formerly belonged to the old Franciscan abbey; the curate is appointed by the Earl of Limerick. An episcopal chapel was erected in this parish, in 1832, in connection with the asylum for blind females. The entrance is beneath an entablature supported by lofty and very chaste Doric columns: the minister is elective, and is paid by voluntary contributions. St. George's male and female parochial schools are in connection with the Kildare-place Society, but are chiefly supported by voluntary subscriptions and the sale of needlework; they afford instruction to 214 children. There are also schools in connection with the London Hibernian Society, and the Wesleyan Methodists: very large schools for males and females are in course of erection from a bequest by Mrs. Villiers. The Limerick Academy in Cecil-street, founded and conducted by Messrs. Brice and Brown, was opened in 1836. It consists of a commodious house for the accommodation of resident pupils and two spacious class-rooms: its object is to afford the means of a complete education from the earliest infancy to the higher departments of collegiate study, based on the principle of exercising the understanding as well as the memory. At present the system of education comprises the usual branches of an English course combined with that of classic literature and science. The diocesan school is in this parish. St. Mary's parish is a rectory entire, united from time immemorial to the rectories and vicarages of St. Nicholas and Cappagh, and the rectories of Cahirnarry, Bruree, and Mungrett, constituting the corps of the deanery; it is in the patronage of the Crown. The cathedral is considered to be the parish church of this parish and of that of St. Nicholas. The blue coat hospital, situated near the cathedral, was founded in 1717, by the Rev. J. Moore, who bequeathed some property in Dublin for its support: about the same time the corporation aided it by an annual grant of £20, and in 1724 Mrs: Craven bequeathed several houses in Limerick for the same purpose. After having fallen into decay, it was revived in 1772 by the bishop and dean, the latter of whom has the management of it. It supports 15 boys, who wear a uniform of blue and yellow. St. Nicholas's parish, a rectory and vicarage, united to St. Mary's, contains 1784 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the tithes amount to £216. 18. 5. The church was destroyed in the siege of 1651, since which time service has been performed in the cathedral. A school for the education of 20 boys and 20 girls is maintained under a bequest of Dr. Jer. Hall, in 1698, for children of poor Protestant parents in St. Mary's and St. Nicholas's parishes. St. Munchin's parish, situated partly in the King's island, partly in the North liberties, and partly in the county of Clare, contains 3622 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act: the living is a rectory, united from time immemorial to the rectory and vicarage of Killonehan, and the rectory of Drehidtarsna, which three parishes constitute the corps of the prebend of St. Munchin in the cathedral of St. Mary, Limerick, and in the patronage of the Bishop. The tithes amount to £276. 18. 5.: those of all the parishes in the union amount to £466. 2. 9 1/2. The church, Which stands on the north side of the city, is enclosed on the north by the old town wall, along which an elevated terrace commands a fine view over the. Shannon; it was rebuilt in 1827, at an expense of £1460, of which £900 was a loan from the Board of First Fruits; it is a handsome edifice, with a lofty square tower embattled and crowned with pinnacles: this church is said to have been founded by St. Munchin, and was the cathedral until the building of St. Mary's. A school for boys and another for girls of this and the adjoining parishes was founded by a bequest of Mrs. Villiers in 1819. St. Laurences parish is a rectory entire, in the patronage of the Corporation: it is of small extent, having no church, and the tithes amount to only £25. The three parishes of St. Mary, St. Munchin, and St. Nicholas form the English town. St. John's parish is a vicarage, in the patronage of the Earl of Limerick. The vicar derives his income from an assessment on the houses, which originally produced £160 per annum; but owing to the removal of the principal inhabitants it sunk to about £50, and has been augmented by a grant of £25 per annum from Primate Boulter's fund. There is a glebe-house, erected by a gift of £369. 4. and a loan of £240 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1828. The church is an ancient edifice, comprising a nave with a north and south aisle extending the whole length of the building; it has recently been repaired by a grant of £185. 19. 3. from the Ecclesiastical Commissioners. This parish forms the Irish town.
In the R. C. arrangements the county of the city is divided into the parishes or districts of St. Mary, St. John, St. Michael, St. Patrick, and St. Lelia. St. Mary's parish comprises the whole of the King's Island, the English town, and the Little or Sluice Island, thus embracing the whole of the Protestant parish of St. Mary, parts of St. Munchin's and St. Nicholas's, and the extra-parochial district of St. Francis: the chapel is a large plain cruciform edifice, built in 1749, on the Sluice Island; the altar exhibits three styles of architecture finely combined, and has a good copy of Michael Angelo's picture of the Crucifixion. A female school established in this parish, some years since, by the religious sisterhood of St. Clare was adopted, after the departure of that body from Limerick, by the sisterhood of the Presentation convent; and on the breaking up of that establishment in 1836, the National Board of Education granted £40 towards its support, and it was placed under the charge of the Rev. Dr. Hanrahan, P.P.; it is still held in the convent under the superintendence of two of the lay-sisters of St. Clare, affords instruction to 400 children, and is supported by subscriptions and charity sermons. St. John's parish comprises the Protestant parish of St. Laurence, and that part of St. Michael's known by the name of the Assembly Mall; this is the bishop's parish, and the church is therefore called the cathedral. It is a large cruciform building, erected in 1753: the altar, which is, very splendid, has a picture of the Crucifixion by Collopy, a native artist. St. Michael's parish is coterminous with the Protestant parish of the same name, with the exception of the Assembly Mall. The chapel, situated near the corn market, was built in 1779, and was then surrounded by open fields: it was considerably enlarged in 1805, and is now the largest and finest in the city: it can accommodate 2500 persons. In this parish there are three orders of friars. The Dominicans have their house and chapel in Glentworth-street: the latter, a large edifice in the early Gothic style, built in 1815, is enriched with a painting of the Crucifixion: the community consists of a prior and four friars. The Augustinians, whose community consists of a prior and two friars, have their house and chapel in St. George's-street; the latter was built for a theatre, and was purchased by the friars in 1824: the boxes and galleries are still preserved as seats for the congregation: it is lighted from the dome: the altar, supported by Corinthian pillars, is enriched with a picture of the Ascension by Collopy. The Franciscans, whose community consists of a prior and two friars, have their house and chapel near Wellesley-bridge; the latter is a large edifice in the Gothic style, comprising a centre and wings, with a handsome gallery: the altar is very fine and has a splendid painting of the Madonna. The brothers of the Christian Schools, six in number, have a school in this parish, and another in St. John's, in which about 600 children are educated; the funds are raised by collections made every Saturday throughout the city by the brethren. A female school, established by the Rev. Dr. Hogan, P.P., in 1822, is chiefly supported by him, and a new school-house capable of containing 200 girls is now being built at his expense. Adjoining the R. C. chapel is a school founded and endowed by Mrs. Meade, for the education of children of R. C. parents. St. Patrick's parish is in the liberties: the church, built in 1816, is on the Dublin road; it is in the form of the letter T, and is small but neatly fitted up; the building was much, improved in 1835. This parish, with those of Kilmurry and Derrygalvin, with which it is united, form the bishop's mensal. St. Lelia's parish is composed of the parishes of St. Munchin and St. Nicholas within the liberties north of the river, and that of Killeely in the county of Clare. The chapel, situated at Thomond-gate, is a large plain cruciform edifice, built in 1744: it is the first R. C. place of worship publicly erected in Limerick since the revolution. In this parish is a school established by the Rev. P. Walsh, P.P., in which 380 children are educated; it is supported by subscriptions and charity sermons.
The Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Munster have a small but very elegant meeting-house in the New town: they are of the second class. Here also the Society of Friends have a neat meeting-house, near which is a large and elegant place of worship, of the Gothic style without, and the Grecian within, belonging to the Wesleyan Methodists, and not far from it another, in the mixed Gothic style, of the Primitive Wesleyan Methodists. The Independents also have a plain but neat meeting-house.
The County Hospital was founded in 1759 by the exertions of the late Mr. Vandeleur, surgeon, aided by the Pery and Hartstonge families. The present building on the new Cork road, which was completed in 1811, at an expense of £7100, has a front of 114 feet, and contains 10 wards for males and 6 for females; the number of patients admitted in the year ending April 1st, 1836, was 632, at an expense of £1520. Barrington's hospital, called by the act of the 11th of Geo. IV. the "City of Limerick infirmary," was founded in 1829 by Sir Joseph Barrington, Bart., and his sons, Matthew, Daniel, Croker, and Samuel. The hospital, built on George's quay at an expense of upwards of £4000, contains six large wards, capable of holding 60 beds; the number at present is 35. It was given by the founders to the city and opened under the new arrangement in Nov. 1831: it is supported by voluntary subscriptions and a grant from Government. Attached to the institution is a good medical library: a wing is now building for a lying-in hospital and another is projected for a fever hospital. St. John's Fever and Lock hospital was founded in 1781 by Lady Hartstonge; in the year 1836 it had 1601 patients; the expenses were £1520. 10. The Lying-in Hospital, opened in Nelson-street in 1812, under the control of a board of trustees, is supported by subscriptions and the interest of a bequest of £1000 from Mrs. White: upwards of 400 patients have been annually admitted into it since its establishment. There is also a dispensary. The District Lunatic Asylum, for the counties of Limerick, Clare, and Kerry, is a very extensive edifice on the new Cork road, completed in 1826. It is 429 feet by 314: the centre forms an octagon, from which four wings diverge containing cells for patients. It was originally intended for 150 curable lunatics, but, an additional building has been lately erected for those considered incurable. There is a considerable portion of land, in the cultivation of which many of the inmates are beneficially engaged. The system of management, which is confined to moral treatment, excluding all coercive or severe measures, is extremely well conducted. The total cost of the buildings, exclusive of the purchase of land, was £35,490. The House of Industry, founded in 1774 by Grand Jury presentments on the county and city, to which was added £200 by the late Dr. Edw. Smyth, of Dublin, towards providing thirteen cells for the insane, was at first calculated to accommodate 200 inmates: the number, prior to 1823, was augmented to 380; a wing was then added for the accommodation of seventy infirm women, and two work-rooms for spinners and weavers. The inmates are employed in various occupations, and a strict classification is observed.
The oldest almshouse is that of Dr. Hall, founded about the commencement of the last century. The present neat and convenient edifice, erected in 1761, contains apartments for thirteen men and twelve women, who receive each £5 a year; also school-rooms, and an episcopal chapel. The annual income is £304, part of which is applied to the use of Hall's school, already noticed, and to some minor endowments. The Corporation almshouse, erected soon after the siege of Limerick, on ground anciently occupied by St. Nicholas's church, is adapted to the reception of 22 reduced widows, each having 40 shillings a year and the use of a garden. The corporation also pays certain annuities to the widows of aldermen and burgesses. St. George's Parochial Asylum, instituted by the late Rev. W. D. Hoare, accommodates 14 Protestant widows. Mrs. Villiers' almshouse, erected a few years ago, in pursuance of the will of Mrs. Hannah Villiers, is a handsome Gothic structure of stone, forming three sides of a square; and is an asylum for 12 Protestant or Presbyterian widows, each of whom receives £24 Irish per annum; a preference is to be given to any descendant of the testatrix who may apply for admission. The widow of Ald. Craven founded an almshouse for poor Protestant widows; the building has been taken down; but 50 widows of the parishes of St. Mary, St. John, and St. Munchin annually receive £4 each; the remainder is divided at Christmas among the poor. The same lady also left £60, the interest of which is given to confined debtors and the poor of the city parishes. The widow of George Rose, Esq., deposited £800 in the hands of the dean and chapter, the interest to be distributed every Christmas equally among sixteen poor widows. The interest of divers sums given at various periods by the members of the Pery family, amounting to £17 per annum, is distributed among the poor of St. John's parish. St. John's parochial almshouse for seven poor Protestant widows is supported by subscriptions and by bequests of Mrs. Craven, Mrs. Crone, and the Earl of Ranfurly; and Mrs. Banks having bequeathed the sum of £8768. 12. 8. to trustees for charitable purposes, it has been apportioned to the Fever Hospital, the Female Orphan Asylum, the Lying-in Hospital, the House of Industry, the county Infirmary, and the Dispensary. A Charitable Loan Fund, formed, in 1770, chiefly by subscriptions of the Pery family, has afforded accommodation to many thousands by loans of three guineas each. In 1810, the inhabitants subscribed the Jubilee Loan fund, amounting to £1200, which has since accumulated by the addition of interest: about £120 is lent weekly, in sums of not more than £4 each, which are repaid by weekly instalments. A Fund for the Encouragement of Industry was established in 1822, out of the surplus fund subscribed in England for the distressed Irish, the loans being limited to £6; the sums so issued in the year ending March 17th, 1836, amounted to £4200. 10., and the amount repaid with interest during the same period was £4500. 13. 11. A Charitable Pawn Office, under the title of the "Mont de Pieté," similar to establishments of the same name throughout the continent, has been instituted by Matthew Barrington, Esq., with the view of allowing the poor small loans at low interest; the capital is raised by debentures, to be repaid with interest; and the profits of the institution are to be applied towards the support of Barrington's Hospital. The building, which adjoins the hospital, is now almost complete; it is nearly circular, with a piazza, surmounted by a lofty and elegant dome and cupola, and has been erected at the sole expense of the founder. A company for granting annuities to widows, settlements for wives, and endowments for children, on payment of an annual premium, was established in 1806, under the title of the Munster General Annuity Endowment Association. An Asylum for the Blind, the house and chapel for which have been lately built, will accommodate 12 men and 1'2 women; a Magdalene Asylum, conducted by a committee of ladies, has been established on a small scale; a Mendicity Association is supported by voluntary contributions; and, in 1826, an Institution for the Relief of Sick and Indigent Room-keepers was formed by a subscription of several hundred pounds: there are also a Savings' Bank and a Mechanics' Institute.
Limerick anciently contained two Augustinian monasteries, one of regular canons, and the other of hermits: the regular canons had another house in the contiguous parish of Mungrett, which was destroyed by the Danes in 1107. In 1227, a Dominican friary was founded in the city by Donogh Carbragh O'Brien, Prince of Thomond, which became a place of great magnificence, and was the burial-place of various prelates and other eminent men: part of the walls still exists, and the cemetery formed the garden of the Presentation convent. There were also a Franciscan convent, founded by William Fion de Burgo; a house of canonesses of the order of St. Augustine, founded in 1171. by Donald O'Brien, King of Limerick, and a house of the Knights Templars; but no remains of these buildings are now discernible. Its military antiquities consist of the ruins of the fortress called King John's Castle, at the end of Thomond bridge, comprehending the great gateway, defended by two massive round towers, and the outer walls, having similar defences, and presenting a fine relic of the military architecture of that remote period; of dilapidated portions of the walls and towers of the citadel nearly contiguous, in which the castle barracks have been erected; of various portions of the town walls, and of some of the outworks, especially a fort on the King's Island, north of the old town. There are also some remains of the celebrated Black Battery, close to which was the breach defended so heroically against William's army. In the rural parishes of the liberties are the ruins of several ancient forts. Of eminent natives were three prelates named Creagh, in the fifteenth century; Richard Creagh, D.D., R. C. Archbishop of Armagh in the reign of Elizabeth, who died in the Tower of London, in 1585; James Arthur, D.D., Professor of Divinity at Salamanca; James Nihell, M.D., the author of various medical treatises of considerable repute, born in 1705; John Fitzgibbon, Esq., an eminent lawyer, born at Ballysheeda, within the liberties, in 1731; the Rev. James White, parish priest of St. Mary's, who published a short description of the county at large in 1764, and also compiled annals of the city, which were never published; John Martin, M.D., author of an essay on the Castle-Connell Spa; Daniel Hayes, Esq., who died at an early age in 1767, after displaying considerable poetic ability; Charles Johnston, who distinguished himself in the department of polite literature; the Rev. Joseph Ignatius O'Halloran, D.D., Professor of Philosophy and Divinity in the Jesuits' College at Bourdeaux; Sylvester O'Halloran, Esq., the historian, his brother; Peter Woulfe, Esq., an eminent chymist and naturalist of the last century; Viscount Pery, who had filled the speaker's chair in the commons' house of parliament in Ireland; the Rt. Hon. John Fitzgibbon, Earl of Clare, and Lord High Chancellor of Ireland.; John Ferrar, a bookseller and printer of Limerick, who was author of several respectable topographical works concerning Limerick, Dublin, and Wicklow; Timothy Collopy, distinguished as an historical and portrait painter; William Palmer, who also rose to some eminence as an artist under Sir Joshua Reynolds, but died at an early age; and Edward Fitzgerald, Esq., for some time editor of the Pilot Newspaper, in London. Limerick confers the titles of Earl and Viscount on the family of Pery.