By Ian Magahy
Mapping The Abandoned Town Of Bannow
The ruined church of Saint Marys of Bannow stands on a grassy headland at the mouth of Bannow bay, in the south east corner of Ireland. Cows graze up to the low stone walls of the graveyard that surrounds the roofless church (see Corlett and Kirwan, this volume). This is all that now remains of the once thriving medieval town of Bannow. The location, the extent, and the layout of the town have been the subject of speculation; it has been described variously, and erroneously, as having sunk under the sea, an Irish Heracleion, or having been buried under the sand, an Irish Pompeii.
There are no known maps of Bannow to show either the exact location or the layout of the town. However, by examining the many written descriptions of the town that are available it is possible to map with certainty the exact location of the town, and to map with reasonable accuracy, the street plan and layout of the town.
Descriptions of what little remained in the 1800’s are contained in two articles in The Dublin Penny Journal in 1833, a weekly newspaper printed in Dublin between 1832 and 1836. Further descriptions are contained in the Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society of 1850, an organization founded in 1849 and which shortly afterwards became the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.
Earlier descriptions of the parish of Bannow and the town are contained in the various surveys which were carried out following the suppression of the Rebellion of 1641, to facilitate the confiscation and redistribution of land.
Bannow bay is a large estuary in the south eastern corner of Ireland, in the barony of Bargy in Co. Wexford. At the mouth of the bay, on the eastern headland, the town of Bannow once stood. The name Bannow is derived from the Irish Cuan an Bhainbh or harbour of the suckling pig, and according to Hore refers originally to Banbh a chieftain of the Fir Bolg, the mythical early medieval antecedents of the Irish race (Hore 1911, 439).
There is no information on whether the town existed prior to the first Anglo-Norman landing in Ireland. Until recently the ruins of a smaller church (the chapel of Saint Brendan) were to be found in the in the townland of Brandane, some 500m to the north-east of Bannow. Tomás Ó Bróin describes the area around this church as being thickly studded with historic remains, foundations of buildings pavements etc. and attests that it was evidently the site of the historic village St. Brendan (Brandane)(Ó Bróin 1921). Unfortunately nothing remains of what little remained then.
In 1169 a force of 300-400 men landed at Bannow Island, which was also referred to as Slade Island at the time of the Down Survey (Fig. 3). Their leader was Robert FitzStephen, a Norman-Welsh knight, and they made camp on the island. A day later, two further ships arrived under the command of Maurice de
Prendergast, bringing their numbers to around 500-600 men (Colfer 2002, 29).
Figure 1 Map of Wexford and Bannow
They were joined by Irish warriors led by Dermot MacMurrough, king of Leinster. From Bannow the combined armies headed towards Wexford, a Hiberno-Norse seaport at the time and thus began the Norman conquest of Ireland.
The Normans proceeded to found a substantial town at Bannow to take advantage of the shelter provided by the island and headland. That it was a substantial town can be inferred from one of the earliest references to it during the rule of King Edward the First (1272-1307). The charter granted the same privileges and liberties to the town of New Ross as ‘those enjoyed by the burgesses of Bannow, Kilkenny and other towns in Leinster (Hore 1911, 439). It sent two representatives to the Irish parliament until the Act of Union, when the £15,000 awarded in compensation for the abolition of the franchise was paid to Charles,
Marquess of Ely, and Charles Tottenham, Esq., of Ballycurry, in the County of Wicklow (Lewis 1837, 183-185)
The town probably existed for a three hundred years between the 1200s and the 1500s. The burgage rent as recorded in 1324 was £8 0s. 10p (Colfer 2002, 155). It was gradually deserted as the channel between it and Bannow Island silted up, and boats could no longer access its sheltered harbour forcing trade
The silting up of the harbour was due to a number of factors. The area around the mouth of the estuary, even to this date, is subject to the arrival and disappearance of massive sand banks. Hubert Lamb, the English climatologist identified a Medieval Warm Period from 1000 AD to 1200 AD followed by an average temperature decline until 1500-1700, a period he termed the Little Ice Age (Lamb 1965). This has been correlated to a drop in sea level of around 500mm over the period from 1200 to 1800 (Grinsted et al. 2009). By 1655 the town described in detail comprised only a dozen or so houses, occupying approximately 16 acres of land (Hore 1875). The church and probably the castle were by that time in a ruinous state.
Figure 2 Bannow and Bannow Bay
Figure 2 shows the location of the town and the area which silted up. This area now comprises a road giving access to the island and Bannow strand.
There are no structures remaining at the site, other than the ruin of St. Mary’s church. It is probable that most structures were of timber and clay and perished over time. Stones from the masonry structures would have been reused elsewhere probably for the walls currently dividing the fields and surrounding the graveyard.
The location of the town
The earliest map based information regarding the location of the town can be obtained from the Down.
Survey. The Down Survey is the mapping of Ireland carried out by William Petty between 1655 and 1656. Figure 3 The Down Survey map of Bannow (as copied by Daniel O’Brien 1786(7)). The church of St. Mary is indicated by the writer. (Copyright National Library of Ireland 19245 )
Copies of these maps were made by Daniel OBrien between 1786 and 1787 (O’Brien 1786(7)). The description of the parish of Bannoe (Bannow) of which the town (or Corporation) of Bannow forms part includes reference to a small island of Slade approx. ¼ mile, an inhabited castle at Bannow, at the east of which is a ruined church. The townland of Brandane, (Brandon on the map) is the location of the old town of Brandane. The Down Survey shows no church in this location, so it may be assumed that it was even then in a worse condition than the church of St. Marys of Bannow.
The Ordnance Survey Map of c. 1840 gives further information. The location of the Castle, Ladys Well and the town of Bannow are shown.
Figure 4 The Ordnance Survey map of 1840 showing the location of Bannow and Brandane with the location of the stone causeway added (dotted line) as well as other monuments and places mentioned. (Copyright OSI MP000216)
A comparison of the 1840 map with the Down Survey map is of interest. The location of the church is consistent with that shown on the Down Survey. By superimposing one on the other it may be seen that the correlation between both maps in respect of the outline of the coast, island and estuary is remarkable. It is also evident that there has been little or no erosion of the headland on which the town is located. The area where erosion has occurred (and continues to occur) is along the coastal area facing south. At Cross Lake and Blackhall, where the bedrock is low, considerable erosion due to the action of the sea has occurred.
However the higher level of bedrock below the sandy clay in the area of the town precluded similar erosion happening there.
The historic roads network
The road network giving access to the town has altered over the centuries. In the medieval period paved roads were largely restricted to urban areas. Most significant haulage was by water, and the roads, as existed, were tracks suitable for animals. J.C.Tuomey, a 19th century historian and Corresponding Member
(representing Taghmon) of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society wrote that ‘a road ran from the church due east from Bannow church to Ballymaggin castle (Cullenstown) via Cross Lake so called because of the wooden crosses placed there by funeral parties going to the church’ (Tuomey 1850,.198). Mr Tuomey goes
on to confirm that the portion of road between Cross Lake and Bannow had long since been levelled with the fields and the portion between Cross Lake and Cullenstown, which ran on the sea banks had long since been washed away.
Today the coastal road from Duncormick only runs as far as the beach at Cullenstown, and comes to a dead end. On Valentine Gills map of 1807 (Fig 5), based on a survey he carried out in 1807, it can be seen to run further, then diverting inland around the location of Bannow House, just before Blackhall strand. The road then takes a tortuous route to Bannow around Bannow Moor (shown on V. Gills map), which was reputedly drained as a famine relief programme. Notwithstanding minor inconstancies the considerable erosion of the southern coast is also clearly evident, (the coastline of the 1807 map is shown dashed in Fig 911).
Figure 5 Extract from Valentines Gills map of 1807 (Reproduced by kind permission of the Wexford County Archive)
It is probable that the disuse of the coastal road running from Bannow to Cullenstown and on to Wexford occurred in stages. When the section from Blackhall to Cross Lake was eroded the track from Cross Lake to Bannow no longer served much purpose and was abandoned. Similarly, when the section between
Cullenstown and Blackhall collapsed the road now came to a dead end at Cullenstown, and only an inland route to Bannow remained, the configuration shown on the ordnance survey map of 1840 (which still pertains today).
To the north of Bannow is a small inlet formerly crossed by means of a causeway (Fig 4), the remains of which are currently visible near the location of the putative old town of Brandane. At this location J.C. Tuomey reports that ‘on a small steam or pill there was, within the memory of man, the remains of a water mill’ (Tuomey 1850, 209). The water mill at Banna is mentioned in 1307 in the estate of Joan de Valance, countess of Pembroke on her demise (Hore 1911, 453). In a
further inquisition in 1324 the watermill is again mentioned albeit now ruinous, nearly down (Hore 1911, 454). A small stream flows into this inlet. In the winter the flow from this stream is weak, and the stream virtually dries up in the summer. This stream would have been insufficient to power even a modest mill and the location of the mill is some distance from the point where the stream enters the inlet.
It is therefore most probable that the mill was a tidal one and that the principal purpose of the causeway was not to traverse the inlet but to form a barrier trapping the water behind, which water would then have been released as the tide fell driving the mill. Such a tidal mill was in operation in the seventh century AD at Little Island in Cork, and at Nendrum Monastery in Strangford Lough (Rynne 2015). J.C. Tuomey also states that the causeway was known locally as the Black Bridge and from there ‘several pieces of sound black oak were taken from the mud some fifty years ago’ (Tuomey 1850, 209). It is possible that these pieces comprised the timber sluice gate or other elements of a mill mechanism , at a spot near centre of the causeway where the stream now runs freely.
Figure 6 Photograph of the causeway in Brandane townland looking north. It is argued that this represents the remains of a medieval tidal mill. The stream runs through near the centre.
There is no mention of the mill In the Down Survey list of extant castles, bridges and mills, but it is again mentioned in the 1634 in the estate (on his passing) of John Cullen of Bannow (Hore 1911, 457)
The Down Survey map confirms the location of a ferry at Clonmines. At this point the rivers Corock and Owenduff flow south into Bannow bay and, while to the modern eye they appear quite modest, they would have presented a considerable obstacle to travel during the medieval period. The presence of a ferry at
Clonmines avoided a considerable diversion north to Foulkesmills and it is likely that the importance of Clonmines, evidenced by the churches and castles of substance there, was due to its pivotal location on the network of roads amongst other factors.
Between the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries the ferry at Clonmines appears to have ceased, perhaps reflecting the diminishing fortunes of this town. Taylor and Skinner’s Maps of the Roads of Ireland was first published in 1778 and later edition of their map (surveyed in n 1783) noted that at Clonmines The Scare… (Bannow Bay)….is fordable at low water. There is no ferry boat.
Lewis’s Atlas, comprising the Counties of Ireland, published in London by S. Lewis & Co. in 1837 shows the principal roads pertaining some 50 years later. The ford (or scare) at Clonmines had by then been made redundant with the construction of a bridge less than 1km further up the estuary (over the Corrock river).
This bridge, called Wellington Bridge, was built shortly after the 1798 rebellion as part of the New Line military road from Wexford to the fort at Duncannon. The old coastal road can again be seen running only as far as Blackhall strand, the coastal route beyond Blackhall appears to have partially collapsed. The spur
eastwards connected the road to Bannow House, the principal estate in the area, this is consistent with Valentine Gills map of 1807 (figure 5)
Figure 7 Extract from Taylor and Skinners map of 1778 showing the road from Duncormack (sic) to Tintern via The Scare at Clonmines fordable at low tide. (Copyright NLI 19245)
Figure 8 S. Lewis & Co. map of 1837 (copyright NLI 19245)
In the Down Survey mapping a ferry to the west from Bannow is shown and this is mentioned in the inquisitions of various estates in 1540 and 1564, suggesting that the town was still of some significance at this time (Hore 1911, 452-458)
Figure 9 Map showing main road network in the later medieval period with current Ordnance Survey maps
Figure 9 shows in green the main routes in the area as they probably pertained in the later medieval period, when Bannow was still a functioning town. The map shows the main road (Colfer 2002, 145) in 1233 from Wexford (via Duncormick) to Clonmines and the old coastal road to Bannow, no longer extant. The medieval
ferries at Clonmines and Bannow are shown (dotted lines). The fordable scare or ford referred to in the maps of the early 1800’s is shown dashed at Clonmines. The principal castles/tower houses are also shown (Colfer 2002).
The layout of the town
There are no known maps of the town in existence. The general layout of the town can however be established by studying the written descriptions contained in the surveys carried out in during the years following the uprising of 1641 and by referring to the descriptions of what little remained of the town in the mid 1800’s, as contained in articles written in The Dublin Penny Journal, the Journal of the Archaeological Society of Kilkenny and Samuel Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary of Ireland of 1837. The information gleaned from each is discussed below.
In the years following the Irish Rebellion of 1641 various surveys of landholdings and landholders were carried out in order that land, owned by the Catholic Irish involved or considered complicit in the rebellion, could be transferred to those loyal to the English Parliament and those who backed the suppression,
including the Cromwellian soldiers.
The surveys pertinent to Bannow include firstly, the Down Survey of 1655 and 1656 (a map based survey referred to earlier), secondly, The Civil Survey of Wexford 1654-1656 Vol IX, edited by Robert C. Simmington in 1953, thirdly, a handwritten transcription by P.H. Hore (1875) catalogued in the National Library as The Cromwellian survey of the towns of Wexford, Fethard and Bannow giving the valuation and proprietors in 1641, and fourthly A Distribution of Forfeited land in the Counties of Wexford and Kildare compiled in 1701.
The possible existence of a further document describing Bannow in the mid 1600s is mentioned by P.H. Hore who refers to hearing of a book which was for sale in a bookshop in Leicester being The Quit Rent Rolls of Bannow, transcribed by an A. Wilson, from the book of quit rent of the Custom House in Wexford (Hore
1875). He suggests that it would be a valuable addition to this collection, but unfortunately has not proved traceable.
The Civil Survey of Wexford 1654-1656 Vol IX, which is often referred to as the Quit Rent Rolls, is a record of the ownership of land, castles, mills churches and bridges lying outside the principal towns, prior to the rebellion and includes the location and area of the each landholding and its value in 1640. It includes a
reference to a small castle being Banno castle and one acre owned by Nicho(las) Loftus (Engl. Protestant.) (Simington 1953, 150).
The manuscript A Distribution of Forfeited land in the Counties of Wexford and Kildare, held in the Royal Irish Academy, Dublin, is one of the Books of Survey and Redistribution which were compiled in 1701. These recorded the forfeiture of land, and list the owners of each plot of land in 1641 (prior to the rebellion).
The former owners were for the most part Irish Catholics while the owners in 1701, i.e. after the rebellion, were for the most part English Protestants. The 1641 landowners recorded in this document are consistent with those in Simmington’s transcription of the Civil Survey of Wexford.
The document categorised in the National Library of Ireland as The Cromwellian survey of the towns of Wexford, Fethard and Bannow giving the valuation and proprietors in 1641, was transcribed in 1875, by the historian Philip Hore from books in the Public Record (Hore 1875) and subsequently, published in his
seminal work History of the Town and County of Wexford (Hore 1900-11, pages). The manuscript version refers in detail to the towns of Wexford, Bannow and Fethard and includes a written description of the landholdings and buildings within the town of Bannow, giving a description of each plot or building, the street
on which it is located, it’s area, and the tenants/possessors at the date of the survey and the proprietors of the same in 1641.
P.H. Hore confirms that the original manuscript was undated and suggests a date of c.1655 (Hore 1900-11, 458) which is consistent with the date of the Civil Survey of Wexford. An extract from Hore’s subsequent publication of this document (the Bannow Survey hereinafter) is shown below (Hore 1900-11, 459).
Figure 10 Extract from Hore’s transcription of the Bannow survey as published
It is possible, by process of trial and error, to reconstruct the plan of Bannow from the survey using the following constructs:
The surveyor describes the various streets in the order he comes upon them, walking. This assumption is supported by the fact that, upon approaching junctions, he describes the final house plots as facing the next street listed in the survey. Therefore High Street follows and joins Lackey Street, which joins at the Cross with New Street and Little Street etc. It is also highly probable that the sequence of the various holdings as described indicates that each is proximate to the next.
Gardens and house plots are occasionally given approximate locations for example at the North end of the Street South of the Graveyard, East of the church etc. As the locations of the church, the graveyard and the castle are known, this gives valuable information.
One of the houses is described as adjoining the castle and lands of Nicholas Loftus. The lands are, therefore, adjacent to the castle, and as the location of the castle is known the lands around the castle define the extent of the town locally.
The areas of each plot are given. These are rounded to within 1/10th of an acre, 1/5th,or ½ an acre. It is clear from these broad measurements that the plots were guessed at, probably by eye, and most likely rounded up to a considerable degree. The plots therefore can only be approximate.
The street referred to as Lackey St. is probably originally La Quay, being along the quay of the town. A similar named street fronts onto the Barrow estuary at Ballyhack.
One particular transcription issue arises. In two instances plots are described as being located relative to the strand. This is improbable as, in the first instance Bannow strand is at the location of the silted up estuary and did not exist at the time. If the strand referred to the rocky area south of the town then the entire town would be north of the strand and the individual references would make no sense. It is my opinion that these reference in fact read str. and for example south of the street and…… The Cross may be the confluence of the four streets, or may be a physical cross as suggested by Hore (Hore 1910-11, 449).
The burgess plots (plots leased to the towns occupants) are generally in multiples of 1/10th of an acre. This area is the same as that known to have been allocated to each burgess in New Ross. Furthermore it ties in with the areas of the Bannow Survey, the smallest of which is 1/10 acre, the larger plots probably
being amalgamations of earlier smaller ones.
There are a number of descriptions of what remained of the town dating to the mid 1800s. These include two articles in The Dublin Penny Journal and two further essays in the The Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological society The Dublin Penny Journal Vol 2 No 55 p.18 (July 20 1833) (authored by one M.O’R) describes (in a somewhat fanciful fashion) the area around the church as it pertained at the time. The author describes heights (of sand) placed parallel and crossed at right angles and the summit of an ancient steeple rising in the midst of this solitude. This steeple is probably the tall chimney referred to in the subsequent article.
The article continues The parallel lines clearly indicate the direction of the streets……in following the course of one of the streets…one sees where the sea originally approached it: for on slightly digging, we discovered the remains of an old quay made of bricks. The author would have approached the church following the road that currently leads to it. Therefore, the ‘street’ the author took down to the quay is another, and is High Street which runs down to the location where the old quay started, and where a stone structure (not brick as described) can be seen today, under the vegetation. M.O’R concludes his article by confirming that it is extracted from a memoir lately read before the Geographical Society of Paris. An examination of the bulletins of that society (Bulletin de la Société de Géographie 18221899 ) for the preceding 8 years, reveals no such memoir and the assertion might be viewed with some scepticism.
The Dublin Penny Journal Vol. 2 No 56 p32 (July 27 1833), is more detailed and is ascribed by the editor to a Rev. Robert Walsh, probably the Waterford born antiquarian and Trinity College Dublin graduate who lived from c.1772 to 1852. The author describes entering onto the church yard by an old stile (currently existing) and being advised by his companion that he was now in the High Street, in the midst of it.
The west wall of the graveyard may correspond with the east side of High Street and the east wall of the graveyard demarcates Lady Street (possibly Our Lady’s Street originally, changed for Cromwellian sensibilities)
The author describes a square mass of solid masonry, about seven feet high rising from the sandy hillocks where blown sand had built up it and asserts that it is the chimney of the town-house peeping above the soil, while the rest of the edifice was buried beneath it.
He goes on to confirm that there were several wide streets, crossing one another…….One of them ran down to the sea at the mouth of the harbour (High Street). He found there a fine quay at the edge of the water two hundred yards in length and higher up the foundation of a very extensive edifice evidently some public
Rev. Walshe also writes that from the Quit rent rolls I examined at Wexford, the towns streets included among others, High Street, Weaver Street, St. Georges Street, Upper Street, St. Toolock’s street, St Mary’s Street, St Ivory’s Street, Lady Street and Little Street. The Bannow Survey makes no reference to St
George’s Street, Upper Street, St. Toolock’s Street, St. Ivory’s Street or even St. Marys Street. There are no such saints as Ivory or Toolock but St. Ivory may be a rendering of St. Ibar (also St. Ivor and St. Iberius).
Similarly St. Toolock may be a variation of St. Tullogue, the name ascribed by Samuel Lewis to St. Doologues church in Wexford (Lewis 1837, 710).
Two further pieces appeared in The Transactions of the Kilkenny Archeological Society Vol. 1 No 2 (1850) The Bay and the Town of Bannow Nos I and II and from these further information can be gleaned. In the first account (No I) the author, Rev. James Graves, a noted antiquarian and founding member of the
Kilkenny Archaeological Society is scathing about The Dublin Penny Journal articles seventeen years earlier. While the articles are a little fanciful the scorn is hardly justified. The article discusses the etymology of the place name Bannow, and its derivation from Cuan and Bhainbh (literally translated as bay of suck(l)ing pigs). It goes on to reiterate the names of the many streets mentioned in The Dublin Penny Journal article as being in the Quit Rent Roles preserved in Wexford (Graves 1850, 192).
In the second account Tuomey describes the remains of the town around the same time comprising, once, ‘small sand hills varying from five to fifteen feet in height’ and he also mentions the ongoing removal of the sand for use a fertiliser. He describes the foundations of the houses and walls of houses as being a few feet high and being built of a green flag or slate to be found up the coast a half mile to the south-east (presumably around Clammers Point), and also of rounded beach stone. Mr. Tuomey formed the erroneous opinion that the houses around the church were suburbs of a town located further north around an old
coastguard station, facing north into the bay (around Brandane). He went on to describe the chimney at the south-west side of the graveyard as ‘a funnel of eighteen inches square’ and ‘the sides of it being the same dimensions’; you could trace its length for twelve feet (fallen) where a gravestone cuts it and that locals recall it being ‘thirty to forty feet in length its stones having been used to build this (the graveyard) walls’.
This chimney was used to post election notices on but the Mr. Tuomey states that he saw no reason to consider that it may have been a Tholsel (Town hall). The Bannow Survey however describes one particular building as ‘the stone walls of a house before the cross’ measuring 60’x24′ (feet) a sizeable structure (Hore 1910-11, 460). It location is consistent with Mr. Toumey’s description of it in the south-west corner of the graveyard. It is probable that this building, of which the chimney formed part, was indeed the town hall. This is further supported by the fact that legal notices in respect of elections were fixed to this
He goes on to relate a story told by the daughter of the owner of the ruined castle regarding the last election day of the borough shortly after the rebellion (1798) whereby the lord promised to have a house built near ‘the old castle and my fathers little park behind it’. This description suggests that the tower house (castle)
abutted the wall of the little park nearest the church. These walls remain today and the tower house (no trace of which remains) can therefore be located in relation to these.
In 1921 Tomás Ó Bróin wrote an article entitled Bannow for The Past the Organ of the Ui Cinsealaigh Historical Society. The article is an examination of most of the sources referred to above. He mentions the water mill and the old town of Brandane, and suggests that some part of the church of St Marys of Bannow
pre-dated the Norman landing. He recites the full list of streets referred to in the earlier articles and goes on to posit a rough (but erroneous) layout of the streets, being misled by the reference to the strand and an assumption that the spring on Lackey Street is Lady’s Well.
Figure 11 Conjectural reconstruction of the town (looking north) in the late seventeenth century based on documentary sources
Figure 11 shows how the town would have appeared at the time of the Bannow Survey. Every plot of land and house described (in ruins or otherwise) has been plotted and best fitted into the overall plan. The size of the town is, therefore, broadly accurate, being a sum of the various landholdings described. The locations
of the castle and the church are certain. The location of the town hall is approximate and is located near the Cross. The location of Lackey Street (almost certainly La Quay originally) is near the obvious location for the Quay, and is the first street surveyed arriving from the north. High Street definitely ran north to south, and was located west of the church as shown. An area off High Street, north of the church remains unaccounted for. It is possible that some of the land holdings that have been presumed to lie west of the Street in fact lay in this area. This would modify the plan somewhat though not substantially. It is more likely that some or all of this area was commonage, Little Street and New Street converge at the Cross and Little Street ran eastwest as shown. The Cross (where markets would have been held) is located near the Town hall, which is logical. The location of Ladys Street is the most difficult to estimate. The location shown is a best fit and is supported by the presumption that it ran to the Church of Saint Mary (being originally possibly Our Ladys Street) and with the fact that it runs past the location of Ladys well. Weaver Street meets Ladys Street and Little Street and is, therefore, probably as shown. The convergence of these streets is difficult to map with a level of certainty.
The role of a town was crucial in the Anglo-Norman social and economic system, which was in fact more a patchwork of lordships than a single polity. In this patchwork, the towns and rural boroughs were centres of military and economic control. The distinction between towns and lesser rural boroughs is not absolute.
(Graham 2000, 135) suggests that the scale of non-agricultural (i.e. mercantile) activity is what distinguishes a town from a rural borough while Bradley argues that any settlement located on a routeway, having a street pattern/burgage plots and evidence of any three of certain attributes (town walls, castle, bridge, cathedral, religious orders, hospital, quays, school suburbs, administration building and specialist technology) was urban in nature and could be considered a town (Bradley 1985, 419-20). Interestingly Bannow, at the time of its foundation, on the basis of available evidence exhibited perhaps three of these characteristics, having a castle, a quay and a town hall (an administration building), but it is likely that administrative and nonagricultural activities were also carried out as perhaps evidence by Weaver Street. While there is a tantalising reference to town walls mentioned in a saving in the Patent to Boyce (Hore 1900-11, 458) this does not constitute strong evidence that the settlement was enclosed with walls of any substance. Therefore under Bradleys classification, Bannow was a town up until the quays effectively ceased to function and then became a rural borough. This is consistent with the description of the town in terminal decline contained in the Bannow Survey of 1655.
Bradley describes the medieval layout of towns as being predominantly linear, with the houses often having their gable ends to the street with burgages behind. He confirms that the market place, occasionally marked by a physical cross, was either the main street or, sometimes, located in a triangular extension to one end.
Castles were normally located on the edge or outside, the town. (1985, 133). Billy Colfer confirms burgage plots in new Ross as being generally 1/10th acre and, again, comprising long narrow strips giving a street frontage and a garden to the rear for cultivation (Colfer 2002, 167).
Having established, with a reasonable degree of confidence, the layout of the town at the time of the Bannow Survey in 1655, and finding it consistent with the general morphology of planned Anglo-Norman towns of the period, the writer feels that it is reasonable to take it that this morphology or layout originated during the thirteenth century.
Bannow, as set out in this paper, possessed a quay, a church and a castle, a town hall and market square, and comprised perhaps 50 to 75 burgage plots. Taking the multiple of at least five persons per burgage, this suggests a population of 250-400 inhabitants (Graham 2000,135)
Such a layout is shown in Figure 12 providing views of the town as it may broadly have appeared in the late medieval period.
Figure 12 Conjectural plan of Bannow in the late medieval period
On approaching the town from the north, one passed by what is argued in this paper was a water mill on the tidal inlet at Brandane, where the grinding of cereals would have taken place, and entered the town on La Quay (Lackey Street). Below to the north was a stone quay where boats were tied up, offloading their cargo.
Turning left one entered High Street, which ran up to the Cross, where trading activity took place on market day and where the town hall was located. The houses and cabins on plots of 1/10th of an acre were laid out closely on the right walking up the street and the church of Saint Mary was directly ahead. On reaching the
Cross and turning left into Little Street the castle lay directly ahead, and beyond the junction with Weavers Street, Ladys Street ran past a further row of houses and cabins, leaving the town at Ladys well and continuing due east to Cross Lake on the coast and on to Cullenstown, Duncormick and Wexford by means
of the coastal road, now mostly washed away.
The rebuilding of Bannow town and the roads leading to and from it (if only on paper) is no exact science. It has been determined from the records available and should further information come to light, for example confirmation or otherwise of the streets missing from the Cromwellian survey or through the evidence of
geophysical survey, revisions would doubtless have to be made. Notwithstanding, it is submitted that the benefits accruing from of reconstructing the broad configuration of the town are considerable and, as a result, it is hoped that the process of forgetting the town will be frustrated, and the task of remembering it
made a little easier.
A Distribution of Forfeited land in the Counties of Wexford and Kildare compiled in 1701, Dublin Royal Irish Academy, Ms. G. III. 2
Bradley, J. 1985. Planned Anglo-Norman towns in Ireland. In Clarke, H. and Simms, A. (eds)
The Comparative History of Urban Origins in non-Roman Europe. British Archaeological Report International series 255. Oxford,411467.
Colfer, B. 2002. Arrogant Trespass Anglo Norman Wexford 1149-1400. Enniscorthy
Colfer B. 2013. Wexford Castles Landscape-Context-Settlement. Cork
Graham, B. 2000. Urbanisation in the High Middle Ages. In Barry T. (ed) A History of Settlement in Ireland, London, 129-136
Graves, Rev. J. 1850. The Bay and the Town of Bannow No I. The Transactions of the Kilkenny Archaeological Society Vol. 1. No. 2, 187-194
Grinsted, A., J.C. Moore, and S. Jevrejeva,. 2009. Reconstructing sea level from paleo and projected temperatures 200 to 2100AD. Climate Dynamics, Vol. 34, No. 4, 461-472
Hore, P.H. 1875. The Cromwellian survey of the towns of Wexford, Bannow and Fethard, Co. Wexford giving the value of proprietors in 1641. Transcribed by P. H. Hore from books in the Public Record Office, Dublin. The National Library of Ireland (microfilm copy)
Hore, P.H. 1900-11. History of the town and county of Wexford, Vol. IX. London
Lamb, H. 1965. The early medieval warm epoch and its sequel. Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, Vol. 1, 1337
Lewis. S. 1837. A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland. London
M.O’R. 1833 Bannow, County Wexford. The Dublin Penny Journals Vol. 2 No 55, 18. (20th July 1833)
O’Brien D. 1786(7) The parish maps of the Down Survey for the County of Wexford by W. Petty (1655-9). National Library of Ireland.
Ó Broin, Tomás. 1921. Bannow The Past the Organ of the Ui Cinsealaigh (Wexford) Historical Society No. 2, 120-126 (December 1921)
Colin Rynne. (2015) The Technical Development of the Horizontal Water wheel in the First Millennium ad: Some Recent Archaeological Insights from Ireland, The International Journal for the History of Engineering & Technology, 85:1, 70-93
Simington, R.C. 1953 The C