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.