Castlebar, County Mayo, Ireland: A Description of its Development and Characteristics

Castlebar is a Town located in the Civil Parish of Aglish, Carra Barony. Castlebar River runs next to the Town of Castlebar and a mail coach route ran through here from Ballinasloe to Westport. It was listed among the 61 principal towns of Ireland in "Pigot's Commercial Directory of Ireland 1824." Killala was the only other County Mayo Town listed on this chart. There were specific sections on County Mayo's primary market towns in this directory; however, such as Ballina, Castlebar, Killala and Westport. According to Pigot's Commercial Directory, Castlebar is: "Located 120 miles west of Dublin, 8 northeast of Westport, 16 west of Ballina, 14 west northwest of Ballinrobe and 13 northwest of Clare. It is the property of Lord Lucan." (Pigot, 2005, p. 200). To see the location of Castlebar on a map check out my Mayo Market Towns Map.

Castlebar probably owes its early successful development to its more central location in County Mayo and to John Bingham who obtained a patent for a market and 3 day fair in 1609. According to the "Statistical Survey of the County of Mayo 1802," Castlebar had fairs on July 9, September 16 and on November 18. (McParlan, 1802; Trinity College Dublin Library Collection 2007. p. 47-51). The survey goes on to say the following:

When the 1802 Statistical Survey of County Mayo was conducted, the principal town of size or consideration was Castlebar." "Westport was already of some consequence in trade and improving everyday: Ballina, Killala, Clare, Ballinrobe and Newport are the others. (McParlan, 1802, p. 85).

The Binghams may have had a huge influence on the early development of Castlebar, but it is unlikely they will be remembered in a positive light. J.F. Quinn in the "History of Mayo", described the Binghams and the Earl of Lucan who later came into influence in the following manner:

"The Binghams had such a grip on their confiscated lands that they refused to given any of it to provide a glebe for the local parson. Still, in justice, it must be said that the late Earl of Lucan gave free the land on which the parish church is erected, also that for the schools, college, etc. He also presented the green to the town, proved himself a model landlord and neither he nor the present Earl ever sued a tenant for nonpayment of rent." (Quinn, 1996. Vol 1, Chap 47, p. 367).

A much different description of the Earl of Lucan was presented in the same source on the Town of Louisburgh:

"Lord Lucan, with the inherited ferocity of the Binghams sent out the Castlebar Police, Military and Bailiffs and cleared off the people to prepare for the consolidation of farms. Lord Lucan regarded his tenants as vermin to be driven off the lands, and all around Castlebar his hand was heavy. Villages and men disappeared, and cattle, branded with the Lucan mark, took their place." (Quinn, 1996. Vol. 2, Chap. 22, p. 246).

The above picture paints a completely different, contradictory picture of the Earl of Lucan. There is pretty extensive documentation of the sheer numbers of families that Lord Lucan evicted from their homes in the Townlands surrounding Castlebar. It appears that the earlier Lucans may have been more ruthless than Lord Lucans that followed, as a notation in the same book commends "the late Lord Lucan" for handing land over to the Congested Districts Board.

I will go into much greater detail on the landlords of County Mayo in a section to be developed at a later date.

The Town of Castlebar is incorporated into the Townlands of Carrowncurry, Curragh, Garryduff, Gorteendrunagh, Knockacroghery, Knockaphunta and Knockthomas. It can become a bit confusing looking at the Griffith's Valuation until you look at an ordinance survey map of how these Townlands are all right next to each other with the Town of Castlebar at the apex. The Townland of Knockthomas has the Fairgreen and Tolls and Customs of Fairs. The portion of Castlebar within this Townland also houses the Old Linen Hall. The Castlebar section of "The Statistical Survey of County Mayo 1802" acknowledged that as much as 500 pounds of linen is presented at the linen hall every Saturday. (McParlan, 1802, 2007. p. 109).

The "Statistical Survey of County Mayo 1802" also mentions there being three bleach mills, a brewery and a distillery at that time around Castlebar, but according to the survey the "chief support of the town is an extensive market, particularly for linen, which is held on Saturday." The survey gave credit for the Castlebar Linen Manufacture's development in the following manner: "A high degree of improvement, and has been, by pains and premiums, brought to its perfection by the late Lord Lucan." The Survey acknowledges Castlebar as having a Market For Grain, Fairs on May 11, July 9, September 16 and November 18 and brewed a significant amount of beer. (McParlan, 1802; 2007, p. 37, 47-51, 93, 109, 112). When the demand for textiles began to soften in 1815, and economic decline ensued, one would assume it took a heavy toll on Castlebar as it did on Westport.

"A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" published first in 1837 mentioned Castlebar as having a soap and Candle manufactory and a tannery in addition to the brewery listed above. He also mentions the presence of a branch of the Agricultural and Commercial Bank of Ireland in Castlebar that I didn't see mentioned in the Griffith's Valuation in 1857. (Lewis, 1837; 1984, p. 289).

When the Griffith's Valuation was conducted in 1857, the Townland of Carrowncurry had the Union Workhouse, but little else of a commercial nature. The Townland of Curragh section of the Town of Castlebar had stables, a Revenue Police Barrack, Forge, Artillery Barrack and the Grand Jury of County Mayo Courthouse. The Portion of Castlebar that lies within the Townland of Knockacroghery had a corn store, an old brewery, orchard, tolls of crane, Tolls and Customs of Markets and Fairs, a store and a burial ground. The portion of Castlebar within the Townland of Knockaphunta had a Church Education Society Schoolhouse, Wesleyan Methodist Meeting House, County Infirmary, Dispensary, Church and a Graveyard. The portion of Castlebar that lies within the Townland of Garryduff had a Roman Catholic Chapel and a Constabulary Barrack. The portion of Castlebar that lies within Gorteendrunagh had a Convent, Convent Chapel and School, a House of Refuge and an Infantry Barracks. (Griffith, 1847-1864; 2003, Aglish). "A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland" mentions the presence of a school being established within the new "gaol" (jail) on the outskirts of Castlebar. (Lewis, 1837; 1984, p. 289).

The earliest recorded Manufacturing Industry on a table compiled by O'Hara in his book "Mayo Aspects of its Heritage," was in the year 1829 when Connaught Telegraph, a printing company, was founded in Castlebar. Other industries in Castlebar and the year they were established is as follows: Austin Gates (Gates, Railings) 1917; Castlebar Bacon Company, a Meat Processing Company, 1917; T. Archer (Ballina) Ltd (Joinery) in 1926; Gavin Bros, Ltd (Bread and Confectionery) 1927; Western Hats, Ltd (Headgear, Knitwear) 1940; Ryarc Optical Services Ltd (Ophthalmic lenses) 1949; Morans Bakery 1949; Roadstone Ltd (Concrete Blocks) 1961; Seamus Cashin (Printing) 1967; Travenol Laboratories Ltd (Medical Products) 1972; Grumbacher Ltd (Artists and Eyeliner Brushes) 1972; Redmonds Quality Printing 1972; North Connacht Farmers Co Ltd (Milk Separating) 1972; St. Mary's Hospital 1973; Devaney Bakery 1975; Richard Geraghty (Connemara Marble Products) 1976; Castlebar Farm Machinery Ltd (Rebuilding Agricultural Machinery) 1977; Corcoran Engineering Ltd 1978; Adela Precision and General Engineering (Toolmaking and Precision) 1979; Mayo Plastics, Ltd (Recycling Plastic) 1979; Murphy Stainless Steel Ltd 1979; Michael Jennings (Wrought Iron Craft Work) 1979; Oliver Kelleher (Sports Trophies) 1979; James O'Connor (Picture Frames) 1980; Terence Coleman (Disco Lighting) 1980 and Lawless Glass Ltd (Sealed Double Glaze Units) 1980. (O'Hara, 1987, p. 231-234). I found it quite interesting to see how the industry developed and changed in the Castlebar area over the years.

There are many landlords represented in the Town of Castlebar, but the Earl of Lucan is represented frequently here like he is in the rest of Aglish Civil Parish. The Earl of Lucan was listed as a "non-resident" landlord in the Carra Barony section of the Statistical Survey of County Mayo in 1802. (McParlan, 1802; 2007, p. 103).

One famous Castlebar native, Mr. Louis Brennan, C.B., was the inventor of the Brennan Torpedo and the Monorail. His father was a Castlebar blacksmith. (Quinn, Chapter 47, Volume 1, p. 367). Father Conroy, a parish priest who ran a Hedge School at Lahardane, brings notoriety to Castlebar for less fortunate circumstances. He was hung in the Castlebar Square per the order of Denis Browne in 1798 for the criminal act of talking to the French on their way to Castlebar. (Quinn, Volume 1, Chapter 24, p. 167).