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

Foxford is a Town that is incorporated into the Townland of Foxford in Toomore Civil Parish, Gallen Barony. A survey of County Mayo that was conducted by Robert Downing in 1682 makes reference to Foxford as a "new plantation of English and Scots and Ironworks now called Foxford olim Bellasea." (O'Hara, 1982, p. 80). Foxford was also known as Carrowahine. It was one of the premier Market Towns in the early 19th century. The River Moy flows through Foxford, which is located between Ballina (8 miles away) and Swinford. Both Ballina and Swinford were thriving market towns in the early 19th century.

John Bingham first applied for and obtained a patent for a market and fairs in 1683 (Gillespie; Crawford, 1987, p. 87). According to the Statistical Survey of the County of Mayo 1802, Foxford had fairs on May 15, June 25, October 4 and December 10, and an established market for grains and cattle as well. (McParlan, 1802;2007, p. 37-38, 46, 104-108).

The textile industry helped to sustain this town in the early 19th century. In 1892 the Foxford Providence Woolen Mills opened. It was developed by the Sisters of Charity to provide jobs for the poor in the Foxford area. This mill made blankets and rugs (O'Hara, 1982, p. 231,302). Samuel Lewis made an interesting observation regarding Foxford "By the dissolution of the Linen Board, 140 looms in this town and neighborhood were thrown out of employment," After the downturn in the textile industry; Foxfords chief trade was corn. (Lewis, 1837;2005, p. 634). The only other industry I saw recorded for Foxford in the "Manufacturing Industries" that I saw listed in the book "Mayo Aspects of Its Heritage" between 1829 and 1981 were O'Hara's Bakery founded in 1956 and CPAC Ltd (maker of Instant Royal Icing) in 1968. (O'Hara, 1987, p. 231-234).

The Townland of Foxford, with the inclusion of the Town of Foxford, is the most heavily populated Townland in Toomore Civil Parish. The Town of Foxford had the Grand Jury of County Mayo Petty Sessions House, a Pound, Board of Ordinance Military and Constabulary Barracks, a Roman Catholic Chapel on Church Street and a Church and Graveyard on Pound Street. There was a Church Education Society Schoolhouse, Board of Educations Female National Schoolhouse, Male National Schoolhouse, a Store and Ruins. (Griffith, 1847-1864;2003, Toomore). Lord Clanmorris, the predominant landlord among an assortment of others in Foxford was associated with the Salmon Fishery, Eel Fishery, Watch House and Petty Sessions House among numerous other parcels. The Town of Foxford also housed the Tolls and Customs of Fairs.

Lord Clanmorris as mentioned earlier, dominated the town of Foxford; the main portion of his estate was in Gallen Barony. He wasn't in the top 20 of the 40 major Mayo Estates (size-wise) but he was heavily represented in Toomore Civil Parish due to his holdings in Foxford. Unlike many landlords who lost acreage during the travails of the famine years and beyond, Lord Clanmorris' property acreage actually increased from 10.8 in 1838 to 17.6 (per 1000 statute acres). (Gillespie; McCabe, 1987, p. 110). One Foxford landlord, Mathew Gallagher, fully intended to reside on his property with his tenants, but his efforts to build and develop his estate were foiled when angry tenants cut down all of the trees he had planted as a buffer for his house because they were losing pasture. (Gillespie; McCabe, 1987, p. 96).

Foxford like the other successful market towns in Mayo was located in the Central Corridor that ran through the middle of the County. Strategically located on the River Moy between the two market towns of Ballina and Swinford with easy access to ports aided Foxfords development. Foxford wasn't included in "Slater's National Commercial Directory of Ireland 1846," unlike the other major market towns like Westport, Castlebar, Ballina, Killala, Swinford, etc but it still held its own and made a significant contribution to the market economy of County Mayo.