A Description of the County Mayo Market Towns Mid 19th Century

County Mayo, Ireland had 24 market towns by the year 1852, 11 of them were considered major market towns, they were Ballaghadireen, Ballina, Ballinrobe, Castlebar, Clare (Claremorris), Foxford, Killala, Newport, Swinford and Westport.

An ordinance survey conducted more than a decade earlier concluded that over a third of the land in County Mayo was bog and Mountainous areas unsuitable for tillage and use as pasture. Donald E. Jordan Junior in "Land and Popular Politics in Ireland" describes how the lay of the land in County Mayo figured in the creation of its economy:

The core begins with a narrow corridor encompassing the land around Killala and Ballina in North Mayo, widens out in mid-Mayo to include the land between Castlebar and Westport, and then continues east to the Galway and Roscommon Borders. This central corridor contains much of the best pasture and tillage in Mayo and was the area of the county where a livestock economy developed most fully following the famine. Most of the county's major towns were created in this core region, linked together by roads and beginning in 1860 by railroads. (Jordan, 1994, p.5).

Castlebar was the predominant market town in the 18th century. Its central location within this "Corridor" and access to both the ports in the north of Mayo (Killala and Ballina) and those in the West (Westport and Newport) contributed to its economic viability. The book "A Various Country- Essays in Mayo History 1500-1900" that was edited by Raymond Gillespie and Gerard Moran is a great read with a lot of good information on the development of County Mayo's Market Towns.

By 1831 Westport had become the most important trading center, although both Castlebar and Ballina were considerably larger towns. Newport had declined against Westport while Killala was then still holding up against Ballina. Ballinrobe was clearly the 4th town in the county, while Claremorris and Hollymount were also significant market towns in the south of the county. (Gillespie; Crawford, 1987, p.80)

The Townland of Hollymount (mentioned above) is present within Kilcommon Civil Parish, down near Ballinrobe. Patents were obtained for markets and fairs in the Townland of Hollymount as early as 1734 but the number of fairs decreased to only 2 by 1750 so I did not include it on my major market town map. (Gillespie; Crawford, 1987, p. 88). I will include a description of Hollymount in this section along with the 11 major market towns and other major Towns such as Louisburgh and Belmullet.

In the 17th and 18th Century, "written patents" were required by law to hold fairs and markets anywhere in County Mayo. Many landowners, due to the time and cost that was incurred acquiring them overlooked this. Many towns, such as Ballively, Ballycastle, Bangor Erris, Gallowshill, Kilkelly and Kiltemanagh had fairs without obtaining these patents. (Gillespie; Crawford, 1987, p.82-90).

Market towns such as Castlebar, Westport, Newport and Ballina owed much of their growth to the linen weaving industry that thrived there in the late 18th, early 19th century. A further observation made in the book "A Various County - Essays in Mayo History 1500-1900 edited by Raymond Gillespie and Gerard Moran noted the following:

The salient feature in the economy in the period between 1814 and 1830 was the shift from reliance largely upon textiles to pay rents to concentration on the export of oats. The county's trade in linen and yarn was superseded in importance by that in corn from about 1820 and virtually ceased after 1828. (Gillespie; McCabe, 1987, p. 101).

The only thing that kept the economy of Mayo's "Corridor" thriving after the Spinning and Weaving industry collapse was the export of grains such as corn, oats, meal and flour and the market for livestock.

The following 11 major market towns as well as a few other significant County Mayo Towns are covered in more detail in this section:

Ballaghadireen (Ballaghaderreen) (Kilcolman Civil Parish)
Ballina (Kilmoremoy Civil Parish)
Ballinrobe (Ballinrobe Civil Parish)
Castlebar (Aglish Civil Parish)
Clare (a.k.a. Claremorris ) (Kilcolman Civil Parish)
Crossmolina (Crossmolina Civil Parish)
Foxford (Toomore Civil Parish)
Killala (Killala Civil Parish)
Newport (Burrishoole Civil Parish)
Swinford (Kilconduff Civil Parish)
Westport (Oughaval Civil Parish)
Ballyhaunis (Annagh Civil Parish and Bekan Civil Parish)
Bellmullet (Kilcommon Civil Parish)
Hollymount (Kilcommon Civil Parish)
Louisburgh (Kilgeever Civil Parish)