Enniskillen  County Fermanagh


In 1837, Samuel Lewis's Topographical Dictionary of Ireland described Enniskillen like this:

ENNISKILLEN, a borough and market-town, and a parish, partly in the barony of MAGHERABOY, but chiefly in that of TYRKENNEDY, county of FERMANAGH, (of which it is the chief town), and province of ULSTER, 21 ½ miles (S. E.) from Ballyshannon, and 80 ½ (N. N. W.) from Dublin; containing 14,563 inhabitants, of which number, 13,777 are in the parish of Enniskillen, and the remainder in that part of the town which extends into the parish of Rossory; the borough and town contain 6796 inhabitants. ...

This place, which takes its name from the island in Lough Erne, in which it is situated, and was formerly called Inniskillen, was, previously to the time of Jas. I., merely a stronghold of Maguire, chieftain of Fermanagh, who had a castle here, which was taken by the English forces under Sir Richard Bingham, in 1594; but no sooner had that general retired, leaving in it a royal garrison, than it was besieged by the forces of O'Donnel and his confederates. A detachment sent to its assistance by the lord-deputy was totally defeated, and the garrison, after holding out to the last extremity, being compelled to surrender, were inhumanly slaughtered by the assailants, who pleaded the like cruelty on the part of Bingham, when he took the town, as a justification of their revenge. The town, though it holds a conspicuous place in Irish history and is now the capital of the county, is of no great antiquity. The island being considered an important spot for the establishment of a military force, a royal fort was erected there about the commencement of the 17th century; and the advantage of its situation for a town induced Jas. I., in 1612, to make a grant of one-third of it to William Cole, Esq., ancestor of the Earl of Enniskillen, on condition of his building a town upon it, settling in it twenty British families to be incorporated as burgesses, some of whose descendants still hold burgage tenement's; and assigning convenient places for a church and churchyard, a market-house, public school, 30 acres for a common, and a site for a prison to be built for the custody of prisoners and malefactors within the limits of the county of Fermanagh. This last condition seems to imply that it was intended to make this the assize town and capital of the county from the very date of its foundation.

On the breaking out of the war in 1641, the town was defended by its founder and governor, then Sir William Cole, who despatched the first intelligence of that event to the English government; and so active were the inhabitants in opposing the enemy, that they not only repulsed the insurgents with great loss, but also made themselves masters of the castle of Maguire. While the Earl of Ormonde acted in concert with the royalists, this town opposed the parliamentarian interest and firmly resisted every attack made upon it by the forces of that party; but it was finally compelled to surrender to Sir Charles Coote. During the war of the revolution the inhabitants firmly adhered to the cause of Wm. III., whom they proclaimed king; they chose Gustavus Hamilton as their governor, and bravely defended the town, which became a refuge for the Protestants of the north-west, from all assaults of the adverse party; and from the embarrassment they caused to James's forces during the siege of Londonderry, the Protestants assembled in the town soon became celebrated as the "Enniskillen men." Lord Galmoy was sent with a detachment of James's army to reduce them, and for this purpose invested Crom castle, their frontier garrison, situated on Lough Erne; after an unsuccessful stratagem to produce intimidation, by ordering two painted tin cannons to be drawn by eight horses towards the fort, the garrison, being reinforced from Enniskillen, made a vigorous sally upon the besiegers, drove them from the trenches, and returned in triumph with considerable booty and the mock cannon which had with so much apparent difficulty been drawn up and planted against them. So successful and formidable were the frequent excursions of this band, that the ruling party in Dublin actually expected them speedily at their gates; and at length a plan was formed for attacking the town at once by three different armies. For this purpose, Macarthy, an experienced officer, who had been recently created a peer, encamped at Belturbet with 7000 men; Sarsfield, another general equally distinguished, led an army from Connaught; while Fitz-James, Duke of Berwick, prepared to attack it from the north. The Enniskilleners, aware of the movements of the Connaught army only, marched out of the town with great rapidity, surprised the camp and routed the forces with much slaughter. On the approach of the Duke of Berwick, some companies sent from the town to seize a post which they might have defended against his numbers, ventured beyond the prescribed bounds and were cut to pieces; but on the approach of Hamilton, the governor of the town, the Duke of Berwick retired with his forces. Macarthy, at the head of an army which had already defeated Lord Inchiquin in Munster, marched towards Enniskillen and invested Crom castle; a detachment under an officer named Berry was sent to the relief of the castle, but finding it necessary to retreat before a very superior force, which had been detached by the enemy to intercept him, he was pursued and a skirmish followed, in which the townsmen were victorious. The arrival of the main bodies respectively under the command of Macarthy and Wolsley, the latter, one of Col. Kirk's officers, brought on a general engagement near Newtown-Butler and Lisnaskea, from both which places the battle has taken its name. The inferiority of the Enniskilleners in numbers was counterbalanced by superior resolution and energy; they defeated and pursued the assailants, granting quarter to none but officers; about 2000 were killed in the engagement, and of 500, who plunged into the lake, only one escaped drowning; about the same number of officers were taken prisoners, among whom was their general Macarthy.

The town is situated on an island in the narrowest part of Lough Erne, or rather in a strait several miles in length, which connects the great northern and southern expanses of the lake, and in which are numerous inlets. It is remarkable for its respectable and thriving appearance, and for the advantages it possesses in the navigation of the lake and the facility afforded for excursions among the rich and beautiful scenery for which it is distinguished; it has increased considerably of late, and is still improving. The principal street takes an irregular course across the island, from the bridge which connects it with the main land, on the east, to that which crosses the opposite channel on the west, which two bridges form the only outlets. Several smaller streets diverge from the main street; and contiguous to the eastern bridge, in the townland of Toneystick, and parish of Enniskillen, is a suburb in which is an old redoubt, called the East Fort; and beyond the western bridge is another suburb, in the parish of Rossory, in which is the West Fort. The total number of houses is 1036, of which 375 are slated and the remainder thatched. Here are barracks for artillery and infantry, and a constabulary police station. Among the buildings that have recently been erected, is a range of respectable houses, called Brook-place, built by Mr. Richard Kirkpatrick, on the mail coach road to Ballyshannon; a very neat house, called Brook View Lodge, pleasantly situated on the side of a hill commanding an extensive view of Lough Erne and the surrounding country; and a number of respectable houses, called Willoughby-place, which, when completed, will add much to the beauty of the town.

The chief trade is in timber, coal, and slates, imported from Ballyshannon to Belleek, at the lower extremity of the lough, 18 miles distant, and brought by water to the town. The manufacture of leather is carried on upon a limited scale, and there are two distilleries and a brewery A considerable trade is also carried on in corn, of which great quantities are sold, partly for the supply of the town and of the distilleries here and at Belturbet, and partly for exportation to Sligo and Strabane; this is also the chief retail market for a very large surrounding district. The patent granted to William Cole, in 1612, authorised the holding of a market on Thursdays, and a fair on Lammas-day, with tolls; and in 1813 a patent was granted to the Earl of Enniskillen for holding fairs on the 10th of each month, except March, May, and August. Besides the general market on Thursdays, a butter market is held on Tuesdays. A butter and grain market have been built on land belonging to the Earl, at an expense of upwards of £900; there is another market-house under the town-hall, also a pig market; and convenient shambles have been erected at an expense of £750, which was advanced by the Earl to the corporation. A linen-hall was built a few years since at an expense exceeding £400, but has never been used as a hall, and is lent gratuitously to the conductor of a private school.

By the charter of Jas. I., granted in 1613, the corporation consists of a provost, 14 burgesses, and all the inhabitants of the island as a commonalty. The provost is elected by the free burgesses on Midsummer-day, and is sworn into office on the 29th of Sept.; he is a justice of the peace for the borough, and also usually for the county. The government is vested in the provost and free burgesses, who elect members of their own body, admit freemen, appoint officers, and manage the property of the corporation. The borough court, held every Thursday, has jurisdiction to the amount of £3. 6. 8. late currency, and proceeds by attachment. The same charter conferred upon the entire corporation the privilege of sending two members to the Irish parliament, which they continued to do till the Union, since which time they have returned one to the Imperial parliament. By the act of the 2nd of Wm. IV., cap. 88, the right of election is vested in the resident burgesses and £10 householders, amounting, in 1836, to a constituency of 220, of whom 211 were £10 householders, and nine resident burgesses; the provost is the returning officer. The electoral boundaries comprehend an area of 156 statute acres, and are described in the Appendix. The assizes for the county and quarter sessions of the peace are held in the county court-house, which is a plain building near the eastern bridge. The county gaol, built about 20 years since, is near the town, on the Dublin road: it is on the radiating plan, with the governor's house in the centre, and will contain 120 prisoners; the number of cells is 36, of which four are for females; and there are five day-rooms, seven airing-yards, a treadmill, hospital, and school. The prisoners are regularly employed in breaking stones for repairing the roads: the expense of maintenance, &c., for 1835, was £1334. 8. 1.

The parish comprises, according to the Ordnance survey (including islands), 26,440 ½ statute acres, of which 26,387 are in the barony of Tyrkennedy, and 681 ¾ are water. The residences of the nobility and gentry are numerous, among which are Ely Lodge, that of the Marquess of Ely; Florence Court, of the Earl of Enniskillen; Castle Cool, of the Earl of Belmore; Rosfad, of J. Richardson, Esq.; Rockfield, of J. Irvine, Esq., D.L.; Castle Archdall, of Gen. Mervyn Archdall; Riverstown, of C. Archdall, Esq.; Prospect, of J. Nixon, Esq., Gran, of A. Nixon, Esq.; Levaghy, of Jason Hassard, Esq.; Dunbar, of T. Nixon, Esq.; Crocknacrieve, of Col. T. Stewart; Cork Hill, of the Rev. A. H. Irvine; and Bellview, of G. Knox, Esq. On the border of Lough Erne stands Bellisle, the beautiful and romantic seat of the late Earl of Rosse, now in the possession of the Rev. J. Grey Porter; it is in a dilapidated state, but is about to be rebuilt, together with the bridge leading to its extensive demesne. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Clogher, forming the corps of the precentorship of the cathedral, in the patronage of the Provost and Fellows of Trinity College, Dublin: the tithes amount to £550; and the glebe, consisting of 315 acres, with the glebe-house, is valued at £293. 4. 6. per annum, making the income of the precentor £843. 4. 6. The church is a plain building, erected in 1637; and there is a chapel of case at Tempo. Divine service is also performed in the school at Derryhean. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, including the town of Enniskillen, the parish of Rossory, and parts of Derryvullen, Cleenish, and Derrybrusk; there is a very large chapel in the town, in which are also a meeting-house for Presbyterians in connection with the Synod of Ulster, of the third class, and places of worship for Wesleyan and Primitive Methodists. About 670 children are educated in nine public schools, and about 900 in 25 private schools, exclusive of those taught in eight Sunday schools. The royal school of Enniskillen was founded by Chas. I., in 1626, and endowed with lands near the town, which, according to a survey made in 1795, comprise 3360 statute acres. The school-house in the town being too small, about 1777, the Rev. Mark Noble, who was then head-master, and had the absolute disposal of the school funds, built a spacious house for it at Portora, in the vicinity, capable of accommodating 70 boarders. The school contains about 65 children; the head-master has a salary of £500 per annum, late currency, besides the payments from the pupils and the house and grounds, which include 33 acres; the first classical assistant has £250, and the second £100 per annum. Four scholarships of £20 per annum each are conferred by the Commissioners of Education on those scholars who are most distinguished for proficiency in study and propriety of conduct, and are held during their stay at the school; and the Rev. — Burke bequeathed three sums of £110, late currency, for the use of three of the pupils on their entering Trinity College, Dublin. The Commissioners of Education appropriate £400 per annum of the funds of this school to the endowment of five king's scholarships of £50 each, and five of £30 each in Trinity College, Dublin, to be held for five years by scholars elected by the board of Trinity College, out of those who have been three years at least in either of the royal schools of Enniskillen, Armagh, or Dungannon. The charitable institutions are a mendicity society, a dispensary, and a county infirmary, which is a large building on an eminence outside the town, on the Dublin road. Enniskillen is the birthplace of Lord Plunket, and gives the titles of Earl and Viscount to the family of Cole, by which it was founded.

How to reference this page:

GB Historical GIS / University of Portsmouth, History of Enniskillen, in and County Fermanagh | Map and description, A Vision of Ireland through Time.


Date accessed: 25th June 2024

Not where you were looking for?

Click here for more detailed advice on finding places within A Vision of Ireland through Time, and maybe some references to other places called "Enniskillen".