CASTLECOMER, a market and post-town, and a parish, in the barony of FASSADINING, county of KILKENNY, and province of LEINSTER, 9- miles (N.) from Kilkenny, and 46 (S. W.) from Dublin; containing 13,242 inhabitants, of which number, 2436 are in the town. This town is situated on the river Deen, and on the road from Kilkenny, by Athy, to Dublin. It suffered greatly in the disturbances of 1798, from the violence of a party of the insurgents, by whom a considerable portion of the town was destroyed. It was, however, soon restored, and at present consists of one wide main street and several smaller, containing, in 1831, 455 houses, chiefly inhabited by persons engaged in the extensive collieries in the parish and neighbourhood. The infantry barracks, a neat range of buildings, are adapted for 8 officers and 126 non-commissioned officers and privates, with suitable offices. The market is chiefly for provisions, and some neat shambles have been erected. Fairs are held on March 27th, May 3rd, June 21st, Aug. 10th, Sept. 14th, Oct. 28th, and Dec. 14th. A constabulary police force is stationed here; the quarter sessions for the county once in the year (in June), and petty sessions every Friday, are held in the town; and a court for the recovery of small debts is held by the seneschal of the manor.
The parish comprises 21,708 statute acres, and contains the principal portion of the extensive coal field of the district. The coal is of the kind commonly called Kilkenny coal, which, containing no bitumen, burns without blaze or smoke; the larger pieces alone are applied to domestic purposes, the smaller fragments being chiefly used for burning lime. These collieries have been worked for more than a century: the regular strata were first discovered in digging for iron-ore in that part of the territory of Ida which belonged to the Brenans, and which was purchased from that sept, in the reign of Chas. I., by Sir Christopher Wandesford, and erected into a lordship by charter of the same monarch. Its extent at that time was estimated at 13,400 plantation acres; and the father of the last Lord Wandesford was the first who worked the pits to any advantage. The principal workings are all between the small river Deen, which flows by the town, and the hills to the east and north-east, extending towards Donane. The substratum on which the coal rests is remarkable for withstanding the agency of fire, and has been used with great success in the making of fire-bricks ; the depth of the pits varies from 31 to 39 yards. The chief property in these mines was vested in the Wandesford family, to whom this place gave the title of Earl, now extinct, and whose representative, the Hon. Charles Butler Wandesford, brother of the Marquess of Orm nde, inherited in right of his mother, the sister of the late Lord Wandesford, and has a handsome modern residence adjoining the town.. A great portion of the coal is conveyed through the southern counties by the rivers Suir and Barrow, and by the Grand Canal to Dublin. There are also some collieries at Pherodagh,or Firoda, about a mile and a half to the north-west of Castlecomer, from which a fine black glossy culm is raised with greater facility than from the mines here. There are a bleach-green and a grist-mill in the parish.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, and in the patronage of the Crown: the tithes amount to £969. 4. 7-. The church, situated in the town, is a neat edifice with a tower; and there is a chapel of ease at Mooneenroe, in the collieries, built by subscription aided by a grant from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1818. Lectures on religious subjects are delivered also in the school-rooms adjoining the church and chapel of ease. The glebe-house was built by aid of a gift of £100 and a loan of £1500 from the same Board, in 1819. In the R. C. divisions the parish forms part of the three several unions or districts of Castlecomer, Clough, and Muckalee, the first of which comprises about one-half of it: there are four chapels belonging to these unions, one of which is in the town. There is also a place of worship for Wesleyan Methodists. Near the R. C. chapel is a convent, and adjoining it a school under the care of the nuns. The schools adjoining the parish church and chapel of ease are supported by an annual donation of £100 from the Hon. C. B. Wandesford, and £34 from the rector; an infants' school is also supported by subscription. In these schools about 380 children receive gratuitous instruction; and there are also eight pay schools, in which are about 330 children, and three Sunday schools.. A dispensary was erected by the Countess of Ormonde, and an auxiliary branch of the Hibernian Bible Society has been established in the town.