KNOCKTOPHER, a town and parish (formerly a parliamentary borough), in the barony of KNOCKTOPHER, county of KILKENNY, and province of LEINSTER, 10 miles (S.) from Kilkenny, on the road to Waterford ; containing 1518 inhabitants, of which number, 475 are in the town. This place was the principal residence of the Butlers, Earls of Ormonde, of whom James, the second Earl, in 1356, founded a monastery for Carmelite friars, of which the first prior, Henry Brown, received two parts of the temporalities of the see of Ossory, then in the King's hands ; and the last prior, William, was made bishop of that diocese by Edw. VI. The site and revenues of the establishment, at the dissolution, were granted by Hen. VIII. to Patrick Barnwell ; and a regrant of the abbey and lands was made subsequently by Jas. I. to Sir Nicholas White, Knt., from whose representatives the ancestor of the present proprietor, the Rev. Sir Hercules Richard Langrishe, purchased them. In 1365, the same Earl obtained from Edw. III. the grant of a weekly market and several fairs ; and the town appears to have enjoyed the privileges of a free borough by a kind of prescriptive right, which was acknowledged in a charter of Jas. II. that never came into operation. The castle was taken in 1649 by the parliamentarian forces commanded by Cromwell in person, and by his orders was immediately demolished. The inhabitants first sent members to the Irish parliament in 1661, and continued to do so till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. The inhabitants by prescription chose a portreeve, chiefly for the election of their representatives, and in the charter of Jas. II. the corporation is styled the "Sovereign, Burgesses, and Commonalty ;" but since the Union every municipal right has become extinct. It is at present merely a village, containing about 80 houses, of which several are neatly built, and has a penny-post to Thomastown, and a constabulary police station. Both market and fair have been discontinued.
The parish is chiefly under tillage ; limestone abounds, and lead ore is frequently found in the vicinity. Adjoining the village is the seat of the Rev. Sir Richard Langrishe, Bart., an ancient mansion, part of which was the old abbey. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, united by act of council, in 1676, to the rectories and vicarages of Kilneddy, Aughaviller, Kiltorkin, Dernahensy, Kilkeril, Kilkeasy, and Donemagan, together forming the union of Knocktopher, in the patronage of the Bishop. The tithes amount to £200. The glebe-house is situated on a glebe of 16 acres, and there are other glebe lands in the union, comprising 25 acres. The church, for the repairs of which the Ecclesiastical Conimissioners have recently granted £114, is a neat edifice with a spire. In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district called Ballyhale, comprising also the parishes of Derrynahinch, Aughaviller, and Kilkeasy, and part of the parishes of Burnchurch, Jerpoint, and Kells ; and containing five chapels, of which the chapel of Knocktopher is a neat edifice, lately built by a Carmelite friar, which, with his house adjoining it, cost about £2000: a Carmelite friary is about to be established here. About 150 children are taught in two public schools, of which one is supported by the rector and one by Miss Langrishe: and there are three private schools, in which are 250 children. There is also an allotment of 12 acres of land, given, by an enclosure act, for the commons of Knocktopher, to found a parochial school ; but the appropriation has been neglected and the ground has been taken possession of by the peasantry. There are some remains of the ancient abbey, consisting of two arches of one of the aisles, together with the tower of the church, which in the lower part is square, and in the upper octangular. There are no remains of the castle, but the mount and the fosse are still entire.