THOMASTOWN, an incorporated market and post-town, (formerly a parliamentary borough), and a parish, in the barony of GOWRAN, county of KILKENNY, and province of LEINSTER ; 21 miles (N.) from Waterford, and 59 (S. S. W.) from Dublin, on the mail coach road to Waterford ; containing 3054 inhabitants. This place, situated on the river Nore, and on the southern border of the county, was anciently called Grenan ; it took its present name from Thomas Fitz-Anthony Walsh, Seneschal of Leinster, one of the earliest English proprietors in Ireland, who built a castle here, and made the town a free borough. By the Irish it was called BallyMacAndon, signifying " Fitz-Anthony's town ;" and from its situation at the head of the navigable channel of the Nore, it became at an early period a place of considerable trade and an important military station ; it was surrounded with walls, and most of its buildings were castellated. The present town, in 1831, contained 527 houses, most of which are neatly built. Over the river Nore is a handsome stone bridge of five arches, built in 1792, at each end of which is an ancient square tower, formerly connected with the fortifications by which thie town was surrounded. A very considerable trade was formerly carried on, and the town was the commercial depot for the county of Kilkenny ; flat-bottomed boats of an aggregate burden of 11,000 tons were constantly employed in conveying goods from this town, besides many others which did not belong to it ; but the river is now choked up with deposits of sand. Inistioge has become the head of the navigation of the Nore, and the boats employed on the river at this place do not exceed an aggregate burden of 150 tons ; the goods are now conveyed on Scotch cars by land from Waterford to Kilkenny, The improvement of the navigation of the Nore would tend greatly to the revival and extension of the trade of the town, and to the development of the resources of the county, which is rich in marble, coal, culm, slate, and limestone, for which, in addition to its agricultural produce, it would afford facilities of conveyance to the neighbouring ports. It has been estimated that the clearing of the channel of the river, which would open the navigation from New Ross to this town for flat-bottomed steam-boats of 70 tons burden, might be accomplished at an expense of £12,000, and effect, by a reduction of the charges for freight and the discontinuance of land carriage, a saving of at least £ 10,000 per annum. There are several large flour-mills worked by water in the town and its vicinity, and also two breweries and a tan-yard. The market-days are Monday and Saturday ; and fairs are held on March 17th, May 25th, June 29th (a large wool fair), and September 15th.
The inhabitants received a charter of incorporation from Thomas Fitz-Anthony, which was subsequently confirmed and extended by Edw. III., who, in the 20th of his reign, granted the " Provost, Bailiffs, and honest men of Thomastown" certain customs and tolls for the erection and repair of the bridge, and in the 49th of his reign, further customs, for the purpose of surrounding the town with walls. Hen. VI., in the 28th of his reign, granted to the burgesses, in consideration of the expenses they had incurred in maintaining the fortifications, an exemption from all tolls and subsidies for ten years, except such as were granted by parliament or great councils ; and Queen Mary, in the first of her reign, conferred additional privileges, empowering the corporation to elect officers and hold courts with jurisdiction equal to that of Kilkenny, with markets, fairs, and other grants. This charter was confirmed and extended by Jas. I., in the 13th of his reign ; and though a subsequent charter was granted by Jas. II., the former continued to be and is still the governing charter. By it the corporation was to consist of a sovereign, provost, and an indefinite number of burgesses, assisted by a recorder, town-clerk, serjeants-at-mace, and other officers, The sovereign and recorder were to be justices of the peace, and had power to hold a court of record to any amount. The charter also gave power to return two members to the Irish parliament, which the corporation continued to exercise till the Union, when the borough was disfranchised. Since that period the corporation has exercised few municipal functions ; a sovereign, who also acts as a justice of the peace within the borough, is appointed, and there are at present nine burgesses, but no other officers are now chosen. The court of record has been discontinued, and also a local court, with jurisdiction limited to 40s., which was held by the sovereign till within the last few years. The quarter-sessions for the county are held here in January, April, July, and October ; and petty sessions every alternate week. A constabulary police force is stationed in the town. The court-house is a neat modern build-ing, to which is attached a small bridewell.
The parish comprises 1719 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act : the land is of good quality and in a state of profitable cultivation. Limestone abounds, and there is an extensive quarry near the town. In the lower part of the sandstone hills is found a kind of stone inclining to jasper ; and near the town is a quarry of light-coloured compact silicious schistus, which is raised in large flags for building. The principal seats are Dangan Lodge, the residence of S. Davis, Esq., a handsome modern house situated in tastefully disposed grounds ; Coolmore, of P. Connellan, Esq. ; and Flood Hall, of J. Flood, Esq. The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ossory, united by act of council in 1803 to the rectories and vicarages of Columbkill and Famagh-Church, and in the patronage of the Bishop ; the tithes amount to £248. The glebe-house, towards the erection of which the late Board of First Fruits contributed a gift of £100 and a loan of £650, in 1806, is a neat building about a quarter of a mile from the church ; the glebe comprises 18- acres, and the gross value of the whole benefice is £526 per annum. The church is a neat modern structure ; the late Board of First Fruits granted a loan of £1266 for its erection, and the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have recently granted £129 for its repair, In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Church-Jerpoint, West-Jerpoint, Columbkill, Kilfane, Tullowherin, and Killarney, in which union are four chapels ; the chapel in the town is a handsome edifice with a spire, and contains the great marble altar removed from the ruins of Jerpoint abbey. About 80 children are taught in two public schools, of which the parochial school is supported by the Earl of Carrick, who built the school-house at an expense of £350, and by the rector ; and there are three private schools, in which are about 230 children, two Sunday schools, and a dispensary. In the vicinity of the town are the remains of Grenan Castle ; and on the river, a little below the town, are those of Dysett Castle, said to have been the birthplace of the Rev. George Berkeley, the learned Bishop of Clogher, who was born in 1684. Lagan Castle, near the town, was the residence of the last abbot of Jerpoint : there are some remains of the Dominican abbey, the foundations of which and its subsequent history are not recorded ; they consist chiefly of the wall of one of the aisles, in which are five pointed arches and some windows of elegant design : there are numerous sepulchral monuments among these ruins, but the most ancient are greatly mutilated, and no inscriptions are legible ; the most remarkable has a recumbent figure of a man of gigantic stature.