LEIGHLIN (OLD), a parish, the seat of a diocese, and formerly a parliamentary borough, in the barony of IDRONE WEST, county of CARLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 1- mile (S. S. W.) from Leighlin-Bridge, on the road to Castlecomer ; containing 3530 inhabitants. This place has from a remote period been distinguished for its religious establishments, of which the earliest was a priory for Canons Regular, founded by St. Gobban about the close of the 6th or commencement of the 7th century. A grand synod was held here in 630 to deliberate on the proper time for celebrating the festival of Easter, which was attended by St. Laserian, who had been consecrated bishop by Pope Honorius and sent as legate from the holy see. In 632, St. Gobban built a cell for himself and brethren at another place, and relinquished the abbey to St. Laserian, who made it the head of an episcopal see, over which he presided till his death in 638 ; and so greatly did the monastery flourish that, during the prelacy of St. Laserian, there were at one time not less than 1500 monks in the establishment. The priory was plundered in 916, 978, and 982, and in 1060 it was totally destroyed by fire. Among its subsequent benefactors was Burchard, son of Gurmond, a Norwegian, who either founded oF endowed the priory of St. Stephen, which being situated in a depopulated and wasted country, had frequently afforded refuge and assistance to the English, in acknowledgment of which Edw. III. granted to the prior a concordatum in 1372. This priory was dissolved by Pope Eugene IV., in 1432, and its possessions annexed to the deanery of Leighlin. The town appears to have derived all its importance and all its privileges from the see. Bishop Harlewin, who governed it from 1201 till 1216, granted the inhabitants their burgage-houses, with all franchises enjoyed by Bristol, at a yearly rent of 12d. out of every burgage, which grant was confirmed by his successor ; and in 1310, Edw. II. granted to Ade Le Bretown certain customs to build a tower for the defence of the town, and to maintain three men-at-arms and two hobblers, to protect the inhabitants from the attacks of the native Irish. During the prelacy of Richard Rocomb, who succeeded in 1399, there were 86 burgesses in the town, but it was so frequently plundered and desolated by successive hostilities, that it was reduced to an insignificant village. The inhabitants received a charter of incorporation from Jas. II., in the 4th of his reign, the preamble of which recites that the town had been a free borough, and returned two members to the Irish parliament, which it continued to do till the Union, when it was disfranchised, and the £15,000 awarded as compensation was paid to the late Board of First Fruits, to be applied in promoting the residence of the clergy. Since the Union the corporation has become extinct ; there are only 20 thatched houses and about 100 inhabitants in the village.
The DIOCESE of LEIGHLIN is the smallest of the five which constitute the ecclesiastical province of Dublin. Nothing particularly worthy of notice is recorded of the successors of St. Laserian till the time of Donat, who was made bishop in 1158, and after whose death the succeeding prelates were invariably appointed from the English clergy. Notwithstanding the devastation and plunder of the see in the continued hostilities of early times, it experienced no irreparable impoverishment till the succession of Daniel Cavanagh, in 1567, during whose prelacy various grants and long leases were made to his friends, reserving for his successors only some very trifling rents ; and to such poverty was it reduced that, after his decease in 1587, it was granted in commendam to Peter Corse, Archdcacon of the diocese, and afterwards held with the deanery of St. Patrick's, Dublin. In 1600, Robert Grave was advanced to the see of Ferns, to which this diocese was then annexed, and both continued from that time to be held together till 1836, when, on the death of Dr. Elrington, the last bishop of Leighlin and Ferns, both sees were united to the bishoprick of Ossory, under the provisions of the Church Temporalities' Act, according to which, the see estate of Ferns and Leighlin remains with the bishop of the three united dioceses, Ferns, Leighlin and Ossory ; and the see estate of Ossory, which is the suppressed bishoprick. becomes vested in the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, together with the mensal lands of Ferns and Leighlin ; the residence of the bishop being by that act fixed at Kilkenny, where the bishops of Ossory have heretofore resided ; the bishop therefore keeps his former residence and acquires a larger see estate. The diocese of Leighlin is of very irregular form, extending 50 miles in length and varying from 8 to 16 miles in breadth: it comprehends part of the counties of Kilkenny and Wicklow, a considerable portion of the Queen's county, and the whole of the county of Carlow ; and comprises an estimated superficies of 318,900 acres, of which 17,500 are in the county of Kilkenny, 42,000 in Wicklow, 122,000 in Queen's county, and 137,050 in the county of Carlow. The lands belonging to the see comprise 12,924 statute acres of profitable land ; and the gross annual revenue, on an average of three years ending 1831, amounted to £2667. 7. 6-. The chapter consists of a dean, precentor, chancellor, treasurer, archdeacon, and the prebendaries of Tecolme, Ullard, Aghold, and Tullowmagrinagh. The economy estate of the cathedral arises from rents of tithes reserved by lease out of the parishes of Tullowcrine, Slyguff, Ballinacarrig, Rahill, Liscoleman, and Old Leighlin, which, on an average of three years ending Sept. 1831, amounted to £158. 13. 10. per ann., applied to the payment of the perpetual cure and the repairs of the cathedral. There are four rural deaneries, namely, Leighlin, Carlow, Tullow, and Maryborough. The consistorial court of the diocese is held at Carlow, and consists of a vicar-general, three surrogates, a registrar, and two proctors. The total number of parishes is 80, comprised in 59 benefices, of which 14 are unions of two or more parishes, and 45 are single parishes ; of these, 5 are in the patronage of the Crown, 10 in lay or corporation patronage, 9 in joint or alternate patronage, and the remainder are in the patronage of the Bishop or incumbents. The number of churches is 49, and there are four other episcopal places of worship ; the number of glebe-houses is 25.
In the R. C. divisions this diocese is united with Kildare, and is suffragan to the R. C. archiepiscopal see of Dublin: the number of parochial benefices and clergy is given with the diocese of Kildare ; the number of chapels is 64.
The parish comprises 9738 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, and there are about 400 acres of bog. Agriculture is improving ; there are limestone and flagstone quarries, and coal exists but is not worked. Old Leighlin is a rectory, belonging in moieties to the bishop, as part of the see estate, and to the chapter of the cathedral, as part of the economy fund: the rectory of Tullowcrine belongs also to the economy fund, and a perpetual curate is endowed to officiate at the cathedral and to attend to the duties of both parishes, of which the dean and chapterare the incumbents. The tithes amount to £461. 10. 9-. ; the glebe-house was built by a gift of £450 and a loan of £50 from the late Board of First Fruits, in 1820 ; the glebe comprises 12a. 1r. The cathedral, which is also the parish church, is situated in a secluded spot surrounded with hills: it is a plain ancient structure, consisting of a nave, 84 feet long, and chancel, 60 feet in length, with a square tower 60 feet high, surmounted by a low spire. It was rebuilt, after having been destroyed by fire during the prelacy of Bishop Donat ; and the choir was rebuilt by Bishop Sanders in 1527 ; the western entrance has a handsome doorway and window, and there are two side entrances ; in the chancel are the bishop's throne and the stalls of the dean and chapter ; and the interior contains several ancient monuments, with many of the 16th century and upwards. On the north side are the remains of two roofless buildings, one of small dimensions, and the other 52 feet long and 22 feet wide, with a window of elegant design at its eastern extremity. Of the episcopal palace, which was repaired by Bishop Meredyth in 1589, there are no remains. About 100 yards from the west end of the church is the well of St. Laserian, formerly much resorted to ; and in the churchyard is a stone supposed to have marked the boundary of the old borough. In the R. C. divisions the parish forms part of the union or district of Leighlin-Bridge. About 80 children are taught in the parochial school, which is supported by donations from the dean and chapter, the incumbent, and the governors of the Foundling Hospital ; and there are six private schools, in which are about 420 children. There are some chalybeate springs, which are used medicinally.