From A Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, 1837
CARNEW, a market and post-town, and a parish, partly in the baronies of SCAREWALSH and GOREY, county of WEXFORD, but chiefly in the barony of SHILLELAGH, county of WICKLOW, and province of LEINSTER, 23 miles (S. W. by S.) from Wicklow, and 47 (S. by W.) from Dublin; containing 6865 inhabitants, of which number, 826 are in the town. During the disturbances of 1798, Colonel Walpole, who had been ordered to collect what forces he could and place them under the command of General Loftus, then at Gorey, arrived at this place on the evening of June 2nd, with 500 men, two six-pounders, and a howitzer, which he stationed here as the best point from which to attack the insurgents, who were encamped at Ballymore Hill. On the following day, leaving two companies in the town, he marched with the remainder to Gorey, where, in conjunction with General Loftus, he concerted a plan for attacking the enemy by two different routes on the following day. But unfortunately disregarding the arrangement he had made, and rashly assuming the entire command, he led his men into a defile, where a great number were slaughtered, and he was killed in the first onset. The insurgents, after spending several days in plundering the town and neighbourhood of Gorey, advanced to Carnew, which they destroyed, with the exception of a malt-house, in which the garrison had retired; and after several ineffectual attacks, in which they sustained considerable loss, pursued their march to Kilcavan Hill. Near Ballyellis, also, while a troop of the ancient Britons, under the command of Capt. Erskine, was on its march to attack the insurgents, they blocked up the way with cars, carts, &c, hemmed in the little party on all sides, and killed every one of the troop, who were all buried in the vicinity.
The town is situated on the road from Gorey to Tullow and Carlow, and on the side of a mountainous eminence that overlooks a fertile valley. It consists principally of one street, containing 131 houses, and has, during the last three or four years, been greatly improved by Earl Fitzwilliam, who has, besides other buildings, erected two rows of neat houses. The air is salubrious, and there is a good supply of water, but peat is obtained only from a bog at the distance of seven miles. Two snuff and tobacco manufactories, and a small brewery, are carried on. The market is on Thursday, chiefly for potatoes, pigs, and poultry; and horse and cattle fairs, which are frequently attended by English dealers, are held by patent on the first Thursday after the 12th of Feb., May, Aug., and Nov. Four other fairs have been recently established, and are held on the 1st of April, July, and Oct., and Dec. 22nd. Petty sessions are held on alternate Saturdays, in a neat building erected by Earl Fitzwilliam, over which is the constabulary police barrack, this town being the residence of the chief constable of the Tinahely district.
The parish comprises 23,137 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act, of which 15,084 are in Wicklow, and 8053 in Wexford: about one-fifteenth is waste land, and there are 500 acres of woodland; the remainder is arable and pasture. The soil is in general fertile, and the lands chiefly under tillage; and the system of agriculture has been greatly improved since the institution of the Shillelagh and Casha Farming Society at Coolattin, by the late Earl Fitzwilliam, in 1830. At Kilcavan are quarries of building stone and slate, the latter of which is sent into the counties of Carlow and Wexford. Detached granite is also worked in the parish. Besides Coolattin Park, the property of Earl Fitzwilliam, and residence of his agent, R. Chaloner, Esq., there are in the parish, or its vicinity, Tombreen, the seat of T. Swan, Esq.; Upper Bullingate, of H. Braddell, Esq.; Lower Bullingate, of W. Braddell, Esq.; Hillbrooke, of J. Symes, Esq.; Croney Horn, of Dr. De Rinzy; Ballyellis, of R. H. Dowse, Esq.; Umrigar, of R. Blayney, Esq.; Donishall, of R. Bookey, Esq.; Coolboy House, of J. Chamney, Esq.; Barracks, of R. Nickson Sherwood, Esq.; Kilcavan, of R. Taylor, Esq.; Buckstone, formerly occupied as barracks, but now the residence of E. Smith, Esq.; and Carnew Castle, of the Rev. H. Moore, the rector. This castle is popularly said to have been battered and unroofed by the army of Cromwell from a rock above the town, still called Cromwell's rock, on his march from Dublin to Wexford. It was newly roofed and thoroughly repaired, about 20 years since, by the late Earl Fitzwilliam.
The living is a rectory and vicarage, in the diocese of Ferns, and in the patronage of the Bishop: the tithes amount to £830. 15. 4 ½. In 1833, a portion of the parish was detached and erected into the perpetual curacy of Shillelagh, which is in the gift of the rector. The church, which was enlarged in 1813, is a handsome building with an embattled tower crowned with pinnacles and surmounted by a spire, which was added in 1831; and the Rev. C. Cope, who was 33 years rector of this parish, bequeathed £100 for the purchase of a bell. It contains three handsome marble monuments; one in memory of J. Chamney, Esq., Captain of the Coolattin Yeomanry Infantry (who, with his nephew, an officer in that corps, was killed in the insurrection of 1798, in an action at Ballyrahine, in the adjoining parish of Mullinacuff), was erected by the late Earl Fitzwilliam; the second to the memory of W. Wainwright, Esq., J. P., and for above 30 years agent and sole manager of his lordship's estates in the counties of Wicklow, Wexford, and Kildare; and the third in memory of T. Bookey, Esq., of Mount Garnet, in the county of Kilkenny. The body of the church has been condemned by the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and is about to be rebuilt. There is neither glebe-house nor glebe.
In the R. C. divisions that part of the parish which is in Wicklow is included in the union or district of Carnew and Crosspatrick, also called Tomacork, where the chapel is situated; and that part which is in Wexford is in the union or district of Kilrush, and has a chapel at Askeymore. There is a place of worship in the town for Wesleyan Methodists. A parochial library has been established; and there are schools at Montabower, Askeymore, and Carnew, principally supported by Earl Fitzwilliam, in which are educated about 460 Protestant and Roman Catholic children; also a school connected with Tomacork chapel, and two hedge schools. A dispensary is supported in the customary manner; there is an association for employing the poor in spinning and weaving, superintended by the ladies of the town and neighbourhood; and a loan fund was established in 1834. This last institution is conducted by a committee of gentlemen, and has been highly beneficial; the loans have been returned without the loss of a single penny, although, in Dec. 1836, they amounted to about £200 weekly, which is repaid by weekly instalments of one shilling per pound; a fourth part of the profits of this admirable institution (which are considerable) is applied to charitable purposes. On the townland of Umrigar are five raths or moats, in one of which, a few years since, an urn of coarse pottery containing bones and ashes was discovered. Francis Sandford, a celebrated writer on heraldry, was bom here in 1630.—See SHILLELAGH.