Monday, December 27, 2010

Athenry: Samuel Lewis and the Corporation Book Of Athenry by Ronan Killeen

First some of you  may ask "Who was Samuel Lewis?".  It is unSamuel Lewis was a topographer which comes from the word topography. Topography is were the configuration of a surface and the relations of man-made and natural features are recorded by someone. The reader will probably get a better understanding by reading the next piece of the article...

Here is what Samuel Lewis wrote about Athenry in 1837;

I have to explain two words first

Portreeve - A portreeve, or 'port warden' is a historical British political appointment with a fluctuating role which evolved over time.

Burgess - Burgess is a word in English that originally meant a freeman of a borough (England) or burgh (Scotland). It later came to mean an elected or un-elected official of a municipality, or the representative of a borough in the English House of Commons.

"The Portreeve, Brugesses, and Freemen of the corporation," and consisted of a "a portreeve and an unlimited number of burgesses and freemen; the above [Elizabeth's I] grant empowers  them to appoint a common clerk and "all other nessary tenants as Trim used", but only inferior officers are a serjeant-at-mace, craner, pound-keeper, two appraisers, and, a bellman, who are appointed by portreeve".
The portreeve and about twenty burgesses were elected  annually while the limits of the borough comprehended the town and a surrounding the agricultural, called the "Liberties".
The town returned two members to the Irish Parliment until Act of Union  came into  effect on 1 January 1801. £15,000 was paid in compensation to the trustees of the marriage settlement of Theophilous Blakeney... (see previous article).

The Corporation Book of Athenry, which one volume of it, was in the possession of Rev P.Delaney parish priest of Carna, in  October 1988. This lists the proceedings of the corporation from 1781 to 1840.

In 1837 Lewis wrote that the portreeve;

...who has the power to appoint a deputy, is a justice of the peace within the borough and its liberties, clerk of the market, and sole judge of the borough court. The town or portreeve's court shield is held for all please, real and personal, to an unlimited amount, as often as business requires, which of late has been but seldom, and generally on a Monday, not in any fixed court-house or place, but in different parts of the town...
The market, with a fair in October, was granted  to Sir W.Parsons, Bart., in 1629, and is on a Friday, but is only indifferently attended; and fairs for sheep and cattle are held onMay 5th, July 2nd, and Oct 20th, of which that in July is the largest. A constabulary police force is stationed here (This is obviously the Royal Irish Constabluary of Athenry) - Samuel Lewis.

This system of agriculture in the parish of Athenry, which comprised of 1,954 statue acres, was then somewhat improved and there was a considerable quantity of unreclaimed bog. The Catholic parish was co-existence with that of the established church and the town cotained a Catholic church, a plain slated building. About 330 children were educated between the parochial school and four private pay schools in Athenry , while another 170, or so, were educated in three schools at Monivea and Newcaste.
In 1831 1,319 people lived in 250 houses in Athenry. By 1986 the town  could boast a population of 1,642,   790 males and 852 females.

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