Some 18th Century Visitors to Navan

C.C. Ellison

Isaac Butler in his Journey to Lough Derg, circa 1744, observes that

"Ye town is compact and tolerably well built.  In ye great street ye Market House, a low mean building.  A large weekly market here on Wednesdays, with four Fairs in the year.  It was formerly noted for one of ye best markets in Leinster for cattle and grain.  Ye Dublin butchers had this for their common market before Smithfield was built."

Another 18th century visitor was Mrs Delany, who observes in one of her Letters,

"I walked over the bridge by moonlight along a walk of tall elms, which leads to a ruined house they call the Black Castle, from a vulgar tradition of it being haunted.  It lies over the Blackwater (sic), has a vast number of trees about it, and seems to have been pretty.  The 'spirit' it was visited by was extravagance."

Beaufort, writing half a century later, says that it is:

"an opulent town, beautifully situated but very ill built, most of its 4000 inhabitants being industriously occupied in different branches of trade."

Dr. D.A. Beaufort, memoir annexed to his Map of Ireland, 1792.

While Dr. Pococke stated in 1752 that

" Navan is well situated on an eminence of the Blackwater and the Boyne, and there is a beautiful hanging ground from the town, covered with trees."

Richard Pococke, A Tour in Ireland in 1752, ed. Stokes, 1891. A celebrated oriental traveller and author, Dr. Pococke was translated from Ossory to the See of Meath in 1765, but died the same year.  He is said to have planted at Ardbraccan cedar trees grown from seeds he had gathered in the Lebanon. The Rev. Mervyn Archdall was his chaplain in the Diocese of Ossory, and was much helped by him in the compiling of his Monasticon.

The Autobiography and Correspondence of Mary Granville, Mrs Delany, Vol 1, p. 374.

Mrs. Delany's visit to Navan, which she calls "Naver" took place in 1732.  The bridge referred to was, of course, the Blackwater Bridge.  There was no Boyne Bridge until about 1750.  To get to the village of Athlumney one had to cross at Kilcarne, if the Navan ford was impassable.

Visitation of the Diocese of Meath, 1733. Isaac Butler says of Kilcarne:

" Here is a stately, strong stone bridge of five arches over ye Boyne."

Gabriel Beranger, the Dutch artist of Huguenot descent, who kept a print shop in Dublin, came to Navan in 1775.  He was employed by the Dublin Antiquarian Society to sketch objects of antiquarian interest.

Sir William Wilde later preserved a large number of his sketches and notes.  While in Navan he was entertained by Dr. Beaufort, and did paintings of the Mote, (below) Athlumney Castle and Donaghmore Round Tower.

He calls the Mote "a Danish fort".  Most writers of the time attributed all the earthworks they saw to the Danes.  Composed of a mound at the foot of which there is a ditch, with a parapet formed of a high and rapid glacis, which is of difficult ascent, and of course was easily defended.  The mound is divided by steps, which I have noted in the drawing."   As he was drawing the sun came out and threw the steps into relief.  "It is very difficult," he says, "to draw monuments of this description."

Sir W.R. and Lady Wilde.

Memoir of Gabriel Beranger, Journal Royal Society Antiquaries Ireland, 1870.

As seen in Beranger's sketch, the mound seems to have been the foundation for one of the numerous strongpoints hastily erected by de Lacy and his followers to consolidate their conquest.

It may indeed have been raised over an esker, upon which there was a Bronze Age mound indentified by some authorities as the site of the burial chamber of Odhbhra, wife of Heremon, from which is derived the name of An Uaimh.

It is to be noted that there are numerous other underground chambers and passages near the town, and that there is evidence for indentifying a tumulus on the south slope of a hill, now called Mullahow, three miles south west of Balbriggan, with the burial place of of Odhbhra (Some places in the Metrical Dindsenchus, Journal Royal Society Antiquaries Ireland, 1939). Copy of original MS. by Austin Cooper. Journal Royal Society Antiquaries Ireland, 1892.

Source: Ríocht na Midhe, 1963, Vol. 111, No. 1

Picture uploaded by N&DHS


Longford Militia

Riocht Na Midhe, 2016; The Blackfriary Button, p.30

In four letters, all dated 28 August 1794, five companies of the Longford Militia were commanded by Dublin Castle to march south to Carlow from their base in Dundalk.

Two of these companies were instructed to meet and combine forces in Navan on 2 September, before marching to Kilcock on the 3rd, halting on the 4th and arriving at Kilcullen Bridge and Ballintore in Kildare on the 6th.  Three additional companies were ordered to meet in Ardee on 5 September, march to Navan on the 6th, halt on the 7th and reach Kilcock on the 8th (before arriving in Carlow on the 11th).

These letters indicate that at least five companies of the Longford Militia were in Navan (14 kilometres north of Trim), where three companies 'halted' overnight, in 1794.  Then, as now, the only logical route from Navan to Kilcock would have been via Trim, indicating that five groups of the Longford Militia marched through Trim on the 3rd and 8th of September respectively.

Other than a letter dated 9 May 1801, which references a partial amalgamation of regiments of infantry from Meath, Wicklow, South Cork, Longford and Monaghan, the only association uncovered to date linking the Longford Militia to Meath is this march from Navan to Kilcock.