The access road from Athenry to the N6 Galway to Dublin motorway cuts straight through the walls of the walled garden or barrack yard of Newford.
Newford is now part of the Department of Agriculture lands of Newford, Gort na h’Abhann and Ballygurrane.
The ringfort in Ballygurrane is called Mount Shaw reported in local mythology as the centre of Magh Muchréime or the Plain of the Counting of the Pigs and later known as Achréidh na Gaillimhe. It was the place where Meadhbh and Ailill counted their pigs in the epic Táin Bó Cuailgne – The Story of the Cattle Raid of Cooley.
The Book of Survey and Distribution
The lands of Newford and Ballygurrane were once part of the Laragh Gate Quarter of Athenry and according to Book of Survey and Distribution was owned by a consortium of “Irish Papists”. The list includes Lord Birmingham, and various members of the Browne, Blake, Bodkin, French, Fitz Edmund, Martin, Carravan, Fitz Andrew, Jasper and Fitz Arthur families.
This land was transferred by Cromwell to a man called Whalley.
The Whalley family was one of the 17th Century newcomers to Ireland – came from Nottinghamshire.
Edward Whalley was a signatory to Charles 1’s death warrant and a cousin of Oliver Cromwell.
His grandfather Richard Whalley had enriched himself through the business of monastic confiscation and royal service.
Edward’s younger brother Henry Whalley got 6,000 acres in Connaught, as an adventurer, in lieu of larger estates intended for him in Ulster. He also bought lands from transplanted persons but a large portion of his land was taken back from him when Clanricarde (Portumna) recovered some of the land that was confiscated from him earlier. Whalley had trouble on his property in and around Loughrea.
Henry had supported Charles 11 by word and deed and presented him with a gift of £20.000 and Parliament took steps in 1666 to redress his loss and grievances.
His other grants were in the liberties of Galway and the barony of Athenry which he represented in Parliament in 1661. These lands were confirmed to his son John and were passed down to John’s eldest daughter who married a kinsman, Richard Whalley who also had large estates in Armagh and was MP for Athenry 1692 – 1725.
The Whalleys were closely connected by property and marriage to the Shaws and Lopdells.
William Shaw was granted over 2,000 acres in Galway and Robert Shaw was granted over 1,000 acres. Robert Shaw’s family increased their Athenry estate in 1717 through purchase or lease from Richard Whalley of his Newford estate and house.
The Lopdells purchased land in Galway in Charles 11’s reign but did not extend their estates. At different times their families lives in Raheen House, Athenry Town House, Prospect House, Mulpit and some of them are buried in St Mary’s in the Square (now the heritage centre)
Richard Whalley was an absentee landlord who was castigated for ignoring the cholera fund during the 1822 famine in Galway but when he paid one of his rare visits to Galway he was “met with gigs and reels”.
In 1629 permission to hold a regular market and a fair in October was granted to Sir William Parsons, Bart. who lived in Newford House. Parson’s Fair Green is between the Ennis railway line and the old Galway road before you come to the Newford Gate house. The stone socket of the market cross which was erected there whenever a fair was held can still be seen in situ.
In 1786, Wilson mentions Newford as the seat of Edward Browne. In 1814 Thomas Tighe is recorded as residing at Newford. Patrick Fitzpatrick of Newford House, Athenry is listed as a subscriber to ”Lewis’ Topographical Dictionary” (1837). The house was later part of the Whaley and Perry estates in the 1850s and was offered for sale in the Encumbered Estates court in 1852. Portion of Newford later became incorporated into Mellows Agricultural College farm. The house was destroyed in circa 1907.
Newford was part of the Goodbody farm later the Agricultural College and the Somers families, herdsmen for the Agricultural Farm, lived there until the1960s.
Newford Army Camp
In later times a troop of horse soldiers were billeted at times in Newford during the agrarian troubles of the 1860s onwards? After the 1916 Rising a troop of Sherwood Foresters were billeted there and were used in Castle Lambert and Lisheenkyle during the War of Independence.
During the WW1 it was used as a resting place for wounded soldiers on leave from the war front and was also a prison camp for captured insurgents during the war of Independence and had also a substation for the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC). There was a handball alley there for the soldiers.
The troops who were back from the Great War – 1914 / 1918 often came into town to “let off steam” and caused a lot of trouble. Often they had to be locked up for the night in the Barracks in Cross Street much to the annoyance of the Commanding Officer.
There was a pathway into town from Newford to Swangate. This crossed the railway and there were two stiles at the railway where the path crossed. This pathway, in situ since medieval times, was called “Bóthar Árd” and was part of the pathway to the Mass Rock in Coldwood and was probably the old Galway Road.
Newford discussed in the House of Commons
My right hon. Friend the Vice-President of the Department of Agriculture informs me that on 22nd January, 1908, some visitors from Athenry, whose names he does not now remember, called at his office in Merrion-street in order to impress upon him that the burning of the house belonging to the Department at New Ford was not malicious. He advised them to place their views before the judge. On the same day Captain Shawe Taylor and Messrs. Daly, Ruane, Cleary, Nolan, Holland, Finnerty, and Murphy called on the Inspector-General of the Royal Irish Constabulary ant Dublin Castle and urged him to reduce the police force in the Athenry district. It has not yet been found possible to comply with that request…
“Athenry – History 1780, Folklore, Recollections” – Aggie Qualter
Written by Finbarr O'Regan
Published here 08 Feb 2021
Newford, Athenry, Co. Galway, Ireland
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