1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Drogheda

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DROGHEDA, a municipal borough, seaport and market town, on the southern border of Co. Louth, Ireland, in the south parliamentary division, on the river Boyne, about 4 m. from its mouth in Drogheda Bay, and 311/2 m. N. by W. from Dublin on the Great Northern main line. Pop. (1901) 12,760. It occupies both banks of the river; but the northern division is the larger of the two, and has received greater attention in modern times. The ancient fortifications, still extant in the beginning of the 19th century, have disappeared almost entirely, but of the four gateways one named after St Lawrence remains nearly perfect, consisting of two loopholed circular towers; and there are considerable ruins of another, the West or Butler Gate. Among the public buildings are a mansion-house or mayoralty, with a suite of assembly rooms attached; and the Tholsel, a square building with a cupola. St Peter’s chapel formerly served as the cathedral of the Roman Catholic archbishopric of Armagh; and in the abbey of the Dominican nuns there is still preserved the head of Oliver Plunkett, the archbishop who was executed at Tyburn in 1681 on an unfounded charge of treason. There was formerly an archiepiscopal palace in the town, built by Archbishop Hampton about 1620; and the Dominicans, the Franciscans, the Augustinians, the Carmelites and the knights of St John have monastic establishments. Of the Dominican monastery (1224) there still exists the stately Magdalen tower; while of the Augustinian abbey of St Mary d’Urso (1206) there are the tower and a fine pointed arch. At the head of the educational institutions there is a classical school endowed by Erasmus Smith. There is also a blue-coat school, founded about 1727 for the education of freemen’s sons. The present building was erected in 1870. Benjamin Whitworth, M.P., was a generous benefactor to the town, who built the Whitworth Hall, furnished half the funds for the construction of waterworks, established a cotton factory, and is commemorated by a statue in the Mall. The industrial establishments comprise cotton, flax and flour mills, sawmills, tanneries, salt and soap works, breweries, chemical manure and engineering works. The town is the headquarters of the valuable Boyne salmon-fishery. A brisk trade is carried on mainly in agricultural produce, especially with Liverpool (which is distant 135 m. due E.) and with Glasgow. Many works of improvement have been effected from time to time in the harbour, the quays of which occupy both sides of the river, the principal, 1000 yds. in length, being on the north side. Here is a depth of 21 ft. at the highest and 14 ft. at the lowest tides. The tide reaches 21/2 m. above the town to Oldbridge; and barges of 50 tons burden can proceed 19 m. inland to Navan. The river is crossed by a bridge for ordinary traffic, and by a fine railway viaduct. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors.

In the earliest notices the town of Drogheda is called Inver-Colpa or the Port of Colpa; the present name signifies “The Bridge over the Ford.” In 1152 the place is mentioned as the seat of a synod convened by the papal legate, Cardinal Paparo; in 1224 it was chosen by Lucas de Netterville, archbishop of Armagh, for the foundation of the Dominican friary of which there are still remains; and in 1228 the two divisions of the town received separate incorporation from Henry III. But there grew up a strong feeling of hostility between Drogheda versus Uriel and Drogheda versus Midiam, in consequence of trading vessels lading their cargoes in the latter or southern town, to avoid the pontage duty levied in the former or northern town. At length, after much blood had been shed in the dispute, Philip Bennett, a monk residing in the town, succeeded by his eloquence, on the festival of Corpus Christi, 1412, in persuading the authorities of the two corporations to send to Henry IV. for a new charter sanctioning their combination, and this was granted on the 1st of November. Drogheda was always considered by the English a place of much importance. In the reign of Edward III. it was classed along with Dublin, Waterford and Kilkenny as one of the four staple towns of Ireland. Richard II. received in its Dominican monastery the submissions of O’Neal, O’Donnell and other chieftains of Ulster and Leinster. The right of coining money was bestowed on the town, and parliaments were several times held within its walls. In the reign of Edward IV. the mayor received a sword of state and an annuity of £20, in recognition of the services rendered by the inhabitants at Malpus Bridge against O’Reilly; the still greater honour of having a university with the same privileges as that of Oxford remained a mere paper distinction, owing to the poverty of the town and the unsettled state of the country; and an attempt made by the corporation in modern times to resuscitate their rights proved unsuccessful. In 1495 Poyning’s laws were enacted by a parliament held in the town. In the civil wars of 1641 the place was besieged by O’Neal and the Northern Irish forces; but it was gallantly defended by Sir Henry Tichbourne, and after a long blockade was relieved by the Marquess of Ormond. The same nobleman relieved it a second time, when it was invested by the Parliamentary army under Colonel Jones. In 1649 it was captured by Cromwell, after a short though spirited defence; and nearly every individual within its walls, without distinction of age or sex, was put to the sword. Thirty only escaped, who were afterwards transported as slaves to Barbados. In 1690 it was garrisoned by King James’s army; but after the decisive battle of the Boyne (q.v.) it surrendered to the conqueror without a struggle, in consequence of a threat that quarter would not be granted if the town were taken by storm.

Drogheda ceased to be a parliamentary borough in 1885, and a county of a town in 1898. Before 1885 it returned one member, and before the Union in 1800 it returned four members to the Irish parliament.

From the close of the 12th century, certainly long before the Reformation and for some time after it, the primates of Ireland lived in Drogheda. Being mostly Englishmen, they preferred to reside in the portion of their diocese within the gate, and Drogheda, being a walled town, was less liable to attack from the natives. From 1417 onwards Drogheda was their chief place of residence and of burial. Its proximity to Dublin, the seat of government and of the Irish parliament, in which the primates were such prominent figures, induced them to prefer it to Ardmacha inter Hibernicos. Archbishop O’Scanlain, who did much in the building of the cathedral at Armagh, preferred to live at Drogheda, and there he was buried in 1270. Near Drogheda in later times was the primates’ castle and summer palace at Termonfeckin, some ruins of which remain. In Drogheda itself there is now not a vestige of the palace, except the name “Palace Street.” It stood at the corner of the main street near St Lawrence’s gate, and its grounds extended back to St Peter’s church. The primates of the 15th century were buried in or near Drogheda. After the Reformation five in succession lived in Drogheda and there were buried, though there is now nothing to fix the spot where any of them lies. The last of these—Christopher Hampton—who was consecrated to the primacy in 1613, repaired the ruined cathedral of Armagh. He built a new and handsome palace at Drogheda, and he repaired the old disused palace at Armagh and bestowed on it a demesne of 300 acres.