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Irish Historic Towns Atlas of Dungarvan — to be published in December 2020

24 June 2020

Cartographic editor Sarah Gearty tells us what we can expect to see in the next atlas in the series and author John Martin gives us a flavour of historic Dungarvan.

Irish Historic Towns Atlas (IHTA) of Dungarvan/Dún Garbhán will be published by the Royal Irish Academy in December 2020. In advance of that, as part of Heritage Week, a Digital Atlas of Dungarvan will be released, based on the content and cartography from the printed atlas. In the printed atlas, readers will be presented with a full selection of maps, views and photographs that trace the development of Dungarvan from the earliest depictions of the town by Thomas Phillips in c. 1685 and Anthony Chearnley in 1746. The cartographical record begins in 1760 with local surveys by Charles Frizzell and Charles Frizzell junior (see above), followed shortly afterwards by maps of Dungarvan and Abbeyside by the accomplished surveyor Bernard Scalé. A variety of Ordnance Survey maps place the town in its nineteenth century and modern context. A highlight of the selection is a specially commissioned reconstruction map of the town, digitised from mid-nineteenth-century town plans, which depicts each individual plot and allows direct comparison with other towns published as part of the IHTA series. A range of thematic maps illustrate growth phases in addition to aspects of medieval and early modern development, building types and landownership in the eighteenth century and the valuation of residential buildings in the nineteenth century. Early photographs and views show the layout of the town from another perspective.

Alongside the visual record, author John Martin introduces the reader to the history of Dungarvan from the topographical perspective, looking at how the town has been shaped through the centuries — he gives us a flavour of this in his introduction to historic Dungarvan, below. The text section of the IHTA also includes an extensive gazetteer of over 1,300 sites arranged in thematic sections and a bibliography.

As no. 30 in the IHTA series, Dungarvan/Dún Garbhán may now be compared with other towns and cities that have been produced (including Youghal by David Kelly and Tadhg O’Keeffe) as part of the historic towns atlas scheme in Ireland and also internationally, where over 530 towns have been covered following similar guidelines, in nineteen European countries. For more about the IHTA project, see here.

IHTA, no. 30, Dungarvan/Dún Garbhán, by John Martin will be available to purchase from October for €30. See here for further details. Published by the Royal Irish Academy, in association with Waterford City and County Council. Maps prepared in association with Ordnance Survey Ireland.

Image (top): Part of map of Dungarvan, 1760, by Frizell and Frizell. Original held in Waterford County Archive, Dungarvan Library. This map will be one of the many historical maps included, with a transcription of its reference table, in IHTA, Dungarvan/Dún Garbhán.

Introducing Historic Dungarvan, by John Martin

Dungarvan is a vibrant market town situated on the Atlantic coast about 50 km west of Waterford, to which it is linked by the very popular Waterford Greenway. The town lies between the scenic Comeragh Mountains to the north and the line of Drum Hills which terminate at Helvick, at the southern entrance to Dungarvan Bay.

Image (above): site of medieval Dungarvan (Fig. 1 from IHTA, Dungarvan/Dún Garbhán).

While there may have been a small Viking settlement at Shandon, close to the Colligan River, it was the Anglo-Normans who founded the town over 800 years ago. The sturdy Dungarvan Castle still guards the narrow entrance to the estuary, while across the river can be seen the remains of the former Augustinian abbey which gave its name to that part of the town. Two of the main streets — Church Street and Parnell Street — date back to Anglo-Norman times; the old market place was located where the two streets met.

Walls were built to defend the town during the troubled sixteenth century but were gradually dismantled during the 1700s. While no trace remains above ground, the line of their foundations — shown on the map from 1760 (see above, top) — has been confirmed through recent archaeological excavations. Much of the modern town centre, including Grattan Square and adjoining streets and quays, dates from the early 1800s when the dukes of Devonshire, the major landowner at the time, invested heavily in a vain effort to win the political support of poor fishermen and labourers. A major part of that investment resulted in the construction of a bridge over the Colligan, which led to suburban development in Abbeyside.

Image (above): part of the large-scale OS town plan, 1880, showing Main (Parnell) Street, the castle and barracks, and also the town hall and butter market (now occupied by the Dungarvan Museum). Original in National Archives of Ireland.

The last century witnessed the growth of both the dairy and manufacturing sectors, which enabled Dungarvan to increase its population following the impact of the Great Famine. The railway (since closed) brought summer visitors to nearby beaches; tourism is still a mainstay of the local economy, boosted by the opening of the Greenway. The small but attractively presented Waterford County Museum provides a fascinating introduction to the rich historical heritage of the town.

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