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IHTA Town Type Series: The Town in the Eighteenth Century

27 May 2020

As part of the IHTA Town Type series, Colm Lennon, MRIA and editor of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas Suburbs Series, writes about the Town in the Eighteenth Century when many significantly expanded.

For more Lockdown Reading over the coming weeks, we are revisiting the expert essays that were published along side the launch of each of the IHTA Online town types:

Monastic Towns – Anngret Simms Eary Modern, Gaelic and Plantation Towns – Raymond Gillespie
Viking Towns – Howard Clarke Towns in the Eighteenth Century – Colm Lennon
Anglo-Norman Towns – Michael Potterton Towns in Nineteenth-Century –  Jacinta Prunty


Colm Lennon examines the changes to Irish towns during the 'Age of Improvement'. Spearheaded by urban landlords and civic authorities, many towns underwent significant expansion, realignment and widening of streets or even creating a new urban focus in a 'new town' portion of the city or town. Limerick provides an excellent example of eighteenth-century development (see cover image). As Ireland's economy expanded, a considerable number of public buildings were constructed to reflect grandeur and civic pride as well as accommodate an increasing population with a political appetite. 

Detail from hand-coloured Exact survey of the city and suburbs of Dublin (1756) by John Rocque (British Library, Maps K.Top.53.13.b.11).

To go directly to IHTA Online to view Irish Historic Towns Atlas nos Maynooth, by Arnold Horner; 16 Dundalk by Harold O'Sullivan; 19 Dublin, part II, 1610 to 1756 by Colm Lennon click here. 

Further reading

For more on the Town in the Eighteenth Century, see the chapter in Reading the maps by Howard Clarke and Jacinta Prunty for download here. There are some useful questions at the end of the chapter to test your knowledge about eighteenth-century urban development. 

To read previous essay by Raymond Gillespie on the Early Modern, Gaelic and Plantation Town click here

To read the next essay by Jacinta Prunty on the Town in the Nineteenth Century click here

Cover image: extract from 'Plan of the city and suburbs of Limerick', 1769 by Christopher Colles. BL, Add. MS 27391/E and appears as Map 18 in Irish Historic Towns Atlas, no. 21 Limerick by Eamon O'Flaherty. 

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