Celebrating the 350th birthday of Charleville

CHARLEVILLE (AN RATH) 1661---2011 THE New Year brought with it the start of celebrations to mark 350 years of Chrleville town.

The town was founded by Roger Boyle in 1661. Roger Boyle, also known as Lord Broghill, was the son of Richard Boyle, who, though penniless when he came to Ireland, prospered through land speculation in the south of Ireland after the destructive Elizabethan period. The lands he acquired included part of the Barony of Orrery and Kilmore, which were located around Charleville or Rathgoggan, as it was then known, and Broghill.

Richard became the First Earl of Cork and when his son Roger was seven-yearsold his father had the title Lord Broghill bestowed on the young boy. Roger spent many years abroad and he returned to Ireland when Cromwell assumed power in England. He became Cromwell's right hand man and played a large part in subduing the south of Ireland for Cromwell. However when the monarchy was restored ten years later in England, Roger switched sides again and backed King Charles II.

The King rewarded Lord Broghill for his loyalty and made him Lord High President of Munster and he set about building his court and Manor House in the central location around the present Charleville, which, he said, at that time, "bore the heathenish name of Rathgoggan".

He laid the foundation stone for his residence on May 29, 1661, and called the town Charleville in honour "of his Grace, King Charles II" and set about creating a borough and the town was incorporated in 1670, enabling Charleville to return two members to Parliament.

In that same year Lord Broghill established the linen and woollen industries and built a street, on which, among other buildings were the Weaver's Cottages (it is thought in the Turretts, probably the oldest area of the town), "for all sorts of linen manufacture and also providing artists, looms and other trades and importing Flanders and Brabant seeds." He also built a church and an endowed school for the education of good Protestant children. He died in Castlemartyr, Co. Cork, in 1679.

After some years of prosperity, when the population of the town was around 5,000, the industries failed, particularly with the coming of the railway in 1849, which introduced competition from as far away as Dublin. The combination of the Famine and failed industries decimated the town's population, which had dwindled to below 2,000 at the start of the 20th Century.

What of the Charleville of today? Its official Irish name is An Rath and it is a vibrant retail, commercial, industrial and residential centre with a growing population employed in manufacturing and service industries and is one of the most industrialised towns in North Cork.

Having expanded greatly during the Celtic Tiger years, the current draft county development plans envisage the population of the town will increase by 65% by 2020.

A committee has been formed locally to celebrate the 350th birthday of the town on the weekend of May 29, which is the date on which the foundation stone was laid for the erection of Charleville Manor House. Details of the format for the weekend will be revealed nearer to that date, as the plabns which are being drawn up have not yet been finalised.