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WEXFORD, a maritime county of Ireland, in the province of Leinster, is bounded N. by Wicklow, E. and S. by St George's Channel, and W. by Waterford, Kilkenny, and Carlow. Its greatest length from its north-eastern extremity at Kilmichael Point to Hookhead Point at Waterford Harbour is upwards of 60 miles, and its greatest breadth from east to west 34 miles. The area is 576,58S acres, or about 901 square miles.
The coast-line does not present any striking features, and owing to the number of sandbanks navigation is dangerous near the shore. The only inlet of importance on the east coast and the only safe harbour is Wexford Harbour, which owing to a bar is not accessible to large vessels at ebb-tide. On the south coast are the fishing harbours of Crossfarnogue and Fethard. Several islets adjoin the coast. South from Crossfarnogue Point are the Saltee Islands, and Coningmore and Coningbeg, beyond the latter of which is the Saltee lightship. South-east from Greenore Point is the Tuskar Rock.
The basis of the county is clay-slate, and the surface is chiefly a series of verdant low hills, except towards the northern and western boundaries. The clay-slate formation is interrupted by patches of quartz rock near Gorey, one south of Enniscorthy, and another south of Wexford. To the north of Gorey there is a protrusion of greenstone trap. The elevated ridge on the northwestern boundary forms the termination of the granitic range in Wicklow, and in Croghan Kinshela, on the borders of Wicklow, rises to a height of 1985 feet. On the western border, a granitic range, situated chiefly in Carlow, extends from the valley of the Slaney at Newtonbarry to the confluence of the Barrow with the Nore at New Ross. In the southern district, a hilly region, reaching in Forth Mountain a height of 725 feet, forms with Wexford Harbour the northern boundaries of the baronies of Forth and Bargy, a peninsula of flat and fertile land. Carboniferous limestone crops to the surface on the southern shore of Wexford Harbour, and forms also the extremity of Hookhead Point. Marble is quarried on the right bank of the Barrow, and ochres are dug on the coast districts. The river Slaney enters the county at its north-western extremity, and flows south-east to Wexford Harbour. Its chief tributary is the Bann, which flows south-westwards from the borders of Wicklow. The Barrow forms the western boundary of the county from the Blackstairs range of mountains till its confluence with the Suir at Waterford Harbour.
Agriculture.-The soil for the most part is a cold and stiff clay resting on clay-slate. The interior and western districts have it much inferior to those round the coasts. In the south-eastern peninsula of Forth and Bargy the soil is a rich alluvial mould mixed with coralline sandstone and limestone. The peninsula of Hookhead, owing to the limestone formation, is specially fruitful. In the western districts of the county there are large tracts of turf and peat-moss. In 1876, according to the _Return of Owners of Land, Wexford was divided among 1757 proprietors possessing 573,052 acres at an annual value of £374,517, or about 13s. an acre all over. Of these proprietors 581 possessed less than 1 acre. There were about 4500 acres of waste or common land. The following proprietors possessed upwards of 8000 acres :-Lord Carew, 17,831 ; Lady Adelaide Forbes, 15,216 ; marquis of Ely, 14,023; Viscount Powerscourt, 11,730; Lord Templemore, 11,327 ; William Orme Foster, 9724 ; Hon. Mrs Deane Morgan, 9413; Anne Colelough, 9328 ; Sir James Power, 8599; F. A. Leigh, 8281 ; and representatives of J. II. It. Howe, 8003. Out of a total area of 575,700 acres in 1886, there were 202,543 acres, or 35.2 per cent., under crops, including meadow and clover, 303,788 or 52'8 per cent. under grass, 431 acres fallow, 10,583 woods and plantations, 15,090 bog and marsh, 19,082 barren mountain land, and 24,183 water, roads, fences, &c. The total number of holdings in 1886 was 16,074, of which only 16 were above 500 acres in extent, 1045 between 100 and 500 acres, 2429 between 50 and 100, 2703 between 30 and 50, 3019 between 15 and 30, 3081 between 5 and 15, 2161 between 1 and 5, and 1620 not exceeding 1 acre. The decline in the area under crops between 1849 and 1886 has been much below the average for Ireland-from 245,514 acres to 202,543. In 1876 the area was 221,018 acres, so that there has been a large decline within the last ten years. In the area under meadow and clover there has been an increase from 39,343 in 1849 to 61,327 in 1876 and 64,064 in 1886, but within the last ten years the area has been fluctuating. There has been no marked change in the area under green crops, which was 44,735 acres in 1849, 50,498 in 1876, and 45,958 in 1886. The area under corn crops has, however, declined nearly a half, being in 1849 163,321 acres, in 1876 109,193 acres, and in 1886 only 92,512 acres. Of green crops there has been since 1849 a great increase in the area under turnips, and a corresponding decrease in the area under potatoes : in 1849 they were respectively- 9763 and 32,017 acres, and by 1876 they had changed to 19,704 and 23,974 acres, and by 1886 to 21,857 and 18,888 acres. There were also in 1886 2848 acres under mangel-wurzel and beetroot, and 3365 minder other green crops. Of the corn crops the area under wheat has declined from 44,592 acres in 1849 to 6948 in 1876 and 4541 in 1886, the area under oats from 80,166 acres to 47,065 in 1876 and 50,381 in 1886, while that under barley and here increased from 36,563 acres in 1849 to 51,321 acres in 1876, but since then has declined to 35,036 acres. The number of horses in 1886 was 27,878, of which 942 were used for recreation. Mules numbered 1767, and asses 8031. Cattle numbered 126,410, of which 37,936 were mulch cows. The number of sheep was 122,373, of which 48,243 were one year old and upwards. Pigs numbered 67,478, goats 6369, and poultry 571,107, of which 34,293 were turkeys and 60,414 geese.
Communications.-The Dublin, Wicklow, and Wexford Railway intersects the county ; and from Wexford a branch of the Great Southern and Western passes north-westwards joining the lines to Kilkenny and Kildare. The river Slaney is navigable for barges to Enniscorthy, and the Barrow for large vessels to New Ross.
illanufactures.-Except in the town of Wexford the manufactures and trade are of small importance. There are important fisheries at Wexford, and one or two fishing villages along the south coast. The fishing grounds are good.
Administration and Population.-According to the calculation of De Burgo the population in 1760 was 66,804 ; the parliamentary census of 1812 places it at 112,000 ; in 1821 it amounted to 170,806, in 1841 to 202,033, in 1861 to 143,954, in 1871 to 132,666, and in 1881 to 123,854 (60,928 males and 62,926 females). Roman Catholics in 1881 formed 911 per cent. of the population, and Protestant Episcopalians 8.2 per cent. In 1881 the number of persons who could read and write amounted to 51.5 per cent. of the population, 15.3 per cent. could read but not write, and 33.2 per cent. could neither read nor write,-14.7 per cent. being under seven years of age. All could speak English, and 512 could speak English and Irish. By the Act of 1885 Wexford, which formerly returned two members to parliament, was divided into two parliamentary divisions, North and South, each returning one member, the borough of Wexford, which formerly returned one member, and the portion of the borough of New Ross within the county, being merged in the South Division. The principal towns are Wexford (12,163), New Ross (of which a portion containing 6375 is in this county, the other portion containing 295 inhabitants being in Kilkenny), Enniscorthy (5666), and Gorey (2450). The county is divided into ten baronies, and contains 144 parishes and 1600 town-lands. Episcopally it is in Ferns diocese, except a small portion, which is in Dublin. Judicially it is in the Leinster circuit, and assizes are held at Wexford, and quarter sessions at Enniscorthy, Gorey, New Ross, and Wexford. There are eleven petty sessions districts, and parts of two others. Wexford includes the poor law unions of Gorey and Wexford, and parts of Enniscorthy, New Ross, and Shillelagh. It is within the Cork military district, and along with Kilkenny, Tipperary, and Waterford forms No. 69 subdistrict, the brigade depot of which is at Clonmel. There are barrack stations at Wexford, Duncannou Fiirt, and New Ross.
History and Antiquities.-The peninsula of Hookhead is the ancient Sacrum Pronontbriam. The northern portion of Wexford was included in Hy R'inselagh, the peculiar territory of the Macmorroughs, overlords of Leinster, who had their chief residence at Forums. Dermod Macmorrough, having been deposed from the kingdom of Leinster, asked help of Henry II., king of England, who authorized him to raise forces in England for the assertion of his claim. He secured the aid of Strongbow by promising him the hand of Eva, and in addition obtained assistance from Robert Fitzstephen and Maurice Fitzgerald of Wales. On the 1st May 1169 Fitzstephen lauded at Bagenhon on the south side of Fethard, and after four days' siege captured the town of Wexford from its Danish inhabitants. After this Dermod granted the territory of Wexford to Fitzstephen and Fitzgerald and their heirs for ever. Macmorrough having died in 1172, Strongbow became lord of Leinster. At first Henry II. retained Wexford in his own possession, but in 1174 he committed it to Stronghow. The barony of Forth is almost entirely peopled by the descendants of those who accompanied these English expeditions. Wexford was one of the twelve counties into which the conquered territory in Ireland was divided by King John in 1210, and formed part of the possessions of William Mareschal, earl of Pembroke, who had married Strongbow's daughter. Through the female line it ultimately passed to John Talbot, earl of Shrewsbury, who in 1446 was made earl of Waterford and baron of Dungarvan. In 1474 George Talbot was seneschal of the liberty of Wexford. The district was actively concerned in the rebellion of 1641; and during the Cromwellian campaign the town of Wexford was on 9th October 1649 carried by storm, and a week later the garrison at New Ross surrendered, - a "seasonable mercy," according to Cromwell, as giving him an "opportunity towards Minister." Wexford was the chief seat of the rebellion of 1798, the leaders there being the priests. Evidences of the Danish occupation are seen in the numerous raths, especially at Dunbrody, Enniscorthy, and New Ross. Among the monastic ruins special mention may be made of Dimbrody abbey, of great extent, founded in 1182 for Cistercian monks by Henry de Montmorency, marshal of Henry II.; Tintern abbey, founded in 1200 by William Mareschal, earl of Pembroke, and peopled by monks from Tintern abbey in Monmouthshire; the abbey of St Sepulchre, Wexford, founded shortly after the invasion by the Roches, lords of Fermoy; Ferns abbey, founded by Dermod Macmorrough ; and the abbey of New Ross, founded by St Alban in the 6th century. There are a considerable number of old castles, including Ferns, dismantled by the Parliamentary forces under Sir Charles Coote in 1641, and occupying the site of the old palace of the Macmorroughs; the massive pile of Enniscorthy, founded by Raymond Is Gros; Carrick Castle, near Wexford, the first built by the English ; and the fort of Duncannon, which has been garrisoned since the time of the Spanish Armada, and caused some trouble to Cromwell when in Wexford.