The Village of Kill

Author: Des Cowman

This is a summary of a compilation of historical sources which I put together experimentally as editor of Decies (no. 18) in 1978 taking it as a typical village emerging around a church from the early 19th century. The original compilation may currently (web-sites do change) be viewed on eJournals. In recent years accelerating amounts of material have become available on-line and these as of summer 2015 supplement this summary. One reference in the original has changed: the Public Record Office (PRO) has since become the National Archives (NA).

The village of Kill did not emerge until the early 1800s mainly on the townland of Gardenmorris in the old parish of Kilbarrymeadon whose ruined church still stands. Various redefinitions took place in the mid-19th, as intimated below.

Before Kill
Kilbarrymeadan was owned by the Bishop of Waterford where the medieval church stood, possibly on the site of a pre-Norman monastery, to judge by the presence of a bullan stone in the adjoining field. Little else is known about it up to Cromwellian times when it was indicated on a map with an ecclesiastical building nearby (possibly the residence of the rector). Gardenmorris seems to be an entity that arose out of plantation and was in royal ownership into the 18th century though let in the 1650s to Thomas Sherlock with a smaller portion being held by Thomas Power. Its population then was just 14 people whereas the bishop’s land had 29, three of them “English”. Clearly with a widespread local population of just 43, there was no village.

It took a long time for the Catholic Church to recover from its losses during the reformation c. 1550 and from Cromwell’s administration 100 years later. In 1704 John Carroll was said to be parish priest of Kilbarrymeadon and two adjoining parishes. The medieval church would have been well ruined by then and he may have been living nearby (at Kilbeg) and could have had a temporary church around the Manacaum. Penal Laws notwithstanding, a more permanent church seems to have emerged by the 1750 with its own inscribed chalice for a parish now defined as Kill in 1752 and more significantly, a cemetery as attested by the will of James Power of Benvoy requesting to be buried there. The earliest marriage and baptism records date from 1797.
By the mid-18th century crown ownership of Gardenmorris seems to have lapsed by default: Sherlock was gone and the entire townland was owned by Richard Power. His daughter and sole heir, Elizabeth, married John Shee in 1767 and he then rechristened himself as Power O’Shee inheriting the estate in 1776 on the death of Richard. That family became local benefactors including donation of land for a church in Kill in 1800 (raising the question of whether the putative Manachaum church with cemetery and chalice was still in use).

The church and then the village
The church shown on a map of 1818 is the first evidence that the land grant of 1800 did lead to a permanent site. On that map it is called “Kilbarrymeandon” with a sense of continuity perhaps and that may have been abbreviated to a simpler “Kill”. Likewise the formal name for the schools there was Kilbarrymeadon. Meanwhile the medieval church was then inappropriately called “Kylemore” (=big church) and a non-resident rector (although a glebe is described there) was still being nominated by the bishop in the early 1800s. However there was no question of reconstituting the old church the recommendation being instead to build a new one in Dunhill parish (presumably that at Annestown).

The medieval parish was reorganised as a Civil Parish for census purposes to include Gardenmorris. In 1821 these combined had 2,265 people in 403 families living in 354 houses, with 20 other unoccupied. There was also a school of 70 pupils. Five years later there were two schools, both fee paying, totalling 104 pupils, 22 of them girls, one of them described as at the “cross of Kill”. When a third “parish school” was established by public subscription in 1827 it was on the grounds of the church. Within six years (by 1833) it had about 55 boys and about 66 girls being educated separately. The curriculum (notionally at least) comprised reading, writing, arithmetic, book-keeping, algebra (or “mensuration”), grammar (optional) for between two and eight shillings per quarter. This was the school that successfully applied for membership of the National School systems so that the teachers were paid by the state and there would be grants for furnishings, books, etc.. Presumably the two private schools could not compete and no more is heard of them.

Thus the church built between 1800 and 1818 facilitated the development of schools. By 1831 the population of the Civil Parish (no specific mention of Kill) had grown by about 8%. Occupations are given, with 65 retailers or craftsmen but no manufacturer. The bulk of the 65 may be accounted for thus: “spirituous liquors are retailed in a very great number of cabins”. Possibly to deal with the consequences of this another infrastructural layer was added – a police station with five constables. Details of the “town” of Kill emerges for the first time in the 1841 census – 338 people in 62 houses. Half of these had five to nine rooms and there were only four one-roomed cabins. Despite the schools only 20% of them (65 people) could read and write.

A snap-shot of the village in1851 is available on-line and when this is combined with the original notes of 1849 which contain additional details of house sizes a clearer picture emerges. These were amalgamated in the 1978 compilation so just some samplings are offered here. The largest house was that of John Quinlan, two storied, a return at back inexplicably “Hotel/Store” with Hotel crossed out, and a large “weaving shed” crossed out and “stables” written in. Likewise, James Larkin’s “nailors’ workshop” is crossed and it becomes simply his small house. Thus whatever aspirations towards industry had previously existed were gone by 1849.

Only two pubs are listed, probably because they were the only ones who successfully applied for licence to sell spirits and were entitled to put a board over the door. William Jones and John Hayes were the official publicans with frontages of 19 and 20 feet respectively, running 56 and 53 feet inwards. They were low, 7 ½ and 7 feet. Many of the neighbouring houses were even lower: that of Catherine (O’)Brien was only 5 feet high.
Measurements of the church are given with north, south and west wings partly “lofted” (public galleries?). The dimensions of the National schools are also stated, boys’ and girls’ being identical, a common porch presumably having two doors. What went on there emerges from a report of 1860. The combined numbers enrolled was 234 but the average daily attendance was only 80 pupils with an average age of ten. Despite this, most had advanced no further than 2nd class (“book”) and only seven, all boys, had reached 4th class standard. Generally, however, the girls were better in attendance and performance.

The well-being of the population of Kill can be indirectly assessed from 1861 on. Of the 71 families living in the village, 15 were in shared small houses, including two families in a one-roomed cabin. Nickolas Power O’Shee was sufficiently moved by the poverty he saw around him to donate a generous £30 “for the poor living on and about Kill”. Poverty and male drunkenness went together in Irish society and may have lain behind four improvident attacks on local policemen which wound up in charges being brought. A specific local example was William Morrissey “a man in a wretched coat” fined one shilling for being publically drunk. Commenting on a drunken “affray in the street” in Kill, the justice said he knew the place “and would not be disposed — to be lenient in any cases from that locality”. That a Relieving Officer attached to the Workhouse had to live in Kill suggests that he Guardians saw the poverty as acute.
More positive infrastructural developments included the establishment of a post office in 1862 and of a dispensary two years later. Parish Priest Roger Power added another dimension when he imported musical instruments, getting them in freight free. He then decided he need a new church as the present one “is old with the roof read to fall from extreme decay”. Outside donations were requested as the parish “is very poor”. The money must have been slow to come in as four years passed before the foundation stone was laid. Seven further years passed and £6000 spent before the church was opened in 1874 and in association Kill was created a separate parish (it had been united with Newtown). The old church was simply abandoned and its walls still stand beside the 1874 edifice. The Church of Ireland was also reorganised from 1870, the ruin at Kilbarrymeadan being united with another ruin at Kilrossanty!

Despite such evidence of progress, the village was in decline from about 1870 when there were 62 houses and 282 people: twenty years later there 44 houses and only 130 people left. The 1881 census attributes the decline to the closure of the mines – they had finally closed in1875. While some may have walked to work there would also have been the loss of passing trade between the mines and Waterford city. Certainly by 1891 Kill would have looked a sad place with almost one in seven houses standing empty (6 out of the 44). The next census, that of 1901 may be checked on-line and details were also give in 1978 confirming the impoverishment of the village. For example, one would have expected police sergeant Cullen from Galway to be reasonably comfortable but he, his wife (from Cavan) and four children lived in three rooms. His constable, William Carley from Roscommon, wife and eight children had four rooms but they also had a lodger, postman John Burns. Widow Alice Mansfield lived with her three children and three grandchildren in two rooms. Michael Power, wife, three grown-up children and four others aged from five to sixteen years were packed into three rooms. How space was managed, sleeping arranged, food served and basic hygiene maintained it is difficult now to imagine but such was common enough at the time. Not everybody in Kill lived in such squalor and teachers were probably best off. Bridget Kearney shared her three rooms only with her servant girl. Retired teacher, Ellen Power (aged 72) had nine rooms shared with daughters Marianne who owned the pub and with shop assistant, Margaret.

Of the 32 households recorded in 1901 23 had at least one person who could speak Irish. This included three people under thirty years living in Morrisey’s pub, Edmund Whelan a 32 year old farm labourer and his 26 year old wife Mary. Indeed most people over 35 had Irish indicating that it was probably the spoken language up towards the end of the 19th century. That age cohort had understandably moved on ten years later (Census 1911 ) when there were fewer people with Irish the youngest of which was 40 years. An exceptional new family had moved in however, the Ó Cuimíns, who filled in the census form in Irish. Peader and his household of ten all spoke Irish, presumably among themselves also, and may have tried to exercise some cultural influence as shopkeepers.
Other changes in personnel had also taken place which meant that the extreme overcrowding is not as evident. It is understandable that the Sergeant and constable above had been transferred and on census night 1911 the five RIC men were all in their barracks, each a farmer’s son from different counties and all Catholic. However, what happened to the Widow Mansfield and to Michael Power above and to their broods? T.B. would spread very fast in such crowded conditions. Of the four others no longer in Kill in 1911, two strangely were publicans and their families – Morisseys and Keans. However eight new families had moved in (including the Ó Cuimíns) but there is no obvious pattern to this. One wonders what brought Johanna Walsh aged 41 no occupation married, no husband recorded, having had eight children four of which were with her. The widowed Margaret Lannen moved in with her son James, aged 27 whose occupation he gave as “peddler”. William Conroy from Tipperary aged 46 and married occupied a house on his own and was a “Travelling Musician”.

Transience is a part of all communities. One suspects that when the next Census, that of 1926, becomes available it will reveal a quite different Kill.
Meanwhile it would be good if this summary prompted local people to gather memories.

1. NA Down Survey map.
2. NA Quit Rent Office ledgers 1697 and 1706. This was the agency that dealt with crown rents.
3. The Civil Survey (ed. R.C. Simmington), Stationary Office 1942
4. The Census of 1659 (ed. J. Pender) Stationary Office 1939
5. Rev. P. Power, “The Ancient Ruined Churches of County Waterford” W&SEIARSJ Vol 2, No. 10, p. 198. He states that the 1704 church “stood on the summit of what is now a furze covered knoll at the junction of two roads half way between the present church of Kill and its predecessor”. He gives no source.
6. Rev. P. Power, Waterford and Lismore: Compendious history of the united diocese (Dublin 1937) p. 195
7. NA Grand Jury Map.
8. PP 1835, Report Commissioners of Public Instruction (Ireland): 2nd Report, Vol 34
9. PP 1807 Relating to the Established Church in Ireland.
10. PP 1824, Census Population 1821
11. PP 1826 Commissioners of Irish Educational Inquiry (Appendix, Index to Second Report)
12. NA ms. records of the Dept. of Education, National School applications..
13. PP 1833, Vol. 39, Census 1831
14. PP 1836, Poor Inquiry (Vol. 32)
15. PP Census 1841. Also marked on OS map of 1841
16. Easiest current access is through Ask about Ireland with choice of looking for people or places.
17. NA ms. Valuation Office House Books.
18. PP 1862 Report of Commission of National Education (Appendix to 27 report)
19. PP 1863, Census of Population 1861
20. Waterford Chronicle 23 July 1865 letter from Roger Power PP belatedly acknowledging that the money had been given to him.
21. PP 1860-’62, Accounts and Papers, Crime Ireland (Vol. 46)
22. Waterford Mail 2 Oct. 1858, p. 1 Petty Sessions Reports
23. Waterford Mail 27 April 1858, p 2 Petty Sessions.
24. Waterford News 5 Jan 1866, p.2, ad for position.
25. Waterford News 7 Nov 1862
26. Waterford Mail 3 Nov 1864, ad.
27. Waterford Mail 9 Dec 1862, p. 2 letter thanking Waterford Steamship Company.
28. Waterford Chronicle 21 Nov. 1863, letter.
29. Waterford Chronicle 4 Oct 1867 re Bishop due to bless “corner Stone”
30. Power, P. Waterford and Lismore: A Compendious history of the united diocese (Dublin 1937).
31. Rennison W.H. Succession list of the bishops, cathedral and parochial clergy of the diocese of Waterford & Lismore — (Waterford c. 1920)
32. Census Population 1881 & 1891′.
33. This only gives Form A with family details. Form B1 (details of each house structure) had been available on the now defunct County Library web-site – such is progress! In 1978 I had not realised that 13 houses were recorded under Kilbarrymeaden and therefore got only the Gardenmorris section of the town.
34. Idem, only Form A.

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