Navan History

Lewis Topographical Dictionary - 1837 - Click Here
Milestones in History - Click Here

Essay on Navan - Click Here
Newgrange Site - Click Here


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Further Information Can Be Obtained From:

Meath NACAI Historical Society
President: Stephen Ball
Telephone: 046-27041




NAVAN, an incorporated market and post-town (formerly a parliamentary borough), and a parish, in the barony of Lower Navan, county of Meath and province of Leinster, 7 miles from Trim, and 23 from Dublin, on the  road to Enniskillen; containing 5292 inhabitants, of which number, 4416 are in the town. 

It is one of the first boroughs established by the English in the palatinate of Meath, and appears to have arisen under the patronage of the family of the Nangles, barons of Navan, who, towards the close of the 12th century, founded here an abbey for Canons Regular of the order of St. Augustine. 

The town is situated in the centre of the county, and at the junction of the rivers Blackwater and Boyne; it consists of three principal streets, from which several smaller branch of in various directions, and contains about 850 houses, many of which are well built; altogether it has a neat, cheerful, and thriving appearance. The cavalry barracks, on the site of the ancient abbey are adapted for 4 officers and 52 non-commissioned officers and privates, with stabling for 50 horses. 

The chief trade is in provisions, which is extensively carried on with Drogheda, and seems to have been consequent on the opening of the Boyne navigation from that part to Navan, a line of 15 miles in extent; and its further extension inland, which has been attempted but not yet carried into effect would contribute greatly to its increase and to the general prosperity of the neighbourhood. There is also a considerable retail trade with the surrounding districts. 

In the immediate vicinity of the town, and closely connected with its trade, though locally within the limits of the adjoining parish of Athlumney, are flax-mills on the river Boyne, affording regular employment, on the average, to about 260 persons, and in the same parish, but close to the bridge of Navan, are some very extensive flour-mills, the property of Mr. Delany. Of these mills, one has five pairs of stones used for grinding wheat only; and the other, called the New Mill, which has been recently erected and fitted up with the most improved machinery, has ten pairs of stones, of which six are used in grinding wheat, and four for oats; attached to these mills is a steam-engine of 30-horse power. 

There are also some smaller mills in the town, chiefly for oatmeal and a paper-mill upon a small scale, chiefly for the coarser sorts of paper. The distillery belonging to Mr. James Morgan is capable of producing 30,000 gallons of whiskey annually; and on the river Blackwater, and close to the town, was formerly a very extensive distillery, with a mill and corn stores, employing a large number of persons; but the establishment has been for some time discontinued, and the buildings are fast going to decay. 

The manufacture of sacking, of which this place is the principal seat, is extensively carried on: it is made of tow brought from the North of Ireland, and in the town are from 200 to 300 looms in constant operation, each producing annually about 40 pieces of 60 yards in length. The market, which is the best attended in the county, is on Wednesday, and is abundantly supplied with corn, large numbers of bacon-hogs and porkers, and-with coarse linen, yarn, frieze, and country merchandise. 

In the R. C. divisions the parish is the head of a union or district, comprising also the parishes of Donaghmore, Ardsallagh, and Bective: the chapel is a handsome Grecian edifice, now in course of erection upon an extensive scale; there is also a chapel at Bective. 

Near the R. C. chapel is the convent of the Ladies of Loretto, a handsome edifice, attached to which are two schoolrooms, one in connection with the National Board, in which are 200 girls, who are gratuitously instructed by the sisters of the convent; and the other a private seminary for young ladies. The Navan endowed school was founded by Alderman Preston, of Dublin.

Published by: Local Ireland
Year written: 1999
Copyright owned by: None

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Prehistory: Once part of the ancient fifth province of Ireland, Meath has been inhabited for more than 8,000 years. The county was the centre of prehistoric Ireland and the place from which the ancient roads of Ireland radiated. In the Boyne Valley lie the celebrated megalithic burial grounds at Newgrange, Knowth and Dowth, some of the oldest neolithic structures in Europe, predating the Egyptian Pyramids and Stonehenge.

Newgrange (c. 3200BC) could lay claim to being possibly the oldest astronomically aligned Stone Age structure in the world. It was discovered during the 17th century, along with heavily decorated curb stones. An active solstice site, there is a waiting list of several years to get in to Newgrange to see the sun's rays penetrate the tomb at dawn on the day of winter solstice. New evidence has been found indicating that Knowth - a neolithic cemetery of up to 20 passage tombs, once the royal residence of the kings of Breaga - like Newgrange, could also have an astronomical function. Other important archaeological finds in the county include the Tara Brooch, found in Bettystown. 

Early Christian: The county is referred to as Royal Meath, as it was once home to the kings of pagan and early Christian Ireland at Tara.  Arguably the most important early Christian artifact - The Book of Kells - came from Kells in Meath.
English: The Boyne Valley has been significant in most eras in Irish history from prehistory to the Battle of the Boyne in 1690, when King James II was vanquished by King William III for the crown of England.
The British army defeated Irish rebels during the 1798 rebellion at Tara, and Daniel O'Connell held a 'monster' rally here in 1843, leading an estimated one million people to protest against the Act of Union Areas of historical interest: Brú na Bóinne Visitors' Centre (starting point for the visits to the megalithic tombs at Newgrange & Knowth), Hill of Tara (seat of the ancient high kings of Ireland), St. John's/Trim Castle (contains the largest castle fortifications in Ireland and was the location of the film Braveheart), Loughcrew (a series of hills with passage graves),
St. Mary's Abbey (where the Duke of Wellington was educated), Kells  High Crosses, St. Colmcille's Hut in Kells.

- Courtesy of DND Publications - 

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- The  Market Square in the 1880's -

This article and above photograph is transcribed from the Meath Chronicle newspaper issue 26-08-2000.
The following "Essay On Navan" was sent to us by Thomas J. Mahon who lives at Brible Island, Queensland, 
Australia. Believed to have been written by a woman named Ita (no surname and no date), It was found on 
a very old and tom manuscript by a Mr. Power (92) of Brisbane In some papers belonging to her father, Pat 
Wilkinson. Mr. Wilkinson was born 1870 in Dunderry, Navan, and left Ireland after his father's death and 
subsequent remarriage of his mother in about 1887. He married in St. Mary's Cathedral in Sydney on 2nd 
March, 1897. 
Mr. Mahon has unsuccessfully attempted to locate details of the ship on which Pat Wilkinson travelled to 
Australia in the hope that "Ita" might also have been a passenger and therefore would be able to be identified.  
It is not known if she was, In fact, the author of this piece or had merely copied the original from another 
source.  We have decided to reproduce the Essay/poem in full in order to give people today some idea of 
what life was like In Navan over a century ago. Some of the places referred to can still be seen, but many 
more have disappeared over the years. 
Fair Navan on the Boyne where beauty smiles
On tranquil scenes of waters. woods and isles
With blooming fields around in verdure laid
Where many now abroad, in childhood played.

Where healthy springs arise and breezes blow
Through flowery vales of beauty, rivers flow
On either sides propelling in their course
Great works of trade by main hydraulic force,

In currents water power is supplied
By nature fit for trade on every side
But leaving trade alone it may supply
What nature does to many towns deny.

Suburban grandeur permanent and fair
Which must divest the visitor of care
In beauteous shades here Blackwater and Boyne
In confluence unit and smoothly join.
Each bank adorned by sylvans pleasant shade
From that green  island where Blackwater ends
Surpassing beauty forward now extends
Along the ramparts twixt the waters still
Surrounding beauty forward employs the quill.

Where lovers walk to take the evening breeze
Between the waters and beneath the trees
A gentle breeze pedestrians inhale
When zephyr blows the hydrogenic gale

Ascending banks in clothed verdure rise
Which wooded scenes of beauty here despise
Far as the eye can see reach along the way
The magic scents in glory their display

A retrogressive walk and then adieu besides
A retrospective farewell view
Back through the Arch of Blondines mighty mills
The deep canal beneath its chamber fills.

The ponderous water wheel moves round
Of unsurprising power metal bound
Behold the murmuring falls across the weir
another shaded island does appear:

Too hidden by its trees a floating grove
On which the glistening waters seem to move
Then cross the little bridge that stands so high
Enchanting scenes around must please, the eye

Till to describe and give the town its due
Would puzzle "Sappho" and "Pindarus" too
A second paradise where nature brings
The fairest ladies and the purest springs
An exit hence and See the burned mill
A remnant of destruction standing still
But once it was the pride of all around
And seven storeys high above the ground.

Until reduced by fire disastrous fall
The stones gave way machinery and all
Devouring flames set in, all efforts failed
In spite of all in town, the flames prevailed.

Till in a fiery mass both works and walls
In one tremendous crash the building falls
Behind the ruins a little from the race
An Island green ornaments the place.

Where willows weep and poplars grow so high
Above the ruin'd walls that once stood by
But forward hence whoever wants to view
An ancient ruined castle to pursue.

On the right beyond the wooded hill
Where once Delaney lived or further still
Towering walls there yet portray
Destructions fiery hand and times decay

The noble seat where Dowdal one time stood
An Irish noble man of rank and blood
Unable to resist oppression's hand
Ht freely used himself the burning brand.

He left but raked walls and kept his word
To futilise the confiscator's sword
The reason was of such a rash affair
That Cromwell with his host was coming there.

Another cast it stood there at Dunmoe
Those ancient walls as yet plainly show
But Cromwell came that way In days of yore
By whose destroying hand It stood no more.

Tradition tells historic proof a creed
Now back into the town I must recede
To leighsbrook's shade along the convent wall
Beneath the tree the little water fall

Where oft I walk Id alone on by the stream
To take the breeze and shun the solar beam
In humble place yet worthy of the pew
In Peaceful shades a sacred little glen

Nor Is there any wonder to be found
But yet remember consecrated ground
The flowing well where once in times gone by
A holy chapel stood erected high.

High over the town appear to distant view
The, belfry of the, church and chapel too
Once ivy clad with sharp lapidic spears
The latter o'er the, town and temple bores

Constructed there by native trade at home
Solemn splendour stands with quadrant dome
The heavy crucifix that stands below
Was by a town man sculptured every blow
Which all who came the way can see and know
How near to life the sculptor's art can go

But not to leave the architective line
Description here of such I must confine
Two bands of late In Trlmgate and the Square,
High o'er other buildings as they stand there
But of the, whole municipal array,
The Square and Ludlows Street the way

The latter leads productive of such art
As for the town must bear a noted part
An artist there whose worth the town may claim
Another native genius merits fame
But further see an ornament we meet
Attracts the builder's eye and ends the street

I mean the "Russell Arms" or "Club Hotel"
"Che Sera Sera " marks the future well.
To know its meaning in Italian see
The double future of the verb to be.

The viaduct, below extensive plan,
The road and the Boyne beneath its mighty span
Seems like fortress there to guard the way,
It (????) where locomotives play

From architecture now I have to change,
For yonder see beyond the cottage range
A landscape there appears in silvic pride
Transcendent beauty reigns on every side

See! to the left a superb rising ridge
O'er the river to the neighbouring bridge
Its verdant side so Interspersed by wood
Appears in silent beauty o'er the flood

But further see a mansion nobly stands,
Most beautiful in structure, and commands
A view above the trees delightful scenes
Amid young groves and shrubs of evergreen

Protracted beauty further does impose
Which I don't wish to follow but to close
Now further hence as prejudice impends
Description here of local beauty ends

In all I now described, I fail to note
The famous "Thubberorum" and the "Moat"
For both endured the ravages of time
The latter now a sandpit seems to undermind
With beautiful and green ascending mound
With thorn-based and spreading shamrock crowned
For young and old in town a cool resort
Where age can rest and youth indulge in sport

And from its summit can be seen for miles
The fragrant plains of Meath 's most fertile soils
But low beneath a precipice is made, that will
In time make ancient beauty fade.

Tis wrong to meddle with such ancient things
The artificial work of native kings
Through pagan ages far remote they served
The bones of warlike chiefs they have preserved

Such earthen monuments or grasses
Will mark the tombs and yet contain hereof
Native princes or chiefs or ancient bard
Such earthen mounds should there fore not be marred

For ages such were used through pagan reigns
Ere Scotia with her sons arrived from Spain
Who conquered all the old De Dannian tribes
On Feltown plains an ancient writ describes.

Long ere St. Patrick came to bless this land
With mitred brow and crozier in his hand
With influence persuasive and divine
He made the light of true religion shine

At Colp he landed last successful then
Where Mermon landed once and Heber Finn
On Easter's Eve St. Patrick came to Slane
He pitched his tent and fire to remain.

But soon from Tara's heights King Laoghaire
Saw the fire it at Slane against his law
St. Patrick with his priests at Laoghaire's call
In safety passed next day to Tara's Hall

And there the great apostle took his post
In front of Laoghaire and his pagan host
Converting all around some authors say.
Except the King himself who held his way
Thence faith and learning spread without complaint
Till Ireland was called the Isle of Saints.

He founded churches and religious  schools
May Irish offspring never quit their rules.
Fair Navan heart of Meath still holds the name
That always at election won the game.
Where Erin's sons in concord still agree
And where the great Parnell twice gained MP
A Patriot of Erin no mistake
Came forth in vigour for his country's sake.

He proved himself for years the first by far
As Irish patriots the leading star
He nobly stood his cause fighting against
Coercion with honest feud ...

Who tried in vain to quell oppressive laws
So fairly aimed against the Irish cause
Coercive laws for landlords made with plans
To devastate their populated lands

Their native homes which most on earth they prized
To see laid waste or else monopolised
By disaffected landlords led by hate
Who would the country still de-populate.
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