The town of Fethard is one of the most
precious pieces of the remaining medieval heritage of Ireland.
More than one
kilometre of town wall including three gates are left, as well as some town
houses dating to the 15th century, a medieval church, and three
Sheela Na Gigs.
On this page I will introduce you to the
eventful history of the town of Fethard which started as a planned Norman
settlement in and around 1208.
Fethard was established by the Anglo-Norman
lord William De Braose, 7th Baron of Abergavenny (Wales) around 1208.
Fethard was designed as
a market town generating tax revenue for the English kings. Another purpose of
planned colonial settlements was greater security for the crown.
strength lies in numbers, colonists and settlers from Wales and England were
invited in by giving legal and financial privileges.
Many settlers may have come from De
Braose’s estates in Wales. He promoted the settlement heavily and it is likely
that his initiative contributed much to the towns’ later success.
Heritage Ireland at Fethard, County Tipperary-Sheela na Gig in the town wall.
After a falling out with King John, Fethard
was handed over by the King to the archbishop of Cashel in 1215 (Rock of
Cashel) who now profited from the rents and taxes paid by the burgesses of the town. This arrangement lastet until the 16th century.
It was during this period that the town wall and town houses were constructed with license and grant aid from the crown, making Fethard such an important part of the heritage of Ireland.
In 1328, King Edward III of England granted
to James Butler, 1st Earl of Ormond, the right to administer
Tipperary outside Royal jurisdiction as a ‘county palatine’.
In 1433, James Butler, 4th Earl,
also called the ‘White Earl’ published statutes at Fethard establishing
Tipperary and Kilkenny as ‘one country under one government or lordship’.
Ormond liberty continued for some 400 years and was the last of its’ kind to be
abolished in 1715. The Earls of Ormond attended courts held at Fethard, which
shows the important status of the town in medieval times.
Heritage Ireland- Holy Trinity medieval church and tower house castle at Fethard.
Fethard- Life At A Medieval Market Town
Fethard Tourist Information
The Rock Of Cashel (16 km from Fethard)
Cahir Castle (29 km from Fethard)
Learn how to build a medieval castle, how to attack and defend one, enjoy the medieval castle lifestyle (Phew!) and learn castle vocabulary.
Through ‘charters’ the town was granted
special status by the king, allowing the towns people to look after their own
legal affairs without involvement by the crown. The first charter was granted
in 1552, followed by a second in 1608.
The town paid an annual fee to the king
in exchange for these liberties. The effect of this arrangement for the town
was an economic boom that drew new merchants and other settlers from abroad.
The Everard family of Fethard who swore allegiance to the Crown, were key
figures in striking the 1608 charter deal for the town. Their town house is one
of a handful of surviving medieval buildings.
In 1650, Cromwell marched on Fethard. His armies had caused havoc and killed
thousands of innocent civilians around Ireland already, not least in the
neighbouring town of Cashel. News of the artrocity at Cashel had reached
Fethard, and the town decided to surrender. From our viewpoint today, this
meant that the structures of the town, the walls, church, tower houses and town
houses, survived unharmed.
Heritage Ireland- Traces of medieval wicker work left in the plaster of the town wall give away the construction process used for vaults by the Normans.
Today, despite featuring some of the most important medieval heritage in Ireland, Fethard is a quiet little country town.
The town is known for its links with the
horse racing industry. JP McManus owns a well-known horse stables here, and
horse racing celebrities are known to socialise at the towns’ hotels.
Apart from racing, there are very few
employment opportunities in the area. Many residents are communting for work,
for example to Clonmel or Kilkenny. The nearest cinema is at Clonmel, so for
young people there is very little to do here. Unfortunately many leave the area
once they finish school and move to more urban places like Kilkenny or Dublin.
Taking into account the impressive medieval
heritage site the town is, it is truly surprising that the town is not cashing
in on tourism. We saw so much potential on our visit there!
If you liked our page on the medieval heritage of Ireland at Fethard, please keep in touch.
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Many thanks, and warmest regards, Colm and Susanna
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