A town gradually rose around the monastery, which Hanmer, in his Chronicle of Ireland, describes as a walled city, and which subsequently became the seat of a diocese; but in the wars of the McCarties, O’Driscols, and other Irish septs, the walls were thrown down, and a great part of the town was destroyed.
At the time of the English invasion the place was much decayed; all the lands, except such as belonged to the bishop, were granted to Fitz-Stephen, by whom they were afterwards assigned to Adam de Roches. King John, on petition of the Bishop, granted the inhabitants of “Ross Lehir” a charter of incorporation, with very ample privileges; but no particulars of its municipal government are recorded.
The castle, which was in the possession of the insurgents early in the parliamentary war, was taken from them by Colonel Myn, in 1643, but was finally surrendered to the parliamentary forces in 1652. In the war of the Revolution it was garrisoned by the Irish forces of James II., commanded by General McCarty, and was reconnoitred by a detachment of English troops, who considering its reduction impracticable, made themselves masters of a neighbouring fort and proceeded to Tralee.
The town, which is wholly within the Western Division of East Carbery, is situated on the southern coast, at the head of an extensive creek called Ross harbour, and occupies the summit of a gentle eminence; it consists principally of a square and four small streets, containing 282 houses, mostly of indifferent appearance, and retains but few vestiges of its ancient importance. The manufacture of coarse linen was formerly carried on to a very considerable extent, but has latterly greatly diminished, and the inhabitants are chiefly employed in agriculture and in fishing.
Near the town are the extensive flour-mills of Mr. Lloyd, in which more than 5000 barrels of fine flour are annually made. The harbour, situated about half a mile to the west of Dundedy Head, occasionally affords shelter to small vessels, but only in moderate weather; the entrance is nearly dry at low water, and at high water it is rocky and dangerous, especially when the wind is from the sea. On the bar are ten feet at high water of spring, and eight feet at neap, tides.
The harbour itself is almost useless from a ridge of sand hills which has accumulated nearly to the height of 12 feet, and extends across the entrance, leaving only a channel of a few yards in breadth on the west side, through which the tide rushes with great rapidity. The inner bay, which is more than a mile in length and about half a mile broad, is, on the receding of the tide, a dry firm sand, and might be reclaimed at a moderate expense. A new line of road has been carried across the bay by a raised causeway, 400 yards long, and connected with the mainland by a bridge at its western extremity. The bay is celebrated for the great numbers of silver eels which are taken in it during the summer months.
The market is on Wednesday, but is indifferently supplied; and fairs are held on Aug. 26th, and the 19th of Sept. and Dec. The market-house is an old building in the centre of the square. A constabulary police force is stationed here, and at Milk Cove is a coast-guard station, which is one of the three that constitute the district of Skibbereen. Petty sessions are held every Wednesday, and a court for the manor of Ross every three weeks, at which debts not exceeding 40s. are recoverable. The court-house is a very neat building; adjoining it is the police barrack.
The SEE of Ross had its origin in the foundation of the monastery by St. Faughnan or Fachnan, surnamed Mongach or “the hairy,” the church of which, according to the best authorities, became the cathedral church of the diocese in the 6th century, and its founder the first bishop.
St. Fachnan was succeeded by St. Fin-chad, but neither of him nor of his successors, with the exception of Dongal Mac Folact, whom Flaherty makes the 27th Bishop of Ross, and with his predecessors all of the same house or sept, is any thing recorded prior to the arrival of the English. Since that period there has been, with little intermission, a regular succession of bishops, of whom the first, Daniel, was consecrated by authority of Pope Celestine at Rome, and succeeded to the prelacy in 1197. But having obtained the see by forged letters alleged to have been from the Irish bishops, an enquiry was instituted, and he was deprived by Pope Innocent III., by whose order Florence, who had been canonically elected, was confirmed by apostolic authority in 1210. During the prelacy of Matthew O’Fin, who presided over the see from 1310 till 1330, several of its possessions, which had been unjustly usurped by Thomas Barret and Philip de Carew, were recovered by default; but the crown thinking the recovery had been made by collusion, to avoid the statute of Mortmain, ordered an inquest to be held, which decided in favour of the bishop.