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Arklow Maritime & Heritage Museum History

'Centuries of Sea-faring Heritage - A Story Worth Telling'

Arklow Maritime
& Heritage
Museum History

The Story of Arklow


    No one knows how old Arklow is. Although it is generally accepted that there were no towns as we know them in Ireland before the arrival of the Vikings in the late 700s, Bronze Age burials and other archaeological evidence shows that people have lived in this area for at least four or five thousand years.

    One of the seaboard settlements on a map of Ireland which dates to the 2nd century AD was called Menapia, and there is a strong argument that Menapia stood on the site of present-day Arklow. There had to have been some sort of trading post or village which the ancient cartographer felt deserved a place on his map. Patrician legends from the 5th and 6th centuries also suggest that there was a settled community here at that time.


"Fantastic, thank you !" - LF Chesire (née Kavanagh), South Africa. (July 2016)

A town of two names

    The modern town has two names, one in Irish - An tInbhear Mór - and one in English - Arklow. The former means The Wide Estuary, and when the marsh on the north side of the river floods in exceptionally bad weather, it is easy to see how in ancient times the river widened out before entering the sea. Arklow is derived from the Norse personal name Arnkell and the Viking word for a marshy area 'lo'. Time has compacted Arnkell-lo into Arklow. The surname Doyle - of which there are many families in the area - is also derived from the Danish Vikings who settled here in the 9th century. Norse Vikings were generally blond haired and fair skinned, prompting the local Irish to call them Foinn Ghaill (Fair Foreigners). They settled mostly in north Dublin in an area now called Fingal. The Arklow Vikings were Danish and darker complexioned, so were dubbed Dubh Ghaill (Dark Foreigners) which became Dubhghaill and Ó Dubhghaill, and now anglicised as Doyle. Seamanship was their forte. Their boats were without peer and their skill in building them and handling them passed into the heritage of Arklow.

The Story of Arklow


    No one knows how old Arklow is. Although it is generally accepted that there were no towns as we know them in Ireland before the arrival of the Vikings in the late 700s. Bronze Age burials and other archaeological evidence shows that people have lived in this area for at least four or five thousand years. One of the seaboard settlements on a map of Ireland which dates to the 2nd century AD was called Menapia, and there is a strong argument that Menapia stood on the site of present-day Arklow. There had to have been some sort of trading post or village which the ancient cartographer felt deserved a place on his map. Patrician legends from the 5th and 6th centuries also suggest that there was a settled community here at that time.


"Fantastic, thank you Jim" - LF Chesire (nee Kavanagh), South Africa.
(July 2016)

    The modern town has two names, one in Irish - An tInbhear Mor - and one in English - Arklow. The former means The Wide Estuary, and when the marsh on the north side of the river floods in exceptionally bad weather, it is easy to see how in ancient times the river widened out before entering the sea. Arklow is derived from the Norse personal name Arnkell and the Viking word for a marshy area 'lo'. Time has compacted Arnkell-lo into Arklow. The surname Doyle - of which there are many families in the area - is also derived from the Danish Vikings who settled here in the 9th century.
    Norse Vikings were generally blond haired and fair skinned, prompting the local Irish to call them Foinn Ghaill (Fair Foreigners). They settled mostly in north Dublin in an area now called Fingal. The Arklow Vikings were Danish and darker complexioned, so were dubbed Dubh Ghaill (Dark Foreigners) which became Dubhghaill and O Dubhghaill, and now anglicised as Doyle. Seamanship was their forte. Their boats were without peer and their skill in building them and handling them passed into the heritage of Arklow.

The Story of Arklow


    No one knows how old Arklow is. Although it is generally accepted that there were no towns as we know them in Ireland before the arrival of the Vikings in the late 700s, Bronze Age burials and other archaeological evidence shows that people have lived in this area for at least four or five thousand years.

    One of the seaboard settlements on a map of Ireland which dates to the 2nd century AD was called Menapia, and there is a strong argument that Menapia stood on the site of present-day Arklow. There had to have been some sort of trading post or village which the ancient cartographer felt deserved a place on his map. Patrician legends from the 5th and 6th centuries also suggest that there was a settled community here at that time.


"Fantastic, thank you !" - LF Chesire (née Kavanagh), South Africa. (July 2016)

A town of two names

    The modern town has two names, one in Irish - An tInbhear Mór - and one in English - Arklow. The former means The Wide Estuary, and when the marsh on the north side of the river floods in exceptionally bad weather, it is easy to see how in ancient times the river widened out before entering the sea. Arklow is derived from the Norse personal name Arnkell and the Viking word for a marshy area 'lo'. Time has compacted Arnkell-lo into Arklow. The surname Doyle - of which there are many families in the area - is also derived from the Danish Vikings who settled here in the 9th century. Norse Vikings were generally blond haired and fair skinned, prompting the local Irish to call them Foinn Ghaill (Fair Foreigners). They settled mostly in north Dublin in an area now called Fingal. The Arklow Vikings were Danish and darker complexioned, so were dubbed Dubh Ghaill (Dark Foreigners) which became Dubhghaill and Ó Dubhghaill, and now anglicised as Doyle. Seamanship was their forte. Their boats were without peer and their skill in building them and handling them passed into the heritage of Arklow.

The Normans & Middle Ages

    In the 12th century came the Normans. They replaced the Viking stronghold on a rise overlooking the deepest part of the river with a sturdier, more permanent structure. This section of the river is still known as Poll (or Pound)-a-cholly, probably a corruption of the Gaelic Poll-a-chalaidh, meaning Harbour Pool. Throughout the Middle Ages, the people of Arklow continued to eke their living from the sea. Its strategic importance was evident in 1313 when Edmund Butler, the local Norman lord, had supplies sent to his troops at Arklow by ship. In 1399, Richard II's army was engaged in a campaign against Art MacMurrough Kavanagh. Kavanagh's guerrilla tactics left the English without food and they were saved from starvation by the arrival of supply ships from Dublin here at Arklow. Again, in 1649, Oliver Cromwell's army, on its march from Drogheda to Wexford, were met at Arklow with supply ships. Men with more constructive aims were trading between Arklow and continental ports in the 1500s, and the fishing industry was also gradually developing. This map from 1513 shows Arklow as one of the main fishing ports in the country. By 1784, 27 fishing boats, employing 205 men, were owned in the port.

The Normans & Middle Ages

    In the 12th century came the Normans. They replaced the Viking stronghold on a rise overlooking the deepest part of the river with a sturdier, more permanent structure. This section of the river is still known as Poll (or Pound)-a-cholly, probably a corruption of the Gaelic Poll-a-chalaidh, meaning Harbour Pool. Throughout the Middle Ages, the people of Arklow continued to eke their living from the sea. Its strategic importance was evident in 1313 when Edmund Butler, the local Norman lord, had supplies sent to his troops at Arklow by ship. In 1399, Richard II's army was engaged in a campaign against Art MacMurrough Kavanagh. Kavanagh's guerrilla tactics left the English without food and they were saved from starvation by the arrival of supply ships from Dublin here at Arklow. Again, in 1649, Oliver Cromwell's army, on its march from Drogheda to Wexford, were met at Arklow with supply ships. Men with more constructive aims were trading between Arklow and continental ports in the 1500s, and the fishing industry was also gradually developing. This map from 1513 shows Arklow as one of the main fishing ports in the country. By 1784, 27 fishing boats, employing 205 men, were owned in the port.

The Normans & Middle Ages

    In the 12th century came the Normans. They replaced the Viking stronghold on a rise overlooking the deepest part of the river with a sturdier, more permanent structure. This section of the river is still known as Poll (or Pound)-a-cholly, probably a corruption of the Gaelic Poll-a-chalaidh, meaning Harbour Pool. Throughout the Middle Ages, the people of Arklow continued to eke their living from the sea. Its strategic importance was evident in 1313 when Edmund Butler, the local Norman lord, had supplies sent to his troops at Arklow by ship. In 1399, Richard II's army was engaged in a campaign against Art MacMurrough Kavanagh. Kavanagh's guerrilla tactics left the English without food and they were saved from starvation by the arrival of supply ships from Dublin here at Arklow. Again, in 1649, Oliver Cromwell's army, on its march from Drogheda to Wexford, were met at Arklow with supply ships. Men with more constructive aims were trading between Arklow and continental ports in the 1500s, and the fishing industry was also gradually developing. This map from 1513 shows Arklow as one of the main fishing ports in the country. By 1784, 27 fishing boats, employing 205 men, were owned in the port.



Developing the harbour

    The nature of the harbour had changed little over the centuries. The facilities available in the 18th century were no different to those of a thousand years earlier. In 1791, the first survey was carried out by William Chapman. The following year the Hibernian Mining Company, six miles upriver at Avoca, obtained from parliament the rights to develop the port. In the 1820s, a retaining wall was built on the north side of the river (directly in front of where Arklow Maritime Museum is now located in the Bridgewater Centre). This was gradually extended over the following decades and a new single access to the sea was cut.

Developing the harbour

    The nature of the harbour had changed little over the centuries. The facilities available in the 18th century were no different to those of a thousand years earlier. In 1791, the first survey was carried out by William Chapman. The following year the Hibernian Mining Company, six miles upriver at Avoca, obtained from parliament the rights to develop the port. In the 1820s, a retaining wall was built on the north side of the river (directly in front of where Arklow Maritime Museum is now located in the Bridgewater Centre). This was gradually extended over the following decades and a new single access to the sea was cut.

Developing the harbour

    The nature of the harbour had changed little over the centuries. The facilities available in the 18th century were no different to those of a thousand years earlier. In 1791, the first survey was carried out by William Chapman. The following year the Hibernian Mining Company, six miles upriver at Avoca, obtained from parliament the rights to develop the port. In the 1820s, a retaining wall was built on the north side of the river (directly in front of where Arklow Maritime Museum is now located in the Bridgewater Centre). This was gradually extended over the following decades and a new single access to the sea was cut.

Employment

    Despite the lack of facilities, the entire community depended on the sea for its livelihood. By 1846 the fleet had grown to over 250 boats of various sizes, employing over 1,300 men. Ashore, an estimated 1,000 women and children were employed in manufacturing hemp which was used in making nets. What was surplus to local requirements was exported to Liverpool and the Isle of Man. Boatbuilding flourished and at times there were not enough shipwrights to meet the demand. In 1864, John Tyrrell opened his new yard on the south side of the river. Today, his great grandsons are still producing boats in steel on the north side.

The town in general

    The town developed from the cluster of huts built near the Viking fortress and later Norman castle. It spread eastward, down the slope towards the sea.

Before 1800, Arklow was little more than a single main street, with congested lanes of mud houses. The improving fishing and trading industries however saw Main Street develop into what we know today. The population grew steadily, sometimes aided by leaps in numbers particularly after the famine years of the 1840s when people left the surrounding countryside for work in the town. In the 1870s, non-maritime related industries first appeared in the town, with a chemical factory built on North Quay in 1870 and quarries opened by Charles Stewart Parnell at the Rock in the 1880s, continued today as Roadstone Quarries. In 1895, Kynoch Ltd bought Arklow Chemical Works and eventually covered over 300 acres along North Beach, employing 4,000 people during the First World War.

    In 1934, Arklow Pottery was built and for sixty years was the economic mainstay of the town. Nitrigin Éireann Teoranta (N.E.T.) was established at Shelton in the early 1960s, closing forty years later as Irish Fertiliser Industries. There have been a host of other factories, churches, schools, social organisations, all the trappings of a developing town, each with a story to tell. In fact, there are so many aspects to Arklow's long and fascinating history that it would be impossible to even list them here. We will be posting snippets on our Facebook page on a regular basis and fuller texts will be added on other pages of this website from time to time. So, bear with us. Let us know what you want to see.


Employment

    Despite the lack of facilities, the entire community depended on the sea for its livelihood. By 1846 the fleet had grown to over 250 boats of various sizes, employing over 1,300 men. Ashore, an estimated 1,000 women and children were employed in manufacturing hemp which was used in making nets. What was surplus to local requirements was exported to Liverpool and the Isle of Man. Boatbuilding flourished and at times there were not enough shipwrights to meet the demand. In 1864, John Tyrrell opened his new yard on the south side of the river. Today, his great grandsons are still producing boats in steel on the north side.

The town in general

    The town developed from the cluster of huts built near the Viking fortress and later Norman castle. It spread eastward, down the slope towards the sea.

    Before 1800, Arklow was little more than a single main street, with congested lanes of mud houses. The improving fishing and trading industries however saw Main Street develop into what we know today. The population grew steadily, sometimes aided by leaps in numbers particularly after the famine years of the 1840s when people left the surrounding countryside for work in the town. In the 1870s, non-maritime related industries first appeared in the town, with a chemical factory built on North Quay in 1870 and quarries opened by Charles Stewart Parnell at the Rock in the 1880s, continued today as Roadstone Quarries. In 1895, Kynoch Ltd bought Arklow Chemical Works and eventually covered over 300 acres along North Beach, employing 4,000 people during the First World War. In 1934, Arklow Pottery was built and for sixty years was the economic mainstay of the town. Nitrigin Eacuteireann Teoranta (N.E.T.) was established at Shelton in the early 1960s, closing forty years later as Irish Fertiliser Industries. There have been a host of other factories, churches, schools, social organisations, all the trappings of a developing town, each with a story to tell. In fact, there are so many aspects to Arklow's long and fascinating history that it would be impossible to even list them here. We will be posting snippets on our Facebook page on a regular basis and fuller texts will be added on other pages of this website from time to time. So, bear with us. Let us know what you want to see.


Employment

    Despite the lack of facilities, the entire community depended on the sea for its livelihood. By 1846 the fleet had grown to over 250 boats of various sizes, employing over 1,300 men. Ashore, an estimated 1,000 women and children were employed in manufacturing hemp which was used in making nets. What was surplus to local requirements was exported to Liverpool and the Isle of Man. Boatbuilding flourished and at times there were not enough shipwrights to meet the demand. In 1864, John Tyrrell opened his new yard on the south side of the river. Today, his great grandsons are still producing boats in steel on the north side.

The town in general

    The town developed from the cluster of huts built near the Viking fortress and later Norman castle. It spread eastward, down the slope towards the sea.

    Before 1800, Arklow was little more than a single main street, with congested lanes of mud houses. The improving fishing and trading industries however saw Main Street develop into what we know today. The population grew steadily, sometimes aided by leaps in numbers particularly after the famine years of the 1840s when people left the surrounding countryside for work in the town. In the 1870s, non-maritime related industries first appeared in the town, with a chemical factory built on North Quay in 1870 and quarries opened by Charles Stewart Parnell at the Rock in the 1880s, continued today as Roadstone Quarries. In 1895, Kynoch Ltd bought Arklow Chemical Works and eventually covered over 300 acres along North Beach, employing 4,000 people during the First World War. In 1934, Arklow Pottery was built and for sixty years was the economic mainstay of the town. Nitrigin Eacuteireann Teoranta (N.E.T.) was established at Shelton in the early 1960s, closing forty years later as Irish Fertiliser Industries. There have been a host of other factories, churches, schools, social organisations, all the trappings of a developing town, each with a story to tell. In fact, there are so many aspects to Arklow's long and fascinating history that it would be impossible to even list them here. We will be posting snippets on our Facebook page on a regular basis and fuller texts will be added on other pages of this website from time to time. So, bear with us. Let us know what you want to see.


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