Arthur Young was born in 1741, the son of a clergy man in Suffolk, England. When he was thirty-five years old, he took a journey around Ireland which culminated in the publication of “A Tour in Ireland 1776-1779”, which to highlight his journey throughout the country during this three-year period.
Arthur Young was an avid travel writer exploring the landscape of England, Ireland, Scotland and Wales often until in 1808, when he began to lose his sight. He died in Suffolk in 1820.
Limerick was one of his stops for his “A Tour in Ireland 1776-1779”, he arrived in September 1776 and wrote of it:
To Limerick, through a cheerful country, on the banks of the river, in a vale surrounded by distant mountains. That city is very finely situated, partly on an island formed by the Shannon. The new part, called Newtown Pery, from Mr Pery the speaker, who owns a considerable part of the city, and represents it in Parliament, is well built. The houses are new ones, of brick, large, and in right lines.
There is a communication with the rest of the town by a handsome bridge of three large arches erected at Mr. Pery’s expense. Here are docks, quays, and a custom-house, which is a good building, faces the river, and on the opposite banks is a large quadrangular one, the house of industry. This part of Limerick is very cheerful and agreeable, and carries all the marks of a flourishing place.
The Newtown Pery development [built on lands owned by Edmund Sexten Pery, the Speaker of the Irish House of Commons] had only just begun after the old walls were removed from 1760 and a new bridge erected over the Abbey River.
The exports of this port are beef, pork, butter, hides, and rape-seed. The imports are rum, sugar, timber, tobacco, wines, coals, bark, salt, &c. The customs and excise, about sixteen years ago, amounted to £16,000, at present £32,000, and rather more or five years ago.
Arthur Young then listed the price of provisions in Limerick at the time:
Land sells at twenty years’ purchase. Rents were at the highest in 1765; fell since, but in four years have fallen 8s. to 10s. an acre about Limerick. They are at a stand at present, owing to the high price of provisions from pasture. The number of people in Limerick is computed at thirty-two thousand; it is exceedingly populous for the size, the chief street quite crowded; many sedan chairs in town, and some hackney chaises. Assemblies the year round, in a new assembly-house built for the purpose, and plays and concerts common.
The chief street at the time was still Nicholas Street and Mary Street, while the Assembly Hall was built in 1770 on the newly reclaimed Charlotte’s Quay. Sedan chairs were enclosed structures carried on poles by people, akin to taxi drivers today. They were allowed legally to travel on the pavement. It was expected that pedestrians would give way to them if they heard a warning shout of ‘Have a care!’ or ‘By your leave, sir!’, but this was often not the case, and so there were frequent accidents.
Upon the whole, Limerick must be a very gay place, but when the usual number of troops are in town much more so. To show the general expenses of living, I was told of a person’s keeping a carriage, four horses, three men, three maids, a good table, a wife, three children, and a nurse, and all for £500 a year:
A barrell of beef or pork, 200lb weight. Vessels of 400 tons can come up with spring tides, which rise fourteen feet.
Arthur Young then travelled on September 9th to Castle Oliver in County Limerick.