About Dundalk, Co Louth

History of the Town

In 1185 Bertram de Verdon, a Norman lord, was granted the land of Luva or Louth. A town was erected and fortified at Castletown Mount, and the settlement was called Dún Dealgan. De Verdon erected a church at the settlement dedicated to John the Baptist. The town prospered and outgrew the mount. The present location of Dundalk was selected for a settlement due to the potential of the Castletown river and the bay. Normans were sailors and sea merchants, and trade routines meant that the town could prosper. Bertram’s sons, Thomas and Nicholas de Verdon, inherited the lands, but Nicholas gained control. He later lost them due to unpaid rent but in time regained them. During this period the town of Dundalk was made a Royal Borough by King John.

Nicholas de Verdon died in 1230. Dundalk at this stage was at the most northerly point of the “Pale”, the area on the east coast, centred on Dublin, which was controlled by the Normans. Thus, it was seen as a starting point to undertake local battles to invade Ulster. Nicholas’s daughter Rohesia de Verdon inherited the lands. While she was married to Thomas Le Battaller, uniquely she retained her name, and it has been said that Roche Castle was named after her. Her son John, who later inherited Dundalk and the surrounding lands, founded a friary in Seatown in her memory, now known as Seatown Castle. The de Verdon family married locally and stayed in the area but their influence lapsed.

Centuries later, after the Williamite Wars, the town was in ruins. In 1695, Dundalk was sold to James Hamilton of Tullymore Park, County Down. The Hamilton family was Scottish and over the space of a hundred years acquired several titles. Lord Limerick, later Earl of Clanbrassil, was the son of the Hon. James Hamilton and Anne Mordaunt. He was responsible for the development of the town as we see it now.

Lord Limerick remodeled the town on the great cities of Europe, with modern streets and avenues. He built the harbour bar and reclaimed the land along Dundalk Bay. An interesting part of Dundalk’s history was the development of the linen industry in 1737 by Lord Limerick and the De Joncourt brothers, who were French Huguenots. At the time, they were specialists in the manufacturing of Cambric linen and were fleeing France. Lord Limerick constructed a factory in Parliament Square, and streets that led to the factory. These streets were Barrack St, Jocelyn St, Seatown Place and Crowe St.

Lord Limerick’s son, James II, Earl of Clanbrassil, inherited the town and estate in 1758. The 2nd Earl was a naturist and botanist and was more concerned with the conservation of the land and his demesne. He died in 1798 without issue and his sister, Lady Anne Roden, inherited the Hamilton Estates in Counties Louth and Down. The land was passed down the generations of the Roden family who maintained a strong connection with the town. The site of the Dundalk residence of Lord Limerick and his descendants is now occupied by the old P.J. Carroll Buildings, between Clanbrassil Street and the Long Walk (previously the Earl’s Demesne).