me through the streets of Cavan
takes its name from the Irish word Cabháin
meaning the hollow. Cavan owes its origins to the local
gaelic chiefs the OReillys (Uí Raghallaigh)
who were the ruling family of East Breffni in the later
Middle Ages. In the late 13th century the brothers Ferghal
and Giolla Iosa Rua settled at Tullac Mangain.
The site was distant from the attacks by Uí Raghallaighs
enemies and its situation gave a good vantage point over
the surrounding countryside. In 1300 Giolla Iosa attracted
a group of Franciscans to found a friary at Cavan and this
was sometimes used as a type of retirement home for the
local ORaghallaigh rulers. Throughout the medieval
period, the OReilly clan remained on good terms with
the Anglo-Norman rulers.
In the early 15th century the local ruler Bearded
Owen OReilly set up a market in Cavan. Merchants
from Meath and Drogheda frequented the market and bought
items such as wool, wood and leather at prices that were
cheaper than in their own areas. A town then grew up around
the market. In the later 1560s Lord Deputy Henry Sidney
wrote of Cavans great town and castle.
In the early 17th century when Co Cavan was planted with
English and Scottish settlers, Cavan became the chief town
of the county. In 1610 Cavan town received a municipal charter
of incorporation from King James I (VI of Scotland). The
borough of Cavan was established and as such was entitled
to hold a set number of markets and fairs. It could also
enjoy regulation of its own affairs and also send two members
to the Irish parliament.
The Corporation of the Borough of Cavan legally ceased to
exist in 1840. The Corporation was disbanded by the Act
for the Regulation of Municipal Corporations in Ireland,
which was passed in the United Kingdom Parliament in London
in 1840. However, in 1837 shortly before the Corporation
was disbanded the Cavan Borough Commissioners came into
being. This was again succeeded in 1855 by the Cavan Town
Commissioners which were entrusted with the municipal government
of Cavan until 1900 when Cavan Urban District Council was
In the first quarter of the 19th century there was a transformation
of Cavans streets. Much of these changes had been
influenced by the Lords Farnham, the local landlord family.
A new wide street was build so as to cater for the passing
coach trade. This street subsequently became known as Farnham
The narrow roads or lanes in Cavan town e.g. Keadue Lane
(Keadew Lane) were once the principal thoroughfares that
served Cavan and District. The main routes through Cavan
to the North was past the rear of Breffni Terrace, down
by the Half Acre (Fair Green Hill) and along Main Street
to Keadew Lane. Through this lane the stage coach passed
until the construction of the Broad Road. It
may be assumed that this was the route on which the mail
coach travelled. This road, the principal highway from Dublin
to Cavan is shown in an 18th century book of Maps of the
Roads of Ireland. On appropriate maps the principal highway
is shown as passing through Navan, Kells, Virginia and Ballyjamesduff.
Near the town of Cavan it goes through the townlands of
Aghnaglogh, Carnaglenagh or Oldtown, Gortnakesh and Creighan
continuing down the Half Acre (Fair Green Hill). At the
beginning of the 19th century a number of excellent military
roads and other roads were constructed. It was at that time
that the broad road, Dublin-Cavan-Enniskillen was made.
The portion of the new high-way in and adjoining Cavan town
was made in 1818, when a passage was opened through Mill
Street, which at that time was called the Dublin New
Road. The thoroughfare was then continued through
what is presently known as the Dublin Road, entering the
rural area through Pollamore and other townlands. The new
road to Enniskillen was made through College Street (then
called the Broad Road) and Farnham Street (once also known
as the Mail Coach Road) continuing for a short distance
alongside the old highway (Keady or Keadew Lane).
Farnham Street took its name from the local landlords, Lord
Farnhams (the Maxwell family). The street was built in the
early 19th century and was constructed both to beautify
the town and to supply a bypass for the coaches travelling
through the town. Lord Farnham aimed to have a tree
and terraced lined mall. Before the street was built,
Cavan was a town of dirty, narrow winding streets. Throughout
the 19th century, Farnham Street was lined with comfortable
town houses and public buildings such as the Court House
that was built in 1825 at a cost of approximately £12,000.
The original Farnham Arms was built as a coaching inn in
1816 along the newly laid Farnham Street but it closed during
the famine. The site in Farnham Street was later used as
a school, a fire station and now houses the county library.
The Methodist Church was also situated on Farnham Street.
It was built in 1874 but was closed in the early 1970s.
In the early 1830s the widow of the Fourth Baron Farnham
set aside the land on the east side of the street as a public
park, with walkways, fountains and a park-keepers lodge
but throughout the 20th century the park was neglected and
its lands absorbed by other developments.
Church Street takes its name from the Church of Ireland
which belongs to the Parish of Urney. Work began on the
building of the church around 1807 but was not completed
until 1815 when it opened in the winter of that year. In
the last decade of the 18th century a dispensary was opened
on the site of the old surgical hospital, which was built
in response to the cholera epidemic of 1832. Prior to the
famine, Church Street was an area of severe poverty but
the squalid hovels of the street were replaced in the 1860s
and 1870s by comfortable dwellings and successful premises.
In 1898 the towns post office was located in Church
Main Street is one of the oldest thoroughfares in Cavan
town. Many of the buildings on Main street are no older
than the last quarter of the 19th century as a serious fire
in 1880 in the area of Upper Main Street destroyed a number
Cavan town had grown up around its markets but it was the
market held on the site at the top of Church Street and
Main Street that became the towns central market especially
for goods such as potatoes, butter and turf. The entry to
Cavans central market was marked by an arch and was
originally the towns courthouse but in 1827 it was turned
into a market house by the then Lord Farnham. In 1855 the
new Market Square from the Main Street to the
Farnham Gardens was opened to the public. This square was
used by travelling traders, who had standings there for
their wares, on fair and market day. The Market Square now
has a magnificent centrepiece entitled Hands of Friendship.
Bridge Street was one of Cavans town first streets
linking Tullymongan Castle to St. Marys Abbey. It
took its name from the bridge that crosses the River Kinnypottle.
In the late Middle Ages, the junction of Main Street and
Bridge Street was the site of Cavans first market. There
was also a market cross there until the late 18th century,
and was also the site of the twice yearly hiring fares where
local youths offered themselves for work on farms often
for very low wages. In the 18th century Bridge Street was
an important thoroughfare as north bound coaches had no
alternative but to go through the street on their way out
of the town. Bridge Street was also the location in the
late 18th century for one of the two Methodist churchs in
The roadway that became Railway Road has been used for over
250 years as the route travellers used when journeying towards
Belturbet, Enniskillen and the spa at Swanlinbar. In the
middle of the 19th century it became one of Cavans
most fashionable areas. In the late 19th century Cavan became
an important rail junction between the Midland and Western
lines and those of the Northern Railways. Cavan joined the
rail network in 1856 when a line linking Cavan to the Inny
junction in Co Westmeath was opened by the Midland and Great
Western Railway company and in 1861 another line joined
Cavan to the Ulster network through Clones.
(formerly called Church Lane)
The Franciscan Friary in Cavan, better known locally as
St.Marys Abbey was founded in the 1300s by Giolla
Iosa Rua OReilly, the king of Breifne but nothing
remains of the medieval foundation apart from the old bell
The 1593 Map of Cavan shows the Franciscan Friary Church
and the bell tower. It showed the church with an east west
orientation and with an external tower. The tower is approximately
40 feet high with open rounded arches in east and west walls,
one large window facing east on the first floor and windows
with rounded tops on the top storey.
The friary and lands attached to it remained under the ownership
of the Franciscans for nearly three hundred years until
the introduction of the reformation when the monks were
The Friary was burned on many occasions, in 1429 and 1468
by the English, in 1452 by a monk using a candle and in
1575 by one of the OReillys.
As Cavan town was burned several times, the last time in
1690, the old bell tower attached to the Friary is possibly
the oldest building remaining.
Tradition states that Owen Roe ONeill who died on
November 6th 1649 at Lough Oughter Castle was buried in
the Franciscan Friary but his grave was not marked.
In the early 1590s when the church passed out of the
ownership of the Franciscans it was used as a court and
then later rebuilt by the Church of Ireland and used as
a parish church until the present church was opened in 1815
with the last service being held on Christmas Day 1815.
The Friary became a ruin in the early 1820s and the
stones used to built houses on Main Street.
Milling in the Lifeforce Mill that is situated along the
Kinnypottle River can be traced back to the 14th century
when there was a flour mill on the site as part of the Franciscian
Friary. The current mill, which was formerly known as Greenes
Mill was erected in 1846 and throughout 100 years of almost
daily use it served as a focal point in the life of Cavan
town before it closed in the 1950s. The mill was fully
restored in the 1990s and all the original machinery,
including what is believed to be the only McAdam Water Turbine
has been restored and returned to use.
Town Hall Street
Named after the Town Hall that was built in 1909 but was
not officially opened until January 1910. The Town Hall
was built on a space in the southern part of the Farnham
Gardens. The Farnham Gardens originally extended along the
eastern side of Farnham Street from the corner of Wesley
Street to the corner of Church Lane (Abbey Street). When
the Town Hall was built, a new street was cut through the
Farnham Gardens (Town Hall Street) which connected Farnham
Street with the Market Square and Main Street. At a meeting
on July 8th 1910, the Urban District Council unanimously
decided to name the new street Town Hall Street.
However, on 5th April 1911, the council by a majority of
one, resolved to name it Francis Street (the
street being in the vicinity of the old Franciscan Abbey),
but it is questionable if this change had been legally made,
as it would appear that the council overlooked the provisions
of Section 21 of the Act of 1907.
College Street derives its name from the Royal School or
College. Before 1819, the Royal School was located at the
lower end of the street adjoining Railway Road. At the beginning
of the 19th century College Street was commonly known as
the Broad Road or the Mail Coach Road.
In 1857 only the lower end, next the Railway Road, was styled
College Street, the upper end then being called
Waterside Street. On the 17th February 1868,
the Town Commissioners resolved that in future the name
of the street in which the old Pork Market was held should
be called College Street. This was done as a
mark of respect to the Rev. W Prior Moore, (Head Master,
Royal School) who had given the site for the market, and
who as Chairman of the Pork Market Committee, rendered valuable
assistance in carrying out their arrangements.
Ashe Street was formally known as Wesley Street. It had
obtained its name from a Wesleyan Preaching House that once
stood in the street. This preaching house which belonged
to the Primitive Wesleyan Methodist Society, was remodelled
in 1863. In later days, the House was used as as assembly
hall for concerts and entertainments. In 1922 Cavan UDC
changed the name of the towns streets to honour important
figures in Irelands history. The name of Wesley Street
was changed to Thomas Ashe Street. Thomas Ashe, originally
from Dingle Co Kerry commanded the Fingal Battalion of Volunteers
during the 1916 Rising for which he was sentenced to death,
later commuted to life in prison. He died in 1917 in the
Mater Hospital from heart and lung failure after being on
hunger strike and enduring force-feeding while demanding
with other republican prisoners to be treated as prisoners
of war. While in prison he wrote the poem Let me carry
your cross for Ireland, Lord.
Originally known as Dublin New Road. In the early 19th century
it was the main Dublin-Cavan-Enniskillen route. In 1856
the name was changed to Mill Street. It acquired that name
from the Corn Mill, there being a pass across the river
to the street. Until 1882, the egg market was located in
the Diamond at the foot of the half acre, where Main Street
joined Mill Street. After that the Pork and Egg market was
at Lurganboy between College Street and Mill Street. Along
with other streets in Cavan town, Mill Streets name
was change to James Connolly Street, after James Connolly
one of the signatories to the 1916 Proclamation and who
was executed in Kilmainham Jail on May 12th 1916 while strapped
to a chair.
Wolfe Tone Street
Wolfe Tone Street on the Barrack Hill was named in 1922
after Theobald Wolfe Tone.
The Barrack Hill was the location of the Military Barracks
and in Pigots Directory 1824 was described as thus on
a dirty hill, adjoining the town, is an old and illlooking
barrack in which two companies of infantry are generally
The earliest document relating to the acquisition of the
site of Cavan Military Barracks in the possession of the
Office of Public Works, is a Conveyance dated May 5 1710.
The site referred to therein was presumably that located
at Barrack Hill. Lewis Topographical Directory of Ireland
1837 described the barracks as infantry barracks capable
of accommodating 6 officers and 130 non-commissioned officers
According to Griffiths Valuation of Ireland 1857, the Board
of Ordnance was then the lessor of infantry barracks and
yard situated at Barrack Hill in the town of Cavan.
Probably called after the Cock and Punch Bowl Inn that was
located in Church Street and was probably for some time
the stopping place for the Royal Mail Stage Coach. The Griffiths
Valuation of Ireland 1857 mentions a small thatched cottage
that served as a dispensary on Cock Hill.
Taken from Breffni Blue