Clare County Library
Clare History
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Courthouse built at the Square

The first attempt to hold a court in the County of Clare seems to have been held in the Franciscan Abbey at Ennis, in 1570. The choice of Ennis for the location of the Law Courts is extremely significant. It meant that, in time, Ennis would become the centre of English administration for the county, therefore, its development as the county town was assured.
The first purpose-built courthouse was erected at the Square, it is believed, between 1616 and 1641, and had the dual purpose of market house and courthouse.
William Turner, an itinerant artist, left us with a most interesting painting of this market scene including the courthouse in the background.
The dilapidated state of this courthouse in The Square led to the erection of the New Courthouse in 1850. This venue is still in use today.
(The Munster Circuit - O'Flanagan)

By the 1630's Ennis had undergone some significant changes. Law courts were no longer held in the friary but had transferred to a new purpose-built courthouse on the Square.
An important visitor to Ennis in June 1634 was Michael O'Cleirigh, the compiler of the Annals of the Four Masters. While in the 'Convent of Ennis' Brother Micheal copied the life of Mac Creiche from a book written by Melaghlin O'Callanan in 1528. He also copied extracts from the Red Book of Munster, a work written at the beginning of the fifteenth century by the scribe Murchad O'Cuinlis. Michael O'Cleirigh's sojourn is important because it illustrate that the friary was also used as a courthouse.
(Corporation Book of Ennis - Brian O'Dalaigh)

Ennis Courthouse

Clare is included in the Munster circuit: the assizes are held at Ennis, and the quarter sessions at Ennis, Six-mile-Bridge, Kilrush, Ennistymon, and Miltown-Malbay. The county gaol is at Ennis, and there are bridewells at Kilrush, Tulla, Six-mile-Bridge, and Ennistymon. The number of persons charged with criminal offences and committed to the county gaol, in 1835, was 733, and of civil bill commitments, 182.

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