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Wexford: A Town and its Landscape
Wexford: A Town and its Landscape

Our Price:49.00
Authors: Billy Colfer
Affiliation: author of The Hook Peninsula County Wexford (Cork University Press 2004)
Publication Year: Hardback 2008
Pages: 256
Size: 299 x 237mm

ISBN: 9781859184295


The book details the origins and growth of Wexford town since its establishment by the Vikings in the early tenth century. The influence of the broader environment on the foundation, expansion and economic development of the town is also examined. Periods covered include the Anglo-Norman, the Cromwellian settlement and eighteenth-century expansion. Detailed sections will include medieval churches, town wall and castle, the 1798 Rebellion and nineteenth-century church expansion. As a maritime town, shipping and trade for the different periods will also be examined.The growth of the town down to the present time will be analysed by using a series of maps and aerial photographs.

Wexford town has a long and rich history, a varied archival record, and a powerful personality embedded in its tight streets. The landscape layers that underpin the town are painstakingly built up, period by period, component by component. The focus of this volume is different from a conventional history because the concentration is on helping the reader to understand how the landscape of the town is evolving.

To achieve this understanding in this most cosmopolitan of towns, the book ranges far and wide - from the Viking north to the Mediterranean south, from privateers to navy commodores, from croppies to entrepreneurs. The history of the town leaps into vivid life through four hundred illustrations, including fifty new maps, historic prints, photographs and paintings.

The result is a comprehensive treatment of the evolution of Wexford town, understood not just as an abstract pattern of bricks and mortar, but as a real place where people lived and loved, shopped and traded, fell and rose, all the time creating through their accumulated efforts a rich communal fabric. Wexford town has its own distinctive setting on its shallow harbour, its own way of doing things, its own accent, its own inheritance of streets, buildings and spaces. Together, they create the town, whose story is so evocatively recorded here.

Billy Colfer is the author of The Hook Peninsula, County Wexford (Cork University Press, 2004)

Average Rating: Average Rating: 5 of 5 5 of 5 Total Reviews: 2 Write a review »

  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 This is the second town atlas volume to be produ March 26, 2010
Reviewer: Landscape History from Republic of Ireland  
This is the second  town atlas  volume to be produced by Cork University Press  the first being an atlas of Cork city  see Landscape History vol. 28  2006 . The Wexford atlas is actually part of the established and acclaimed  Irish Landscapes  series published by the Press  and like other volumes in this series it is well produced and beautifully illustrated  with facsimile historic maps and prints as well as bespoke historical cartography. As with the Cork atlas  the author of the Wexford volume has particular local expertise and takes a chronological approach to the town s historical landscape development. Indeed  Wexford is  a town with a fascinating past that is linked not just with Irish history but English and Scandinavian too.  Compared to Cork  though  Wexford is a small town  but equally it has long had regional importance for the south east of Ireland  and continues to serve as both an Irish Sea port and county town. Wexford provides a good example of a port town developed initially in Ireland s Viking era  and thus  comparable to others such as Carlingford and Waterford  as well as being subsequently expanded under Anglo Norman  English  rule during the later Middle Ages. Traces of these external cultural influences are to be seen in Wexford s urban landscape  in the vestiges of its antecedent street patterns and church dedications  for example. Billy Colfer takes the reader through the landscape  evidence  drawing upon urban topography and archaeology  along with documentary sources. As with so many of Ireland s towns and cities  at Wexford there are hints in its urban landscape of earlier  Irish settlement  pre dating the arrival of these later  outsiders   though Colfer makes it clear that only with the coming of Scandinavian Vikings  in the late ninth century  does urban development first begin to appear on the site  most probably occurring some time during the tenth century  as was the case with nearby Waterford. With the onset of Anglo Norman occupation in the later twelfth century  Wexford s urban landscape was extended to the north west  along the shore of Loch Garman  and also outside the town s walls where suburbs were established. These new extensions expanded the physical extent of Wexford considerably  and indeed only as late as the midnineteenth century does the town begin to go beyond these medieval suburban limits. Such observations are made possible by comparing the volume s maps although no urban growth map is included  leavingreaders to draw their own interpretations. One aspect where the historical cartography could have been improved is the inclusion of more detail on the maps showing the urban topographies of both the Hiberno Norse and Anglo Norman towns  especially their relict patterns of medieval property parcels that are visible  still on later eighteenth  and nineteenth century maps and plans of the town. Here the CUP  town atlas   product somewhat falls behind the more established Irish Historic Towns Atlas series  published by the  Royal Irish Academy  whose atlases do include urban growth maps as well as detailed topographic and morphological analyses of town plans. On the other hand  the Wexford volume does an excellent job in relating past historic features and structures to the modern urban landscape  thus helping students and visitors alike to interpret the historic townscape around them. This is especially clear in Colfer s discussion of Wexford s medieval castle  and its town walls and gates.  Wexford s early modern and modern development is also given careful and considered  treatment by Colfer  such as the role played by the port in the sixteenth century and the impact of Cromwell s attack on the town in 1649. This difficult period for the town  and for Ireland  appears to be  the historical context for the earliest map of Wexford  reproduced in colour in the volume. Further facsimiles of maps and plans of the 1700s and 1800s are also well reproduced  though a case might have been made for including the beautifully drawn and coloured large scale Ordnance Survey plans of the  town from the 1840s  as an aid to further historical  topographic and archaeological study of Wexford. Not only do these particular plans capture Wexford on the eve of a major transformation in its local  landscape  they also provide sufficient topographical detail of plot boundaries and street patterns for personal study of the town s inherited medieval and post medieval urban features  as is possible with  IHTA atlas maps . All the same  Colfer s Wexford volume is a fine addition to a growing range of Irish landscape studies which successfully and usefully embrace both rural and urban environments  and take  in a broad time period  in this case stretching across the development of Wexford s historic landscape   from its prehistoric settlements along the Loch through to the  post modern  development of the town s waterfront.

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  0 of 0 people found the following review helpful:
5 of 5 As we have now come to expect from Cork University January 18, 2010
Reviewer: Robin Glasscock Medieval Settlement Research from Republic of Ireland  
As we have now come to expect from Cork University Press this is beautifully produced book  profusely illustrated with maps  diagrams  aerial and ground photographs  most of them in colour.  There is hardly a page without illustration but this is far from a  coffee table  book; the illustrations with detailed captions are used to support a well researched and informative text.  In its different way this urban history admirably complements the monographs of the Irish Historic Towns Atlas.

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