Journal Volume 3 2000

Greystones in Cartographic Sources: the Wicklow County Maps(continued/2)

First Ordnance Survey

The first Ordnance Survey was undertaken to provide Ireland with an accurate assessment of its land for rating purposes and taxation. Special attention was made to accurately survey the smaller townlands, those below 300 acres. This was a formidable task when it is taken into account that Ireland has approximately 60 000-townland units. Such measurement called for a particularly accurate type of map hitherto not seen. The six inch (to the mile) maps which was the format eventually adopted, are works of rare beauty and show the landscape in magnificent detail, as it was before the cataclysmic effects of the Great Famine altered settlement patterns. The changes before the establishment of the railway network are also surveyed, as was the evolution of urbanism following in the wake of the railway. Wicklow's great estates are especially emphasised, as the owners were the customers for the O.S maps: certain leeway was taken to depict estates attractively in order to appeal to the potential buyer.

Delgany and Greystones are depicted on the survey down to their smallest dwelling houses. The actual survey was conducted through 1838/9. In tandem with the physical map survey was a project to collect information on the antiquities and folklore of each parish. Delgany proved a rich harvest, and the "Ordnance Survey Letters" collected by the scholar Eugene O Curry fill five pages, covering such subjects as the fabled dual-bodied 'Bo Deilginis Cualann' that lived in the year 727, to a brief description of the village as it appeared to the survey in December 1838. "The present town of Delgany consists of about thirty houses with one shop for the sale of bread and meat, one harness maker’s shop, and one shop in which the baking of bread and the selling of whiskey are carried on. There is an old graveyard on the south side of the town with the portions of the ruins of a church apparently of no great antiquity. This old church was used as a place of public Protestant worship until about the year 1789, when the new church was erected a short distance to the east of it ". O'Curry says no more about this old church other than "I have no reference to this old church touching its original erection or subsequent occupation. "

O'Curry had very little to say about what Greystones actually looked like 162 years ago. His brief was to report the antiquities and folk memory of the place. The description he gave of Saint Crispin’s and other old churches, along with the abundance of Raths and moats in the immediate area of Greystones, only reflects the wholesale loss of the local heritage and antiquities from the time of his survey and this Millennium year.

The Six-Inch map itself depicts Greystones as a lonely rocky headland. The only buildings of note are its coastguard station and a small school. Scattered through the fields and along the roadside leading to the headland are individual cottages, but these would not constitute even the nucleus of a village. There was no appreciable harbour, but the coastguard would have had a slipway to launch their inshore boat. The school might make a subject for future research, and it was probably for the use of the coastguard children. The prominent marking of the flagstaff and lookout attached to the station on the map indicates the importance of the siting of such an object. It was a vital device for the complex signalling by flag, pendants and semaphore used by the guards to transmit information around the Irish coasts. (So efficient was it that a coded message could be transmitted from Dublin back to Dublin right around the coast of the country, in less than three hours). In tandem with the general mapping of the county was a secondary project to map the geology of County Wicklow.


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