There is a tradition that a town with a cathedral is deemed to be a ‘city’ regardless of how small the settlement actually is. Think of the tiny ‘city’ of St David’s in Wales, so well known to the Norman invaders of Ireland in 1169. But we don’t have cross St George’s Channel to experience this phenomenon. We have a native Irish bishop of Cloyne to thank for that designation of….Cloyne! Bishop Daniel O’Finn, who was the bishop of Cloyne between 1247 and 1264, used the phrase ‘…dictam civitatis…’ (..of the said city…) in his Charter of Cloyne. This charter is contained in the Pipe Roll of Cloyne which was assembled in the 1360s by Bishop John of Swaffham. So Cloyne has been deemed a ‘city’ since the middle of the thirteenth century. Indeed the beginnings of this ‘city’ were traced back, in the very same charter, to Bishop David McKelly O’Gilla Patrick (FitzPatrick!), who was the bishop of Cloyne from 1237 until 1238 when he was translated to Cashel. Bishop David granted the first charter to Cloyne a detail we learn from Bishop Daniel’s confirmatory charter which states that ‘…I and my successors will warrant….and we will safeguard to the said citizens and their heirs the aforesaid arrangement of my predecessor…’ So clearly Bishop David had set in train the process of making Cloyne into a proper town. The Charter of Bishop Daniel simply confirmed this arrangement. The intervening bishop, Alan O’Sullivan (1239-1246), seems to have been entirely satisfied by Bishop David’s arrangement, although there is no direct evidence. Bishop David also created Kilmaclenine (near Buttevant) as a borough on the same lines, although that place was never designated a ‘city’.
The Charter of Bishop Daniel also tells us that Bishop David had ‘measured and perambulated’ the north side of the ‘city’. This detail is crucial for it is now clear that the ‘city’ referred to in the charter was actually the ecclesiastical zone around the cathedral and round tower which were located on the southern side of the town. So the plan of Cloyne with its four streets meeting at a crossroads in the middle of the town was set out by Biship David, and the town must have been developing rapidly at that time. This was an ideal time to develop a new town in Imokilly because the district had calmed down after the MacTire/McCarthy rebellion against the Normans had died out after 1220. The cathedral was probably built at the same time. The town was not laid out on a map, but on the ground itself. This should not surprise us…..if the bishops were Anglo-Normans, but, until the appointment of Nicholas de Effingham in 1284, the bishops of Cloyne all appear to have been native Irishmen and were clearly influenced by the Norman custom of founding towns. Proof of this lies in both the layout of Cloyne and in a fascinating, and very specific, reference in Bishop Daniel’s charter.
Cloyne is laid out around a crossroads with streets leading exactly north, south, east and west. This plan is certainly not an accident. The eastern street (now called Rock Street) is especially wide to accommodate a market. The bishop’s castle (his residence) stood on the south side of this street. Cloyne House, now a private residence, is the more recent successor to the medieval residence of the bishops of Cloyne.
The bishop says that ‘…I and my successors will deal with them (the citizens of Cloyne) honestly according as the laws of Breteuil have been heretofore used or will be used, and the said citizens and their heirs shall be responsible to me and my successors according to the same laws in all things.’
Now this reference to Breteuil is both unexpected and crucial. Breteuil, or Breteuil-sur-Noye, is a small town in the Département of Oise in northern Normandy. It has a current (2012) population of about 4,500 inhabitants. Breteuil was founded as a castle about 1060 by William the Bastard, Duke of Normandy (William the Conqueror of England). William gave the castle of Breteuil to his cousin William FitzOsbern, who granted a charter of liberties to the men of the new town that developed there. FizOsbern installed a man called Roger as his castellan and this man’s son came to England in 1066 and was granted vast estates on the Marches (borders) of Wales. Roger the younger succeeded William FitzOsbern as Earl of Hereford in 1071 and set about settling his new lands, including founding towns, such as Hereford itself. The way to attract settlers to these new towns was to give them a generous charter of liberties. Roger had only one model to draw on – the charter of Breteuil, and this became the model for new towns founded in England, Wales and Ireland by the Normans. The charter of Breteuil hasn’t survived, but among the known provisions were: the granting of large burgage plots (town plots); few, and low, fines (feudal custom imposed fines for almost everything!); permission for the townspeople to take wood from the lord’s forest for building and heating. It is also claimed that the custom whereby a serf who managed to flee his master and stay in a town for a year and a day was deemed a free man (and was no longer a serf) was one of the customs of Breteuil, but this is actually uncertain. What is important is that the law of Breteuil was clearly designed to attract settlers, as happened in Cloyne.
Bishop Daniel’s charter confirmed the grant to each burgess (townsman) eight acres, in addition to the long thin burgage plots leading off the four streets.’…to have and to hold…freely, quietly, entirely, fully, honourably and peaceably in wood, plains and roads, in paths, meadows and pastures, in moors, marshes and waters…’ This rule applied to the inhabitants ‘…of whatever nation they may be…’ So Cloyne would not discriminate between the Gaelic Irish and the Norman (English, Welsh, Fleming or French). The citizens could take turf from the bog to the south of Cloyne for heating, as much as they required for their household needs. And all this on payment of a rent of one mark sterling paid half at Easter and half at Michaelmas (29th September). A mark was not a coin but a unit of account worth 160 pence sterling, or 13 shillings and 4 pence or two thirds of a pound sterling (80 pence at Easter and Michaelmas). It’s worth noting that the two townlands located due south of Cloyne are called Commons East and Commons West, and are divided by the road that runs south from the crossroads at the centre of the town.
And Cloyne even had a portreeve, or ‘mayor’ or ‘provost’. He was chosen by a twelve burgesses (citizens of the town) who, presumably, formed a council. In essence, the portreeve and his fellow councillors answered to the bishop for the rents, fines and debts as well as the actions and failures of the townspeople. Did they meet where the courthouse used to sand on Rock Street? This would make sense if the market court or piepouder (pied poudre, French for ‘dusty feet’) court was held there and the market dues were collected there too.
And there is one more piece of evidence for the development of the town of Cloyne in the 1200s. In 1299, the sheriff of Cork submitted a report to the king in which he identified the towns in the county which held a weekly market. Normally, the market was licensed by the king but, given the slow communications even with Dublin in the 1200s, local lords set up their own markets, presumably with the intention of getting a royal licence at a later stage. Carrigtwohill and Youghal are listed for they each had a royal market licence. However, ‘Midleton’ (actually, Corabbey), Ballinacurra and Cloyne are also listed. Now this is interesting because these places did not have a royal market licence from the King – in each case a cleric (the abbot in Corabbey and bishop in Cloyne) or the lord of the manor (Ballinacurra), authorised the market. In Corabbey (Midleton) it was the abbot of the Cistercian monastery who set it up, and in Cloyne it was the bishop who authorised the weekly market….right outside his own residence on the present Rock Street! This may actually be a factor of the laws of Breteuil – that the inhabitants could conduct a market on payment of a fee to the lord of the manor.
So, there you have it – Cloyne was a ‘city’ and burgary, or borough, in the 1200s. And it was developed by the Gaelic Irish bishops and was run according to the laws and customs of a town in….Normandy. I seem to recall that the late Myrtle Allen of Ballymaloe once wrote that ‘Imokilly is the Normandy of Ireland’. She was referring to the rich farmland, agricultural produce and fresh fish from Ballycotton (all we’re missing is the cider!) …. but little did she realise how remarkably true that was on her very own doorstep!