SWORDS, an inland market-town and parish, (formerly an Irish parliamentary borough.) partly in Coolock barony, but chiefly in that of Nethercross, Dublin county, eight miles N. from Dublin, comprising an area of 9,171 acres of which 104 are in the town. Population of the parish, 3,638 ; of the town, 1,788, occupying 348 houses. The town is situated on the road to Drogheda via Balbriggan, and on a small river that empties itself into the sea at Malahide.
It is the most ancient town in the county, and had its origin in an extensive abbey founded by St. Columbkill in the beginning of the sixth century, over which he placed St. Finian Lobhar, to whom he presented a missal written by himself. It suffered much from the Danes, by whom it was incessantly plundered or burnt and subsequently similarly treated by the petty native princes in their border feuds, in one of which Conor O'Melaghlin, King of Meath, was slain in 1035. Here the Irish army of the Pale assembled on the breaking out of tile war in 1641, from which they were driven and defeated by Sir Charles Coote. The charter of incorporation, styling it the "Bailiff and Burgesses of the town of Swords," was granted by Queen Elizabeth in 1578, and confirmed by James I. in 1603, by which it returned two members to the Irish parliament, down to the period of the Union, when the £15,000 granted for the abolition of its franchises vested in trustees to found a school, which is at present in operation, attended by upwards of 300 children, and from which six, of each sex are annually apprenticed out in May, with a fee of £12 each each. The parish is a prebend in the Cathedral of St. Patrick, Dublin, and is noticed by Archibishop Alan in his Reperorium Viride, as the "golden prebend," a term similar to that given to Sarum in England - which its endowment in tithes or land does not seem to favour at the present day.
The town consists of one wide, street, about a mile in length. Its public buildings are the Parish Church, a handsome modern structure of hewn stone, in the pointed style ; a neat and spacious Roman Catholic Chapel, with a small tower and spire. A Loan Fund, having a capital in 1845 of £435, which circulated during the year £1,665, leaving a profit of £31. It has two Dispensaries, and a National School for children of both sexes. A patent for a market exists, but is not now held, and there are, fairs on March 17, May 10, July 12, Sept. 10, and Nov. 5. Quarter and petty sessions are held here - the former twice in the year, in April and October, and the latter every alternate Saturday. The parish is studded with numerous seats and villa residences, among which are Brackenstown - R. Manders. esq. ; Ballieary House - Henry Baker, esq. ; Seafield -Benedict Arthure, esq. ; Lissen Hall- Owen Beahan, esq. ; Newport Despard Taylor, esq. ; Swords House - James Taylor, esq. ; Cremona -Patrick Bowden esq., and Mantua - Joseph St. Clair Mayne, esq. The only remains of the early ecclesiastical structures that adorned this place, is the belfry tower of the old church, a square building of the 14th or 15th century ; one of the ancient round towers, 73 feet high, and 52 foot in circumference ; and the archbishop's palace. The latter was an extensive structure in the centre of a court, encompassed by embattled walls, flanked by towers, the inner portion of which is now a garden. There was also a Nunnery here, as appears on record by a pension being granted by Parliament in 1474, to the Lady Prioress and her successors.
Swords in two and a half miles W. from the Malahide station of the Drogheda Railway. The mail from Dublin arrives at 15 minutes past 8, a.m., and 40 minutes past 9 P.M. ; and is despatched at 4, P.M., and at 30 minutes 6, p.m. The Post Office grant and pay money orders.