BRAY, a maritime town in the barony of Rathdown, twelve miles S.E. from the General Post Office, partly in county Dublin, partly in county Wicklow, the river of Bray, here crossed by a stone bridge, being the boundary between the two counties, and dividing the Wicklow, or larger portion of the town, from the Dublin portion, or Little Bray.
In 1173 the manor was granted by the Earl of Pembroke, then Lord Deputy, to Walter de Riddlesford, one of the early Norman adventurers. In 1215 the Abbot of the Monastery of St. Thomas, near Dublin, obtained it at a rent of three, and a ?ne of 60 marks. In these as well as in subsequent times, it was frequently assailed by the mountain septs of the O’Byrnes and O’T0oles. In 1316 they destroyed the castle, but were defeated on the same day by an English force under Edmund Le Boteler. In 1402 it was the scene of a great battle between the before-named septs and the citizens of Dublin, headed by John Drake, their Provost. At the dissolution of religious houses the manor, among other lands of the Abbey of St. Thomas, was granted to Sir Thomas Brabazon, an ancestor of the Earl of Meath, who enjoys in fee at the present time the greater part of the town. The population of the parish, according to the Census of 1851, was 3,156 ; the population of the town, by the Census of 1831, was 4,373, inhabiting 724 houses.
Various improvements have been made, through the enterprise of the late Mr. Dargan, by whom the sea-beach from the mouth of Bray River up to Bray Head has been levelled, a good road formed along it, and a broad esplanade fenced off and laid down in grass, forming a most pleasurable promenade of about a mile at the very verge of the sea—an invaluable gift to the residents and visitors at Bray. The same gentleman erected at
great cost a large range of Turkish Baths, and a terrace of handsome and substantial houses on the grounds, and a road and bridge alongside the railway, for affording more convenient access to the sea-shore on the Dublin side of the river, and towards Killiney sands. The late Lord Herbert, who had considerable property here, has also effected great improvements, having made a new road from the town towards Powerscourt, and given u. site and otherwise contributed to the erection of the new Church. Along the shore several
ranges of houses, overlooking the new Dargan esplanade and the sea, have been erected by Sir William Wilde and others—one of the finest marine sites being thus well occupied by commodious and handsome residences. There are two magnificent hotels – the Breslin Royal Marine Hotel and the International Hotel, both now in the hands of Mr. Breslin.
The old Parish Church, now St. Paul’s Chapel of Ease, stands on the high ground, near the bridge. The new Parish Church is in the upper outskirts of the town. There is also a spacious Roman Catholic Chapel, with a handsome tower; a Presbyterian Meeting-house, and two Wesleyan Methodist Chapels; National Schools, and private schools; a branch of the Hibernian Joint Stock Bank, Post Office, and Savings Bank; a Dispensary; a Court-house, standing on an eminence overlooking the river; a Constabulary Station, and a Coast-guard Station on the beach. The large and commodious Railway Station is also a
prominent and important object, beautifully situated near the beach, the railway being carried along the sea-side. Gas-works have been erected near the shore, and the town and beach are now lighted with gas. There is a brewery -porter, ale, and beer being the only manufacture in the town, the chief trade of which otherwise consists in the sale or export of grain, and the importation of coal, slate, and limestone, in which several small craft are engaged.
The town possesses great facilities of communication. The two lines of railway from Dublin (the inland line, from Harcourt-street, passing Dundrum, Stillorgan, Carrickmines, and other stations; and the coast line, from Westland-row, through Kingstown and Dalkey), form a junction at Shanganagh, about two miles before entering Bray, and thence runs on to Wicklow, through the Vale of Avoca, to Gorey and Enniscorthy, in county
Wexford. Besides omnibuses or other public conveyances to Enniskerry and Roundwood, there is a considerable number of cars, many of them plying constantly from the railway stations; and conveyances are numerous and available at all times.
The town is surrounded by scenery of much beauty and grandeur. Open on one side to the sea, bounded to the south by the noble promontory of Bray Head, and more inland by the Sugar Loaf Mountains, overlooking the Valley of Diamonds, and a variety of hill and dale, the beautiful sands of Killiney Bay and Dalkey Sound and Island, the panorama backed in the distance towards the north and west by the Dublin Mountains, Bray possesses natural advantages which with the improvements that have been effected and are in progress at and around the neighbourhood , show that it is destined to be, as it is rapidly becoming, one of the most attractive places of residence and resort within daily reach of the metropolis, and one of the chief watering places of Ireland.
Quarter Sessions and Petty Sessions are hold here – the latter every alternate Saturday. There is a Borough Court once a month. The markets are on Wednesday and Saturday, and are abundantly supplied with provisions. Fairs for frieze are hold on January 12, May 4, August 5, and November 12. Cattle fairs are held on the 1st March, May, and July, August 16, September 20, and December 14.