LIMERICK, COUNTY, a western county of Ireland, in the province of Munster, bounded N. by the estuary of the Shannon and the counties of Clare and Tipperary, E. by Tipperary, S. by Cork and W. by Kerry. The area is 680,842 acres, or about 1064 sq. m. The greater part of the county is comparatively level, but in the south-east the picturesque Galtees, which extend in to Tipperary, attain in Galtymore a height of 3015 ft., and on the west, stretching into Kerry, there is a circular amphitheatre of less elevated mountains. The Shannon is navigable for large vessels to Limerick, above which are the rapids of Doonas and Castleroy, and a canal. The Shannon is widely famous as a sporting river, and Castleconnell is a well-known centre. The Maigne, which rises in the Galtees and flows into the Shannon, is navigable as far as the town of Adare.
This is mainly a Carboniferous Limestone county, with fairly level land, broken by ridges of Old Red Sandstone. On the northeast, the latter rock rises on Slievefelim, round a Silurian core, to 1523 ft. In the south, Old Red Sandstone rises above an enclosed area of Silurian shales at Ballylanders, the opposite scarp of Old Red Sandstone forming the Ballyhoura Hills on the Cork border. Volcanic ashes, andesites, basalts and intrusive sheets of basic rock, mark an eruptive episode in the Carboniferous Limestone. These are well seen under Carrigogunnell Castle, and in a ring of hills round Ballybrood. At Ballybrood, Upper Carboniferous beds occur, as an outlier of a large area that links the west of the county with the north of Kerry. The coals in the west are not of commercial value. Lead-ore has been worked in places in the limestone.
Limerick includes the greater part of the Golden Vale, the most fertile district of Ireland, which stretches from Cashel in Tipperary nearly to the town of Limerick. Along the banks of the Shannon there are large tracts of flat meadow land formed of deposits of calcareous and peaty matter, exceedingly fertile. The soil in the mountainous districts is for the most part thin and poor, and incapable of improvement. The large farms occupy the low grounds, and are almost wholly devoted to grazing. The acreage under tillage decreases, the proportion to pasturage being as one to nearly three. All the crops (of which oats and potatoes are the principal) show a decrease, but there is a growing acreage of meadow land. The numbers of live stock, on the other hand, are on the whole well maintained, and cattle, sheep, pigs, goats and poultry are all extensively reared. The inhabitants are employed chiefly in agriculture, but coarse woollens are manufactured, and also paper, and there are many meal and flour mills. Formerly there were flax-spinning and weaving mills, but the industry is now practically extinct. Limerick is the headquarters of an important salmonfishery on the Shannon. The railway communications are entirely included in the Great Southern and Western system, whose main line crosses the south-eastern corner of the county, with two branches to the city of Limerick from Limerick Junction and from Charleville, and lines from Limerick south-westward to Tralee in county Kerry, and to Foynes on the Shannon estuary. Limerick is also served by a line from the north through county Tipperary. The port of Limerick, at the head of the estuary, is the most important on the west coast. The county includes 14 baronies. The number of members returned to the Irish parliament was eight, two being returned for each of the boroughs of Askeaton and Kilmallock, in addition to two returned for the county, and two for the county of the city of Limerick. The present county parliamentary divisions are the east and west, each returning one member. The population (158,912 in 1891, 146,098 in 1901) shows a decrease somewhat under the average of the Irish counties generally, emigration being, however, extensive; of the total about 94% are Roman Catholics, and about 73% are rural. The chief towns are Limerick (pop. 38,151), Rathkeale (1749) and Newcastle or Newcastle West (2599). The city of Limerick constitutes a county in itself. Assizes are held at Limerick, and quarter-sessions at Bruff, Limerick, Newcastle and Rathkeale. The county is divided between the Protestant dioceses of Cashel, Killaloe and Limerick; and between the Roman Catholic dioceses of the same names.
Limerick was included in the kingdom of Thomond. Afterwards it had a separate existence under the name of Aine-Cliach. From the 8th to the 11th century it was partly occupied by the Danes (see LIMERICK, City). As a county, Limerick is one of the twelve generally considered to owe their formation to King John. By Henry II. it was granted to Henry Fitzherbert, but his claim was afterwards resigned, and subsequently various AngloNorman settlements were made. About 100,000 acres of the estates of the earl of Desmond, which were forfeited in 1586, were situated in the county, and other extensive confiscations took place after the Cromwellian wars. In 1709 a German colony from the Palatinate was settled by Lord Southwell near Bruff, Rathkeale and Adare.
There are only slight remains of the round tower at Ardpatrick, but that at Dysert is much better preserved; another at Kilmallock is in great part a reconstruction. There are important remains of stone circles, pillar stones and altars at Loch Gur. In several places there are remains of old moats and tumuli. Besides the monasteries in the city of Limerick, the most important monastic ruins are those of Adare abbey, Askeaton abbey, Galbally friary, Kilflin monastery, Kilmallock and Monaster-Nenagh abbey.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)