Hemp Growing In Limerick In The Twelfth Century

By Brian Houlihan

Limerick county according to Gerald of Wales

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Towards the end of the twelfth-century an account of Ireland was produced which includes references to hemp. One reference (image above) is to hemp growing in Limerick. Another reference (image below) is the suggestion that Monasterevin in Kildare is ideal for hemp manufacturing.

The ‘Topographia Hibernica’ also known as ‘Topographia Hiberniae’ is an account of the landscape and people of Ireland published by Gerald of Wales around 1188. It was released just two decades after the Norman conquest of Ireland began.

Gerald came from the aristocratic FitzGerald/de Barri family in Wales. He visited Ireland on numerous occasions including one trip with King Henry II’s youngest son Prince John. The ‘Topographia Hibernica’ itself is dedicated to King Henry II.

Gerard’s work (originally in Latin) was reproduced countless times including in English by William Wenman Seward. I found the references in William’s copy which was published in 1797.

Gerald believed hemp manufacturing would improve Monasterevin

Although just two brief references in a extensive work they are siginificant. They reveal that hemp was growing here and considered good for improving regions almost 830 years ago.

An earlier blog highlighted the 845 year old hemp cord that’s in the Dublin City Archives. This is perhaps the oldest hemp artifact in Ireland and dates to around the same period as Gerald’s visit.

Image of a kingship ritual from a Latin copy of Gerald’s work (circa 1220AD)

Brian Houlihan is the curator of the Dublin Hemp Museum and regularly writes about hemp. Follow him on Twitter at @dubhempmuseum and@houlihanbrian. You can also find us on Facebook.

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