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Birr ('Biorra' in Irish) is a town in the Midlands county of Offaly in the Republic of Ireland. Once called Parsonstown, after the Parsons family who were local landowners and hereditary Earls of Rosse. Birr is one of Ireland's best examples of a Georgian Town. It is a virtually intact 18/19th century town, formal, spacious and well-planned, with Georgian houses along its tree-lined malls and avenues. Birr Castle has been the seat ot the Parsons family, Earls (an English title) of Rosse, for fourteen generations. Georgian architecture is accompanied by monuments to earlier Earls, including one to a great astronomer, who built what, at the time, was the world's largest telescope in the grounds of Birr Castle, which is now restored. History of Birr Birr is situated on the River Camcor. The placename "Birr" originated in an Irish Term probably used to describe this riverside position. In the past Birr was the kingdom of Ely O'Carroll, ruled for many centuries by the O'Carroll dynasty. There is evidence of prehistoric activity in the general area, but the first recorded evidence for a settlement at Birr dates to the 6th century A.D. when a monastery was founded here by St. Brendan of Birr. An important product of this monastery was the illuminated text known as the MacRegol Gospels, now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. MacRegol, abbot, bishop and scribe of Birr, died about 820 A.D. An Anglo-Norman castle was built at Birr in 1208. Birr remained under Anglo-Norman control until the early 14th century when the Gaelic Irish O'Carroll dynasty began to re-establish themselves in Ely O'Carroll. The Black Castle at Birr became a major O'Carroll stronghold until the early 17th century. In the plantation of Ely O'Carroll in 1619, Sir Laurence Parsons was granted Birr Castle and 1,277 acres of land. The town of Birr, or Parsonstown as it became, developed under Sir Laurence's guidance. Birr Castle was besieged in 1643 and 1690, but the town emerged from the turbulent 17th century into a period of growth and renewal. From the mid 18th to early 19th centuries, Birr was enlarged in a number of phases. Emmet Square (1747) represented the earliest phase of Georgian Birr. Later phases produced Oxmantown Mall (c1816), Wilmer Road (c1817) and John's Mall (c1833). Besides its many fine buildings, Georgian Birr was characterised by a busy economic and social life. Birr remains in essence an extremely well preserved Georgian town. In the 19th century, Birr was a hive of scientific discovery. The 3rd Earl of Rosse built the giant telescope; his wife, the Countess Mary, was a pioneering photographer and their son, Charles Algernon Parsons invented the steam turbine engine. The town also gained fame as the venue for the first All-Ireland Hurling final in 1888.
Source : Irishtourist.com, Wikipedia.org