The town of Dunmanway is synonymous with the Cox family who were closely connected with the town between the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries. Sir Richard Cox, 1 st Baronet founded the town when he bought a large track of land from Pierce Arnopp for the sum of £1040 in 1678.
He was born in Bandon in 1650 to Michael Cox and Katherine Bird of Clonakilty. They were descended from an old farming landed family in Wiltshire. As Protestant planters they were determined to increase their estates and landed property in West Cork. On this foundation he established the town of Dunmanway determined to make it an important garrison town and a prosperous market town. In addition to tending to his estates and farming he was a noted scholar and lawyer. He studied law at Gray’s Inn in London and was called to the bar in 1673. He was an ardent supporter of Prince William of Orange and was present with him at the Battle of the Boyne. In 1690 He became Attorney and was appointed Chief Justice of the Common Pleas, and in 1691 he was appointed Lord Chancellor of Ireland, a position he held until 1701. He raised and equipped a number of regiments of soldiers to protect a vast track of land from Waterford to West Cork. Thus Dunmanway became an important garrison town protecting the route from Cork to Bantry. He set about making Dunmanway a prosperous town. He was granted Letter of Patent in 1693 to hold fairs in April and November and markets every Tuesday. Market House soon followed. It was situated in the middle of the Market Square. It served as the place where all sorts of farm produce was sold to the merchants; such as butter, eggs, and poultry. These were all exported mainly through the port of Cork.
With the demise of the street fairs and the Tuesday markets in the 1960s the market House became redundant and was demolished in 1972 to make way for the present-day Plaza. He was succeeded in 1733 by his grand-son, another Sir Richard Cox. This second Baronet is mostly associated with the progress of the town. It was this 2nd Baronet that established the linen industry, and as a result the town prospered enormously. In less the twenty years the population of the town grew to 1800 by the year 1750; the number of houses in the town had more than doubled; and the number of flax and wool wheels had had increased to 254. He awarded prized annually to those who bought and sold the largest quantity of linen in the town. He awarded the manufacturer of the best linen by giving the winner “a good house, rent free for a year”. Quality was his passion so he inspected all the linen himself each yearnwhen all the linen was displayed on the Green on May Day. The green was an open area between the East Green and West Green, before the houses were built there. By the start of the 19 th century the Cox family realised that both Protestant and Catholic needed each other and so they became much more benign to their employees and tenants. So much so that in 1793 Sir John Cox, 6 th Baronet, donated a plot of land to build a Catholic church. This site is where the present St Patrick’s Church now stands.