The name of Mitchelstown originates from the Anglo-Norman family called 'St Michel' who founded a settlement close to the site of the present town in the 13th century. The village was originally known as 'Villa Michel'. The modern name comes from the Anglicized version of the later Gaelic derived Ballyvisteala or Ballymistealy. A nearby earlier settlement was established in the townland of Brigown (from Irish: Brí Ghabhann, meaning "slope / hillock of the smiths"), it was known by this name and had monastic origins being founded in the 7th century by Saint Fanahan (Fionn Cú = White Hound), a warrior monk famed in medieval times for his fiery temper.
The town evolved as a hodgepodge of cabins and lane-ways beside Mitchelstown Castle. Evidence would suggest that the castle was built first and that the village and town came later, probably in late 13th or early 14th centuries. In the 1770s, the medieval town was replaced by the present town which is situated east and south of King Square. It was laid out in a grid pattern of two main streets intersected by a number of smaller streets. The medieval town was demolished, and the then owners of Mitchelstown — Robert, Viscount Kingsborough (later 2nd Earl of Kingston) and his wife Caroline — built a new palladian styled mansion to replace the earlier castle which had stood on the site. Mitchelstown is today regarded as one of the best planned Georgian towns in Ireland. Some of its streets are named after members of the King family, namely Robert, George, Edward, James, Thomas and King (the family name). The other streets of the Georgian town are Church Street, Baldwin Street, Alley Lane, Chapel Hill, Convent Hill, King Square, New Square and Mulberry Lane.
The layout established by the second and third Earls of Kingston between 1776 and 1830 utilised the natural features of the site to give panoramic views of the Galtee Mountains. Mitchelstown Castle was rebuilt between 1823 and 1825 by the third Earl of Kingston. His new house was the biggest in Ireland. During the Irish Civil War in 1922 the castle was occupied by the Republican Army. After two weeks, its contents were looted and the building was burnt — ostensibly to prevent it from being used by the Irish Free State Army, however, there is little evidence to support that claim, and the real purpose for the fire seems to have been an attempt to cover up the looting. The ashlar limestone of the house stood as a ruin until about 1930 when it was bought by the monks of Mount Melleray Abbey who used it to build their new monastery in county Waterford.
Between 1879 and 1881, and again between 1886 and 1888, local tenantry, led by John Mandeville and William O'Brien, MP, organised a rent strike on the Mitchelstown Estate, which was then in the ownership of the Dowager Countess of Kingston and her second husband, William Downes Webber. On 9 September 1887, a protest was held in New Square outside the premises in which Mandeville and O'Brien were being tried. Speeches were being given to the protest from a platform, and when the police attempted to beat a path through the crowd to position a note-taker next to the platform so that speakers could be prosecuted for any "seditious" speech, sticks and stones were thrown at them. The police shot into the crowd, killing two and injuring dozens of others; one of the injured died soon after. The dead men were John Shinnick of Fermoy, John Casey of Kilbehenny and Michael Lonergan of Galbally, Co. Limerick. The incident generated considerable international attention and became known as the "Mitchelstown Massacre". The phrase "Remember Mitchelstown" (first coined by William Gladstone, became a rallying cry for Irishmen at home and abroad. The memorial to Mandeville that stands in Market Square was unveiled in 1906 by William O'Brien MP. It also commemorates the names of the three men killed in 1887.
Up to 1989, Mitchelstown was the headquarters for Mitchelstown Co-Operative Agricultural Society Ltd, which for over fifty years had been Ireland's largest co-operative. This farmers "co-op" was founded in 1919 under the leadership of local farmer Con O'Brien of Killickane, who chaired the co-op for its first 40 years and then became honorary life president until his death in 1968. Between 1919 and 1989, Mitchelstown Co-op Creameries became the largest and most important dairy processing business in the island of Ireland. It became famous nationally for its processed cheese brands but was better known in overseas dairy industry circles for the high quality and large variety of its natural cheeses which were extensively exported around Europe and for which it earned many international prizes.
In the 1930s the Co-Op promoted the introduction of intensive pig production in the Mitchelstown area as another source of farm income. A noted agriculturalist, Alexander Aloysius ("Sandy") McGuckian from Cloughmills, near Ballymena, County Antrim was engaged by the Co-Op to help train local people in modern intensive animal production methods. As a result, several of Ireland's largest industrial pig farms are based in the Mitchelstown area to this day. McGuckians' sons (Alastair and Paddy) subsequently established Masstock International. Masstock became one of the pioneers of the establishment of a modern dairy industry in Saudi Arabia as a result of its minority shareholding (largely disposed of in 1991) in the Almarai Group, a joint venture with majority shareholder HH Prince Sultan Bin Mohamed Bin Saud Al Kabeer.
In 1989 Mitchelstown Co-operative merged with Ballyclough Co-operative (based in Mallow, County Cork) to create an enlarged Dairygold Co-Operative. The Co-op is now the largest farmer owned co-operative in Ireland with its headquarters in Mitchelstown.
The first manager of Mitchelstown Co-operative Creameries, was Eamon Roche, a Dairy Science Diploma graduate of the Albert College in Dublin (now called Dublin City University – DCU) who had been active in the Irish War of Independence between 1916 and 1921. Roche was also a close personal friend of Éamon de Valera who subsequently became leader of Fianna Fáil, Irish Prime Minister and later President of the Republic of Ireland. Roche was succeeded (following his sudden death) in 1952 by J.J. Lynch who, following his sudden death in 1964, was succeeded by John McCarthy.
Mitchelstown has a wide variety of retail outlets such as Tesco, Lidl, Aldi, Super Valu, Centra and Boots. Boots opened its Mitchelstown store in the LivingHealth Centre in early 2009. Doodys, Murphys and Fitzgibbons are other pharmacies in the town, which now has all its medical practitioners located in the LivingHealth Centre. Mitchelstown also has a variety of shops, butchers, cafes, boutiques and restaurants.
Road transport dominates in Mitchelstown. The town is situated close to the M8 Dublin to Cork motorway, which runs to the east and can be accessed from Junctions 12 and 13.
A relief road located to the west of the town serves to filter N73 traffic towards Mallow and R513 traffic towards Limerick. The construction of the relief road to the west and north, and its connection in 2009 to the M8 to the east of Mitchelstown means that the town has become the smallest in Ireland to have a full 360-degree ring road. Prior to the opening of the relief road in 2006, the N8 ran through Mitchelstown itself, seriously congesting the main street. The R665 road connects Mitchelstown to Clonmel, while the former N8 now redesignated as the R639 provides an alternative route from Mitchelstown to Cork, Fermoy and Cahir.
Bus Éireann runs frequent intercity services through the town providing a service to both Dublin and Cork.
Mitchelstown railway station opened on 23 March 1891, closed to passenger and goods traffic on 27 January 1947 and closed on 1 December 1953.
The nearest airport is Cork Airport, which is 57 km away.
The Mitchelstown Caves are limestone caves located near the R639, between Mitchelstown and Cahir. One cave, Mitchelstown Cave itself, is privately owned and has been developed as a show cave, with a number of caverns open to the public through a guided tour. Some of the speleothems are noteworthy including the Tower of Babel formation. Various other stalactites, stalagmites and rock formations are also named and famous for their unique and impressive structures.John Dunne (1845 – 1919), an Australian Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Bathurst
Liam Hamilton (1928 – 29/11/2000), a former Chief Justice of Ireland
Margaret King (1773 – 1835), a hostess, writer, traveller, and medical adviser
Louis McRedmond (1932 – 2011), an author and journalist, he was editor of the Irish Independent between 1968 and 1970
Lieutenant General Jim Parker (1929 – present), a former Chief of Staff of the Irish Army from 1989 until his retirement in 1992, with a long and distinguished military career as an army officer. Born in Skeheen, Mitchelstown in 1929.
John Roach (1815 – 1887), the proprietor of America's largest post-American Civil War shipbuilding empire, John Roach & Sons
Kevin Roche (1922 – present), a celebrated American architect (son of Eamon Roche, Mitchelstown Co-operative Creameries' first general manager)
William Trevor (1928 – 2016), an acclaimed author, born and spent his early childhood in the town, he was nominated for the Booker Prize on five occasions. He was born in Upper Cork Street, Mitchelstown on 24 May 1928 and died in Devon on 20 November 2016.
Tom Aherne (1950 – present), Head Cardio Thoracic Surgeon in Cork University Hospital. Born in Skeheen, Mitchelstown in 1950.
John Sarsfield Casey (1846 – 1896), He was born in Baldwin Street, Mitchelstown. He joined the Fenians, spent some time incarcerated in Western Australia and under the nom-de-plume "The Galtee Boy" attacked the establishment through his writings. He is buried in Mitchelstown R.C. church grounds.
Indiependence is an annual three-day festival weekender which takes place on the August Bank Holiday. The award winning event has seen the likes of Editors, Bastille, Hozier, Public Enemy, The Coronas, Tom Odell, Ash, Feeder, 2manydjs and White Lies take to the stage. Shortlisted as one of the best small festivals in Europe on a number of occasions, INDIE has grown from strength to strength year on year and is worth in excess of €1,000,000 to the local economy annually.