The name of the parish is not of ecclesiastical origin but is derived from the townland in which the original parish church was built. The name Cappagh’ An Ceapach’ which goes back to the time of St Kevin, means ‘a tillage plot’. Cappagh is a small parish; in fact, it is the third smallest in the diocese. It is situated in the ancient barony of Lower Connello. Its boundaries are formed by the parishes of Croagh, Rathkeale, Coolcappa, Askeaton and Kilcornan. In early times Cappagh and Nantenan were treated as separate parishes, Nantenan being a Church of Ireland parish. In The Topography of County Limerick by Samuel Lewis he gives the following description of Cappagh:
’This parish is situated on the road from Adare to Shanagolden, and comprises 1,124 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. It contains 694 inhabitants. The soil in some parts is good, but a great proportion of the parish is stony, and in some places the limestone rock rises above the surface. On its border next to Rathkeale are some exhausted bogs. The village is a station of the constabulary police, and not far from it is Cappagh House, the residence of R. Peppard, Esq. It is a rectory and a vicarage, in the diocese of Limerick, and is part of the union of St. Mary and corps of the deanery of Limerick. The tithes amount to £95’.
He also deals with the parish of Nantenan as follows:
“This parish which is situated on the eastern bank of the river Deel, comprise 3,814 statute acres, as applotted under the tithe act. The land in some parts is of good quality, but generally rocky and covered with great numbers of stones. The principal seats are Nantenan House, that of T H Royce, esq. On the lands of which very interesting improvements have been made at great expense; Stoneville, of H Massy, esq.; and Ballinvirick, of T Royce esq.; on all of which great improvements are in progress. Near the church is a spacious green, on which fairs are held on the 10th. July, 5th August and 12th November, for cattle, sheep, pigs and pedlery. The living is a rectory and perpetual curacy, in the diocese of Limerick; the rectory was united at a period unknown to the rectories and vicarages of Kilfenny and Loughill, the rectories of Shanagolden, Knocknegaul, Drumdeely and the vicarage of Morgans, together constituting the union of Nantenan and the corps of the precentorship of the Cathedral of Limerick, in the patronage of the Bishop, who is also patron of the perpetual curacy. The tithes amount to £461/10/9 per annum.’
The earliest reference to Nantenan is the Black Book of Limerick and it occurs there in 1237 as Nayntany, derived from Neanntan’n, meaning land abounding in nettles.