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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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London Companies
Image of Professor James Stevens Curl
James Stevens Curl, Professor of Architectural History and Honorary Senior Research Fellow at The Queen‘s University of Belfast and Visiting Fellow at Peterhouse, University of Cambridge, gives a personal view of the history of the London Companies. Read the full article. (Rich Text Format - 54k)

The London Companies
Professor James Stevens Curl
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Image of the Draper's Company settlement bawn

The Drapers' Company settlement bawn ©

The minute-books of the London Livery Companies are full of comments such as ‘it would be very foolish to entermeddle in this busynesse, for it will be exceading chargeable’. It is clear that the Londoners had no stomach for the Plantation of Ulster; they believed it would be troublesome and a bottomless pit as far as money was concerned. It was only when several respectable citizens had been gaoled, fined and further threatened that the City knew it had to bow to the demands of the Crown and commit its resources and ingenuity to colonising part of the territory.

Four worthy and senior citizens of London were invited to inspect the lands. The survey was organised by Sir Arthur Chichester (1563-1625), who founded Belfast (Arthur and Chichester Streets, for example, are named after him, and Donegall Square is named after the title his family acquired), and who, at the time, was Lord Deputy (effectively Viceroy of Ireland). Chichester made sure that the Deputation from London did not see English Surveyors carrying out their work under armed guard (several surveyors had been killed by the Irish ‘who did not wish their lands to be discovered’), and also that only attractive parts of the country would be visited.

The Londoners were entertained and stayed in new English houses with as much comfort as could be mustered. They also saw the great rivers of Foyle and Bann teeming with fish and the rich agricultural produce that could be garnered from lands in the fertile valleys. However, they were not shown much of the wilder mountainous parts of the Sperrins, where the Irish kerne lived, and where the terrain was unfriendly. Nevertheless, the Londoners were no fools and they decided they would only undertake the work if the territory were to be expanded for purposes of security.

Image of the Ironmongers' Company settlement bawn

The Ironmongers' Company settlement bawn ©

They asked for lands east of the Bann in County Antrim on which they would build a new town and establish its hinterland or Liberties (Coleraine and surrounding area); they asked for land on the west bank of the Foyle on which to build their new city and establish its Liberties (Derry and surrounding area); and they demanded the great forest in the Barony of Loughinsholin in Co Tyrone in order to provide timber for building activities.

Terrified that the City of London would dig in its heels and somehow refuse to proceed, the Government agreed to the demands and a new County was created specially for the City to colonise. That County was called the County of Londonderry and included the old County of Coleraine to which bits of Counties Antrim, Donegal, and Tyrone were joined. It should be noted that at no time, before or since, was there ever an Irish County called ‘Derry’, and it is historical nonsense to refer to ‘County Derry’. The Diocese was always ‘Derry’, however, but the new, planned, walled city erected by the City of London was re-named ‘Londonderry’.

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