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18 September 2014
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Wars and Conflict - The Plantation of Ulster

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Settlement Map
- R.J. Hunter

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We are looking at a map of Ulster as a whole which throws light on change in land ownership there in the early 17th century. In the first place, it gives a summary outline of the distribution of the land to the different categories of grantees across the six counties involved in the formal plantation in Ulster in 1610. In these counties, the undertakers and the Londoners received probably somewhat over 40 per cent of the acreage of the land. The servitors received about 15 per cent of the acreage and the native Irish were restored to perhaps some 20 per cent of the land. Church-owned land of various forms accounted for perhaps 20 per cent of the acreage also. Small areas of land were also provided for various cultural purposes - to endow a grammar school in each county and to support the new university, Trinity College in Dublin. (Provision made for the establishment of towns was also very important).

Of the undertakers, about 60 were of English origin, some 60 were Scottish from the lowlands, and there were also about 60 servitor grantees, mainly former military men. The Irish grantees numbered about 290 in all, but very many of these were people restored to just small estates, with perhaps only about 20 or 30 receiving really large grants.

In organisational terms, the individual grantees - for example the Scottish and the English undertakers - were grouped together in sub-divisions of counties known as ‘baronies’ and this gives the Ulster plantation its regional character. The Londonderry Plantation embraced one newly-created county, granted to the City of London which, through a committee known as The Irish Society, built the two towns of Coleraine and Londonderry, and which allocated the rest of the land in estates to the London mercantile organisations - the twelve livery companies, such as the Grocers, Fishmongers etc - who were themselves undertaker equivalents.

The ownership of the land is different from its occupation and some areas of land and estates became more highly-colonised by tenantry than others. County Monaghan was not included in the official plantation because in 1591 its land ownership had been reorganised, mainly amongst the Irish themselves, though with a significant number of new English owners too, and their numbers were to increase in the early 17th century. The rationale for this reorganisation in 1591 had been to diminish the autonomy and independent power of an Ulster Gaelic lord, McMahon.

Two other counties, both close to England and Scotland, did not form part of the official plantation because their ownership had already been redesigned beforehand in the years from 1603. McDonnell, the Earl of Antrim, was confirmed in the ownership of a massive area (about a third of a million acres) in County Antrim - the area known as The Glens and The Route - stretching from just north of Carrickfergus to Dunluce. The ownership of Clandeboye, an O’Neill acquisition from earlier times, and stretching both north and south of Belfast where there had been an O’Neill castle, was radically changed at this time: because English landowners, including Sir Arthur Chichester and other military men (many of them like himself from County Devon) acquired estates here in the northern part of it. While in the southern part of Clandeboye, which includes Bangor and Newtownards, two lowland Scots Sir James Hamilton and Sir Huigh Montgomery, both minor courtiers to James I, received massive estates. The former O’Neill chieftains of Clandeboye were restored to about a third of this area at the same time.

In south County Down, much land remained in Irish ownership - for example, by the McCartans and McGuinnesses - but some English owners were also establishing themselves there and their share gradually increased; while based in Newry, the Bagenals (there since the middle of the 16th century) retained a large estate. The descendants of some old Anglo-Norman settlers retained land in south County Down also. Where ownership actually changed in these counties, very substantial colonisation of the land ensued both by lowland Scots and indeed English tenantry.

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