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The Plantation of Ulster and The Goldsmiths

Presentation by Bridgeen Rutherford

Ulster was brought under royal control at the beginning of the 17th Century. This followed the defeat of the Gaelic Chieftains at the battle of Kinsale in 1601 after a war lasting 9 years. Although the Gaelic Chieftains were allowed to remain on their land their positions had been weakened.

Some of them left Ireland for the Continent in 1607, never to return. This, Flight of the Earls, was seen as treason by the government and their lands were confiscated. This opened the way for the government to make Ulster more governable by settling tens of thousands of settlers from England, Scotland and Wales on the confiscated lands. In return for grants of land they agreed to bring plenty of British workers with them to build strong houses and to create towns.

Surveying and Planning for the Plantation took place through 1608 and 1609. By the end of the 17th Century Ulster, which had been the most Gaelic part of Ireland had become the most 'British'. The Plantation of Ulster created the Ulster we know today.

King James 1 believed that colonizing Ulster with loyal British subjects would quell rebellion and win over the rude and barbarous Irish to civility and Protestantism. This plan was the Plantation of Ulster.

The confiscated lands of six counties - Cavan, Donegal (Tyrconnell), Armagh, Fermanagh, Londonderry (Coleraine) and Tyrone - were divided into 'precincts', subdivided into large, middle, and small 'proportions' to be given to 'servitors' (army commanders and the King's servants), 'undertakers' (men of property who undertook to bring over Protestant British families), and 'deserving Irish' (those who had changed sides in time during the Earls' rebellion). The latest marketing techniques were used: in April 1610 a detailed brochure, the 'Printed Book', provided applicants with information on rents and conditions; and pamphlets extravagantly described the prospects awaiting loyal British subjects seeking to better themselves.

Cartographers played an indispensable role by surveying the land confiscated by the Crown. Best known were Sir Thomas Raven and Sir Josias Bodley.

Undertakers - landlord who was given a large land of estate at a low rent in exchange for undertaking to settle ten English or Scottish families on each 1000 acres of land received.

Servitors - those who had served the monarch as an official or a solder in the Irish campaign. Servitors were allowed to let land to Irish tenants.

Ravens Map/Pynnars survey of Londonderry

The City of London-Derry was a product of the Plantation. The small town of Derry, as well as much of the lands that were to become the county of Londonderry, were granted to the City of London, which was charged with planting them. The city took on the task reluctantly, establishing a special company, now known as the Honourable The Irish Society, to manage its affairs in Ireland. In 1613 work commenced on the building of the new walls of the new city of Londonderry. These walls are still intact.

The City of London-Derry is encompassed about with a very Strong Wall, excellently made and neatly wrought; being all of good Lime and Stone; the Circuit whereof is 283 Perches and 2/3, at 18 feet to the Perch; besides the four gates which contain 84 feet; and in every Place of the Wall it is 24 feet high, and six feet thick. The gates are all battlemented, but to two of them there is no going up, so that they serve no great use; neither have they made any Leaves for their Gates; but make two Draw-Bridges serve for two of them, and two Portcullices for the other two. The Bullwarks are very large and good, being in number nine; besides two half Bullwarks ; and for four of them there may be four Cannons, or other great Pieces ; the rest are not all out so large, but wanteth very little. The Rampart within the City is 12 feet thick of Earth; all things are very well and substantially done, saving there wanteth a House for the Soldiers to watch in, and a Centinell House for the Soldiers to stand in, in the Night, to defend them from the Weather, which is most extreme in these Parts. Since the last Survey i.e. that made by Sir Josias Bodley, there is built a School, which is 67 feet in length, and 25in breadth, with two other Small Houses. Other building there is not any within the City.The whole number of Houses within the City is 92, and in them there are 102 Families,which are far too few a number for the Defence of such a Circuit, they being scarce able to man one of the Bullwarks; neither is there room enough to set up a 100 Houses more, unless they will make them as little as the first, and name each Room for a House.

This Fort or Blockhouse of Culmoore is in the Hands of Captain John Baker; the Walls are now finished and the Castle built; all which is strong and neatly wrought; with Platforms for their Artillery; and this is the only key and strength of the River that goeth to the Derry. Houses added more to the Building, which are done by other men; only the City hath allowed them 20 apiece towards their building. That part of the Town which is unbuilt, is so extream dirty that no Man is able to go in it, and especially that which should be, and is, accounted to be the Market Place. The Walls and Ramparts built of Sodds, and filled with Earth, do begin to decay very much, and to moulder away; for the Ramparts are so narrow that it is impossible they should stand, and the Bullwarks are so exceeding little that there cannot be placed any piece of Artillery, if occasion were. There are two small Ports which are made of Timber and Boards, and they serve for Houses for Soldiers to watch in. The town is so poorly inhabited that there are not Men enough to Man the sixth Part of the Wall.

Thomas Raven's map of the London companies associated with the plantation

The Government in early 1609 approached the Liveried Companies of the City of London. In March 1613 the areas to be planted were combined to form the new county of Londonderry and by the end of the year it had been divided into 12 Proportions, one for each of the Great London Companies. The Proportions were allocated by lot and the Great Companies eventually established principal settlements within them. The Fishmongers developed Ballykelly, The Grocers developed Muff, later renamed Eglinton, and the Goldsmiths developed Newbuildings.

Thomas Raven's map 1922 of Goldsmiths village showing the castle and bawn - neither of which exist today

Thomas Raven's illustration of the village shows the castle and bawn. There are three stone houses which lie either side of a single street with the name of each owner carefully written below - William Yonge, Edward Strange, M(ist)ris Freeman, John Reede, Sandeer Spencer and Robert Croser. All of the houses are shown to a standard design with long, gabled axis aligned along the street, a centrally panelled door with windows to either side, an additional window in the visible gable-end, subsidiary gables or dormers and a central chimney.

The Goldsmiths

The Goldmiths Company was established as early as 1180. Its members inspected and regulated all gold and silver wares throughout the Kingdom and the Company had the power to punish those who dealt or worked in adulterated precious metals, In 1694 the tenants of Goldsmith's Hall, the Goldsmith's building in the village, in recognition of the good serve they performed at the Siege of Derry, were granted an abatement of two years' rent, given three years to pay arrears and were given an extension to their lease.

In 1617 the Irish Society decided that the lands granted to the Company should be a single manor, to be called the Manor of Goldsmiths' Hall. Thirty six of the 44 balliboes of land held by the company were allocated as demense and the remaining 8 balliboes were assigned to the freeholders. In January 1615, John Freeman, of Great Bredfield, Essex, was accepted as farmer of this proportion. He was also requested to build a castle and bawn and 12 English houses at a cost of 30 each.

Gould-Smiths-Hall. The Goldsmiths' proportion is situated in the barony of Tirkeeran, being bounded on the north and west by the lough and river Foyle ; on the south by the confines or borders of Tyrone ; and on the east by the lands of the Grocers and Skinners alternately.

  • There were Freeholders, 6,
  • 1 having 180 acres.
  • 5 having 6o acres le piece.
  • Lessees for years, 24, viz.,
    • 2 having 300 acres le piece.
    • 2 having 120 acres le piece.
    • 1 having 100 acres.
    • 10 having 60 acres Ie piece.
    • 1 having 50 acres.
    • 4 having 40 acres le piece.

Companies Certificate

  • One stone house slated of eighteene foote high, containing nine roomes inhabited by John Lewes.
  • One stone house twelve foote highe, containing six rooms inhabited by Robert Crowe, widower.
  • One stone house twelve foote high, containing six roomes inhabited by William Young.
  • One stone house of like materials and heighte containing four roomes inhabited by Robert Foster.
  • One Mill and Mill house of timber.
  • One stone house slated of twelve foote high, containing six rooms inhabited by Thomas Branson.
  • One house of eighteene foote high, containing nine roomes inhabited by William Hunt.
  • One house similar inhabited by Roger Garrard.
  • One other house of stone built to the height of four foote and the residue of timber, slated, seven roomes inhabited by John Elving.
  • There are besides within the Manor divers other houses built with timber, walled with sods and covered with thatch.

Extract from the Warden's accounts at Goldsmiths' Hall London and court minutes

The company sent over in arms and munitions as follows:

  • Pikes 9
  • Halbert 4
  • Blackbills 5
  • Musketts 14
  • Calivers 14

Following pieces and other Arms sent over in March 1622

  • firelock pieces 10
  • Pikes 6
  • Corseletts 6
  • Musketts 8
  • Calivers 2
  • Headpieces 6
  • Swords 6
  • Wasts 6
  • Blackbills 655
  • Lead, powder and match 174
  • Bandeleeers 6

BAWNS

A bawn is defined as a fortified enclosure usually with projecting corner towers (flankers) and usually associated with a manor house. Undertakers in the Plantation of Ulster were required to build bawns, and some of those erected by the London Livery Companies survive in part today.

The word "Bawn" is derived from two Gaelic words; "Ba", Irish for cow (or cattle) and "Dhun", meaning "fort", translating roughly into "cow-fort" or "cattle-fort" So the anglicized form of "badhun", was "Bawn".' The Bawn, as constructed by the English in Ulster, was a defended courtyard with walls usually built of stone, but sometimes of brick, clay, timber and sod. They protected the house, the family, and property of the plantation's principal landlord. The house could be free-standing in the center of the bawn or, as was the case at residences built by the Vintners' Company at Bellaghy and by the Salters' Company in Magherafelt and Salterstown, positioned up against one of the peripheral walls.

John Rowley started the Bawn at Bellaghy circa 1614 on part of the lands granted to the Vintners Company of London as part of the 'Plantation of Londonderry'. Rowley died quite soon after beginning the project in 1617. In order to keep things moving, the Vintners Company relocated another agent, Baptist Jones, from his previous duty of building Salterstown. Some accounts have it that he was about to be dismissed from that project anyway for being far too slow. Baptist Jones died six years later in 1623 in debt to the Vintners Company. This time the company appointed a new agent called Henry Conway to take over Jones' affairs. He certainly did that, including marrying Jones' widow and taking over his debts to the company! Conway obtained a new lease for Bellaghy in 1625. The poet Seamus Heaney's school desk and satchel can be seen in Bellaghy Bawn.

The modern day Bawn features a beautiful circular carpet in the upper floor of the flanker tower. The carpet has been specially created with the points of the compass and is correctly aligned to the north, south, east and west. Some residents of Bellaghy will tell you that it is at the very centre of Northern Ireland and thus the carpet points outwards to the four corners of Ulster. The truth of this notion is rather debatable and results of course vary by many miles depending on the method of measurement used.

This site is among the best preserved of the early 17th century Plantation bawns in Northern Ireland. As a requirement of the plantation in the newly created county Londonderry, the twelve London companies, had to build bawns on the lands that they had been granted by King James I.

Brackfield Bawn

The buildings at Brackfield were built soon after 1611 on lands granted to the Skinners Company after the Flight of the Earls in 1607. It is shown on a drawing by Thomas Raven illustrating a survey of 1622. It is not known who actually lived there.

It is an almost square bawn with round flanking towers at the north and south corners. The remains of a house have been found along the SW wall but none of the house survives outside the wall. There are traces of a later house occupying the SW third of the bawn. Both the flankers and the curtain wall are well-provided with gun-loops. The entrance was through a gateway in the NE wall. Excavation revealed bricks, tiles, medieval and 17th century pottery as well as a Bronze Age urn, some flint flakes and two fragments of cremated bone.

Some 17th Century Facts

  • 1611- Slate quarried at New Buildings was used in the construction of new houses at new row, Coleraine.
  • 1612 - Slate was taken from New Buildings to Agivey (near Kilrea, County Londonderry). It was taken by sea to the salmon leap and then by barge up the River Bann to Agivey.
  • 1613 - A charter in 1613 imposed a duty upon the Irish Society for the preservation of timber. Trees for building purposes were important in the plans for an expanding economy. Wood-rangers were appointed for the protection of woods. "Let-passes" were issued without which no timber could be taken.
  • 1616 - Local people complained that they were being deprived of salmon; the English markets had a monopoly
  • 1684 - Salmon, caught in the river, were salted and exported to Venice in Italy and Bilbao in Spain. In this particular year Spain imported 1,885 barrels of salmon from Derry

Fishing and timber were the main occupations in the village at the time of the Plantation. Fishing rights were controlled by the Church until the Plantation of Ulster when in 1610 the City of London and the Crown agreed 27 articles which gave the City certain rights. Article 14 asked that "salmon and eel fishing rights of the River Bann "from its mouth to Lough Neagh" and the river Foyle (from the Lough to its source) should be held in perpetuity by the City of London ". This was granted to the Irish Society, representing the City, specifically from Lifford to the sea with the exception of those fishing rights held by the Bishop and the Dean of Derry. Prior to 1919 the Moore (of Molenan) and Munn families jointly held the fisheries of the Foyle and the Bann on a 30 year lease.

This a view of Newbuildings as it is today with approximately 4,500 inhabitants.

REFERENCES

  1. In the Shadow of the Tail of the Fox - A History of New Buildings and District
  2. The Dawn of the Ulster Scots - The Plantation of Ulster - Rev George Hill
  3. The Dawn of the Ulster Scots - Thomas Ravens Plantation Maps
  4. BBC Wars and conflicts - The Plantation of Ulster

    May 2012