Thursday 12 July 2012

Origin and Characteristics of The Population in The Counties Down and Antrim (pt3)


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Ulster Journal of Archaeology, 

Vol. 1, 1853.


English Settlements in Antrim and Down.

The property of the Marquis of Hertford comprises the two territories or "manors" of Killultagh and Derryvolga, and includes either the whole or the greatest portion of eleven distinct parishes. The most northern of these are Camlin and Tullyrusk, but those first reached in the line which the settlers of the Plantation followed are Lambeg and Derriaghy. Both of these, the former especially, are wholly English in their character; and it is probable that they were settled by Sir Fulke Conway at the same time as Lisnegarvey. The current statements respecting him are very incorrect, people being misled by his name. His family had been resident at Bodrythan in Flintshire, and no doubt derived their name from the town of Conway. His father and grandfather were distinguished soldiers, and the former was Governor of Ostend in 1586; but there is not the slightest evidence that "the town of Conway was the property of Sir Fulke." The assertion is equally gratuitous that the first settlers in Lisnegarvey were Welsh; for the names of the first British settlers (fifty-two in number) are still preserved, and the list comprises only four Welsh names. These are Morgan, Edwards, Ap Ritchard and Ap Hugh.

The maternal grandfather of Sir Fulke Conway was Sir Fulke Greville, descended front "the flower of Woolstaplers," and ancestor of the Earls of Brooke and Warwick. Lady Greville, who possessed large estates in Warwickshire, was doubly an heiress, representing both Lord Brooke and Lord Beauchamp of Powyk. Connected as the family was, therefore, with the County of Warwick, both by relationship and occasional visits, it is not surprising that Sir Fulke's father purchased the manor of Ragley there, in the close of Queen Elizabeth's reign. When Ireland became the laud of adventure and promise, and the Conway family became interested in it, the tenantry and other inhabitants of both properties sought a settlement in that country; but they came almost exclusively from Ragley, and no doubt sailed from Bristol. When Sir Edward succeeded to the representation of the family, he continued to prosecute the designs of Sir Fulke; and the important position which he occupied in public affairs afforded him opportunities of doing so with success. In 1622 he succeeded Sir Robert Naunton as one of the Secretaries of State; and about a year before the death of James I. was created Baron Conway of Ragley. On the accession of Charles I. he was reappointed Secretary of State, and continued so till 1630; but in the meanwhile he had been elevated to a higher grade of the English peerage as Viscount Conway of Conway Castle, and also to the Irish peerage as Viscount Killultagh. The manor of Ragley is situated on the right bank of the classic Avon, where the shires of Gloucester and Worcester join that at Warwick; and hence it is highly probable that the additional men required to plant the new districts, extending finally to Lough Neagh, came from those counties also. Lady Conway was a native of Gloucestershire, and and the second Vicountess came from Somerset. The tradition of the people is, too, that their fathers came from "the apple counties" of England; and some of them can even name the offices which their ancestors of English birth held under the first and second Lords Conway.

Edward, the second Viscount, also extended the plans of Sir Fulke, and was vigorously engaged with them during the brief visit of Sir William Brereton. "From Belfast to Linsley Garven," says that writer, "is about 7 miles, & is a Paradise in comparison of any part of Scotland. Linsley Garven is well seated, butt neither the Towne nor the Countrie there-abouts well planted. This Towne belongs to my L. Conoway, who hath there a good hansome House, butt farr short of both my Lo: Chich. Houses, & this House seated uppon an Hill, uppon the side whereof is planted a Garden & Orchard, & att the Bottome of wch Hill runnes a pleasaunt River wch abounds wth Salmon. Here-abouts, my Lord Conoway is now endeavoureing a Plantation; though the Land here-boutes bee the poorest & barrenest I have yett seen, yett may itt bee made good Land wth labour & chardge." The "house" which the writer mentions was afterwards called the Castle of Lisburn; and it is probable that it was improved and strengthened after the disasters of 1641, for it is spoken of as a building of strength and respectability in 1707, when it was accidentally burned along with the town.

About the middle of the Protectorate another Edward Conway succeeded as the third Viscount. He was the fourth individual, and the third generation of his family, that had been connected with Killultagh; and passing beyond Lisburn, he selected for his residence a point of extreme beauty at the opposite extremity of his possessions. On the eastern bank of the little lake of Portmore an ancient castle of the O'Neills occupied a gentle elevation. To the west, the situation commanded a view of all the lake below and the greater part of Lough Neagh; to the north and east, the eye rested for miles on the beautiful lands of Glenavy and Ballinderry, with the tower of Ram's Island rising from a curve of the lake; and to the south, across the bogs of Aghagallon, appeared the County Armagh.

This spot, which is held in great veneration by the rustic inhabitants, will surely be not less interesting to the more intelligent, for here the learned, pious, and accomplished Jeremy Taylor resided, who taught mankind both how to live and how to die. On a little island in the smaller lake, now known as the Sally Isle, was an arbour erected by his patron, Lord Conway; this was the favourite scene of his studies, and there he put the finishing hand to his "Doctor Dubilantium." At the Restoration, as is well known, he became Bishop of Down and Connor, and in 1661 Bishop of Dromore also.

In 1664 the castle of Portmore was rebuilt on a scale of great munificence; and here Lord Conway, now an Earl, continued to dispense his generous hospitality for nearly twenty years. The splendour of the castle may be inferred from the quality of the out-buildings; and the provisions which were made are a commentary on the condition of society at the period. The stables constituted a sort of cavalry barracks, with the most ample accommodation for two troops of horse. They were 140 feet long, 35 broad, and 40 high; and water was supplied by pumps to a series of marble cisterns. When the Lords Conway became extinct, and the new proprietors did not feel inclined to make Ireland a place of residence, the glories of Portmore departed. The castle and other buildings were removed about 1761, and the only vestige that now remains of them is a portion of a wall. The garden and terrace are still entire under the name of "the Bowling Green," but the decoys for wild ducks, such as are well known in Lincolnshire, and used to be common in Lancashire, have disappeared. The beautiful deer-park, said to have contained 2,000 acres, is now changed to corn and pasture fields; and of the gigantic oaks, that were the pride of the neighbourhood and the wonder of all who saw them, not one remains. The great oak of Portmore was blown down about 1760. To the first branch from the ground was 25 feet, and the circumference 14 yards. A single branch was sold for £9; the stem for £97; of the remainder, bought for £30, built a lighter of 40 tons burthen. Many articles of furniture were made of it, and are held still in great estimation. The church, which had been removed by Lord Conway from Templecormac to Portmore, was superseded by a new one at the Restoration, near the village of Upper Ballinderry; and, though the burial-ground of this is still used, it has been superseded in turn by another church about half a mile distant, erected in 1827. Thus, the single parish of Ballinderry contains four parochial burial-places, and has had as many churches, all of which were need since the commencement of the seventeenth century. The majority of these facts are less known than the contemporary history of other portions of the two counties; they form, however, an interesting illustration of the English settlement in Ulster, and are some proof of its extent and importance.

Among the prominent men of the Plantation period was Sir Moses Hill, said to be descended from, a Norman family, of which branches are still seated in the shires of Devon and Stafford. He had served under two successive Earls of Essex, during the rebellion of O'Neill in Elizabeth's reign; and had been governor of the castle of Olderfleet, of Larne. He had also served under Lord Deputy Chichester; had represented the County of Antrim in Parliament; and when numerous offences and disorders required the pœna prœsens of martini law, he was appointed provost marshal for all Ulster. One of the first portions of property which he acquired was situated at Carrickfergus; there Captain Hill obtained a "whole share" of the corporation land in 1600. Arthur Hill was one of the three trustees for the corporation in 1637, and in 1811 the Marquis of Downshire was one of five (out of a large number) whose family name still coincided with that of the original grantee. All this portion formed part of a district then thoroughly English.

To the south of Belfast also Sir William Brereton noticed the labours of Sir Moyses during his brief visit. "Near hereunto" (Belfast), he says, "Mr. Arthur Hill [son and heir of Sir Moyses Hill] hath a brave plantation, which he holds by lease, which still is for thirty years to come; the land is my Lord Chichester's, and the lease was made for sixty years to Sir Moyses Hill, by the old Lord Chichester. This plantation, is said, doth yield him a £1,000 per annum. Many Lanckashire and Cheshire men are here planted, with some of them I conversed. They sit upon a rack-rent and pay 5s or 6s an acre for good ploughing land, which now is clothed with excellent corn." The clause in brackets, though practically true, is literally an error, for in 1635 Peter Hill, Esq., was the son and heir of Sir Moyses, and was seated still further inland at a place which he called Hill-Hall.

Arthur, the younger son, who was born in 1600, and died in 1663, not only succeeded by inheritance to the lands of Peter, but in 1656 had so added to them that his estate lying in Antrim, Down, and Louth was excelled by few in the kingdom. In 1635 Sir William Brereton found the country "almost all woods and moorish [from Linsley Garven] until you come to Drum-moare;" and in 1657 Arthur Hill received from the Protector and his Council, for "services done in Ireland, a grant of more than 3,000 acres, of which 912 are described as "wood, and bogg." All this was in the "territory of Kilwarlin, and County of Down," and this account of it confirms the view already given of the state of the country. Some portions of the grant are enumerated in the confirmation of 1662, as Culcavy, Cromlyne, &c.; though the fort which he had erected at his own cost, commanding an important point of communication, again embodied the family name, and gave origin to the town of Hillsborough. The manor of Hillsborough was composed of two more ancient ones, Hillsborough and Growle; the latter of which was named from what is now an obscure townland in the parish of Dromore. So early as 1669 a village had sprung up on a distant portion of his property called Carcullion or Carquillan. Its distance from Newry, and the fact that a bridge there crosses the Bann, gave to it the English name of Eight-mile-bridge; but the family name was applied a third time, and the name of Hilltown has become prominent.

The portion of the manor of Hillsborough which was colonised by natives of England is that adjacent to Killultagh. They spread up the valley of the Lagan, on the right as well as on the left bank, but did not establish themselves among the hills by which the valley is here bounded. The town of Hillsborough, and the whole western portion of the parish, lie within the area of the English plantation; but in the eastern portion very few established themselves, and those only by slow degrees.

Further inland, and later in point of settlement, was Sir George Rawdon, a native of Rawdon, near Leeds, in Yorkshire. His connection with the North of Ireland may be traced to the fact that in early life he was secretary to the first Lord Conway while his lordship was Secretary of State, and indeed till his death. He afterwards became more intimately related to the Conways by marrying in the decline of life, as his second wife, the daughter of the second Lord, sister to the Earl. In 1641 Sir George was one of the most active in defending Lisburn and the adjoining country against Sir Phelim O'Neill, and some years after he was the Earl of Donegal's deputy as governor of Carrickfergus, the County Antrim, and adjacent parts. In 1666 he had grants of land in Down, as well as in two other counties, under the acts of settlement; and other lands were assigned to him from time to time, in lieu of arrears of pay for services in the reign of Charles I.

The Moyra estate is now the property of Sir Robert Bateson, Bart., and since the commencement of the present century the history of the Rawdon family belongs to England. They have been identified with several parts of the County Down, greatly to its advantage; and the earldom of Moira, conferred in 1762, is one of the numerous peerages possessed by the Marquis of Hastings. There is a tradition among the tenantry that a small portion of the estate adjoining the churchyard in Moira was reserved, when all the rest was alienated, lest the title Earl of Moira should pass away; and the belief is an interesting illustration of the hold which baronies by tenure practically possess on the popular mind.

The English colonists did not stop at the verge of this country, but pressed on across Armagh. Bankes, in speaking of Lugarn [Lurgan), says: "The town, from the similarity of its general figure, of the language, manners, and dispositions of its inhabitants, to those of the English, hath for many years acquired the name of Little England." Leaving the bogs of Oneiland to the right, the planters passed from Seagoe, Shankill, and Magheralin, across to the Blackwater at Killyman and Charlemont; and large numbers settled in Dungannon and the parishes immediately surrounding it. Thus, from the tides of the Channel at Carrickfergus to the base of the Pomeroy mountains in Tyrone, across a considerable portion of four counties, and independent of smaller numbers scattered at other points, the English portion of the plantation existed in an unbroken line.

(Next week: Montgomery Manuscripts.)

(This article was originally published in the Lisburn Standard on 12 July 1918 as part of a series which ran in that paper each week for several years. The text along with other extracts can be found on my website Eddies Extracts.)

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