The Townlands of Gorteade, Upperland and Tirgarvil in the Parish of Maghera

The townlands of Tirgarvil, Upperland and Gorteade straddle the main road from Maghera to Kilrea. [see map of the locality & map of parishes & surrounding townlands]. The village of Upperlands is partly in the townland of Upperland and partly in the townland of Tirgarvil. The river Clady which flows through the area was a very important source of power to the beetling mills of the linen firm of Clarks of Upperlands who were responsible for the establishment of the village during the nineteenth century. See Wallace Clark's book - Linen on the Green: An Irish Mill Village 1730-1982, published by The Universities Press, Belfast, 1982.

The townlands of Gorteade, Tirgarvil and Upperland were part of the civil parish of Maghera in the Barony of Loughinsholin. Later they were part of the District Electoral Division of Swatragh in the Poor Law Union of Magherafelt. After the reorganisation of DEDs in the 1920s, Upperland and Tirgarvil became part of the newly created Upperland DED; Gorteade remained in Swatragh DED.  Note that the village is called Upperlands but the official name of both the townland and the DED is Upperland. All three townlands were also part of the Mercers' Estate which had its headquarters in Kilrea. These three townlands lay within the Swatragh division of the estate, some distance from Kilrea.

Townland of Gorteade

1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1828 Tithe Applotment Book Excel PDF
1831 Townland Valuation House details Valuation map
1859 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation map
1860 to 1910 Griffith's Revision Books Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel PDF
1911 Census Returns Excel PDF

Townland of Tirgarvil

1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1828 Tithe Applotment Book Excel PDF
1831 First Townland Valuation House details Valuation map
1859 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation map
1860 to 1910 Griffith's Revision Books Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel PDF
1911 Census Returns Excel PDF

Townland of Upperland

1831 Census Returns Excel PDF
1828 Tithe Applotment Book Excel PDF
1831 Townland Valuation House details Valuation map
1859 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation Printed pages Valuation map
1860 to 1910 Griffith's Revision Books Excel PDF
1901 Census Returns Excel PDF
1911 Census Returns Excel PDF

The figures in the table below [compiled from the official census records] show how the number of people and [inhabited houses] in each townland [and the locality as a whole] changed during the period 1831 to 1901.

Townland 1831 1841 1851 1861 1871 1881 1891 1901
Gorteade 318 [55] 276 [48] 222 [43] 216 [40] 177 [33] 199 [38] 158 [32] 164 [33]
Tirgarvil 339 [60] 312 [54] 258 [49] 261 [47] 215 [45] 238 [49] 232 [43] 231 [47]
Upperland 245 [42] 257 [37] 191 [30] 215 [34] 218 38] 193 [33] 198 [41] 273 [50]
Total 902 [157] 825 [139] 671 [122] 692 [121] 610 [116] 630 [120] 588 [116] 668 [130]

To understand these figures it is necessary to be aware of the influence of the linen firm of Clarks of Upperlands. Its expansion in the second half of the nineteenth century makes the population history of the townlands of Upperland and Tirgarvil very different from that of Gorteade. All three townlands experienced similar percentages of decline during the Famine decade [1841/51] - Upperland 26%, Gorteade 20% and Tirgarvil 17%. At that time Clark's beetling mills were mainly in Tirgarvil and the three townlands were still essentially agricultural in character. Between 1851 and 1901 the population of Upperland rose by 43% and Tirgarvil only experienced a 10% decline, whilst Gorteade still predominately a townland inhabited by farmers, declined by 26%.

The table below, constructed from the 1831 Census Returns, shows the number of houses and families in the three townlands and the religious breakdown of the population in the locality.

Townland Inhabited Houses Uninhabited Houses No. of Families Total in Houses E.C. % R.C. % Presb. % Others %
Gorteade 55 5 55 318 5 2% 203 64% 83 26% 27 8%
Tirgarvil 60 4 60 339 12 4% 204 60% 90 27% 33 10%
Upperland 42 4 43 245 16 7% 123 50% 86 35% 20 8%
Total 157 13 158 902 33 3% 530 59% 259 29% 80 9%

Almost 60% of the population in 1831 was Roman Catholic. Furthermore, within individual townlands the two religious groups tended to occupy different areas of the townland. One good example is the townland of Tirgarvil where on the 1859 Griffith's Valuation Map one half of the townland is shown as Irish Tirgarvil and the other half as Scotch Tirgarvil. The numbers on this map can be matched to the numbers in the Printed Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation of 1859 so you can find out the names of the families who lived in Scotch and Irish Tirgarvil at that time.

This pattern of settlement in the area was the result of the Plantation of Ulster and the subsequent immigration that took place during the latter years of the seventeenth century. A perusal of the 1663 Hearth Returns show that in the mid-seventeenth century this area of the parish of Maghera was almost exclusively inhabited by the native Irish.  Only two Planter names, John Stevenson and John Bingem (probably Bingham) were listed in the nearby townland of Dunglady. All other townlands appear to have been inhabited by the native Irish - with names such as McShane, O'Diamond, O'Henry, McQuaid and O'Brilleghan (Bradley).

My articles "The Colonisation of the Maghera region of South Derry during the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries", Ulster Folklife, 23, 1977, pp. 70-91 and "The Movement of British Settlers into Ulster during the Seventeenth Century", Familia, 2, No. 8, 1992, pp. 94-110 point to the later colonisation of this area resulting from the influx of Scottish immigrants after the Williamite wars. By the early eighteenth century the number of British settlers had not only increased significantly, they had spread out geographically to occupy areas which had been sparsely settled by colonists in the middle of the seventeenth century. Many of the ancestors of the people occupying the Upperlands area in 1831 were among these newcomers. The 1740 Protestant Householders Returns, although they do not give details of townlands, do list many new Scottish names for the parish of Maghera.

The population of the area would have grown significantly from the 1760s to the levels indicated above in the 1831 Census. In addition to the 1831 Census Returns, the 1828 Tithe Applotment Book, and, in some cases, the manuscript books of the Townland Valuation of the 1830s, provide us with the names and acreages of some of the landholders in the area and give descriptions of a few of their houses [in code]. These records, along with other sources such as the O.S. Memoirs, Reports of Government Commissions plus information from estate records [if available], can be useful in painting a picture of life at that time. It is important to note that the survival of the 1831 Census Returns will allow you see how the Tithe Applotment Books and the Townland Valuation seriously underestimate the population at that time.

Linen along with farming was the mainstay of economic life in this area from the eighteenth century onwards. As the population grew more land was reclaimed and once there was no more land to reclaim many families sub-divided their holdings. The result was an area of relatively small farms where the inhabitants supplemented their incomes through linen spinning and weaving. A look at the number of families with the same surname listed beside each other in the 1831 Census Returns provide some evidence of this sub-division.

A comparison of the 1831 Census Returns and the 1859 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation show the decrease in the number of families between these dates and it is interesting to note the number of landholders who survive from the 1830s. The greatest impact of the Famine was on the labourer/cottier class and those farming families who had sub-divided their farms to excess.

The 1859 Griffith's [Tenement] Valuation and the accompanying map is a key source in both listing the heads of households who lived in the townland at that time and identifying exactly where they lived. It provides a bridge between the the 1831 and 1901 Census Returns.

The Griffith's Revision Books are essential in "mapping" the changes in each holding between c.1860 and 1901/1911. They also us to link the names and properties in the 1859 Griffith's Printed [Tenement] Valuation with those in the 1901 Census Returns as well as indicating when certain families left the townland or new families arrived. When I first carried out my studies in these townlands the Revision Books were only available in PRONI, Belfast. As from April 2013 these books are online and this makes the task more manageable. Before April 2013 I had created a sort of database for each townland which summarised the changes in each holding or house and allowed me to search for names. After April 2013 I thought that I no longer needed these databases but I still can find a use for them, particularly with regard to the townlands of Upperland and Tirgarvil. Since April 2013 I am only including an Excel version of these databases. If you do not have Excel you can download a viewer from Microsoft. If you are only looking for one name, the online Revision Books will be sufficient.

Apart from the normal pattern of change in farms in rural townlands during the second half of the nineteenth century, this locality saw an influx of families attracted to the growing linen firm of William Clark & Sons of Upperlands. The firm built houses for its workers in the village of Upperlands which straddled the townlands of Upperland and Tirgarvil.

Most of these new arrivals came from within the county. Some of these families, such as the McIldowney and Judge families, came from adjacent townlands but, as the 1901 Census Returns show, some came from further afield. Wallace Clark discusses some of these families in his book, e.g. Montgomery, McLintock and Campbell.

The 1901 Census Returns provide both statistical and personal details of both these new families and the longer established farming families living in the locality at the very beginning of the twentieth century. These returns give us information on individual members of a family such as age, sex,  level of literacy, marital status, religion, occupation and where the person was born. These returns are the only source that provides details of the relationships between persons in the latter part of the nineteenth century that can be matched to the civil and church records of the period. The links at the beginning of this paragraph will take you to databases of the 1901 Census for the three townlands that I created some time ago - long before this data plus that for 1911 became available online. Recently I have created new databases for Gorteade [1901 and 1911], Tirgarvil [1901 and 1911] and Upperland [1901 and 1911] which list the names and details of only the heads of family [or households]. These databases are only available in Excel format because each head of household is linked to the online 1901 and 1911 Census Returns. This will allow you to access the detailed information on all the members of each family or household listed in each database.

There is also  some information on houses and outbuildings which, when decoded, can give some impression of the size and appearance of the house that each family was living in and the types of outbuildings associated with the property. As mentioned above, the Clarks built houses for many of their employees in the later years of the nineteenth century and these houses stand out clearly in the House and Building Return [Form B.1] of the 1901 Census Returns with their slated roofs. Slated houses were not that common in this area in the early 1900s.

The table below shows the number of people who lived in the Upperlands area in 1901 and the religious breakdown of the population at that time.

Townland Inhabited Houses Uninhabited Houses No. of Families Total in Houses E.C. % R.C. % Presb. % Others %
Gorteade 33 0 33 159 29 18% 73 46% 54 34% 3 2%
Tirgarvil 47           1 [11]* 47 231 28 12% 112 48% 87 38% 4 2%
Upperland 50 3 50 273 125 46% 79 29% 57 21% 12 4%
Total 130           4 [11]* 130 663 182 27% 264 40% 198 30% 19 3%
 * The figure [11] refers to a number of beetling mills, schools, etc. which are classified as uninhabited.

As mentioned above, the changes in the number of houses and families in each townland reflect the presence or absence of Clark's linen mill. Gorteade which is inhabited, almost exclusively, by farming families exhibits the usual pattern of decline in houses and families between 1831 and 1901. Likewise, the farming parts of Tirgarvil and Upperland show similar characteristics. The village of Upperlands which straddled the townlands of Upperland and Tirgarvil was responsible for the fact that the overall fall of population in Tirgarvil was much less than in Gorteade. The fact that most of the new housing in the village was located in Upperland townland before 1901, produced an 11% rise in the population of the townland between 1831 and 1901. This 11% figure masks the fact that the population of Upperland had actually fallen by 26% during the Famine decade of 1841/51 but had risen by 43% between 1851 and 1901.

The religious breakdown of 1901 shows a dramatic change from 1831. The Roman Catholic population was now 40% in contrast to the 59% of 1831. Most noticeable is the significant rise in the Church of Ireland population, particularly in the townland of Upperland which housed most of the village of Upperlands at that time.  Here it had risen from 7% in 1831 to 46% in 1901. Another interesting point which emerges from the 1901 Returns concerns the religious affiliations of the Clark workforce who lived in the 33 slated houses which made up the mill village of Upperlands, 11 were Church of Ireland, 9 were Presbyterian and 11 were Roman Catholic.

Although outside the period covered by the examples on the website,  the table below shows that the growth of the village continued in the early part of the twentieth century. Most of this new growth of the village took place in the townland of Tirgarvil where the number of houses more than doubled. Even Gorteade shared in the growth.

Townland 1901 Popn. 1901 Houses 1911 Popn. 1911 Houses 1926 Popn. 1926 Houses % Popn.Change 1901-1911
Gorteade 164 33 158 35 173 38 5%
Tirgarvil 231 47 221 47 482 104 109%
Upperlands 273 50 358 63 312 60 14%
Total 668 130 737 145 967 202 45%

The 1901Census Returns also provide us with a breakdown of the occupations in the locality at that time.  In Gorteade 25 of the 33 heads of family in the townland were farmers. In Tirgarvil 25 of the 47 heads of families were farmers. In Upperland 17 of the 50 heads of families were farmers. Clearly, the townland of Upperland was dominated by the various jobs a available in the mill - beetlers, wheelwrights, linen lappers, etc. Tirgarvil was not far behind. In addition the house of the Clark family employed a butler, coachman, etc.  There were also families connected with the Derry Central Railway and the obligatory schoolteachers. The 1901 databases will allow you to see the range of occupations in each of the townlands. The place of birth can also be interesting and give us a clue to where some of the new arrivals came from.


In Upperlands 42 of the 50 heads of households had been born within the county. The remaining 8 had been born in Belfast, Co. Antrim, Co. Down, Co. Armagh and Co. Tyrone. With one exception, these people all worked in the linen mill. The exception was James Davison, an agricultural labourer who had been born in Co. Armagh. The fact that he lived in a house in the village suggests that he worked on Clark's farm.

In Tirgarvil 45 of the 47 heads of households were born within the county. In the case of the remaining two households - a Nathaniel McCord, millwright, was born in Co. Tyrone and a John Quinn, agricultural labourer was born in Co. Fermanagh.

In Gorteade 32 of the 33 heads of households were born in the county. The exception was Daniel Crilly whose father, also called Daniel, had lived in Gorteade until c.1850 when he joined the police and was stationed for a time in Tipperary. The father had returned to the townland on retirement, bought a farm, and his son inherited that farm.

These figures show that less than 10% of the new arrivals to Clark's linen mill came to the locality from outside the county. Unfortunately it is not possible to be more specific with the families that gave their place of birth as Co. Londonderry, Co. Derry or just plain Derry.  People were only required to give the county of their birth, not the specific townland, village or town in which they were born. 

The above figures relate to heads of families. It is also interesting to look at the birthplaces of all the members of a family. Here you will see England, Scotland, Toronto, etc. listed. This information can give clues about the movement of individuals and families.  For example, Robert Pritchard who was a gardener to the Clarks was born in Co. Down, as was his wife. His first three children were born in England, his next two in Co. Down and his last two in Co. Derry. The age of the first child to be born in Co. Derry suggests that he arrived in Upperlands around 1899/1900.

Most of the farming families in the locality in 1901 had been there from at least the 1830s and some of the surnames can be traced back to the 1740s. The surnames include Arbuthnot, Ballagh,  Boyle, Bradley, Cassidy, Clark, Connor/Knogher, Crilly, Diamond, Doherty, Dripps, Ferris, Houston, Kane/O'Kane, Kissock, Laverty, McFalone, McKeown, McMaster, McShane, Mitchell, Moore, Smith, Tomb and Wilson.

I have selected for more detailed study the Doherty family of Gorteade who have lived in the same location within the townland since, at least, the 1820s. Also, one of the many Crilly families who also lived in Gorteade. The family name is preserved in the townland in the local placename - Crilly's Hill. I have also selected two other families who were not living in any of the townlands in the 1830s. In fact these two families did not move into the locality until the latter years of the nineteenth century - the Montgomery  family who came from Ahoghill in Co. Antrim, c.1899 to work in the mill and the Campbell family who came to Upperlands via Garvagh, Belfast and Wicklow, c.1899 to teach in Ampertaine School.

One final, personal, note regarding this locality. Gorteade was the first ever townland that I studied in detail, back in the late 1960s/early 1970s. My companion during those early walks through the townland was the late Joe Doherty.

Copyright 2018 W. Macafee.