Perpetuity Leases in the Townland of Ballynacross on the Bellaghy Estate
The townland of Ballynacross which is located in the parish of Maghera in the barony of Loughinsholin was part of the Vintners’ Estate that that was purchased by the Conolly family in 1729. See map of townlands on the Bellaghy estate. The estate lay within the parishes of Killelagh, Maghera, Tamlaght O’Crilly, Ballyscullion, Termoneeeny, Kilcronaghan and Desertmartin. As you can see from the map all of the townlands within the estate were not contiguous. They were separated in places by churchlands or land held by the Mercers’ Estate.
Rentals of 1718 [PRONI: D2094/21] and 1729 [PRONI: D2094/29-30] showed that the entire townland of Ballynacross had been leased by a Nicholas Downing Esq. in 1718 as part of a group of townlands which also included the townlands of Grange, Mullaghboy and half of Drumlamph – the rent for the lot being £24. In 1729 a Richard Downing Esq. rented the same lot for £29.
Conolly died during 1729 and the purchase of the estate was completed by his nephew, also a William Conolly. Because £10,000 of the £15,000 purchase money for the estate was due by 1734, William Conolly granted many perpetuities on the estate at that time. Because perpetuities included initial fines that were reasonably substantial this was a quick way of raising cash initially. Also tenants holding perpetuities were regarded as freeholders and freeholders could vote.
Thus in 1734 two perpetuity leases were granted in Ballynacross – one to John Johnston & Co. and one to James Scott & Co. The survival of a lease book [PRONI: D1062/1/5] gives details of this 1734 lease and the changes that took place during the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. Below you will see extracts from the lease book that list not only the lessees in the townland at different times throughout the eighteenth century but also the names of the various new lives inserted during this period. Perpetuity leases were also known as three lives, renewable for ever leases. Initially when a lease was taken out three lives were inserted. These were often the children of some of the lessees. A fine usually equal to half of the annual rent was paid on each life. Thereafter new lives could be inserted, for ever, to replace each life as it expired. Again, a fine of half the rent had to be paid for each new life.
To genealogists the information regarding the age and relationship of the persons whose lives are inserted can be very revealing. In fact in one case the life of a George Lapsley aged 2, a son of George Lapsley, was inserted in 1798. A note appears later that this George Lapsley died in America in 1827. He must have been about 31 years of age when he died.
Note that some of these leaseholders probably did not live in the townland, but most did. On the 7th and 8th January 1837 Doctor Grey and some of the freeholders in the townland provided Thomas Fagan with the following information which was reproduced in the Ordnance Survey Memoirs, p. 53.
Ballynacross contains 28 farmers and 6 cottiers. The average rent of the freeholds is 2s 6d per acre. The undertenants pay 35s per acre. The following are the tenants who hold under the head proprietors viz. Doctor Grey, Robert Elliott, Samuel Elliott, William Elliott, Ralph Lapsley, James Grey, Isaac Fleming, George Scott, Robert Lockart, John Lapsley, David McKowen, Francis Caskey, Hugh Lammon, Jacob Johnstone, Richard Johnstone, Robert Crawford (non-resident), Robert Martin, Charles McCahey, William Clark (non-resident), Hugh Martin and James Marlin.
There are no 2-storey houses in the townland but all the houses are built of stone and thatched, and in much better repair and more comfortable, both inside and outside, than those of Slaghtyboggy.
The townland is divided into Upper and Lower Ballynacross, as the houses are chiefly in 2 clusters. Jacob Johnstone and a few others in the upper half-town have the front of their houses ornamented with a little flower ground, which presents a neater appearance than the other houses. It is quite evident that the tenants are more industrious than the tenants of Slaghtyboggy. The inhabitants were more wealthy about 30 years ago. The decrease is owing to a failure in the linen trade, as many are weavers in the townland. The heirs of the Honourable Thomas Connolly are the proprietors.
Clearly, this information confirms much of what is written in the lease book c.1802. Furthermore, two other sources from the late 1820s/early 1830s also correlate with many of the names listed in the lease book as well as the acreages given. Note that the acreages in the lease book and the Tithe Applotment Book, immediately below, were in Irish acres but I have converted them to English Statute acres.
1828 Tithe Applotment Book for Ballynacross [PRONI: FIN/5/A/212]
1831 Census Returns for Ballynacross [PRONI: MIC/5A/8]
The parts of the townlands covered by these two leases can be seen clearly in the 1859 map that accompanies the Griffith’s Printed Tenement Valuation of 1858/59, one hundred and twenty-five years after the original leases were granted.
Below is a copy of a page from the Griffith’s Printed [Tenement] Valuation of 1858/59 which lists the names of the occupiers of the houses and lands shown on the 1859 valuation map. Nos. 1 to 14 relate to Scott’s Lease.
This page, Nos. 15 to 31, relate to Johnston’s Lease.
Clearly there is scope here to use the information from the lease book with the sources listed above. For example Elizabeth Gray who married a Robert McLean in 1904 was a descendant of one of the Gray families listed in the lease book. As yet, I have not investigated this matter further.
Copyright 2010 W. Macafee.