Two examples of correspondence relating to the Bellaghy Estate

Here is part of a reply by an Amos Strettle in answer to a number of questions asked by the Vintners Company when he was preparing the 1718 Rental for the company. The estate had been let in 1673 to Lord Massereene [Clotworthys of Antrim] and here is what he had to say in response to a number of queries.

First they wanted to know the extent of their lands.

Strettle replied – those listed in the rent roll.

They also wanted to know the particulars of the estate when it was let in 1673.

Strettle replied that it was not possible to find out the rents or fines raised at that time but he does go on to say:  but probably they were very inconsiderable if any at all, for the tenants in those days were very poor as they still are and not able to pay fines and the landlords were glad to get tenants at any rate.

The document also goes on to say that:

What fines were raised thereon when they were last let I cannot learn, but do believe very little, because several of the leases were made by the late Lord Massereene who set them at the highest rents he could get and as for as long terms as he had himself and in some instances longer from whence, I imagine, that he thought he could at any time easily renew and was glad to get tenants to take for long terms.

Later in the document he said the following about the present situation on the estate i.e. 1718:

…… the markets being uncertain in this kingdom ………… most thinking intelligent people are of the opinion that lands here must fall soon …. Chiefly by reason that a great many of the inhabitants and tenants of that part of the country are going to America and leaving their habitation and lands which must of necessity reduce the rents very low in all of the northern counties.

 

This is an important source because it gives some insight into conditions in this part of the county in the early years of the eighteenth century. The reference to emigration is interesting because 1718 was the year when there was a substantial exodus of Scottish Presbyterians to New England from the Aghadowey/Garvagh area of the county.

Another interesting document is a letter from the tenants of a number of townlands on the Bellaghy estate which were situated on the higher ground in the western part of the estate in the parishes of Maghera and Killelagh - see map. A transcript of the letter is shown below. Click here to see a copy of the actual letter and its signatories [PRONI: LR1/1010/1/A19].  The signatories to the letter will be of use to anyone researching their family history in this part of the county.

The Right Honorable
The Estates Commissioner
Dublin

Gentlemen,

            We the undersigned, comprising the greater number of tenants in the townlands of Fallalea, Fallaghloon, Halfgayne, Ballyknock and Lisnamuck on the Bellaghy Estate in the Barony of Loughinsholin and County of Londonderry, do hereby request you to exercise the powers conferred on you by Sections 43 and those immediately subsequent thereto of the Land Act of 1909 for the purchase by you (compulsorily if necessary) of the portion of said estate comprised in said townlands with a view to a resale of same to us. We make the said request upon these grounds: -

  1. All said five townlands are “congested” within the meaning of Section 20 of the Irish Land Act of 1909, more than half the holdings in each of the said townlands being under £7 in rateable valuation, and much of the land being held in rundale or intermixed fields.
  2. Many of the holdings are miserably small. Many of us have to eke out a livelihood for ourselves and our families on holdings less than £3 in annual value, and in several cases the valuations are as low as £1 or £1. 10/=. In addition to this, the land is bad, being to a large extent ground which we or our fathers have reclaimed from overcut bog, and as well as the townlands in question are situated high up towards the mountain, the climate is lateand uncertain. We are really worse off than in several of the “scheduled congested districts”, because in the poorest of those the tenants are usually able to supplement their farming by fishing or local industries, whereas we have nothing but the land on which to support ourselves. Indeed, nothing but terrible hard work and unfailing attention and economy would have enabled us to hold on to our little patches o well as we have done.
  3. There are large tracts of untenanted grazing land on the estate, which could be made available to render our small holdings economic. In several cases up to 40 or fifty years ago grazing rights were appurtenant to the holdings, but the landlords deprived the tenants of these rights, and thereby rendered their position much more difficult and wretched.
  4. In case you purchase these townlands, we will be willing to purchase from you our holdings, with such additions as you may be able to make thereto, pursuant to the provisions of the Irish Land Acts at such prices and upon such terms and conditions as you may deem fair and equitable.
  5. The owners of the esate are the Countess of Strafford, Lord Deramore, Sir H. B. Meredith and J. P. Steele Esq. and their agent is Sydney J. Lyle Esq. whose office is at Ballycastle in the County of Antrim. Our solicitor in the matter is Louis J. Walsh of Ballycastle, County Antrim.

Dated this second day of March 1910.

The letter was signed by a large numbers of persons covering three attached pages. A number of these persons were only able to make their mark - see copy of original letter.

It looks as if they were unsuccessful. These same townlands appear in the Land Purchase Commission Sale of the Bellaghy Estate in 1929. Click here for details of this sale.

Clearly, these are only two examples. Again a search of the database of estate records extant for the county will produce some 23 hits which range across the estates of the Clothworkers. Drapers, Grocers, Ironmongers, Salters and Vintners.

Copyright 2010 W. Macafee.