Rentals in the Townland of Halfgayne on the Bellaghy Estate
The townland of Halfgayne 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. In this example you will see how rent rolls for this townland might help in the tracing of families here back to the eighteenth century.
Rentals of 1718 and 1729 showed that the entire townland of Halfgayne had been leased by a John Kerr at a rent of £4 per annum. He would then have sublet the land within the townland to tenants who were almost certainly Irish families. The townland was not granted as a perpetuity lease to Kerr in 1734. There is no further mention of the townland in leases or rent rolls until 1775/6 when it is listed with all of the other townlands in a rent roll of the estate at that date. Below are two tables showing the names of the tenants in the townland in 1775/6 & 1789 and in 1829, 1843 & 1860.
RENTALS 1775/76 & 1789 [PRONI: D2094/51 & 75]
RENTALS 1829, 1843 & 1860 [PRONI: D1062/1/2]
I think the surname McCowell later became Campbell and McCampbell. I also suspect that after 1734 the tenants were probably given 21 or 31 year leases. Remember that until 1778 Roman Catholics could not hold leases of more than 31 years. By 1829 all tenants were tenants-at-will. Note also that the names listed for the nineteenth-century rents appear in the order that they are given in the rent book. In other words they are not matched, exactly, against the eighteenth century leases.
This list of names is useful in that it can be matched against other lists of names for the townland dating c. 1860, 1833 and 1831. The 1789 and 1775/6 lists are even more useful in that they take us back to a period when lists of Irish names are often difficult to find in the standard sources such as the 1740 Protestant Householders’ Returns, 1766 Religious Census and 1796 Flaxgrowers List. Furthermore, these standard sources do not always list names at townland level.
However, we must not forget that the names listed in eighteenth-century rent rolls are usually the names of the main leaseholders. Early rent rolls often only gave the name of the first name in the lease, the others are often referred to as & Co. Also, as the population grew during the second half of the eighteenth century and leases were renewed new farmers were added to the new lease. Remember also that there were probably other families not listed in the rent roll who were sub-tenants of some of the lessees. Some of these were probably sons or brothers of the leaseholders.
By the nineteenth century landlords were less inclined to give long leases, instead tenants were treated as tenants-at-will, their tenancy lasting one year but usually renewed yearly. However, on some estates such tenants were easily evicted. This does not seem to have been the case, to any great extent, on the Bellaghy Estate, providing the rent was paid reasonably promptly.
The rent rolls for 1829, 1843 and 1860 reflect the fact that all tenants in the townland were tenants-at-will during this period. It is interesting to compare the names listed for this period in the table above with those listed in the 1831 Census Returns, the 1833 Tithe Applotment Book and the 1858/59 Griffith’s [Tenement] Valuation for the townland. The table below shows the names listed in the 1831 Census Returns and the 1833 Tithe Applotment for the townlandBook.
Below is a copy of the page from the 1858/59 Griffith’s Printed [Tenement] Valuation relating to Halfgayne.
Note that it is not too difficult to trace families back to the Griffith’s [Tenement] Valuation of 1858/59 and locate them within the townland on the accompanying valuation map shown below.
You can then work your way backwards from this point to the rent rolls of the eighteenth century. However, making a definite connection with a name will require other sources some of which, such as church registers, may not be available. At the very least the rent rolls will indicate if a particular surname or forename was present in the townland during the eighteenth century.
Copyright 2010 W. Macafee.