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Headfort Set of Books of Survey & Distribution: Inchiquin Barony
by Michael Mac Mahon

The Headfort Set of the Books of Survey & Distribution or ‘Taylor Books’, as they are sometimes called, is a collection of duplicate copies of the official or certified set destroyed in a fire in the Surveyor General’s office in 1711. The set was discovered in the early nineteenth century in the library of Thomas Taylor, Marquis of Headfort, at Kells, Co. Meath.1 Included in the collection was a set of three volumes, sometimes referred to as ‘the third set’ or ‘The Earl of Strafford’s Survey’. These volumes cover the four counties of Galway, Mayo, Roscommon and Clare, the last two comprised in a single volume. These and other books in the Headfort collection were purchased by the Commissioners of Woods, Forests and Land Revenues in 1837, and deposited for many years in the Quit Rent Office. They are now held in the National Archives. They differ from the certified set published (ongoing since 1949) by the Irish Manuscript Commission for certain counties (Clare 1967) in so far as they give the names of the transplanters and the location and number of profitable acres allotted to each following ‘final settlement’ i.e. the final determination of the Athlone Court. This was the notorious Court of Claims set up in 1654 to adjudicate on the level of guilt of the ‘rebel landowners’ and the amount of land they would receive in Connacht or Co. Clare. Aside from its obvious genealogical value, the new information greatly expands the picture of land ownership in Clare in the middle of the seventeenth century. It should be noted, however, that some of the names of the 1641 proprietors are missing from the Headfort volumes; also disposals made by way of grants and other settlements subsequent to the Restoration of Charles II appear to be confined to those of the so-called ‘Connacht Purchasers’ and persons restored by special provision such as Murrough O’Brien, earl of Inchiquin. Those omissions aside, the Headfort books are a valuable source of information on the transplantees and their grants in Connacht and Clare. Indeed, one could scarcely find a better commendation than that of Dr. Simington himself, editor of the official set, when he states ‘for the detailed history of the Commonwealth Land Settlement, Headfort is indispensable.’2 The entries in the Headfort volumes are divided into seven columns: (1) the name of the proprietor in 1641, (2) the denominations of land, (3) number of profitable acres, (4) name of transplanter to whom allotted by the Athlone Court, (5) number of profitable acres allotted (6) to whom granted by decree, certificate or patent, (7) number of profitable acres granted.

Note - Where extracts from the Headfort set occur in Simington’s Transplantation to Connacht they are indicated by the letter ‘H’.

1. The founder of that family, another Thomas Taylor, had come to Ireland during the 1650s from Sussex at the request of Parliament to oversee the financing of Cromwell’s Irish campaign. He afterwards worked as a cartographer assisting Sir William Petty with the mapping of Ireland.

2. Robert C. Simington, Transplantation to Connacht 1654-1658, (Irish University Press), 1971, p. 6.

Image above shows detail from map from Atlas and cyclopedia of Ireland. Part I: A comprehensive delineation of the thirty-two counties, with a, map of each. Part II: The general history by Joyce, P. W. (Patrick Weston), 1827-1914; Sullivan, A. M. (Alexander Martin), 1830-1884. Story of Ireland; Nunan, P. D Published 1905