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The Cromwellian Settlement
by Catherine O’ Donovan

The execution of Charles I in 1649, on the orders of Oliver Cromwell, brought the English Civil War to an end. England became a Commonwealth or republic ruled by parliament with Cromwell as Lord Protector. Cromwell and his army of well trained and experienced soldiers, called Ironsides, came to Ireland in August 1649 with the intention of subduing the rebellion and stamping out all opposition to parliament. Cromwell, a Puritan, ‘believed he was an instrument of divine retribution for (alleged) atrocities committed by Catholics against Protestants in 1641 and he accordingly gave orders to deny mercy to Catholics.’ His campaign was savage and is remembered for the slaughter of women and children as well as unarmed captives. He captured Drogheda and slaughtered the garrison. At Wexford the townspeople as well as the garrison were put to death. Cork, Kinsale, Bandon, Youghal and Clonmel had surrendered before he returned to England in May 1650.

Oliver Cromwell
Oliver Cromwell

His son-in-law, Henry Ireton, continued the campaign. He captured Waterford, then Athlone and Portumna and finally attacked Limerick which surrendered after a four-month siege. Ireton died in November 1651 and was replaced by General Ludlow. Ludlow proceeded to break down the resistance of the remaining garrisons. Galway was the last to surrender, in April 1652, after which the rebellion was declared over. Government agents were employed to round up beggars, widows and orphans to be transported to the sugar plantations of the West Indies where they became servants and indentured slaves. The Puritan Parliamentarians persecuted not only Catholics but Ulster Presbyterians, members of the Church of Ireland and those of other minority religions. Priests were hanged, exiled or transported to the West Indies and Puritan preachers were brought over from England to replace them.

Parliament was now faced with settling its enormous debts. The English army in Ireland had not been paid for 18 months and the adventurers were demanding to be recompensed. The adventurers were so called because they lent or adventured money to parliament, a decade earlier, in response to an act called the Adventurers’ Act. They were members of Parliament, merchants and tradesmen. Cromwell himself was one; he advanced £600. The money was required to raise an army to subdue the rebels in Ireland. The adventurers were offered two and a half million acres of Irish land, which was to be confiscated at the end of the rebellion, as security of their money. Suppliers of provisions and ammunition to the army also had to be paid. Irish land was to be used to settle all these debts. The lands of the defeated Irish and Old English Catholics were declared confiscated and preparations began for its distribution to the various people to whom the government was indebted. In order to facilitate the redistribution a survey of the land was begun.

Part of the country, including Clare, had been surveyed during the 1630s under Strafford. The Gross Survey was the initial undertaking in preparation for the transplantation, very little is known about it. The final and most important was the Down Survey carried out under the direction of William Petty. It was so called because the information collected was noted down on maps for the first time. The earlier surveys were merely descriptive lists of the landscape and its features.

The act for settling Ireland was passed by the English parliament in August 1652. While the land was being surveyed the government was deciding who should forfeit land. Degrees of guilt were established and penalties defined. The result was that owners of Irish land, whether they were Catholic, Protestant or Old English were to suffer. Some were dispossessed totally; others forfeited one fifth, one third, two thirds or three quarters of their land depending on whether their part in the rebellion was a major or minor one. They were to be recompensed from forfeited land west of the Shannon by an area equal to the proportion they were entitled to retain. For example, Donogh O’ Callaghan of County Cork forfeited three quarters of his 12,000 acre estate.
He was assigned 3,000 acres in East Clare in lieu of the proportion he was entitled to retain (he lost all his Cork land). One of the Clare landowners who was forced to make way for him was Donogh O’ Malony of Kilgorey who forfeited 166 acres and was assigned in turn, 41 acres in Kilseily parish nearby. Some were dispossessed merely for being Catholic, while many Protestant landowners who were considered to be less of a security risk, were allowed to retain their land on payment of a heavy fine.

The province of Connacht and the county of Clare were set aside for the habitation of the Irish where they were to transplant themselves, their families, dependents, livestock and goods before 1 May, 1654.’ The penalty for not transplanting was death by hanging. Connacht and Clare were chosen as the area of transplantation because they were surrounded by water, (the sea, the Shannon, the Erne and the bogs of Leitrim) except for a ten mile stretch of land which was to be protected by a series of forts. A one mile strip, called The Mile Line, around the perimeter of Connacht and Clare was reserved for military settlers ‘to confine the transplanted and to cut them off from relief by sea.’ The Irish were forbidden to live in the towns of Connacht. 500 acres around Clarecastle and lands of ‘a mile compass’ around Carrigaholt and Leamaneh were reversed for the English.

The resident landowners of Connacht and Clare also came within the category of transplanter. They too had their holdings reduced and were often transplanted from one parish to another. Some Clare landowners were transplanted to Galway, Mayo and Roscommon. The native landowners regarded the transplanters from other provinces as enemies and encouraged their followers to give them a rough reception. Some of the principal landowners who were transplanted to Clare and their counties of origin were:

Ellen Cheevers, Waterford; Marcus Cransborough, Waterford; John Ryan, Tipperary; Col. Garret Fitzmaurice, Kerry; James Bourke, Limerick; James D’arcy, Galway; Sir Valentine Browne, Kerry; Donogh O’ Callaghan, Cork and Edward Butler, Kilkenny. 44,210 names were recorded on certificates of transplantation by 1 May, 1654.

There were three categories of transplanter; proprietors, tenants and landless. The first were to have lands assigned to them corresponding in quality to those they had left; the second were to be assigned land as tenants of the state proportionate to the number and kind of livestock they brought with them e.g. for each cow three acres, for each horse four acres, etc.

The landless were to be allowed to settle on state-owned land provided they were not within ten miles of the Shannon, or they could remain where they were to become ‘hewers of wood and drawers of water’ to the Cromwellian settlers. Ploughmen and other skilled workers were excluded from the penalties of the act.

The initial step taken by an Irish landowner was to appear before delinquency courts where he was interrogated about his political conduct over the previous ten years thus determining his degree of guilt and the amount of land he was to forfeit. His local revenue commissioner then issued him with a Transplanter’s Certificate, a licence to cross the Shannon. The certificate gave a brief description of the transplanter and those travelling with him, the type and number of livestock and other goods he proposed to take with him. He then appeared before commissioners in Loughrea who allotted him land in Clare or Connacht on a temporary basis according to his entitlement. He would have had to appear at court in Athlone a year or two later when he would have been given permanent title to his Connacht or Clare land. This was called his final settlement.

The Government offered every facility to those who obeyed orders and moved by the appointed day. The transplanters did not have to pay tolls for their cattle, neither did they have to pay rent on their land until their claims were finalised by the Athlone courts.

Some of the dispossessed joined the Tories in the woods and hills. They were outlawed by the Government but some of them were regarded as heroes by the Irish. The landless Irish who did not transplant risked their lives by giving the Tories food and shelter. They became a serious menace to the new planters, raiding their land, attacking and killing them. The Government offered large rewards for their capture so that Tory hunting and Tory murder became common pursuits. Members of the army were the first to be settled on the land vacated by the Irish, followed by the adventurers. The last adventurer was settled on 1 May 1659 marking the end of the transplantation.

The transplantation proved to be an enormous administrative problem. Acts and orders were constantly being reversed and revised, members of the army sold their debentures (documents entitling them to confiscated land) against orders, the supply of land was insufficient to meet the demands of those entitled to it culminating in what was officially described as ‘frustration, fraud and injustice.’

In May 1660, Charles II was restored to the thrones of England, Scotland and Ireland to the great joy of the majority of the people. Puritan rule had been extremely harsh. Catholics and others were again allowed to practise their religion in peace. Under the Acts of Settlement and Explanation the confiscation of Irish land decreed by the Adventurers’ Act was confirmed but people who could prove they were innocent of any part in the rebellion were to have their lands restored. A Court of Claims was set up to hear their pleas and a small number, mostly Old English, succeeded in being restored to their former lands. Very few Irish had their lands restored because the courts were abolished before their claims could be heard. The courts sat for only eight months in 1663 during which they heard 829 of the 7/8000 claims submitted. Although the Transplantation existed on paper it took so long to get under way that by the time of the Restoration many people had not moved and were restored to their old lands. Whether people moved or not can only be discovered by detailed local investigation into the history of various families.

A new Ireland emerged after the Cromwellian Plantation. Land ownership and political authority passed from the older inhabitants to the new colonists, from Irish and Old English Catholics to a landed ascendancy of English Protestants who were to control the life of Ireland until the twentieth century

Map of Clare as laid out in 1654 to receive the  Irish of the three other provinces
Map of Clare as laid out in 1654 to receive the Irish
of the three other provinces. Click on map to enlarge.

Further Reading:

Prendergast, John P., The Cromwellian Settlement of Ireland, Dublin (1922).
Dunlop, R., Ireland under the Commonwealth, Manchester (1913).
Simington, Robert C., The Transplantation to Connacht 1654-58, Irish University Press (1970).
MacCurtain, Margaret, Tudor and Stuart Ireland, Dublin (1972).
Books of Survey and Distribution 1636 - 1703 :Vol. IV. Co.Clare Irish MSS Comm. (1967).
McLysaght, Edward., A Short Study of a Transplanted Family in the Seventeenth Century, Dublin (1935).
Frost, James, The History and Topography of the County of Clare, London 1893.
Berresford Ellis, Peter, Hell or Connacht, London 1975.

The Books of Survey and Distribution contain a fascinating record of the old Gaelic landowners, the quantity of land they forfeited and the transplanters, both from Clare and across the Shannon, to whom it was granted under the Restoration land settlement.This is a copy of a page from the Clare book. It shows the owners of land in the townlands of the parish of Killno in the barony of Tulla. On the left is the landowner in 1641 before the Cromwellian confiscation and transplantation. On the right hand side appears the transplanted either from Clare or from another province. In between is the townland, with a description of the land and the number of acres and then the quantity of that land granted to the newcomer.

Clare County Library wishes to thank Clare Local Studies Project for preparation of text for this publication.