Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter IV - Section 3

Nature of tenures, general state of leases, and particular clauses therein

THE general term of leases is for three lives or thirty-one years; sometimes, but not often, three lives and thirty-one years; twenty-one years or one life; twenty-one years and a life. Some leases are for lives renewable for ever, by which many tenants have a better interest than the landlord. Bishops’ leases are also very frequent, and much property depends on this most uncomfortable and discouraging tenure in the parishes of Dysart, Rath, Roughan, and others. Some landlords retain a power to plant on any part of their estate, on allowing the tenant the value of his land. I do not know of any other clauses not usually in leases elsewhere. Formerly much land was let in partnership, but, from a conviction of its pernicious tendency, many proprietors have abolished this mode, and greatly encreased not only their income, but their comfort, and that of their tenantry; for it was always a fruitful source of wrangling and litigation. Few leases are let without a clause of surrender, especially those of grazing farms, to guard against injury by a fall in the price of cattle, and, as much ground was taken when cattle brought a very high price in Cork and Limerick, it is likely the uncommon fall in the price lately will induce many to avail themselves of this clause; before I left the country, I heard many express themselves of this opinion.

Fee simple estates usually sell for twenty years purchase; freehold property for sixteen or seventeen years; bishops’ leases for ten or twelve years: this marks the opinion of this wretched tenure, especially for ground wanting improvement.

A farm of corcass land in Tradree, containing about 212 acres, was lately purchased by Mr. Singleton at the astonishing price of 5l. per acre, and he paid eighteen years purchase; a few days after, there was offered by another person, for a lease of it, five guineas per acre, and to deposit a year’s rent.

The Earl of Egremont gives no encouragement to resident improving tenants; the highest, unimproving, middleman bidder, gets every preference; I am well informed, that his Lordship loses several thousand pounds a year by this antiquated and mistaken mode. The rent of land varies so much, that it would be almost impossible to ascertain it; but, that there has been a very rapid encrease within the last ten years, is too evident to require much detail: land near Newmarket, that let ten years ago for from 20s. to 26s. per acre, now lets for 3l. and three guineas; in every other part of the county an equal rise has taken place. Corcass land, that now lets for five pounds, and five guineas, was let twenty years ago for 26s. an acre; and a large tract, the estate of Sir Edward O’Brien, is let on a lease for lives at 9s. 6d. per acre, that would now let for five guineas.

In the parish of Fenlaw, and many other places, 80 or 100 acres are taken in common, and a reserve is made in the lease, that the tenant shall work any day that he is called on, under a penalty of paying double hire for a man in his place. 

Many large estates are fee farm grants. Tradree was a grant from Cromwell to General Ingoldsby, extending along the Shannon and Fergus from Clare to Bunratty, and intended to extend a mile in breadth from the river, but it has been pushed much farther into the country. Tradition says, it was the private property of Brian Boroimhe, whence the name Tradree, the land of the king.

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