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The History and Topography of the County of Clare by James Frost

Part III. History of the County of Clare
Chapter 22. Act of Settlement—Court of Claims

Survey and maps of the County made by Sir William Petty; Book of Forfeitures and Distributions

With a view to the apportionment of the County Clare amongst the new owners, according to the terms of the Act of Settlement, it was necessary that the acreable contents, as well as the quality of the soil of the several townlands should be ascertained. A survey of the County which had been made by order of Strafford during his Viceroyalty, although a very complete one as regards the area of the various townlands, was found to be useless for the purpose of partition, because no maps accompanied it. [3] Hence Sir William Petty was ordered to make a survey, which was to give the quantity of land in each townland, parish, and barony, distinguishing the profitable from the unprofitable. Maps, on a scale of forty perches to an inch, were to be also traced out. Unfortunately, by a fire which burned down the Surveyor General’s office in 1711, many of the sheets containing the survey of Clare were destroyed. Copies of those that remain, comprehending the maps of the baronies of Upper and Lower Bunratty, Corcomroe, and Moyarta, have been made and yet exist, but of the remaining divisions of the county, none of the maps have survived to our time. As far as these maps go, they are of great interest as giving the names and boundaries of the townlands and parishes, as well as the topographical state of the county at the time they were laid down. They were accompanied by books of reference, in which were set down the names of the old proprietors, and the quantity of profitable and waste ground in each townland. After some years, and after many changes and removals of the new owners from one denomination to another, a book was constructed upon the basis of the survey, called the Book of Forfeitures and Distributions. In the following pages will be found a transcript of this book as far as it relates to Clare. It is taken from the original which, together with the Down Survey maps, are kept in the Public Record Office, Dublin. In a great many instances, the names of the townlands set down in the maps and index, are different from those by which they are known in our day, but every exertion has been made to identify them and connect them with the Denominations as given on the Ordnance Survey maps. Those who were employed by Sir William Petty to survey the country being chiefly Englishmen, they could only write the names of places phonetically, in accordance with the sounds, in the Irish language, in which they were designated to them by the natives. They were further made, owing to incorrect information, sometimes to group several townlands under one designation entirely different from the proper names. All this makes it impossible now to reconcile, in every instance, their nomenclature with that of the Ordnance surveyors. A quit rent was placed upon the arable parts of the newly granted lands, and soon after the survey had been concluded, and the share of each new owner assigned to him in 1666, and following years, the quit rent payable out of every denomination, was fixed in such a way that the waste parts were exempted from payment. To ascertain the waste portions, two surveyors had been sent in 1658, to make a personal inspection of every townland in the county. These were George Purdon, and Giles Vandeleur, ancestors of the well-known and respectable families of that name who yet reside in the county. [4]

In perusing the lists of those to whom the lands of Clare were granted under the Acts of Settlement and Explanation, it will be noticed that the greater part of the county was given to the O’Briens and to those whom we have previously described as innocent papists.