Cromwell maps Londonderry as rebels sent to ‘hell or Connaught’

THREE hundred and sixty years ago this summer a scheme was hatched by Oliver Cromwell and his republican colleagues that ultimately resulted in an iron chain being laid the length and breadth of the North West as part of the largest scale mapping that had ever been attempted at the time.
The County of Londonderry.The County of Londonderry.
The County of Londonderry.

The genesis of the Down Survey - a chain was laid ‘down’ and a scale map of Ireland produced - came after more than ten bloody years in both Ireland and Britain.

Although, the survey was actually conducted between 1655 and 1658 after Cromwell’s ascension to the position of Lord Protector, the idea was originally formulated in 1653.

The previous twelve years had seen thousands of Protestants slaughtered in the Irish Catholic rebellion of 1641; two civil wars in England; the execution of Charles I in 1649; Cromwell’s own September 11 at Drogheda in 1649; and his notorious subjugation of all military opposition in Ireland between 1649 and 1653.

After this conquest the process of compensating the adventurers who had made it possible with the land of Catholic landowners who had shown any disloyalty whatsoever from 1641 onwards began in earnest with the Acts of Settlement (1652) and Satisfaction (1653.) “To Hell of Connaught,” they were told.

It was in 1653 also that the idea for a survey to itemise all the forfeited land available was developed.

An initial Civil Survey, based on the records of the original owners was conducted in 1654 but the new settlers felt it wasn’t good enough as it was based on records of what the dispossessed said they had owned.

The newcomers demanded the Down Survey, as the process of transplanting the Irish Catholic landowners gathered pace.

According to academics at Trinity College who have collated a variety of valuable 17th century sources in one place as part of the Down Survey Project: “The resulting maps, made at a scale of 40 perches to one inch (the modern equivalent of 1:50,000), were the first systematic mapping of a large area on such a scale attempted anywhere.

“The primary purpose of these maps was to record the boundaries of each townland and to calculate their areas with great precision. The maps are also rich in other detail showing churches, roads, rivers, castles, houses and fortifications. Most towns are represented pictorially and the cartouches, the decorative titles, of each map in many cases reflect a specific characteristic of each barony.”

The chain was laid down in the hinterland of the relatively new City of Londonderry - born in 1613 - and included several familiar Baronies.

Tirkeerin comprised the modern Waterside and much of its hinterland.

Describing the territory William Petty’s map makers wrote: “The quallity thereof is arrable and good pasture with bogg and some smale loughs. On the Northwest of the Barony and the South parte is course mountaine pasture mixed with some arrable.

“There is at Coloagh some small houses, on Killewolle there is a fair house and a church, on Tullyvarries some small houses.

“There is on Tulletrane a church, on Ballynamaddy a church, at Cumber a church and some cabbins, all of which are more particularly mentioned in the parishes whereunto they belong.

“On the Northwest of the River of Loghfoile is Scituated the Citty of Londonderry, taking its name from the Cittyrens of London who purchased the land now called the County of Londonderry, and built on it the said Citty which is not inferior to any Towne or Citty in Ireland for order of building and spaciousness of streets.

“There is a very faire Marckett Place neare the midst of the Citty, it hath a strong wall round it with 8 flankers and 4 gates.

“On the South of the Citty the River Loghfoile cometh up to the wall where there is a Key unto which small shipps do come.

“This Citty hath the same charter and observeth the same customs as the Citty of London doth. The aforesaid Barony is watered with Loghfoile which is navigable for vessells of 2 or 3 hundred tunne and is very beneficial for ffishing.

“The River of Ffaughanwater riseing out of the mountaine joyning on Strabane Barony, passing in many branches, meets in one at Cumber Parish and so runneth through the Barony into Loghfoile.”

Bordering Tirkeerin and comprising the modern day Borough of Limavady, was the Barony of Kenoght.

The military cartographers wrote: “The quality of the soyle is generally course mountainous pasture and some arable and good pasture on the North part of the Barony with bog and sandy hills which is more particularly described in the parish plats.

“The improvements therein are on the Hamberdashers Proportion a Castle, on Ballikelly a castle, with some other improvements which are mentioned in the parishes whereunto they belong.

“This Barony is watered with the Roe Water and severall small streames issueing out betweene the mountaines. It containes the parishes of Templefinlaggan, part of Dromcrosse, Baltiagh, Ardmaghilligan alias Tamloghard, Bonogher, Bevevy, Banagher, part of Aghalow, part of Dongevan.”

To the west of Tirkeerin were the parishes of Donoghkiddy, Leckpatrick, Camos and Urney, which were all found in the nearest part of the Barony of Strabane, bordering Tirkeerin.

“The quallity of the said landes is generally mountainous for the most part pasture and some arable, bog and wood. This Barony is watered with pleasant rivers running through it and in the meares thereof; the most remarkeable and into with the most of the rest poure out their streames is the River Loghfoyle soe called as farr up as the Towne of Strabane neare which it receaves two considerable rivers vizt: the of Morne and Ffin Water.

“This Barony containes the parishes of Bodony, Cappy, Ardstragh, Urney, Camos, Leckpatricke & Donoghkiddy. The improvement upon the forfeited landes in each of which appeare and are poynted out by the annexed indixes of observations.”

And across the River Foyle in the Northern and Western hinterland of the City of Londonderry were the Baronies of Enishowen and Raphoe.

Of the former Petty’s men wrote it “is a promontorie haveinge on the East the Logh Foyle, on the West with Logh Swilly, on the North with immense Northerne Ocean, and on the South it only joynes to the maine lande of the Liberties of Londonderry and Barony of Rafoe.

“The quallity of the soyle of the said baronie is arable and pastureable mountaines with some bogg. Theres noe forfeited landes, but Church Landes in this Baronie which lye in the following parishes vizt: Movill, Templemore, Deserteene, Clamany, Colduffe, Clancae, Donagh and Ffaunthen.

“In this Barony rise many rivoletts which fall into the sea ere they take leave of it.

“Theres divers castles standing on the unforfeited part of this Baronie such as stand neare unto the admeasured lines are those following vizt: White Castle, Red Castle, Greene Castle, Braghycarricke Castle & Buncha, Inchy and Bert Castles & Stone Houses and Towne. The improvements upon the Church Lands are in the prefixed parish descriptions mentioned.”

And of Raphoe the verdict was as follows: “The quallity of the soyle is good and generally profitable consisting of arable and pasture chiefely. Some woody land there is, which how advantageous both for shelter and ornament and use every man knowes.

“There is some bog but not very much, yet that little that there is for the most part turfy, soe that at some tymes of the year it is profitable and at all tymes fitt for fuell.

“The whole Barony is finely watered, the River Ffiney glideing almost through the center thereof and Strabane water refreshing it on the Northeast side.

“Many other small rivers and rivuletts there are that sometymes cutt betwixt, and sometymes interweave themselves among the severall parishes thereof. Neither is it a place uncouth or unfrequented, for there are upon it many improvements as Castles, Churches, Mills, Houses and Craghts with other conveniences, namely Briges and Highways and conteyneth these ensueing parishes vizt: Raphoe, Lifford, Tabone, Ray, Lecke, Donaghmore and Stranorlan. What else is remarkeable is to be found in the Discription of the severall parishes to which you are referred.”

According to TCD, who have complied a treasure trove of data on the 1640s and 1650s in one place as part of the Down Survey Project the creation of the maps as part of the land settlements of the Cromwell era effectively laid the foundations for the Protestant Ascendancy that would dominate Irish politics over the following centuries.