The Ulster Plantation in the Counties of Armagh and Cavan, 1608-1641

A Book Report by Doug Hollingsworth


I recently was able to gain access to a copy of The Ulster Plantation in the Counties of Armagh and Cavan, 1608-1641, a book published by R.J. Hunter in 2012, but based upon research supporting Dr. Hunter’s 1969 thesis.

There was only one Hollingsworth reference in the index a brief mention of Capt. Hollingworth. However, the book contains the following mentions of the Cope family, Richard Rolleston, Michael Obbyns, the Brownlows, and some of the other undertakers in Armagh:

Page 51—Richard Rolleston, William Powell whose estate Rolleston subsequently acquired, came from Staffordshire. Rolleston, a clergyman, claimed income of 100 (pounds sterling) per annum, (and) property of 500 (pounds sterling).

Page 69—(The) number of Englishmen required by 1 November 1611 was 396, Carew’s (Sir George Carew) total only just exceeded one-third of stipulation… Heron, Matchett and Stanhowe as well as estate previously Powell’s (now Rolleston’s) being noticeably defaulting.

Page 88—Bodley’s Survey, 1613
Those which John Brownlow brought over, which were 40 or 50, by reason of the hardship of the country (had) all forsaken him…on Anthony Cope’s estate no tenants had “as yet come over”…

Page 89—Rolleston had erected a windmill and Brownlow was about to do so. Cope’s house, made of “hewn stone with clay”, had fallen and was being rebuilt “with lime”. On Rolleston’s acquired estate 200,000 bricks were being manufactured…in three cases, Dillon, Matchett, and Rolleston estates, there are references to there being stock and goods upon the lands.

Page 100—In Armagh three England undertakers, Dillon, Cope, and Brownlowe received concealments grants in 1617 (Concealments granted were issued if property had been missed and unallocated in earlier surveys).

Page 112—In Armagh we (Allyne) found 238 men…(1618)..four undertakers in Oneilland produced no men at all for musterage: Cope, Brownlow, Stanhowe, and Heron.

Page 116—Cope and Sacheverall had large bawns (a fold for livestock) of either lime, or stone and clay, each 180 feet square. Each had four flankers. Cope’s arrangement…being to design these for habitation rising to three storeys.

Page 117—Some had produced small settlements…Obbyns’ Portadown was at this stage. More typically, a grouping of four houses around his (the estate owner’s) own house and bawn. All of the undertakers, save Stanhowe, had caused small clusters of houses to be built. Thus, for example, Sacheverall had twelve houses, Rolleston nine, and Cope fourteen.

Page 118—(In 1618 Nicholas Pynmar) was instructed to administer the oath of supremacy yet only some of Cope’s and St. John’s and all of Brownlow’s tenants are stated having taken it. Thus he either neglected to profess the oath widely or encountered opposition (Comment—many of the undertenants may have been Irish.)

Page 141—Rolleston who had mortgaged his estate to Sir Francis Annesley in 1618 had not recovered it in 1620 when the sum involved was due to be repaid…Two of the nine owners, St. John and Obbyns, the latter then “a prisoner in England” were non-resident. Annesley was also absentee, but Rolleston resided on the estate.

Page 142—(In 1620) Thus on the Rolleston estate the commissioners noted that the buildings were “as in Pinner survey but decayed”.

Brownlow had replaced his ad hoc bawn of 1618-19 with one of the required types. Cope has a “strong house’ of substantial dimensions as well as a bawn with inhabited flankers elsewhere.

Page 143—This (about 700 adult males in 1620) is a remarkably high figure, representing about a 75 per cent increase since Pynnar’s inquiry. The colony was by no means evenly distributed. Brownlow, Sacheveral and Cope had the largest number…irregularities in the granting of leases were noted for Obbyns, ‘a poore man’.

Page 144--…evidence of the types of tradesmen present is also available for Cope’s estate. The report refers to ‘sundry cottagers of occupations’, and amongst those listed in his certificate as undertenants were a shoemaker, a chandler, and two smiths.

The commissioners finding on the presence of Irish in the barony may be summarized as follows: Brownlow, 24 families, Obbyns, 18 families, Cope, 40 families, Annesley, 12 families.

Page 168—One townland on the Rolleston estate, lapsed to an Englishman in 1612, had undergone a succession of changes before coming to John Tench of Drogheda in August, 1615. In 1621 Tench received a decree against Rolleston, and in May 1628 sub-let the land two Irish tenants, O’Quins, on a yearly basis.

Page 169—The fortunes of Michael Obbyns who had acquired Powell’s estate from Rolleston were particularly dramatic. It has been seen that in 1622 he was ‘a prisoner in England’ and his estate was neglected. He had been unable to pay an English debt of 200 (pounds sterling) to a certain Robert Horsman decreed against him in 1621 and had been outlawed at the instigation of his creditor. Accordingly possession for the Crown was taken of his Armagh lands and these were granted in1626 to Horsman until the debt should be paid. Obbyns died in September 1629 and the outcome of the judgment was that part of the estate, about three-quarters, was sold. His widow and son took out a patent of the remainder in July 1631 and this remained in Obbyns’ hands up to 1641. It would seem that Richard Cope, who died in 1628 and was the brother of Anthony the undertaker acquired the dispossessed portion because his sons own much of it in 1641.

Page 177—Four names can be added from the Obbyns and Cope lands (originally Powell) in the Portadown area from a surviving fragment of the 1634 subsidy roll.

Page 186—Mountnorris (Sir Francis Annesley), whose political downfall occurred in 1635-36 just before the commission turned its attention to Ulster, did not receive a new patent because one of the estates in Armagh, Rolleston’s, in which he had an interest had become a focus of a dispute at this time. It appears that in 1618 Rolleston mortgaged his property to Mountnorris (the Sir Francis Annesley), for 400 (pounds sterling), to Rolleston’s use until 2 May 1620 and afterwards to Annesley’s if the money was not repaid at this date. Annesley took possession and received a patent, not then enrolled, in November 1631. In 1635 Rolleston commenced “a tedious suite” in the court of chancery for the recovery of lands. The Rolleston argument appears to have been that the redemption money had been tendered by Rolleston had been refused and that Mountnorris’s behavior in the whole affair had become high-handed. Mountnorris countered that his title was unquestionable, otherwise he would have not had his patent in 1631. In 1636 Rolleston petitioned (Thomas) Wentworth (Lord Deputy of Ireland) and the Irish council to adjudicate the dispute with the result that ‘about’ May 1637 (Mountnorris) was obliged to surrender the property.

Page 219--Irish living on Armagh estates 1624:

Rolleston—7     tenants 5      servants 2
Cope—22          tenants 17    servants 5
Obbyns—43     tenants 35    servants 8

Page 259—In 1618 Rolleston mortgaged his entire estate in Armagh to Annsley for 400 (pounds sterling) some 9 townlands on the Cope estate in Armagh were apparently mortgaged in 1633 to Mountnorris for 1000 (pounds sterling).

Page 274—Tench, who was from Drogheda, acquired a lease of a townland on Rolleston’s estate in August 1615 leased by Rolleston in February 1612 to a tenant who three years later sold it to another, who, in turn, had sold it to Tench. Rolleston in 1621 lost a suit against Tench for possession of the land on which there was a mill.

Page 286—(In 1622) Sir Anthony Cope received the advowson of Shankill rectory.



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