<<Irish Info                 The Plantation of Munster              

 Source: "Ireland 1478 - 1610" by M.E. Collins


 The Plantation of Munster: Planning
Ideas about plantation were in the air in the 1580s.  Already a number of English settlers led by Grenville and St. Leger had settled west of Cork, and these men were also involved with their friend Sir Walter Raleigh in the first the attempts to settle part of North America, named Virginia after the Queen.  The death of Desmond and the confiscation of his estates opened up the possibility of a profitable exploitation of land in Ireland.  This would suit the government by establishing islands of English civilization in the midst of the Irish who would, it was hoped, learn from their example.  It would also provide a ready-made and relatively inexpensive garrison to protect Munster against a possible invasion by Spain.  After several years of growing hostility, relations between England and Spain had finally broken down in 1585, and Philip II had begun to collect a great fleet of ships to invade that country and depose the Elizabeth.  The Armada did not sail until 1588, but, from 1586, English officials were aware that it was being prepared and were taking precautions against it.
   Early in 1584 Sir John Perrot was appointed Deputy and he arrived in June.  A hot- tempered, quarrelsome man, he greatly resembles Henry VIII whose natural son he was said to be.  He was instructed to begin organizing a plantation and he appointed a commission containing Wallop, Sir Valentine Browne and others to discover which land was now at the government's disposal.  The commissioners set out on a tour of inspection, traveling on horseback over bogs, mountains and swollen rivers.  They wrote reports to Burghley in which they commented on the richness of the land, reminding the Minister of the dangers they, and especially the fat and elderly Sir Valentine, were undergoing in the Queen's service and of the rewards they were hoping for.  They worked slowly, however, not completing their report till October 1585, which dismayed Perrot, who realize that the Irish would re-establish themselves if a plantation was not made quickly.
   Meanwhile, in London, detailed plans for the plantation were being drawn up, probably by Burghley.  The final plan was issued in June 1586.  It decreed that the confiscated land should be divided into twenty seigniories or estates, each containing 12,000 acres of arable land as well as adjoining bog, mountain and waste.  These estates could be split into smaller units of 4,000 or 8,000 acres.  These seigniories were to be given to men who undertook to plant on them ninety-one English tenants and their families, each of whom would get a farm of several hundred acres, and also seventy-one household servants.  In addition, it was expected that each undertaker would bring in some craftsman, e.g. carpenters, stone-masons, and it seemed likely that the government expected to have about 8000 English people settled in Munster eventually.  Each undertaker was expected to remove all Irish people from his estate and to pay an annual rent to the government.  He was to keep three horse-soldiers and six foot and each of his tenants was to keep one foot-soldier and his equipment for the defense of the colony.
   Recruitment of men suitable to undertake these responsibilities began at once.  Government agents, including Browne, spoke to meetings of the nobility and gentry in a number of English counties, chiefly Devon, Cornwall, Hampshire, Cheshire and Lancashire.  Why these areas were picked is not clear, but maybe due to their nearness to Ireland and the involvement of several of their leading men in early Irish ventures.  These agents pointed out the advantages of settlement in Ireland for younger sons who would not inherit their father's estates.  Such men could recruit farmers from among their fatherstenants promising them bigger farms at lower rents than they could possibly hope for in a more crowded England.  The response seems to have been good and the first undertakers with their tenants began to and arrive late in 1586

The Plantation of Munster:  Practice

The situation the found was chaotic.  Tudor governments were good at drawing up plans, but were often not able to make these plans work on the spot.  The commissioners of 1584-5 had only made a general survey of the land available.  Detailed maps had to be drawn up before the undertakers could receive their seigniories.  It was only in August 1586 that orders had been given ‘for dividing and bounding into seigniories, her Majesty's attainted, escheated and concealed lands within the province of Munster and for the rating and apportioning of rents be reserved out of the same to her Highness’.  The work was slow because much of the land was overgrown with weeds and brambles and because the locals were hostile and refused to help the surveyors.  The reported that they nearly starved and the mapmaker, Francis Jobson, complained of being ‘every  hour in danger to lose my head’.  In addition the Irish Lords in many places disputed the claims of the Crown to the land.  MacCarthy Mor, for example, claimed that land around Killarney, assigned to Sir Valentine Browne, was rightly his and he pursued this claim in the courts.  As a result, the surveyors only made slow progress.
   By February 1587 only about 10 percent of the land had been mapped.  Several undertakers returned home in disgust while others settled in without full authorisation.  This led later to disputes among them about boundaries and waste land.  On most estates undertakers found Irish farmers already working and instead of driving them off, they accepted the Irish as tenants, because ‘the Irish tenant will take farms with harder conditions than any English can were will.
   In 1588 Elizabeth sent over an English judge, Sir Edward Anderson, to settle Irish claims about confiscated land.  Of the eighty-one cases he heard only one was settled in favor of the Irish claimant and this led many Irish landowners who had  previously been loyal with a deep sense of injustice.  One undertaker, Sir William Herbert wrote  to Cecil:

Our pretence in this enterprise of plantation was to establish in these parts piety, justice, inhabitation and civility with comfort and good example to the parts adjacent.  Our drift now is, being here possessed of land, to extort, make the state of things turbulent and live by prey and pay.

The Plantation of Munster: The Planters
   Despite the difficulties the plantation finally began to be effective by 1589.  Groups of undertakers, working together, were assigned land in different parts of Munster.  Sir Walter Raleigh and planters from Devon and Somerset got lands in Waterford and east Cork; Sir William Courtney, with other planters from Devon and Hampshire, got lands in Limerick; Sir Valentine Browne got lands in east Kerry.  We know something of one undertaker’s experience which may have been typical.  Henry Oughtred was a merchant and shipowner from Southampton.  He had made his fortune trading with Spain and Portugal, but war was now making this trade difficult and he became involved in a number of ventures in America.  One of his ships was used to carry grain to the army in Munster in 1581, and this may have been what turned his attention to Ireland.  He was also friendly with Perrot and with Burghley and it may have been he who drew Oughtred into forming a group of Hampshire undertakers to plant fourteen seigniories in co. Limerick.
   Oughtred began his preparations late in 1586.  A great deal of red tape was involved.  He had to get special permits to take grain, money and men out of England.  He also had to get special permits allowing him to take household goods, building materials and food supplies without paying duties on them.  Then he found that no ships were being allowed to leave the English ports because of the threatened Armada.  His ship, the Godspeed, loaded with men and provisions, was delayed and only by using his connection with Lord Burghley the Lord Treasurer, was Oughtred finally allowed to depart.
   In Munster he was assigned 12,000 acres at Moyne in Co. limerick.  It is not known what conditions he found there but they were probably bad, for he wrote two years later that he had spent over ₤600 on his lands without the smallest profit.  It is probable the land was overgrown and the castles in ruins and he may, like other planters, have employed Irish people to clear the land, plant hedges and begin cultivation.  Some planters brought in English breeds of cattle, sheep and horses and these were used to improve the native breed.  Many planners took over the old tower-houses, reroofing and repairing them, but Oughtred had built himself a manor house at Moyne where he was living in 1598.  He seems to have been slow to bring in the English settlers, having only eight tenants and sixteen household servants in 1592, and this may have been behind the difficulties with the Dublin government of which he frequently complained.  When the northern rebellion spread to Munster in 1598, Oughtred left hurriedly for England, and, like many of the first planters, he did not return, selling his lands to his neighbour, Sir George Courtney. It is impossible to be sure how many planters actually settled in Munster.  A survey in 1589 found about 600 families, which would probably mean about 3,000 individuals.  A report of 1597 spoke of ‘5,000 Englishmen besides women and childrenbeing there in 1594, which suggests that the numbers were growing steadily and may have even reached the figures planned by the government.  They had a great impact on the economy of Munster.  The quality of wool, tallow and hides exported, much of it to Bristol, grew.  Undertakers seem to have profited after their initial outlay of capital, as rents increased once the land was brought back into cultivation.  In 1598 it was said that ‘their ground was taken ten years since for 6d (21/2p) an acre and the same was let four years ago (been but ditched in quickset) for 2/6d (121/2p) an acre.  The woods of Munster attracted developers for there was a great demand for timber in England.  On Raleigh’s estate on the Blackwater a timber industry was established with sawmills to cut the wood into planks for shipbuilding and barrel staves of various sizes.  The government, too, profited, drawing rents of ₤2000 a year from Munster after 1594.
   After 1583 peace reined in Munster for fifteen years.  This, together with the task of exploiting the resources of their new estates, lulled the planters into a false sense of security.  Many of them neglected their duty of maintaining soldiers and even the government kept only a small company of horse and foot.  Spencer, who had a smaller stake in East Cork, wrote in 1598 ‘that more care was taken for profit and utility than for strength and safety’.  The colonists tended to think of any threat as being likely to come from Spain, but, in fact, it was all round them in the native population, resentful of the incomers who were exploiting their lands, violating their beliefs and rejecting their customs.  Some external spark was enough to set fire to this resentment and it was to come in 1598.


Munster, 1583

A list of charges likely to be incurred by various people involved in planting in Munster.  A glance at the gentleman’s overall charge shows why the government sought the involvement of wealthy landowners.

           Estimate of the necessary charges incident to such as shall be disposed to inhabit in Ireland for the first year:

        The Gentleman’s charge – 6 hinds, at 53s, 4d.each; 4 women at 33s, 4d. each;  2 boys, ditto; 12 quarters of wheat or rye, at 26s, 8d. each;  12 qrs barley, at 13s, 4d; weekly victuals, besides butter and cheese or their own making, 6s, 8d.  Stock: 25 kine, at 1l, 6s, 8d. each;  100 yearlings, at 12s each;  8 oxen, at 50s. each;  4 garrons, at 25s. each;  300 ewes, at 4s. each.  For sowing: 10qrs. wheat and rye, 11qrs. barley, 6qrs. beans, at 13s, 4d. each;  20qrs.oats, at 9s.  Sum total, 278l.;  whereof there will be spent this year 671l. 6s. 8d.;  and the remainder in stock to increase.
        The Farmer’s charge – 2 hinds, at 53s. 4d.; one boy and a maid-servant, at 26s. 8d.;  5qrs. wheat or rye for bread;  6qrs. oats for drink;  weekly victuals, besides butter and cheese of their own making, 3s. 4d.  Stock: 4 oxen, a garron, 10 kine, 10 heifers, yearlings, two others, 30 ewes.  For sowing: of wheat and rye, 2 qrs.;  of barley, 2; beans1; oats, 4.  Total, 70l. 7s.;  whereof to be spent this year 26l. 0s. 8d.;  the rest to remain in stock.
        Copyholders – One hind, 40s.;  one maid-servant, 26s. 8d.; 4qrs. of wheat and rye for diet, 4 qrs. of oat for drink;  weekly victuals, 20d.;  5 kine; 2 yearling steers, 25s. the two; 10ewes, at 3s.4d. each.  For sowing: 2 qrs. wheat and rye, 1qr. Barley, beans and oats.  Total 28l. 16s. 8d.;  whereof to be spent this year 14l. 16s.;  the remainder in stock.       
Cottagers – 2 qrs. wheat or rye;  2 qrs. oat for drink;  2 kine.  Total, 6l. 4s. 8d.; whereof to be spent this year 71s. 4d.; the rest in stock.

            Pp3.  Endorsed by Carew:  ‘December 1583.  An estimate of the charges of plantation in Munster to those that will plant there.”