Clarecastle in Old Maps

Maps of Clarecastle & Ballyea

Griffith’s Land Valuation

 Eric Shaw

Introduction

Clarecastle is very fortunate in the survival of so many valuable and unique maps of the Parish. Many of these are maps arising from land and property ownership by the O’Brien estate, others are due to the various land valuations by the Government of the day, Ordnance maps and others, such as the Healy map referred to hereunder, are in private ownership.

Port of Clare – River Fergus

Lieuts. J. Wolfe & R.B. Beechey and Mr. J.S. Taylor – Master Royal Navy, surveyed the Fergus in the vicinity of Clare Castle, as well as other ports, lakes and estuaries around Ireland in the early 1840s. This map is dated 1840. The scale of the map is given as twelve inches to a statute mile and there is a note that the soundings are in feet reduced to Low Water Ord. Springs.

On studying this map in detail, I was delighted to discover the image shown below, in the bottom-left of the map and used as a decoration. The original of the image is quite small but the quality of the drawing lends itself to enlargement without distortion of the details. As can be seen, the image gives a wonderful view of pre-Famine Clare Castle from the quay area and is quite accurate. In fact, apart from the houses shown on the left of the image, it was a view that remained largely unchanged until the developments of the 1960s and is one that is well remembered by older residents. Admiral Richard Brydges Beechey, 1808–1895, was noted as a fine artist and did some wonderful paintings of the Blasket Islands and Dun Laoghaire. We are fortunate to have two of his sketches.

The very fine five arched stone bridge, designed by John Semple and completed shortly before 1780 is well depicted, with a stagecoach crossing the bridge heading towards Limerick. This elegant bridge was removed in 1971 and replaced by a flat, concrete structure. It is rather ironic now that the village has been bypassed to realise that the destruction of the cut-stone bridge could have been avoided. The Semple bridge is well recorded in a fine Lawrence photograph of about 1900 and there is a nice drawing of the bridge dated 1838 by Henry Bucke, C.E. The drawing on the map of 1840 adds another impression.

The castle and barracks are very accurately drawn and compare well with the Lawrence photograph of the same scene taken some sixty years later. The boat tied up appears to be about 30 feet in length and has a tall mast, with a long pennant at the mast-top. The upper part of the mast seems to be painted white. She is well aground and the river is probably at half-tide. She seems to have a doghouse on deck and she could well have been the boat used by the surveyors. The quay as shown was an older quay than that there presently. The fishing-boat, with one man aboard her and an oar at the stern, is similar to the gandalows still used in Clare Castle.

There are large outcrops of rock shown in the river that must have been removed at a later time and the bed of the river seems to drop a level just above the place where the fishing boat is moored. The large two-story house with the four chimney pots is no longer there. The Ordnance Survey map of 1842 does show a large house in that position at the end of Creggaun Lane. In the later map used for the Griffith Valuation of 1855, that house is gone.

The other decoration on the map is a fine drawing of the village of Clare and is shown in the top left-hand corner. An enlarged version of this drawing is shown later. It gives a wonderful image of the village in the years before the Famine. Islandmacgrath House, Carnelly House, Knocknamana House, The Glebe (Glenard), Manus House, Manus South House and other houses in the vicinity of the village, are shown in fine detail.

References

  1. The author is grateful to the History Research Section of UK Hydrographic Office of London for supplying a very high quality copy of the map.
  2. The author is grateful to Edgar Heenan of Limerick for his observations on the boat tied up at the Quay.

Griffith’s Primary Valuation

Griffith’s Primary Valuation took place throughout Ireland during the middle of the nineteenth century. The valuation for the parish of Clarecastle and Ballyea was published in 1855. It shows the name of the person owning or leasing property (house, garden, office or acreage of land) in each townland together with a valuation and a map reference. The Valuation can be accessed at www.clarelibrary.ie.

In the years leading up to the Valuation, land surveyors visited each property and made detailed notes in a fieldbook. In the case of the village of Clarecastle, that visit took place in 1848. A very fine map of the two townlands that made up the village, namely Clare Commons and Clare Hill was drawn up by the surveyors. This shows each property in the village which is numbered and referenced to the fieldbooks. The map is signed by R. Griffiths, Commissioner of Valuations and is dated February 1848.

It should be noted that the numbering system as used on the map and field-books had changed by the time that the Primary Valuation was published in 1855. Only the names of the occupier of property valued in excess of £5 is given but it is still a wonderful listing of persons who were living in the village midway through the Famine years.

Extract from Land and People 1, published by Clarecastle and Ballyea Heritage and Wildlife Group, 2014.

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