Landlords of County Mayo Ireland: How they Acquired their Land, Developed their Estates and Treated their Tenants

The five largest landowners in County Mayo, Ireland in the 19th century between the years of 1838 and 1876 were the Marquis of Sligo, Viscount Dillon, Sir Richard O'Donel, Sir William Palmer and Denis Bingham; the Earl of Lucan wasn't far behind. What I found most interesting about this compilation on Mayo Estates was how they fared through the turbulent years of the famine and land wars. The Marquis of Sligo, who held the most land at 130.7 (area per 1000 statute acres) in 1838 dropped only to 114.8 in 1876. Viscount Dillon stayed the same at 83.7, Sir William Palmer increased his holdings from 78.6 to 80.9 as did the Earl of Lucan (49.1 to 60.5) but Denis Bingham lost almost 45% dropping from 66.3 to 36.7. Sir Richard O'Donel lost almost everything going from 80.1 (per 1000 statute acres) to only 7.4. (Gillespie; McCabe, 1987, p. 110).

The widespread eviction of tenants on the estates of the Marquis of Sligo (George John Browne, the 3rd Marquis), the Earl of Lucan (George Charles Bingham, the 3rd Earl), Sir Roger William Henry Palmer Bart, Sir Richard O'Donel and others filled the workhouses and left an indelible mark on 19th Century County Mayo. There were however, County Mayo landholders in the preceding centuries who were equally as egregious.

The first of a long line of Brownes, John Brown of the Neale as he was known, created a map of Mayo that was used by the British Government to re-distribute land in County Mayo. He was rewarded for this contribution with large amounts of land in 1583. He acquired "vast confiscated estates and 3 peerages," John Brown and Sir Richard Bingham "played strong hands in the diabolical game to bring this country under British rule." (Quinn, 1996, Vol. II, Chapter 21, p. 215, 216). The two of them "murdered and banished all the old families except the pertidious (sic) few who sold their religion and swore allegiance to the crown." (Quinn, Vol II, Chapter 26, p. 287). When Bingham was working on the redistribution of land in Mayo (part of the The Composition of Connaught), he deliberately left the fertile land of Costello Barony out of his presentation in an attempt to claim it for himself, but while he was away, Sir Theobald Dillon (who didn't appear to have any more redeeming qualities than Bingham) took it right out from under him.

Cromwell made his mark in County Mayo in the 1640's. The Commissioners granted approximately 52% of the profitable acres in County Mayo to the Cromwellian Settlers and the Cromwellian soldiers made a heavy presence in Tirawley barony. (Jordan, 1994, p. 30,31). Many County Mayo landlords lost their estates in the Cromwellian confiscations but some like Viscount Dillon reacquired their estates. James Cuffe, who was secretary of the Cromwellian Commissioners was actively involved in the "plantation of Connaught" and he made certain that he saved some land for himself. (Quinn, Volume 2, Chap 28, p. 356). He was quite the tyrant and left his mark in Mayo history.

Landlords began extensive development of their estates in the mid 18th century. They were motivated to create estate villages because of a steady increase in rents from the mid 1700's giving them increased monetary wealth, government legislation that promoted development of the road network, lifting of a ban on live cattle exports gave their cattle fairs a boost and development of the "Brown linen" market in 1762, all contributed to the incentive to develop these estate market towns. "Once the famine began to take its toll in the 1840's, estate village development subsided. (Aalen, 1997, p. 187-188, 191).

The Landlords that survived the Cromwellian confiscations of the 17th century and endured the penal laws of the 18th had a large number of challenges ahead in the 19th century. Famine and near-famine conditions occurred intermittently throughout the 18th century and continued into the 19th century. "For the bulk of the county's farming population the last two decades prior to the famine of 1846-1850 were a time of economic decline." (Jordan, 1994, p. 65). One thing led to another; as the tenants became unable to pay their rents, purchase seed and food, landlords became unable and some were unwilling to pay the poor rates to support the poor and the workhouses. Landlords had to pay poor rates on all parcels worth less than 4 Pounds (most small tenant farmers fell into this category). This cost plus the impact of the Gregory Quarter Acre Clause that prevented anyone leasing more than 1/4 acre from receiving poor relief provided significant incentive for landlords to evict their tenants and minimize their losses. (Aalen, 1997, p. 90).

The famine brought about huge changes in the landscape from tillage of arable acreage to pastoral grazing ranches. Livestock prices rose further encouraging a conversion to a livestock economy. The small, poor tenant farmer was forced to farm on the poorer quality bog and mountainsides. The Central core of County Mayo that runs from Killala and Ballina in Northern Mayo through the central areas of Castlebar and Westport on down south to Galway and east to Roscommon was the most heavily impacted area after the famine when the grazing farms and "livestock economy" developed. (Jordan, 1994, p. 5).

The Encumbered Estates Court was established in 1849, its goal being to help Irish estates that were in financial trouble, but when it ceased to exist in 1858, it left a trail of destruction in its wake. The Encumbered Estates Court irked many landlords because the "poor law rates and county cess were given priority even before first mortgages." Many landlords felt that it wasn't their responsibility to contribute to the "maintenance of the poor." (Quinn, Vol IV, Chap 10, p. 307). The Encumbered Estates Court brought about the ruin of many a landlord. Hard as it may be to believe, the landowners that purchased these distressed properties in the Encumbered Estates Court were often many times worse than the landlords they replaced. The pool of new landowners included the old landlords ruthless land agents and bailiffs, gombeen men, moneylenders and insurance companies who had preyed on the small tenant farmers before. Things went from bad to worse. The Landed Estates Court that was created to try to save the landlords provided the small tenant farmers with at least some reprieve: "The receivers who appointed the most notoriously harsh agents in the county were disbarred from enriching themselves by sending the tenants showers of processes, the costs of which they would have to meet." (Quinn, Vol IV, Chap 11, p. 369). This was small consolation as many new landlords continued to raise rents and evict tenants as much or more than before.

Times became more desperate in County Mayo after the famine with increased evictions; erratic weather conditions in the early 1860's caused a "return of the potato blight, the ruin of much of the wheat and oat crops, and fodder and fuel famines that weakened stock and left households without turf. (Jordan, 1994, p. 143, 144). The decade between 1877 and 1880 brought tough times on the agricultural industry in England and Scotland. This resulted in a diminished need for seasonal workers. Many small tenants used seasonal work to help sustain them through lean times and suddenly that dried up. Another disappointing harvest in 1879 brought many small tenant farmers to their knees. They couldn't get the credit they needed for food and the feed they needed for their chickens. The cattle market declined, chickens died and finally in 1881 the eviction rate rose to its highest level since 1855. (Jordan, 1994, p. 200, 208, 301).

Numerous land bills were introduced in this period. Agrarian violence was on the rise with landlords, their land agents and bailiffs being the targets of attack. Armed garrisons dotted the landscape and were utilized by ruthless evictors like Lord Lucan to protect him during evictions. The Land Act of 1881 was the beginning of end of Landlordism, but the crowning blow and final defeat was the introduction of the Land League by Michael Davitt in 1879. (Quinn, Vol. IV, Chap 11, p. 380).

According to the book Atlas of the Irish Rural Landscape, "by 1921, 2/3 of the tenants had acquired their holding..." (Aalen, 1997, p. 25). It was a long time in coming but the end result was sweet.

I plan to include pages on the top three or four landlords in each Civil Parish based on my findings in the Griffith's Valuation. This will be a work in progress and pages will be modified as I uncover more details. There are some County Mayo Landlords that I have not included in this list that have more than 3000 acres but did not dominate a particular parish in the Griffith's Valuation. I will try to add them as well at some point down the road.

Achill Mission Trustees Armstrong, Catherine Arran, Earl of (Phillip York Gore)
Atkinson, Charles Atkinson, Robert Atkinson, William
Avonmore, Viscount (William Charles Yelverton) Baker, Harriet Fibbs Baxter, Edward
Bell, Edward G. Berringham, John and Mary Bewry, Thos and George
Bingham, Henry Blake, Charles Blake, Isidore
Blake, Joseph Blake, Mark Blake, Maurice
Blake, Patrick Blake, Valentine O'Connor Bourke, Walter
Bourke, Reverend William Brabazon, Captain H. Brassy, Thomas
Briggs, Nathaniel Browne, Andrew Browne, Honorable Geoffrey
Browne, George Browne, James Browne, J. D. H.
Burke, Edward C. Cannon, John E. Carter, William Henry
Cistus, Elisabeth Clanmorris, Lord (John Charles Robert Bingham, 4th Baron) Clive, George
Chromie, Reverend William Cooper, Reverend Cooper Costello, Arthur Robert
Coyne, Chas and Bernard Crean, Austin F. Cuffe, Captain St. George
Cuffe, Mary Louise D'Arcy, Richard Dawson, John S.
De Clifford, Lady Dillon, Viscount (John Theobald) Domville Bart, Sir William Comptom
Downing, Charles Earl of Erne (John Crichton, K. P., the 3rd Earl) Ecclesiastical Commissioners
Fair, Robert    
Farrell, John Nolan Fetherstone, Godfrey Finn, Jane
Fitzgerald, Charles L. Fitzgerald, Dorothea Fitzgerald, John
Fitzmaurice, Captain William Hon. Gonville, French Gardiner, Harriet
Gardiner, William Garvey, John C. Gibbons, Mathew
Gildea, James Knox Glynn, Martin Gore, Colonel Arthur Knox
Gore, Mary Jane Olmsby Gore, Major William Ormsby Graham, William
Irwin, Bridget Hawley, Patrick C. Holmes, Samuel
Jackson, George Henry Jackson, Captain Oliver Jamieson, Reverend William
Jennings, Benjamin Jones, Henry Shaw Jones, Thomas
Jordan, Myles (a minor) Joynt, Henry Kenny, Courtney
Kilmaine, Lord (Francis William Browne, 4th Baron) Kirkwood, Charles Kirkwood, John Townsend
Kirkwood, Joseph Kirkwood, Robert Knox, Annesley
Knox, Colonel Charles Knox, Ernest Knox, Reps Francis Blake
Knox, George Knox, Major John Lambert, Alexander C.
Lambert, Thomas Larminie, John C. Law Life Assurance Company
Levingston, William Lindsay, Francis Lindsay, Thomas Spencer
Little, Reverend Francis Lucan, Earl of (George Charles Bingham, 3rd Earl) Lynch, Charles
Lynch, James Lynch, Patrick Lynch, Patrick Crean
Lynch, Sir Robert Blosse Bart Madden, Daniel Mahon, Charles G.
McCormack, William McDonnell, James McDonnell, Joseph
McDonnell, John McDonnell, Myles Meade, Joseph F.
Moore, Elisabeth Moore, George Henry Moore, Louisa
Moore, Robert Mudge, Zachary Moore, Robert
NOrbury, Countess of O'Connor, Denis O'Connor, Mathew
O'Donnell, Sir Richard O'Donnell, William O'Grady, Francis
O'Higgins, George O'Malley, George Oranmore, Lord (Geoffrey Dominick Augustus Frederick Gutherie, 2nd Baron)
Orme, Edward Orme, John Orme, Robert
Orme, William Ormsby, Anthony Ormsby, Reverend H. N.
Ormsby, John Palmer, Captain John Palmer, Thomas
Palmer, Sir William Roger Bart Perry, Honorable Edward S. Plunkett, Lord (Bishop of Tuam)
Pratt, Mervyn Pugh, Jane Elisabeth Rhodes, John William
Richards, John W.O. Ritchey, Rep Alick Rutledge, David W.
Rutledge, Robert Rutledge, Watson Sadlier, John
Sligo, Marquis of (George John Browne, the 3rd Marquis) Staples, Sir Thomas Bart Steel, Sir John Bart
Stock, St. George H Strickland, Thomas Taffee, Christopher
Taffee, Phillip Thompson, David Tigue, Robert
Townsent, Richard Tuohy, Malachy Waldron, Laurence
Waller, Lady Walsh, John Wyndham, Captain, A. W.