Cavan Plantation

Early in the reign of James I., the lord-deputy came to Cavan, and issued a commission of inquiry to the judges then holding the assize there concerning all lands escheated to the Crown by attainder, outlawry, or actual death in rebellion; and a jury of the best knights and gentlemen that were present, and of whom some were chiefs of Irish septs, found an inquisition, first, concerning the possessions of various freeholders slain in the late rebellion under the Earl of Tyrone, and secondly, concerning those of the late chiefs of the country who had shared the same fate; though the latter finding was obtained with some difficulty, the jurors fearing that their own tenures might be invalidated in consequence. Nor was this apprehension without foundation; for, by that inquisition, the greater part, if not the whole, of the county was deemed to be vested in the Crown, and the exact state of its property was thereupon carefully investigated.

This being completed, the king resolved on the new plantation of Ulster, in which the plan for the division of this county was as follows:—the termon, or church lands, in the ancient division, were 140 poles, or about 3500 acres, which the king reserved for the bishop of Kilmore; for the glebes of the incumbents of the parishes to be erected were allotted 100 poles, or 2500 acres; and the monastery land was found to consist of 20 poles, or 500 acres. There then remained to be distributed to undertakers 1360 poles, or 34,000 acres, which were divided into 26 proportions, 17 of 1000 acres each, 5 of 1500, and 4 of 2000, each of which was to be a parish, to have a church erected upon it, with a glebe of 60 acres for the minister in the smallest proportions, of 90 in the next, and of 120 in the largest.

To British planters were to be granted six proportions, viz., three of the least, two of the next, and one of the largest, and in these were to be allowed only English and Scottish tenants; to servitors were to be given six other proportions, three of the least, two of the middle, and one of the largest, to be allowed to have English or Irish tenants at choice; and to natives, the remaining fourteen, being eleven of the least, one of the middle, and two of the greatest size. There then remained 60 poles or 1500 acres, of which 30 poles, or 750 acres, were to be allotted to three corporate towns or boroughs, which the king ordered should be endowed with reasonable liberties, and send burgesses to parliament, and each to receive a third of this quantity; 10 other poles, or 250 acres, were to be appendant to the castle of Cavan; 6 to that of Cloughoughter; and the remaining 14 poles, or 346 acres, to be for the maintenance of a free school to be erected in Cavan. Two of the boroughs that were created and received these grants were Cavan and Belturbet, and the other 250 acres were to be given to a third town, to be erected about midway between Kells and Cavan, on a site to be chosen by the commissioners appointed to settle the plantation: this place was Virginia, which, however, never was incorporated.

The native inhabitants were awed into acquiescence in these arrangements, and such as were not freeholders under the above grants, were to be settled within the county, or removed by order of the commissioners. The lands thus divided were the then profitable portions, and to each division a sufficient quantity of bog and wood was super-added. A considerable deviation from this project took place in regard to tithes, glebes, and parish churches.

A curious record of the progress made by the undertakers in erecting fortified houses, &c, up to the year 1618-19, is preserved in Pynnar's Survey; the number of acres enumerated in this document amounts to 52,324, English measure, and the number of British families planted on them was 386, who could muster 711 armed men. Such was the foundation of the rights of property and of civil society in the county of Cavan, as existing at the present day, though not without subsequent disturbance; for both O'Reilly, representative of the county in parliament, and the sheriff his brother, were deeply engaged in the rebellion of 1641. The latter summoned the R. C. inhabitants to arms; they marched under his command with the appearance of discipline; forts, towns, and castles were surrendered to them; and Bedel, Bishop of Kilmore, was compelled to draw up their remonstrance of grievances, to be presented to the chief governors and council.

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