When acres and land sales were counted in thousands

A NEW website recalls the days when our top landowners counted their acres in thousands rather than hundreds.

Men like Sir Henry Wrixon Becher of Ballygiblin, whose holdings amounted to 18,933 acres in Co Cork and 358 acres in Co Tipperary in the 1870s — according to the new www.landedestates.ie website.

Recently launched by former Fianna Fáil politician Martin Mansergh, the website catalogues the landed estates of Munster from the 18th to 20th centuries, and is being hailed as an invaluable tool for historical researchers, academics and the general public.

The site contains details of more than 3,000 estate houses across the province, and follows on from a similar database launched for Connacht three years ago.

A quick browse reveals that the Earls of Shannon controlled over 11,000 acres in Co Cork in the 1870s, from their Castlemartyr base.

Their near relations, the “Ladies Boyle“, resident in Courtmacsherry, owned over 7,000 acres between them at the same time, along with several townlands in Co Waterford.

Land sales in those days were also counted in the thousands of acres, and were often sparked by being on the wrong side of the latest war — like the 30,000 acres sold by a Dutchman, General Joost Van Keppel, the Earl of Albemarle, to a syndicate of Francis Burton, Nicholas Westby and James MacDonnell, in 1698.

Van Keppel had been granted estates forfeited by the Viscount Clare who had first supported the Jacobite side, and then switched allegiance, in the late 17th century.

Funded by the Irish Council for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences, and the Programme for Research in Third Level Institutions, the Connacht and Munster Landed Estates project will assist and support research into the social, economic, political and cultural history of the provinces from 1700 to 1914. The project was hosted by the Moore Institute for Research in the Humanities and Social Sciences at the National University of Ireland, Galway.

Data for the project came from a broad range of historical sources.

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