Landholdings

As the transcription of the Great Parchment Book continues, a range of types of landholdings is becoming apparent.  The charters in the Book are largely grouped  according to the Livery Company holding the land, but there are also sections for lands held in the city of Londonderry and the town of Coleraine, and for those lands held by the ‘native’ Irish. These charters grant a variety of holdings, ranging from ‘smale parcalls’ measured in perches to urban tenements to townlands covering hundreds of acres.  Although there is reference to specific parishes, albeit the use of the term ‘parish’ is rare, and to churches, vicarages, and chapels in a more general sense, so far there has been no mention of lands granted to any church, nor has anyone been instructed to build or maintain any churches.

Those properties held in the city of Londonderry and the town of Coleraine are often specified as being on a specific street. Londonderry had four main streets: Gracious Street, Queens Street/Bishopsgate Street, Silver Street, and Shambles Street. This last was also known as Butchers Street or Butchers Row as the term ‘shambles’ refers to either stalls to sell meat or a place to slaughter animals.  At least one butcher, James O’Gallagher, is recorded with a holding on Butchers Street, however, the only slaughter-house mentioned is found on Gracious Street and belonged to a cutler called John Knox. 

The properties in Londonderry and Coleraine were not strictly urban, since they also included a ‘backside’ or back-yard and garden of unspecified size, and often a piece of land in the Liberties of Londonderry or Coleraine, or in the Island of Derry.  The Island of Derry refers to the hill upon which Londonderry is located, surrounded by the River Foyle and an area known as ‘The Bog’ which was at one time under water but had become marshy and silted up by the seventeenth century.  The Liberties of Londonderry and Coleraine extended for a distance of three miles on all sides, and some of the holdings located in these areas were much larger, up to a few hundred acres.

The largest holdings, however, are found in the Proportions held by the various Livery Companies.  Each Proportion was divided into townlands which varied in size. The majority of the landholders were granted a single townland, but a number held multiple townlands comprising, sometimes, thousands of acres.

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