Simington: The Civil Survey 1654-56: County of Wexford

Pdf Simington, Robert C. The Civil Survey A.D. 1654-1656: County of Wexford. Volume IX, Dublin: Stationery Office, 1953
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The Civil Survey A.D. 1654-1656: County of Wexford Volume IX edited by Robert C. Siminington (1885-1976) of the Quit Rent Office was published in 1953. This mid 17th century survey of the County of Wexford records the extent and value of lands forfeited by Catholic and Royalist rebels following their defeat during the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland.

Prior to the Norman conquest of Ireland in the 12th century an assortment of Gaelic Irish clans controlled Ireland. Wexford was traditionally the domain of the McMurroughs. Dermot McMurrough, the deposed King of Leinster sought help from the Normans to fight his enemies promising his kingdom and his daughter Aoife to Strongbow better known as Richard De Clare. A Norman army landed on the Wexford coast in 1169 beginning centuries of colonisation of Ireland.

By the 14th century a Gaelic resurgence meant that English power was largely confined to the area around Dublin known as the Pale. Gaelic chiefs and Old English descendants of the Norman lords had become a law unto themselves. The Protestant Reformation of the 16th century complicated matters when the Gaelic Irish and Old English refused to renounce their Roman Catholicism. Beginning under the reign of the Tudor dynasty, a campaign of reconquest and settlement began with the aim of replacing the Catholic population with a loyal Protestant one. Repeated Catholic revolt culminated in the Gaelic defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1603. After the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnell fled to the European continent, James I began the plantation of Ulster in 1609.

By 1641, Protestants settlers from Scotland and northern England had taken root in Ulster when thousands of them were massacred during a renewed Catholic revolt. The rebellion soon spread throughout the country and between 1641 and 1649 two thirds of the island of Ireland came under the control of the Catholic Confederacy based in Kilkenny. They eventually supported Charles I who was defeated and executed by the Parliamentarians during the English Civil War. Oliver Cromwell, the leader of the British Commonwealth launched an invasion of Ireland to punish the Catholic rebels.

Cromwell's New Model Army captured Ferns, Enniscorthy, New Ross, Wexford and Duncannon which held out until 1650. Wexford's garrison and civilian population were massacred. Much of the town was burned and its harbour destroyed to deny its use to privateers who had attacked British shipping. By 1653, the entire island of Ireland had been subdued after huge loss of life from warfare, famine and disease.

Catholic landowners were banished to Connaught or fled abroad. Catholic ownership of land fell from sixty percent to less than ten percent following the Act of Settlement in 1652. Their confiscated lands were surveyed and given as payment to Cromwell's troops for their services while the common people were obliged to submit to new masters. However most of the new Protestant landowners sold their lands and returned home.

After Cromwell's death in 1658 many of the old proprietors had their lands restored during the reign of Charles II after the monarchy was restored in 1660. However the defeat of the supporters of the Catholic James II by the Protestant King William III of Orange in 1691 meant an Anglo-Irish Protestant class would become dominant while the Catholic Irish were reduced to the status of tenants and landless peasants.

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