The Granges of County Antrim

The civil distribution of Ireland, in descending scale, is into its provinces, counties, baronies, parishes (including granges) and townlands. But this highly convenient distribution of the surface of the country in neither characterised neither by unity of design nor chronological order in its development. The four provinces represent a very ancient native partition which by the Synod of Kells 1152, was adopted for ecclesiastical purposes in the form of the provinces of Ulster, Munster, Leinster and Connaught, with their respective capitals at Armagh, Cashel, Dublin and Tuam. The counties, baronies, though principally based on groupings of native lordships, are mostly (though by no means entirely) of Anglo-Norman origin and range in the date of their creation from the Reign of King John (1190-1216) to that of King James (1603-1625).
“The diocese of Connor” states Rev. H.J. Clarke, “owes much to Malachy (1095-1148) who brought to Northern Ireland the good gifts of order and discipline which medieval Rome had to bestow. Probably the parochial system dates from his episcopate and he arranged for adequate support of the clergy by the introduction of the system of payment of tithe.” Thirty Centuries in South East Antrim (1938), p. 53.
The parochial division is entirely borrowed from the church, under which I had matured, probably about the middle of the twelfth century; while the townlands, the infima species, may be reasonably considered, at least in part, the earliest allotment in the scale. As parish boundaries became defined, it is likely that the church gave its name to its surrounding district, for parishes seem to have been named after churches, not the churches after the parishes.
The county of Antrim contains 1,733 townlands – the sixth largest number in the nine ancient counties of Ulster. The largest townland in area in Ireland is Sheskin, in the parish of Kilcommon, barony of Erris and county of Mayo and one of the smallest, – if not the smallest – is Mill Tenement in the parish of Ardclinis and barony of lower Glenarm in County Antrim. Although by no means the most extensive parish in the county, the civil parish of Layd (Cushendall) contains the second largest number of townlands in any parish in the county. Whether this might mean that the comparatively small area of many of them bears some sort of relationship with the ancient land system known, as rundale is a matter upon which the writer does not feel competent to express an opinion. Certain it is that in mountainous districts such as the parishes of Layd, there are townlands of very small dimensions. The phenomenon may have derived it severality from its becoming, after successive subtractions, almost the sole abode of the family holding.
The county is topographically unique in that it contains about twenty granges, or extra-parochial districts. This is a higher number of such denominations than in any other in Ireland. The word “grange” which appears to be an ecclesiastical term almost exclusively used in Ireland, is probably the French form of the Latin word granum, in Irish gransha; it signified at first the granary, or other farm building in which the members of a religious house deposited their grain. The term afterwards naturally applied to the land on which the grain of the monastic settlement was grown; it eventually extended to any tract, which in any way connected with the place of residence. The spiritual interests of the people living within the grange were attended to by the ordained members of the religious community and the land itself was no doubt considered to be exempt from ordinary parochial obligations; in other words to be tithe free. Many of these granary lands or granges, being originally attached to missionary settlements founded by S.S. Patrick, Columba and their coarbs, or successors in that age knew nothing of the parochial system become monastic establishments at the time of the Anglo-Norman invasion; they were eventually confiscated to the Crown on the suppression of the monasteries in Ireland by King Henry VIII. B. Bradshaw, The Dissolution of the Religious Orders in Ireland under Henry VIII (1973), passim. For considerable and relevant information on granges see Memoirs of Bishop Mant, (1857), Chapter VIII, pp. 256 and 358.
A feature of the south eastern part of the county is the number of districts known as granges. These were either farmsteads or else farms managed by monastic houses under the influence of the Normans. Monkstown and Gransha, townlands of the parishes of Coole (Carmoney) and Islandmagee respectively, could be regarded as granges of the latter type. At the period of the dissolution of the religious houses in Ireland their endowments in the county of Antrim consisted of: –
(a) Land both in temporals and spirituals, which form the principal theme in this study.
(b) Lands in temporals only; these lands lay in regularly constituted parishes, paid tithes to the incumbent and were subject to parochial jurisdiction.
(c) Entire tithes of parishes; there was no parochial endowment or succession; the religious house was bound to maintain a curate therein. He was generally a member of its own society. Such was Kilconriola (not Kirkonriola), otherwise Ballymena, the entire tithes of which had been appropriated to the priory of Muckamore; after the dissolution, they were granted to Sir Roger Langford, subject to a curates stipend which was prescriptively fixed at £18 Irish per annum.
(d) Rectoral tithes of parishes; these possessed vicarages with endowed succession; the rectorial portion was generally two-thirds and the right of presentation was vested in the religious house.
While the term ‘grange’ as a townland and as distinct from a grange proper, prevails in all parts of Ireland – there are not about 220 of them and there is not a parish or benefice of Grange in County Armagh which formerly belonged to the Abbey of St. Peter and St. Paul in that city? – The Irish and borrowed form is much more rare, there being scarcely twenty granshas in the whole of Ireland. The term grange prevailed more in some regions than in others, but for some cause – was it Anglo-Norman influence? – it became very general in County Antrim; what in many cases elsewhere would have been regarded as impropriate rectory, or extra-parochial district in the case of County Antrim it obtained the familiar name of ‘grange’. In its original signification it meant a farmhouse of a monastery from which it was usually some distance. One of the monks was normally appointed to inspect the accounts of the farm and for that reason was referred to as “prior of the grange” somewhat after the term ‘prior of the culdees’ now represented by the Precentorship of St. Patricks Cathedral, Armagh. The Ulster Visitation book of 1622 refers to the island of Rathlin as ‘Graunge de Rawlines’, as it also does to what is now the parish of Kildollagh, near Coleraine. It is quite impossible, as yet, to associate or ‘anchor’ each grange in the county with the monastic foundation with which it is associated. In this regar, much research still requires to be undertaken. This much, however, can be stated. Until dis-establishment (1869) the bishop of the diocese was regarded as patron of all granges within his diocese and, as such, claimed the right to give the title of ordination to the diaconate in the case of a deacon ordained to serve in a grange. Bishop Mant (1823-1849) asserted this right in 1839 when he ordained (in the chapel of Trinity College Dublin) a deacon for the Grange of Drumtullagh in north Antrim. There was no legal provision within the establishment for the spiritual care of people dwelling in a grange. For instance the Vicar of Antrim looked at Muckamore grange as to a pastoral oversight thereof, but if he did, it was by act or way of grace and not of debt. This is evident from the report of the Commissioners of Ecclesiastical Inquiry 1831. The Commissioners note;
An ecclesiastical denomination or division of land in the Diocese of Connor, known by the name of ‘Grange’. The occupiers of the land in these granges set up a claim that the denominations so called, are extra-parochial, and free from the payment of tithes to the church. They have no parochial provision of their own, but their inhabitants resort for Divine Service to the church of the parish to which they are nominally annexed and are dependant for the discharge of the occasional duties of religion on the minister of that parish, who, however, most commonly does not receive from them any compensation.
The endowments in the case of lands, both in temporals and spirituals, varied in extent from a fraction of a townland to tracts containing groups of several such denominations. These lands were held in the immediate possession of the Abbot or Prior, and were cultivated by the tenants or servants of the monastery. The chief tract in each case consisted of a group of townlands lying around, or at some distance from, the religious houses, forming, as it were, a great glebe to the establishment, paying no tithes, included in no parish, and subject to no spiritual superintendence, except that of the superior or his delgates.

The granges in County Antrim included:
Ballyrobert. It lies to the north of the townland of Ballycraigy in the parish of Coole, or Carnmoney. This grange belonged to the abbey of Muckamore. Rev. L. McKeown, ‘The Abbey of Muckamore’ Journal of the Down and Connor Historical Society. Vol. IX (1938), pp. 63-70; W. Reeves, Ecclesiastical Antiquities (1847), pp. 5 and 141; O.S. sheet 51. Antrim.
Ballyscullion. Its lands and tithes belonged to the abbey of SS. Peter and Paul at Armagh. By 1622, its tithe had become impropriate and was possessed by Sir. H. Clotworthy. The burying ground called Templemoyle is in the townland lf Killylaes. The district seems to have taken its present name from the adjoining parish of Ballyscullion in the diocese of Derry. Reeves, op. cit., pp. 284, 303 and 374; O.S. sheets 36 and 42.
Ballywalter. It is in the parish of Ballylinny and was the seat of the Anglo-Norman, Walter de Logan; it is separated from Doagh by the Six Mile Water. The Knights Hospitallers had property here at an early date; in 1213, Pope Innocent III (1198-1216) confirmed them in possession of the Terra Walter de Logan. The site of the church is unknown. Reeves, op. cit. p. 67; O.S. sheet 51.
Carmavy. It is entirely surrounded by the parish of Killead and is situated on the road from Belfast, via Ballysillan, to Antrim. It was appropriate to the priory of Muckamore. The remains of the church were in existence at the beginning of the last century, but were removed to make room for graves. W. Reeves, op. cit., p. 181; O.S sheet 55.
Doagh. It includes the village of Doagh in the parish of Ballyeaston. A portion of the west gable, about seven feet high remains in the churchyard. About the year 1251, Isaac, bishop of Connor (1245-1258) confirmed to the priory of Muckamore possession of the ‘Ecclesia Ste Marie de Douach’. At the dissolution it was a chapel of Muckamore and the prior was bound to maintain a curate therein. W. Reeve, op. cit., p. 67; O.S. sheets 45 and 51.
Drumtullagh. The six inch Ordnance Survey Map, sheets 8 and 13 describe it as “belonging to the parish of Derrykeighan”. It is said that it was originally intended that Bun-na-margie friary, founded about 1500, probably by a member of the clan MacQuillan, should have been built in what is now the townland of Kilmoyle in this grange at a place locally referred to as Croshan; the grange may have been appropriate to that friary. It is of some significance that the derivation of the townland of Manister in this grange is ‘monastery’. Drumtullagh grange formed, with the parish of Ramoan, the tough or district Mowbray. W. Reeves, op. cit., p. 323. The patron saint of this grange is St. Neim (3 May).
Dundermot. It belongs to the parish of Dunaghy (Clough); There are no traces of the church or cemetery remaining. Even as long ago as 1622 the Ulster Visitation states “Grangia de Downdermond, noe walls ever knowne to be there.” At the dissolution the grange was appropriate to the abbey of Kells. W. Reeves., op. cit., p. 72; O.S. sheet 27.
Innispollan. The site of the ancient church of this grange, named Killvallagh probably because it adjoined the road leading through what was once regarded as the most inaccessible of the Glens (Glendun), except on horseback, it is in the townland of Ardicoan. Its site is occupied by the modern Catholic Church and is the only site of an ancient church in the diocese, which is so occupied. According to O’Laverty, the church of Innispollan – “the island of Senan” – was founded circa 550. Diocese of Down and Connor, Vol. IV, (1887), p. 563. The altar in the nearby Craigagh wood was used for the celebration Mass in penal times. The five townlands of Innispollan grange formed part of the property of the Sea of Connor. O.S. sheet 15. Irish Naturalists’ Journal. Vol. VI, p. 296.
Killagan. This grange is now referred to as a parish, though in the Archibald Stewart survey of the Antrim estates 1734 it is referred to as a grange. As in the case of the grange of Dundermot there has been no place of worship here dating from early times. In 1845, the site of an ancient burying ground in the townland of Broughanore was scarcely discernable; it had all but merged in the surrounding tillage. O.S. sheets 18 and 23.
Killyglen. It is described in the Ordnance Survey as “belonging to the parish of Killagan”, sheet 35. This grange, like several others already noted, was appropriate to the Prior of Muckamore. About the year 1251 the church of St. John of Killyglen was confirmed to Muckamore by the Cistercian, Isaac de Newcastle-on-Tyne, Bishop of Connor – the first diocese in Ireland to have an Englishman as bishop who resided in the see. T.E. MacNeill, Anglo-Norman Ulster, (1980), p. 50. The O.S. reference to Killyglen in east Antrim “as belonging to the parish of Killagan” was probably occasioned by its forming (with Killagan) part of the corps of the prebend of Connor 1609.
Layde. Lewis described this grange as extra-parochial, never having paid church cess or tithes; there being no provision for the cure of souls, the members of the Established church attend the parish church of Layd (Cushendall). Topographical Dictionary of Ireland, Vol. II (1837), p. 247; O.S. sheets 14, 15 and 19.
Molusk. The more modern spelling is Mallusk. It is referred to by Lewis, op.cit., Vol. II, p. 278 as a parish. In medieval times it was appropriate to the fraternity of the Knights of St. John and for that reason was exempted from tax and agreeably with the instructions contained in the Bull of Pope Nicholas IV in 1291. The knights were confirmed in its possessions by Pope Innocent III and continued to enjoy its rectory until the dissolution. “Ecclesia Sti. Johanis de Moyelusk: the Prior of St. John’s of Jerusalem is rector.” See this entry in the Terrier or Ledger Book of Down and Connor 1615 – a record of inestimable value as forming a connection link between the records before and after the Reformation, showing the condition of the diocese in its transitional state and a copy of which is in the private possession of the writer of this note. W. Reeves, op. cit., p. 8. St. John’s Point in county Down derives its name from those daring and merciful crusaders who guarded and nursed pilgrims to the Holy Land in Medieval times. O.S. sheet 56.
Muckamore. Magh Comair, or “the plain of the confluence” of the rivers Clady and Sixmilewater, was founded about the year 600, long before the institution of parishes or granges in Ireland, so that it and its praedial endowments could, without any violence to existing interests, each and all be, and continue, non-parochial. Of its exact nature at the time of its foundation there is unfortunately no detail, but it undoubtedly followed by the pattern of Irish monastic foundations of the period, being composed of a number of wooden huts or cells with wattle roofs and surrounded by a vallum or rampart. The century and a half which elapsed between the battle of Clontarf 1014, which ended for all time the tyranny of the Otsmen and the coming of the Normans 1169, was a period of increasing moral and political anarchy in Ireland. After having shared in the general decay of religion that followed the Norse raid of pillage and destruction, Muckamore had become, by the twelfth century, a priory of canons regular of St. Augustine, according to the special reforms of St. Victor.
These canons regular were made via media between monks and secular clergy. They were priests; lived in community; followed a rule; were not necessarily bound to wear the habit of their order, nor to keep the rule of enclosure and they had parochial and pastoral duties. The monastery of St. Victor in Paris had special amendments to this Augustine rite and, on account of its reputation for piety and scholarship in the twelfth century, attracted many disciples and founded many daughter houses. The school of the abbey of St. Victor became famous and, with those of Notre Dame and St. Genevieve, became the nucleus of the University of Paris. Rev. L. M. McKeown, op. cit., Vol. XI, p. 64.
The inquisition of Antrim taken in 1605, indicates that Muckamore was possessed of many of the churches granges granted by the first Norman settlers or followers of John de Courcy in this portion of what is now County Antrim. The priory possessed the churches or chapels of Carmavy, Killyglen, Nilteen (Dunadry), Doagh, Shilvodan, (Tavanaghmore), Kilconriola, Carngranny and Ballyrobert and was under obligation in all these cases to provide a curate who should maintain all church services in a fitting manner. The names of the Anglo-Norman knights who made grants to Muckamore priory and the extent of their donations can be ascertained by Laurentius, prior to 1356. Sir James Ware made extracts from it in 1624 and these are preserved in the British Museum (library since 1973). Ware MSS (Cod. Clar. Vol. XXXVI. No. 4787 Plut, 113, C., fol. 92). The last prior Bryan Boy O’Maghallon (O’Mulholland) was seized in temporals and spirituals of the site of his monastery, with eight townlands (afterwards increasing to ten, by individualising a couple of sub-denominations) forging the priory lands of Muckamore, known as the grange of Muckamore and with these tithes and advowsons of fourteen churches or granges. At the dissolution this patronage or parochial vacuum fell to the crown and in process of time was granted by patent just as it stood; no conditions laid down for the spirituals, partly because that which formerly existed was abolished and partly because it would be inconvenient now, for the first time, a tithing process where none previously existed. Accordingly, it was granted to a layman and the patent once passed, no subsequent regulation could disturb the now vested right; hence it came out that Muckamore was extra-parochial. W. Reeves, Established Church (Ireland) Commision (1868), Appendix No. 17, “Extra-parochial Districts, termed “granges”, p. 114. O.S. sheets 50 and 55. The site of the priory on a narrow piece of ground at the base of the gentle acclivity on the left bank of the Sixmilewater, was exceedingly picturesque. That it must have been a building of considerable extent is evident from foundations (on the Oldstone road) were about 400 yards apart and occupied the site of the former bleachworks and also the garden of Muckamore House. Dubourdieu in his Statistical Survey of County Antrim (1812), p. 592, in a reference to the ruin states:
"Many years ago, it is said, two silver candlesticks were found here, and two golden tables about two feet long by fourteen inches broad, and various other articles, besides some money."
Nilteen. It was an appropriation of Muckamore; the Inquisition of 1605 found that the prior of Muckamore was seized of the church or chapel of Nilteen, with all the tithes belonging to the same and all spiritual appurtences whatsoever; in which chapel the prior and his predecessors had been bound to maintain a curate. Hence when the priory of Muckamore was dissolved, the tithes were secularised and probably merged inlay of possession of the land. The hamlet of Dunadry is situated in the grange of Nilteen. W. Reeves, op. cit., p. 114 and W. Reeves, Ecclesiastical Antiquities, pp. 64 and 69; O.S. sheet 50.
Shilvodan. The prior of Muckamore before the dissolution enjoyed the tithes of the chapel of Sillwoodan in the tough of Munter Rividy (the land along Sixmilewater) and was bound to maintain a curate therein. There are no remains of a church or graveyard, but it is believed that a church formerly existed in the townland of Tavanaghmore in the grange. W. Reeves, op. cit., pp. 302, 303; O.S. sheets 43 and 44.
Umgall. “The district of the foreigners” was a seat of the Mandevilles and dominated the watershed between Carrickfergus Bay (Belfast Lough) and Lough Neagh. The churchyard is still used as a burial place and the foundation of the church remains overground. Its rectory was appropriate to the priory of Muckamore and the tithes after the dissolution, having passed through various hands, were purchased by the Board of First Fruits and annexed to the benefice of Templepatrick. W. Reeves, op. cit., p. 4; O.S. 56. Of the remaining granges –Rathlin, Kildollagh, Monkstown and Gransha (in Islandmagee) these have already been referred to.
It will be observed that in the northern part of what is now County Antrim. Why was this so when it is remembered that the northern part (Twescard) had evidently been well settled by the Normans and, as G.H. Orpen states in his ‘Ireland Under the Normans’, Vol III, p. 278 “was the most lucrative part of the earldom of Ulster”. At least part of the answer would appear to be that, as the Laurentius register clearly indicates, the priory was a foundation of considerable importance in the annals of the medieval church in Ulidia. Are there not references to Muckamore and its priors in the Calenders of Papal and Octavian registers extending over a period of almost two centuries – 1289 to 1483? This may go far to account for the donative grants by Anglo-Norman knights to Muckamore. I am inclined to treat with some degree of caution the view expressed by Dr. Katherine Walsh in her recent book Primate Richard Fitzralph in Oxford, Avignon and Armagh (1980) pp. 236-321 that the Anglo-Norman settlement in Ulidia, even if, (she states) it was remote and isolated, was (in my view) nevertheless by no means unimportant even if the earldom was not a typical part of the Anglo-Norman settlement of Ireland as seen from Dublin. Dr. T.E. McNeill in his excellent book Anglo-Norman Ulster (1980) in a reference to Twescard county states that the lands of North Antrim “are remarkable for their large manors and large parishes 1306”, p. 27. The history of granges is an intriguing one; well worthy of scientific study and investigation, not least in its county Antrim context.

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