Newry.ie

Until the early 20th century, Ireland was a country made up of large landed estates. Much of the town of Newry and its surrounding area was owned by the Needhams, the Earls of Kilmorey (the Marquis of Downshire being the other major landlord). Evidence of this history can still be seen around Newry with the name ‘Kilmorey Street’ and Newry and Mourne Museum is the former residence of the Bagenal family from whom the Needhams are descended.

Tenants in High Street in Newry listed in a rental from 1860. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Tenants in High Street in Newry listed in a rental from 1860. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

With these large estates came a significant amount of administration which produced a large amount of documentation in the form of rental volumes, leases, maps and other miscellaneous items. Many such documents form part the Reside Collection at the Museum and provide a lot of information on the area at the time. A significant number of rentals for Newry are included in the Collection from 1802 up to the 1860s, including a complete series for the years of the Great Famine (1844 – 1851).

The earliest Kilmorey rental from 1802 contains lists of people who leased land from the Needhams.  These included James Maxwell, father of William Hamilton Maxwell a renowned 19th century novelist. His father is documented as having land leased in Ballynacraig and High Street in 1802.

Page from the May 1849 rental listing tenants and rent owed in part of the townland of Lisdrumliska. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection
Page from the May 1849 rental listing tenants and rent owed in part of the townland of Lisdrumliska. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection

The rentals also give information on the various businesses with which the estate conducted transactions. The Newry firm Anderson & Greer who, in 1790, had established the first mail coach in Ireland between Dublin and Belfast, are mentioned in the 1822 rental.  Their service operated out of Margaret Square in Hill Street. Also in 1822 Lord Kilmorey paid John Turner of Warrenpoint £83 8 shillings and 10 pence for his six month supply of flour, bran and beer.

Other local merchants such as William Hancock, a grocer based in Sugar Island and George Scott of Market Street, who Lord Kilmorey paid for powder and shot (ammunition), are mentioned. The May 1830 rental details that Lord Kilmorey paid Robert Greer £1 and 15 shillings for books purchased. This business was based in Margaret Square and was also a circulating library.

The rentals provide an insight to the charitable dealings of Lord Kilmorey, particularly during the Famine. In 1846 a subscription of £50 was paid to Samuel Parsons for supplying the poor of Newry with soup and bread.   In May 1847, it was noted that a total of £30 2 shillings 11 pence was paid to ‘several poor persons on the Newry estate in small sums during the past winter’.  They also show that cases of eviction were very few and far between on the Kilmorey estate between the years 1844-1851. However, in some cases they note that tenants had emigrated or died.

18th and 19th century houses in High Street pictured in the early decades of 20th century. Many of these houses date from the period covered by the Kilmorey rentals in the Reside Collection. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection.
18th and 19th century houses in High Street pictured in the early decades of 20th century. Many of these houses date from the period covered by the Kilmorey rentals in the Reside Collection. Newry and Mourne Museum Collection.

The rentals for Newry cover the town of Newry and the townlands in the Lordship of Newry as held by the Bagenal family as follows: Altnaveigh, Ballinlare, Ballyholland Upper, Ballyholland Lower, Ballynacraig, Croreagh, Commons Upper, Commons Lower, Carnbane, Cloghogue, Crownmount, Drumcashellone, Drumalane, Derrybeg, Fathom, Gransha, Edenmore, Lisdrumliska, Lisdrumgullion, Low Ground, Ouley, Ryan, Strand, and Turmore. Also included are a number of streets within Newry: Boat St, Church St, Castle St, Chapel St, High St, Mill St, Market St, North St, William St and Buttercrane Quay. 

Newry and Mourne Museum is temporarily closed.

by Noelle Murtagh

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