Corpus of Electronic Texts Edition
The Desmond Survey (Author: unknown)

Introduction to the Desmond Surveys

The surveys which are known as the Desmond and Peyton Surveys were undertaken by commissioners appointed in 1584 to inquire into the lands forfeited as a result of the Desmond


rebellion. These initial surveys were completed by 1585-86 and were a necessary part of the preparatory work for the Munster plantation. The Latin originals, preserved in the Public Record Office, Ireland, were destroyed in the Four Courts burning in 1922. In his 1919 guide to the P.R.O.I., under the heading 'Court of Exchequer, Revenue Side, Vice-Treasurer's and Auditor General's Offices', Wood notes the surveys thus:

Survey of attainted and escheated lands, Co. Limerick, 1586.

Survey of Great and Small Limerick by Christopher Peyton and others under commission of 19 June, 26 Eliz. to enquire into (1) the lands forfeited by the earl of Desmond, (2) the lands of other attained [Sic] persons, and (3) the lands of religious houses in that county.

Desmond Survey, 1586

This is a survey made under commissions of 19 June, 22 Aug., and 24 Aug., 26 Elizabeth, taken by inquisition, to enquire into the lands and their value which had been forfeited by reason of the rebellion of Gerald, late Earl of Desmond, his brothers John and James, and James Eustace, earl of Baltinglass, or by any other way. The lands affected lay in Cos. Limerick, Kerry, Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Dublin and Kilkenny.265

If we are to judge from the calendars, the originals must have been very voluminous,266 for we know that the arrangement of the material was detailed and elaborate.267 There survived after 1922 only a number of calendars and a few fragmentary transcripts and most of this surviving material is being presented in this volume. The documents edited consulted or otherise utilized may be listed as follows

¶1] .M. 5039 P.R.O.I. This is a manuscript calendar in English of Christopher Peyton's Survey of Co. Limerick, which in the original was mostly in the contracted Latin with occasional glosses in English and French.268 Traces of the Latin are retained here and there in the calendar, which was made by the late Mr. M. J. McEnery, who was deputy keeper of records and keeper of state papers from 1914 to 1921. Subsequent to 1922 another member of the P.R.O.I. staff, the late Mr. J. J. Hughes, made a scrupulously exact copy of the McEnery calendar, and this bears the reference number M. 5039 b.

¶2] .M. 2759 P.R.O.I. This is a pencilled transcript of folios 122 to 143d of Peyton's Survey made by the late Tenison Groves (the Dublin antiquarian and genealogist) and presented by him to the P.R.O.I. It relates to the 'toghes' of Gortcoythe, Kyllydye and Kylheylagh: Groves presumably had a specific reason, perhaps arising out of a genealogical enquiry, for transcribing these particular folios. In view of the destruction of the original material and of its survival only in calendar form, this fifty-five page transcript, made only a few years before 1922, is of special importance as a verbatim copy in contracted Latin of portion of Peyton's Survey and as preserving the lay-out of the original. The reading difficulties presented by a pencilled manuscript in a not very legible hand were obviated by this editor's fortunate discovery that Groves had had his transcript typed and bound and had presented it in January 1919 to the manuscripts room of Trinity College, Dublin.269

The Groves transcript reproduces the introductory title of the original Peyton Survey:

The Book or Survey of the Attainted and Eseheated landes in the Countye of Lymeriek in the Provinee of Munster within the Realme of Ireland made in 1586 in the XXVIIth year of the Reign of o[ur] Soveraigne Ladye Queene Elizaheth etc. which came into her Majestie's handes by the Erle of Desmonde, John of Desmonde, and James ffitzmorris warre and others their confederates and associates.

Chr: Peyton 1586)

Also reproduced is a rough index to the section transcribed, under three headings— Nomina Villarum (that is, the place-names), Nomina Boscar in quibus existit maeremio and Nomina Tenencium Comiti Desmon. ptinen tma. libor. qm. Custumar. There follows, in wording and format,


a reproduction of folios 122 to 143d, each successive folio, recto or dorso, being represented by a sheet of the transcript. Headings of the subject matter are marginal and vertical, in the contemporary fashion, rather than horizontal. Thus the freeholder or tenant whose lands are being described is mentioned in an outer left-hand marginal heading while inner left-hand headings note the particular land denominations as well as descriptions of woods or minerals. Right-hand headings give the areas—in acres or quarters—of the lands being described.

We reproduce here folio 122-122d, as it appears in the Groves transcript, and it should be compared with its calendared abstract, section 187 of the printed text.

Matter for folios 114 & 115 (ms f. 122 and f. 122d) to follow

A detailed collation of the whole Groves transcript with the relevant sections of M. 5039 (sections 187-201 of our printed text) confirms what the reader will have gathered from a sample comparison—that the McEnery calendar faithfully abstracts the original Peyton Survey. The considerable repetition of the original is avoided while all essential information is preserved. Name-forms as well as money and land figures are meticulously copied. Occasional explanatory comment is kept to a minimum and is always helpful. At the same time order and clarity are not lost in the process of abbreviation. The admirable compression of the calendarist is illustrated by the fact that the information contained in over forty folios (recto and dorso) of the original is covered in some eleven foolscap pages of the calendar.

Apart from indicating the format of the destroyed original, the Groves transcript demonstrates the comprehensiveness and reliability of M. 5039 as a calendar of Peyton's Survey. Similarly, we are justified in assuming that M. 5038 (see below) is accurate and reliable in the same degree. As far as Co. Limerick is concerned, then, the loss of the original material is by no means irreparable.

¶3] .M. 5038 P.R.O.I. Like M. 5039, this is a manuscript calendar in English of the Co. Limerick portion of the Desmond Survey of 1586, the Latin original of which was destroyed in 1922. Again, the calendarist is M. J. McEnery, and a copy (M. 5038 b) of the calendar was made by J. J. Hughes.

¶4] . M. 5037 P.R.O.I. This is one of about a dozen270 privately copies of a thirty-three page calendar in English of the Co. Kerry portion of the Desmond Survey. Manuscript notes on the P.R.O.I. copy inform us that the calendar was privately printed for Samuel Murray Hussey271 who gave a copy to James F. Fuller, M.R.I.A., who in turn presented it to the P.R.O.I. in January 1923272 (i.e., after the destruction of the original material). There are also some notes in the handwriting of the late Mgr. Alfred O'Rahilly who in the early 1930s was considering the possibility of a new edition of Smith's History of Kerry. Rev. Sir H. L. L. Denny, in his Handbook of the County Kerry Family History, Biography etc. (1923), p. 11, refers to the 'survey of the estates of the sixteenth Earl of Desmond privately printed by Hennessy: copy with notes by S. M. Hussey in possession of Col. E. Nash'. W. M. Hennessy was a well-known Kerry antiquarian: the whereabouts of Col. Nash's copy and the nature of the 'notes' remain to be investigated.

The 'Kerry Desmond Survey' (if we may conveniently call it that) begins by listing the rents issuing out of the lands of various free tenants in Corkaguiney barony, as well as the money value of the obligatory supply of victuals and lodgings to retainers and servants of the earl of Desmond on his periodical visits. Also listed are the earl's custom dues out of imports and exports, fishings and shipwrecks. The gross total of the barony's revenue is then given. There follow similar returns for other north Kerry baronies.

From 13 August to 15 October 1927, the Kerryman serialized the Kerry Desmond Survey calendar. The series was prefaced by the statement that 'the subjoined is a copy of the translation [Sic] of the Desmond Survey, the original of which perished in the destruction of the Public Record Office, Four Courts, Dublin. It was kindly forwarded to us for publication by Mr. M. J. Byrne, solicitor, Listowel.' Apart from his law practice, the late Matthew J. Byrne was one of a dedicated group of Kerry local historians in the early years of this century. To those interested in the Kerry Desmond


Survey, it should be pointed out that the Kerryman serialization, though generally identical with M. 5037, leaves out a number of sentences, transposes substantial sections and omits altogether a portion corresponding to pp. 21-5 of M. 5037. A curious feature of both versions is a number of what seem to be superscript numerals for footnotes, possibly as comments on place-names. If these notes did exist, correspondence with the Kerryman, the late Mgr. O'Rahilly and the representatives of the late Mr. Byrne failed to reveal any trace of their whereabouts.273

¶5] . A fragment of the original Desmond Survey survives in the form of a two-page Latin transcript dealing with the manor of Kilcolman (mod. Kilcolman East, Middle and West: Doneraile par. Co. Cork) which is preserved in the P.R.O.I. Certified as authentic in May 1874 by the then assistant deputy keeper of the records, J. J. Digges La Touche, it is described as a portion 'of a Record in the Public Record Office of Ireland entitled "Desmond Survey Roll", Auditor General's Department'. There is also a copy in the library of the Royal Society of Antiquaries of Ireland.

Of the documents listed above, M. 5038 and M. 5039 are here edited in full. Despite some duplication and overlapping,274 it seemed to the editor that the historical importance of the calendars warranted the publication of both in full, and the commission readily agreed. As for M. 5037, it could be argued that it is already available (albeit in a very limited private edition) and that the material it contains may also be found in the Kerryman files. In some respects, however, M. 5037 is an unsatisfactory document—it seems to have been hastily prepared and printed—and a critical edition is clearly called for. Its place-names need to be investigated and as far as possible identified,275 and its precise relation to the 'Desmond Inquisition' established.276 When the present editor had completed some preliminary work on the Kerry Desmond Survey, it became clear to him that to attempt this additional task would be to protract impossibly the publication of this volume, already long overdue. But he cannot sufficiently stress the importance of making available this valuable sixteenth-century source in properly edited form.277

By a royal commission dated 19 June 1584 Sir Henry Wallop, Sir Valentine Browne, Thomas Jenison,278 Launcelot Alford and Christopher Peyton were appointed 'to inquire by the oaths of good and lawful men' into the lands which were forfeit to the crown as a result of the Desmond rebellion, and to return 'the clear yearly value of the premises and who receives the issues and profits'.279 The new lord deputy, Sir John Perrott, was empowered to appoint additional or substitute commissioners, and by late August 'since Thomas Jenison . . . is aficted with disease so that he is unable to act. . ., Thomas Wyseman and Arthur Robins gents' were added to the original panel.280 As well as the general commission, a special group seems to have been concerned with lands in the counties of Waterford, Limerick, Cork, Kerry and Cross Tipperary. This group comprised Nicholas Walshe, chief justice of Munster; John Meagh, second justice of Munster; Thomas Wyseman; James Gowle; Robert Rosier, and Arthur Robins 'and any three of them who shall be named by Henry Wallop and Valentine Browne.'281

Not until late August 1584 was the final composition of the 'surveyors' determined and the work begun.282 The commissioners could expect favourable conditions: 'a man may now travel the whole country and none to molest him,' wrote the sheriff of Co. Cork, Sir William Stanley, to Walsingham in September 1584.283 The work was commenced in Tipperary which however had to be left partially unsurveyed as the earl of Ormonde had seized a considerable portion of the escheated lands which the local people were afraid to point out.284 From Tipperary, the commissioners proceeded into Limerick where Wallop expressed his satisfaction that so much fertile land had become forfeit. In mid-September, the survey party was in north Kerry where much of the land was noted as being good arable and pasture, though not as fertile as Limerick. From Dingle the commissioners went northwards, skirting the Shannon estuary and moving back into Limerick by mid-October. They took a well-deserved rest at Askeaton before continuing their labours in Cork and Waterford. From Cork in late November they were forced by weather conditions to return to Dublin, there to complete the survey.


In spite of the 'pacification' of Munster, the journey had not been easy going. Indeed the very devastation of the province (which made a forcible impression on the commissioners) presented its own difficulties. The weather was 'extreme foul' and the roads and tracks through woods and over mountain were tedious and dangerous. Alford as well as many of the servants were struck down by fever, old Sir Valentine Browne was nearly drowned on two occasions and his son suffered a broken arm. Several horses were lost in the course of the journey. Provisions were scarce and dear, one hundred persons had to be fed at the commissioners' table and Burghley was being asked for more money. The sullen resentment of many of the inhabitants had also to be contended with. Yet the over-all reaction of the surveying party was one of jubilation that such extensive and fertile lands were being found for the crown, though this feeling was tempered somewhat by anxiety about Irish claims to land.285 Naturally the surveyors were concerned to secure their own share of the pickings. Wallop was well aware that 'there are many suitors at court for the best things here' and wished to have an estate reserved for himself in the Knockainy-Lough Gur district of Co. Limerick.286

Norreys, the lord president of Munster, summed up for Burghley: 'The commissioners find the country generally so wasted and dispeopled in all parts that small hope appeareth in many years to inhabit the same and those also which remain very loosely disposed through the licentiousness of rebellion whom of themselves being evil this late enquiry which they see made of their lands hath much worse affected: nevertheless their weakness and last extremity is such that they are altogether unable to do any hurt however evil minds they bear.287

On 28 November 1584 the commissioners returned to Dublin from Munster288 but almost a year was to pass before the survey was completed. As Dunlop points out,289 delay at this early stage was harmful to the progress of the plantation. In January 1585 Walsingham informed Wallop that the queen would not dispose of any of the escheated lands before the survey became available.290 It was early October before Wallop informed Burghley of the delivery of the record of the survey to the lord deputy, Wallop admitting that it was roughly and imperfectly done.291 Perrot was not very enthusiastic about the plantation proposals292 and, in a letter to Burghley in April 1586, Wallop defended the commission of survey against the lord deputy's criticism. The letter reveals something of the commission's methods of inquiry:

‘His Lordship hath always seemed to make light of our travails that were commissioners for the surveying of the lands in Munster, saying it would come to little or nothing, but now of late to discredit our service the more he hath often spoke it openly, that all we did was by a beggarly sergeant and that without him, we could have done nothing, by whom he meaneth a man, who had been under officer for the late Earl of Desmond by that name of a sergeant in Connello, and in some other part of the county of Limerick, the greatest part whereof we had surveyed before he came to us: he was perfect and ready to tell us the names of the places and persons who had been in rebellion in all those quarters, where his instructions indeed furthered greatly our travail and the service, but in the counties of Cork, Kerry, Waterford and the Cross of Tipperary he could say nothing. And if he had been as perfect in all them as in the other, yet I hope Her Majesty nor your Lordship will not be persuaded or judge that the substance of all our service and travail consisted only upon his report and declaration . . .293

Christopher Peyton also reminded Burghley of the difficulties of making a survey of lands belonging to people long since dead and situated where there was no one to tell the name of the place, the last owner or the value of the land.294 Solicitor-General Roger Wilbraham was willing to make allowances for a survey 'done by the information of the serjeants for the most part, as I am told by those were in the service, so as it is but conjectural and yet the service of those commissioners very effective, and available to Her Majesty, but error is incident [to] all general services'.295 And Walsingham assured Wallop of his own satisfaction (though this was before the completion of the survey): ‘Touching the survey of the escheated lands in Munster, I do verily think that none of these that have been made heretofore, have been performed with like sincerity and


sound meaning, towards Her Majesty's profit, for I know that some of the former have been made to serve rather private men's turns than the advantage of the crown . . .’296

The survey enabled the government to estimate approximately the amount of land at its disposal and so to proceed with the drafting of a provisional scheme for the peopling of Munster. Yet within a short time it became clear that the survey was imperfect and incomplete—it frequently refers, for example, to lands not yet surveyed. When Secretary Fenton was sent to Ireland with the scheme for re-peopling Munster in November 1585, his instructions were that the original survey was not sufficiently thorough and he was therefore to see to it that the lord deputy and council should 'appoint meet persons to survey the same as near as may be, according to the plot aforesaid with respect as well as of the goodness as of the quantity of the ground'.297 But by June 1586 Fenton was reporting to Burghley that 'no commissioners have been as yet sent from hence [Dublin] into Munster to perfect the survey of the escheated lands and to compound with the intermixtors.'298

The commissioners who had been appointed in August 1586 'for the dividing and bounding into seignories Her Majesty's attainted, escheated or concealed lands within the Province of Munster'299 soon found that 'very many of the offices upon Mr. Treasurer [Wallop] and Sir Valentine Browne's surveys, which should have entitled her Majesty, for want of law skill therein are defective in matter, as not declaring what offence the offenders committed—either felony or treason;—or of what estate the offenders were seized either for life or in fee, and such like blemishes to disable the offices, which many of them I doubt are incurable, we thought good to procure here another new commission besides to the persons named to be surveyors in England, to inquire of all attainted and forfeited lands which we did execute and found divers offices at Dungarvan and Youghal whilst they measured there and so did dispatch both businesses as near as we could with one charge and labour.300

Dunlop has remarked on the contrast between the sophisticated paper planning for the Munster plantation and the slipshod nature of the arrangements in practice. The plantation, says Quinn, 'is an excellent example of the ideas of a sixteenth century government outrunning its capacity for performance'.301 The Desmond survey exemplifies—in its imperfections, in the delay in its completion and in the difficulties to which it subsequently gave rise—the unsatisfactory nature of the arrangements for the plantation as a whole. Despite its documentary value, the survey comes within Spenser's general censure: 'Some think that the first plot was not well instituted nor grounded upon sound advertisement and knowledge of the country . . .'302

Peyton's Survey, dealing with Co. Limerick only, was a separate report303 but arose out of the same general commission304 as the Desmond Survey. Though the introduction to the survey states that it was drawn up by 'Christopher Peyton and other commissioners',305 it is clear that Peyton was the real compiler. His diligence in the work of surveying was commented on by Perrot306 and, as we have seen, Peyton himself wrote to Burghley on the difficulty of the task.307 In May 1585 Peyton asked Burghley whether he should remain in Ireland and proceed with other surveys or return to England in July with Sir Valentine Browne.308 As far back as 1581, Peyton had been interested in succeeding the ailing Thomas Jenison as auditor of Ireland.309 Clearly, 'his diligence in the late surveys'310 would help to recommend him to Walsingham and Burghley, so that we may partly attribute the existence of a separate Peyton Survey to personal ambition. When Jenison died, the favour Peyton sought was granted, in November 1587 (by which time he had done more work on Munster surveys) and he expressed his thanks to Burghley.311 It is worth noting that Peyton was involved on Perrot's side in the latter's dispute with Wallop.312

On 28 April 1586 Peyton informed Burghley that he had sent by the bearer a book of survey of all the attainted and escheated lands in the small and great county of Limerick, with an index at the beginning of the book.313 It seems then that Peyton's Survey was not completed until some six


months after the Desmond Survey. On 12 July 1586 Peyton asked Burghley to confirm that he had in fact received his previous letters and 'the book I sent unto your Lordship of the great and small county of Limerick whether your Lordship have received them or not and what your Lordship's pleasure is for the rest of the counties. I remain here, I know not how, until I have some direction from your Lordship, either for the survey, or for the auditor's place, or for the treasurer's reckoning.' It is evident from the rest of the letter that Peyton was dissatisfied with his position in the Irish civil service. Like many of his colleagues, he wanted a share in the confiscated lands— 'the preferment of the castle and lands of Mucrus court in the great county of Limerick which he had already begun to inhabit'.314

The most obvious difference between the Desmond and Peyton Surveys315 was that the latter was confined to the forfeited lands in Co. Limerick whereas the former covered lands in counties Limerick (calendared in M. 5038), Kerry (M. 5037), Cork, Waterford, Tipperary, Dublin and Kilkenny. Even in its surviving calendar form, something of the wider scope of the original is retained since M. 5038 mentions a relatively small number of manors, lands and tenements, including religious houses, in counties Clare, Cork, Kerry, Tipperary and Waterford.316

M. 5038 altogether lacks the lengthy prefatory material found in M. 5039. This includes sections on the question of land measurements, the various divisions of Ireland and an annalistic prophecy.317 Another section contains detailed instructions (not found in M. 5038) for the commissioners of survey318 while Peyton's Survey is concluded by an appendix entitled 'The Plot from England for inhabiting and peopling of Mounster'.319

To a large extent M. 5038 and M. 5039 deal with the same material but do so in different ways. Indeed, they are complementary rather than overlapping. In the case of the lands of Pierce Oge Lacy of Bruff, for example, Peyton's Survey gives us details about the 'ruinous castle', the presence of timber, the wasted condition of the lands and the various sub-denominations.320 The Desmond Survey, on the other hand, though naming only the principal denomination (Doroglogh: mod. Durraclogh, Ballingarry par.) gives the valuation arrived at by the commissioners in money, victuals and provisions.321 Again, the detailed description of Lough Gur castle in M. 5038 (sect. 388) is not found in M. 5039 (sects. 21, 22) though the latter specifies the constituent denominations and mentions that Sir George Bourchier was in possession of the manor. Information on the fair at Knockainy in M. 5039 (sect. 16) is not found in M. 5038. Contrast also the information on Glenogra in the two surveys (sects. 17, 389). John Oge McRuddery, the White Knight, is mentioned only in passing in M. 5038 (sects. 444, 696): his lands in Limerick are detailed in M. 5039 (sects. 321, 323). In general, Peyton's Survey is more detailed with more information on subdenominations and natural features, while rentals and valuations are supplied in the Desmond Survey. Identification of place-names is more difficult in M. 5038, as there are lengthy sections without 'toghe' or barony headings where no parish is mentioned.

Finally it may be noted that whereas the original foliation is noted on the margin throughout M. 5038 it stops completely in M. 5039 at section 156 (f. 102d). Again, marginal headings (placenames, woods, etc.) disappear half way through M. 5039 but these are in any case superfluous since they simply repeat (sometimes with different spellings) the names given in the text.

The student of the Munster plantation would do well to take note of some contemporary maps.322 We have no detailed map of preplantation Munster. 'A single draught of Mounster' [?1572] attributed to Robert Lythe is clearly drawn but too general.323 The post-plantation maps are more rewarding. A large scale Munster map of 17 June 1586 shows the attainted lands with the names of the undertakers, but in no great detail.324 An informative if somewhat inaccurate map is that of Co. Limerick in 1587 drawn by Francis Jobson, with a fretwork cartouche enclosing a description of the lands surveyed and the method of survey.325 But perhaps the best—known plantation map is Francis Jobson's 'The Provence of Munster', 1589.326 Jobson was one of the four surveyors


employed in measuring the confiscated lands, the others being Robins, Lawson and Whiteacre. On the margin of the map is a letter from Jobson to Burghley in which the cartographer states that he spent nearly three years surveying and measuring the escheated lands in Munster, having been appointed by Wallop, Browne and the other commissioners of survey. The map is overcrowded and, in general, in-elegantly executed (indeed Jobson admits its limitations) but is valuable in that it shows the location and size of the seignories. This is the map referred to by W. H. Hardinge in his R.I.A. paper in December 1861. Hardinge was concerned to verify that mapped surveys had accompanied the inquisitions and books of surveys, and he regarded the 1589 map as 'a reduction by Jobson from the townland surveys, made in pursuance of the' commission dated 19 June, 26 Eliz.327

In conclusion, a word may be said about the historical importance of the Desmond and Peyton Surveys, even in their surviving calendar form. The indicate, for example, the continuity of Gaelic social and territorial organization within what was in name at least an Old English lordship. At the same time, the fiscal and economic structure of that lordship is revealed through the nature of the rents and services payable to the earl of Desmond. The surveys also serve to emphasize and particularize the havoc wrought by the Desmond wars since they refer frequently to devastated lands and ruined buildings. They furnish evidence on the degree of complicity of the various freeholders in the rebellion. As in the case of the Clancarthy Survey, there is much important information of a topographical nature throughout and the surveys are of importance for the study of place-names. Their interest is further enhanced by the details furnished on fisheries, mines and woods, as well as on traditional units of areas, weights and measures and by the information that can be deduced on contemporary prices of livestock and foodstuffs.

In making a detailed return of land ownership and occupation, the commissioners were not only carrying out essential preparatory work for the Munster plantation but unwittingly creating a valuable source for Munster history. Taken together with the maps referred to above, the Elizabethan fiants,328 the various reports on the plantation up to 1622, the Civil Survey,329 the Down Survey parish and barony maps,330 the Books of Survey and Distribution,331 and the 1659 'Census',332 the Desmond and Peyton Surveys will enable us to trace further the great changes in land ownership for these areas from the Desmond rebellion to the Williamite confiscation.

My thanks are due to Miss Margaret Griffith, deputy keeper, P.R.O.I., for her readiness in making the calendars available and to Professor Seamus Pender, Diarmuid O Murchadha, and Doncha Ó Conchúir for their suggestions on the identification of certain place-names in counties Waterford, Cork and Kerry respectively.