Townlands have been the basic unit of land division in Ireland since the medieval period, with origins perhaps going back much further. some are relatively new – such as the townland of School-lands in Midleton which certainly didn’t exist before 1696, when Midleton School, or Midleton College as we now call it, was founded. As I mentioned in my previous post on the subject, townlands (or ploughlands) are not of a uniform size – being dependent on the fertility of the land contained within the townland boundaries. And they were not always rigidly fixed either – several of them changed over the centuries, such as the cre. Many of them have local sub-divisions which never appear on a map because these sub-divisisons are unofficial. Castlredmond townland, which lies between Midleton town and Ballinacurra village is a classic example. It sprawls from the shore of the Owenacurra estuary and Ballinacurra creek to Carrigshane rock. A sprawling townland needed to be subdivided by the inhabitants as a way of ascertaining who actually lived where.
Bailick, Lakeview, Cronin’s Rock, Rocky Road, Ashlin Road, Carrigshane Rock (which is NOT in the townland of Carrighane!) all mark out divisions of the townland. But these names may not appear on official maps except for very specific locations or reatures, such as a road or a house. Technically these names should only apply the specific feature but in Ireland, this is usually disregarded. Well, rules were made to be broken.
In fact the subdivisions were derived from local usage and existed for the convenience of the inhabitants themselves. For example, if you take the townland of Castleredmond, which lies between Midleton and Ballynacorra, this covered 486 acres, 3 roods and 33 perches, containing 259 inhabitants in what was then a mostly rural district in 1881 when these figures were published. Now many of these inhabitants probably lived close to the wharf on the Owenacurra estuary in the west.area. But there might be clusters of inhabitants in other parts, say bordering the Youghal Road or on the Rocky Road or perhaps on the Ballinacorra Road. That gives four different clusters of housing where people were concentrated..Imagine a townland where several men bear the name Patrick Murphy. There might be several Pat Murphys spread among the different clusters in different parts of the townland. And one ot two living in more apart in isolated farms or cottages. How would you recognize which Pat Murphy someone is talking about? In speech a nickname was given – Pat Jim Murphy might be the Pat Murphy who is the son of Jim Murphy. Pat Michael or Mick’s Pat might be the Patrick Murphy, son of Michael Murphy. But an official letter is likely to be addressed to Mr Patrick Murphy, Castleredmond, Midleton, County Cork. To whom does the postman deliver the letter?
One way of getting over this was to insert a local designation into the address – somewhat unofficial, but useful for the postman. So, Pat Jim Murphy might live in a cottage on Bailick Road and might give his address as Patrick Murphy, Bailick, Castleredmond, Midleton while Mick’s Pat could be Patrick Murphy, Lakeview, Castleredmond, Midleton. Perhaps there’s another Patrick Murphy called Pat John, or PJ, for identification, living on Bailick Road – he might liver near Charleston Maltings (run by Bennetts) so his address might be given as Patrick Murphy, Charleston, Bailick, Castleredmond Midleton. Remember these are not entirely official designations, but they were useful for the postman who had to distinguish between the several Patrick Murphys living in one townland. It is possible that similar designations might appear in the local church registers – but this was entirely at the discretion of the priest or clergyman. The practice was probably also used by local landlords who sublet to small tenants.
I have suggested that these subdivisions of townlands were somewhat unofficial, but sometimes they were recognized by the Post Office – Lakeview Terrace still stands at the northern end of Castleredmond right next to the modern by-pass, The small terrace of three good houses appears in the first edition Ordnance Survey map so it has been in existance since the early 1840s or late 1830s. But it takes its name from the large house next door – Lakeview or Lake View in the original designation. This house was inhabited by Mr Swithin Fleming, a lawyer, from the 1830s to the 1880s. The lake viewed from the house was actually a broad stretch of the estuary of the Owenacurra River to the west. I suspect that the view as better from the upper floor of the house since the site stands well back from the estuary, at the top of the slope. Today, Lakeview is the name given locally to this area of the townland of Castleredmond – indeed the junction of by-pass with the Midleton to Ballinacorra Road is called Lakeview Roundabout (Rotary to you Americans), and the nearby service station is called Lakeview Service Station. But the houses in the area can be designated ‘Castleredmond’ or ‘Lakeview, Castleredmond’.
Why does all this matter? In searching for one’s Irish ancestors, it is necessary to be careful that the correct person in the correct part of the townland be identified. If you are dealing with a name like Murphy, MacCarthy, O’Sullivan, O’Brien, O’Neill etc, this can pose difficulties. If there is another placename linked to the family this can prove to be a subdivision of the townland name – a very useful aid in finding one’s ancestral homestead – even if it is now a ploughed field.
Midleton has several areas like this in different townlands. For example, the townland of Townparks, which covers the town center and extends well south of the Roxborough River, includes two areas with very local identification within its boundaries. These are Coolbawn and the Rock. They are not official designations – Coolbawn is the locally employed name for Brodrick Street. Imagine the confusion on the faces of a visitor who is told you can find the Farmgate Restaurant on Coolbawn. Now there are not many streets in Midleton – just five in fact. These are Main Street, Thomas Street, Connolly Street, Oliver Plunkett Street (formerly Bridewell Lane), McDermott Street (formerly Free School Lane)….and Brodrick Street. Every other route is a road or lane, as in Mill Road, Youghal Road, Cork Road, Old Cork Road, St Mary’s Road (still called Chapel Road by locals) or Bridewell Lane (now Oliver Plunkett Street- although its dimensions haven’t changed – it’s still a lane!), Church Lane, Coach Horse Lane (self-explanatory really) Dickinson’s Lane, Darby’s Lane – and the former Free School Lane (which is still a lane!).
The point of local designations is that they sometimes tell us something about an area – Coolbawn is the AREA in which Brodrick Street stands, being originally the whole area bounded by the Owenacurra River to the west, the Roxborough River to the south, Main Street to the east and the south wall of St John the Baptist’s Church on the north. The name suggests an meadow between two streams (check!) and subdivided into paddocks, prior to the building of Brodrick Street. However, Coolbawn now refers to Brodrick Street itself in popular parlance….to the dismay of visitors!
The Rock is somewhat different. This lies just south of the Roxborough River on higher ground. Crossing Lewis Bridge over the Roxborough Riverg at the southern end of Main Street, the road splits in two. The route to the right continues up a steep hill, passing Holy Rosary Church towards Convent Cross (a T-junction at the top of the hill where St Mary’s Convent once stood) and then continues down the other side towards Ballinacorra via Castlredmond (and its Lakeview subdivision). From Lewis Bridge the other road forks off to the left cutting through the rock (!) towards Castlemartyr, Youghal and Waterford. The Rock is literally that! A rocky outcrop of limestone. Actually if you drive along the Youghal Road, you’d be hard pressed to spot it. There seems to have been a spur of limestone going from the hill towards the north. This seems to have been cut through at a very early date to create a direct road to Youghal, but this was probably too narrow for most carts or coaches. For a long time the main route to Youghal ran up St Mary’s Road and through Ballinacorra. Gradually the need to ease the passage of heavily loaded carts in and out of Midleton and the desire to speed up the mail coaches to and from Youghal led to a change. The limestone rock was cut away, perhaps to provide building stone, and a wider road was created. The good news for carters and coachmen was that this route was a much gentler slope for draught horses. By the end of the 1700s this area where the two roads fork began to be built up – and it’s been called the Rock for as long as anyone can recall. The Coppinger family, who had property on the north side of the Roxborough, built the National Bank of Ireland at the Rock in the 1830s. They later built Rock Terrace next to their bank in 1861. Yet the terrace on the rock itself doesn’t even have this name, being simply The Rock!
Thus, if you are looking for your Irish ancestors, it is worth bearing in mind that even a small townland can have unofficial subdivisions within it. This is a particularly useful point to recall if your ancestor is one of several people with exactly the same name living in the townland at the same time – remember, the number of names in use in the nineteenth century was remarkably limited by our standards.
Tarquin Blake’s Abandoned Ireland website: http://www.abandonedireland.com/Lakeview_House.html