Taxing times in early 17th century East Cork.

King James VI of Scots became King of Ireland and England on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603.

King James VI of Scots became King of Ireland and England on the death of Elizabeth I in 1603.

A week ago the Irish government presented its annual budget for the fiscal year 2016. The summary of taxation and expenditure was designed to facilitate the re-election of the government in the general election that must take place in the early spring. Whatever about the intricacies of modern government finance, back in the early seventeenth century things were rather different. The early modern period saw the government attempt to transplant English methods of raising revenue to Ireland with varying degrees of success. The Nine Year’s War (1594 to 1603), which included the great revolt of Munster from 1598, played havoc with the whole fiscal system in Munster. One of the causes of the Munster Revolt was the burden of taxation imposed on the province. Much of this burden came from the tax known as composition. Composition was itself a replacement of a medieval practice called cess (from ‘assessment’). During the conquests of the sixteenth century, the government quartered soldiers on the inhabitants of the province. This meant that a householder was obliged to house and feed a soldier (and his horse, if he had a horse) without any remuneration from either the soldier or the authorities.  Effectively this was military taxation, and it fell most heavily on the peasantry. The Gaelic and Anglo-Irish lords used a similar process called coign and livery so the government cess was predicated on the idea that the peasantry were accustomed to this system. The reality was that cess and coign and livery ate into the often meagre surplus produce of the peasantry and denied them access to a surplus that could be sold to be re-invested in their holdings. For the government, this system meant that there was no need to build accommodation for the soldiers – a substantial saving in funds at a period when soldiers were normally housed in expensive fortresses.

The composition was not imposed by Act of Parliament, instead it was imposed by proclamation. The process began in Connacht under Lord Deputy Sir Henry Sidney in 1575. The idea was to pay for the two new provincial Presidencies in Connacht and Munster by means of an assessed levy on the baronies in each county. The process of imposing the composition was by means of an agreement between the Lord President of the province and his fellow commissioners on the one hand and the landowners of all classes on the other hand. Once the figure for the composition to be imposed on the barony had been agreed a written contract was drawn up and signed by the government officials on one hand and by the leading landowners on the other. The landholders, large and small, agreed to a fixed overall amount to be paid in composition for a stated number of years, and the government undertook not to quarter its soldiers on the people. The irony of this was that sometimes these same soldiers had to be used to squeeze the composition out of the people who, for whatever reason, wouldn’t or couldn’t pay the sum demanded.

Early seventeenth century silver shilling of King James I. Silver was the preferred medium of currency at the time.

Early seventeenth century silver shilling of King James I. Silver was the preferred medium of currency at the time.

The composition was collected twice a year, as agreed, for example, in 1604, when the proprietors of Barrymore, Ibane, and Orrery agreed to pay equal amounts at the Feast of All Saints (1st November) and the feast of St John the Baptist (24th June).  It should be noticed that at the time the daily pay of a labourer was 6d for work done. The annual salary of the Lord President of Munster was £133 6s.8d. All figures are given in sterling value (the Irish currency was of a lower value).

How did the composition work out? In September 1592 many of the baronies of Cork agreed to pay sums as follow: Orrery was to pay £20 per annum for three years; Kerrycurrihy would pay £62 19s per annum for seven years; Barretts contracted to pay £23 per annum; Coursies (modern Courceys) agreed to £5 per annum; Duhallow would pay £30 per annum; Muskerry agreed to £35 per annum; Beare and Bantry agreed to pay £13 5s 8d per annum and Imokilly agreed to 90 marks per annum.  This latter figure was the equivalent of £60 per annum. What this suggests is that the two richest baronies were Kerrycurrihy (stretching from Ballincollig to Crosshaven, just south of Cork City) and Imokilly. Admittedly several other baronies, such as Carbery, Barrymore and Fermoy, etc., were not involved in this particular composition of 1592.

The only gold currency issued in Ireland was the emergency issue of gold pistoles by James ~Butler, Earl of Ormond, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during the Great Rebellion in 1642-1649. A pistole was a gold coin valued at several times the standard currency unit.

The only gold currency issued in Ireland was the emergency issue of extremely rare gold pistoles by James Butler, Earl of Ormond, who was Lord Lieutenant of Ireland during the Great Rebellion in 1642-1649. A pistole was a gold coin valued at several times the standard currency unit.

The 1609 composition records are more complete. The total amount paid in composition by County Cork that year was over £574, which was almost half the amount of composition paid by the whole province (without County Clare, which was included in Connacht at the time, to the great irritation of the O’Brien, Earl of Thomond). What is interesting is to examine the amounts paid by the baronies and lordships. Carbery paid £54 6s 8d at Easter and £53 6s 8d  at Michaelmas. Imokilly paid £40 at Easter and the same again at Michaelmas. Kerrycurrihy paid £36 9s 1 1/4d at Easter and £40 13s 4d at Michaelmas. Barrymore paid £28 at both Easter and Michaelmas. Muskerry paid £23 6s 8d at both Easter and Michaelmas. All the other baronies and lordships paid less than £20 at each semester. What this shows is that the wealthiest baronies were Kerrycurrihy, Imokilly and Barrymore. The figure given for Carbery was actually misleading because Carbery was a very large barony which was later divided into two more compact baronies (Carbery East, Carbery West). The same happened with the sprawling lordship of Muskerry. Thus the composition figures show very clearly that the landed wealth of County Cork was concentrated around Cork Harbour at the beginning of the seventeenth century.

(The taxation figures used in this post are derived from the article referenced below.)

Reference: Margaret Curtis Clayton, ‘Taxation in early Stuart Munster,’ in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, Vol 116 (2011), pages 11-18.

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Markets and Fairs in early Stuart Imokilly and Barrymore.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork.

With Cork, Youghal was the most important town in the county in 1600. It was the center of commerce in the eastern part of County Cork. Its development was promoted by Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork for forty years until 1642.

One of the aspects of regional history in Ireland was the existence of Presidencies in the provinces of Munster and Connacht. These were subordinate authorities set up in the sixteenth century to impose greater governmental control over these provinces.They alleviated the burden of control placed on the Castle (the government in Dublin Castle) and allowed for more rapid response to local issues.

Shortly after the climactic Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and the ending of the Nine Year’s War in 1603, the Council of Munster (the Lord President of Munster and his chief officials) set to work on modernizing the regional economy. The key to this was the encouragement of a monetary economy based on licensed and regulated markets and fairs.  Margaret Curtis Clayton has done a splendid job of compiling the information on the markets and fairs that were newly licensed in Munster in the period 1600-1630. It should be noted that the establishment of a market or fair on someone’s property generated additional lucrative income and often enhanced an existing settlement or improved its economic prospects. The period from 1603 to 1642 was one of rapid economic change in south east Cork.

It’s worth noting that Chore Abbey (Midleton) had a market licence from 1608 renewed in 1624 – suggesting that the settlement that survived the dissolution of the Cistercian abbey was now thriving. The proximity of an annual fair in Castleredmond, first licensed in 1609, was a further boost to the local economy. In each case the licence was issued to the proprietor or landlord, who was then obliged to appoint a clerk of the market to regulate it. The proprietor also had to designate a place for the market or fair and ran a pie-powder court to settle disputes. (The name comes from the French term pied poudre, or dusty feet, for the court was a summary court conducted on the spot.) The proprietor had to pay an annual fee to the Crown for the licence and was entitled to keep the fees charged to stall-holders and the profits of justice from the pie powder court.  It is worth noting that fairs were often linked to church feastdays.

John Speed's map of Munster 1600-1611.

John Speed’s map of the province of Munster 1600-1611.

In this post our concern is the licensing of such markets and fairs in the south east Cork baronies of Imokilly and Barrymore.

Carrigtwohill: 5 Feb 1607/8. Fair – no details. Prop. David Barry, Viscount Buttevant. Renewed 1618, details lost.

Castleredmond: 24 June 1609. Fair on 3 May & 1 day following. Prop. Sir James Craig. Rent. 6s 8d Irish. Renewed, with one additional day, on 23 Dec 1624 in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, for a rent of 6s.8d. (Note: the date 3 May was the traditional Feast of the Invention of the Holy Cross.)

Chore Abbey (Midleton): 14 Oct 1608. Market on Saturday. Prop. Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald. Rent: 5s English. Renewed in favour of Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, on 23 Dec 1624, for a rent of 6s.8d.

Dangandonyvane: 25 Nov. 1606. Fair on Feast of St James (25th July) & 2 days following. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Killeagh:11 July 1631. Market on Tuesday. Fairs on 1 June and 1 November each with one day following. Prop. William Supple. Rent not recorded.

Rostellan: 25 Nov. 1606. Market on Saturday. Prop. Thomas FitzGerald. Rent not recorded.

Youghal: 22 Dec 1609. Market on Wednesday and Saturday. Fairs on Eve of St Luke (18 October) & 3 days following and on the Feast of the Ascension (usually late May). Prop Youghal Corporation. Free of rent.

What is of interest are the two market days in Youghal and the two annual fairs there. Clearly Youghal was of major importance. Cork appears to have had a market every day until 1613 when a shortage of goods led to the market being restricted to Wednesday and Saturday. Also of note is the absence of any licence for a market in Cloyne, Ballinacorra, Mogeely or Ballymartyr (Castlemartyr). Nor is there any market on Great Island – the nearest one being in Carrigtwohill. The absence of a market in Cloyne suggests that Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald was wary of intruding on pre-existing market rights established by the bishops during the medieval period. The market in Carrigtwohill followed a tradition of markets going back to the 1200s. In respect of Chore Abbey (Midleton), it is interesting to note that Richard Boyle, Earl of Cork, succeeded Sir John FitzEdmund FitzGerald as leaseholder of both the old monastic estate, and Castleredmond. FitzGerald had died in 1612.

Reference: Margaret Curtis Clayton: ‘Early Stuart markets and fairs in Munster, c1600-1630.’ Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, vol 115 (2010), pp 167-177.