Ulster Plantation Ireland History

Ulster Plantation

Welcome to this article about the Ulster Plantation in 1610 in Ireland and the impact it had on its history. At this time in 1605 there existed an “Act of Supremacy”.  This act stated that no catholic could hold any office in government, practise law, be either a magistrate or a judge, or take an estate held by the king unless they took the oath of supremacy.  In another act known as the “Act of Uniformity” a catholic could be fined if he did not attend Protestant worship on a Sunday.  Roman Catholics who refused to do so were termed Recuscants and indeed many were fined and imprisoned.  

Despite these laws being passed they were not able to be enforced, especially outside the Dublin Pale, and in practise many Catholics continued as magistrates and were allowed to carry out their legal duties.  Mountjoy died in 1606 and was replaced by Chichester as Lord Deputy and by Sir John Davies who both envisaged rich pickings to be had in Ulster. Even though government forces did rule that land, they had failed at imposing the Protestant faith.

However Donegal, Derry, Tyrone, Armagh, Fermanagh and Cavan were given to the management of Chichester in 1608.  He divided the lands into various sized lots and the biggest were given to English and Scottish undertakers.  The next sized lots were given to given to what were known as servitors, this who had served the crown and none of them to be Catholics.  The remaining smaller lots were then to be given to the English, Scottish or Irish Planters and they could be either Protestant or Catholic.  

In these circumstances Catholics were not required to take the Oath of Supremacy.  Large plots of land were given to London companies of tradesmen and merchants.  For all the remaining native population they were basically told to pack up and leave.  In relaity they had nowhere to go and many stayed where they were but took to the hills to try to carve out any existence that they could.

Plantation of Ulster and its Impact on Irish History

The Plantation of Ulster, unlike all the other tried plantations was very successful and vast numbers of Scottish and English Presbyterians came to Ulster to take advantage of this opportunity.  Under the Plantation of Ulster in 1610, grants were made to five Scottish settlers in the barony of Tullyhunco, and then this process was repeated throughout the county to the great dismay of the Catholic population. In 1611 the king created an “order” of baronets” to help pay for the plantation.  They took as their coat of arms the bloody (red) hand of the O’Neills.  To give some legitimacy to the plantation The Lord Deputy created a parliament and created forty boroughs with each borough returning two members.


English law was extended to the whole of Ireland and after this the parliament was dissolved in 1615.  Chichester was replaced by Oliver St John in 1616 and he immediately enforced all the existing penal statutes against all Catholics.  The king removed him as that caused a lot of resentment and in 1622 Lord Falkland took his place.  Religion now became the one binding thing that united the Anglo-Irish aristocracy and the Gaelic Irish. Some of the Chieftains who had left Ireland had joined various continental armies or studied for the priesthood in colleges.

James I died in 1625 and was replaced by Charles I.  He was a king who had a great need for money and the Catholics believed that they could offer him money in exchange for concessions or graces as they were to be known.  In total there were 51 such graces and the king agreed to these and started to take the money.  These graces however could not be granted until they were ratified in parliament, and Charles was in no hurry to have this done.  

At the same time the Dublin Council grew ever more agitated by the king allowing such practise of these graces and they approached Falkland to have these stopped.  Falkland agreed and tried to put a stop to them but failed to do so and was recalled by the king in 1629.  He was replaced by two people, Viscount Ely and Richard Boyle who were only to glad to enforce the laws.  
This may not seem particularly significant but for the people living in Northern Ireland, the Ulster Plantation was a thing of great controversy and the different denominations view this in many different ways.  I would now recommend reading about the 1641 Irish Rebellion.