Creator(s): MacDonnell family, Earls of Antrim, Glenarm Castle, County Antrim
Administrative History ↴
The Antrim MacDonnells are a part of Clan Donald and can trace their descent back to Somerled Lord of Argyle who ended Norse control of the southern Hebrides in the twelfth century. By the fourteenth century his descendants had become the Lords of the Isles and controlled most of the western seaboard of Scotland. The involvement of the MacDonnells with north-east Ulster can be dated to the marriage of John (or Ian) Mór MacDonnell to Margery Bisset, heir to MacEoin Bisset, Lord of the Glynns of Antrim, in the 1390s. By the end of sixteenth century the Lordship of the Isles had disappeared but the MacDonnells of Clan Ian Mór had established an autonomous Lordship in north-east Ulster, in spite of the hostility of both the English administration in Dublin and the O'Neills of Tyrone, who had traditional claimed hegemony in Ulster.
Randal "Arranach" MacDonnell was the first Earl of Antrim, who in 1603 was granted a charter recognising his ownership of "the Route and the Glynns", an area equivalent to the modern Baronies of Glenarm, Dunluce, Kilconway and Cary (including Rathlin Island) in County Antrim (D2977/5/1/1/1). In spite of the hostility of the English administration in Dublin, who had traditionally opposed Scottish settlement in the north, and in particular Lord Deputy Chichester who had personal ambitions in north Antrim, Randal prospered, mainly because of his friendship with King James VI & I. The titles of Viscount Dunluce and Earl of Antrim were conferred on Randal in the 1620s and the MacDonnell estates, along with the rest of counties Antrim and Down, were excluded from the plantation of Ulster, although Randal voluntarily gave up 2,000 acres around the town of Coleraine to the London Companies (D2977/5/1/1/4) and encouraged the settlement of Scottish Protestants on his own estates. The fact that the MacDonnells were Catholic and Gaelic makes their success all the more remarkable. After the flight of the Earls in 1607 Randal MacDonnell became the most important Catholic landowner in the north of Ireland and the Earls of Antrim remained Catholics until the 1730s.
The sheer size of the Antrim estate meant that from the beginning of the seventeenth century large areas were let as "Fee Farm" grants, effectively permanent leases at a fixed rent. Along with the political misfortunes of the Earls and their propensity for incurring huge debts this resulted in the alienation of considerable areas of the estate in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. A survey made in 1734 shows approximately 152,000 acres in the possession of the 5th Earl (D2977/35/1-4). The dissolution of the estate was accelerated by the legal disputes that followed the death of the 6th Earl in 1791. By 1871 the Earl of Antrim's estate contained 34,292 acres in County Antrim along with 112 acres around Portstewart in County Londonderry, while the Vane-Tempest portion amounted to 13,781 acres, all in County Antrim. Along with the other landed estates of Ireland the Antrim and Vane-Tempest estates were sold off to the tenants in the early years of the 20th century, apart from the demesne lands and urban property, although the estate continued however to have an interest in various mines and quarries in north Antrim.
-Extracted from a full account of the Earl of Antrim Estate Papers in the PRONI catalogue: https://www.nidirect.gov.uk/proni
Archival History ↴
The deposit of the Antrim Estate papers in PRONI took place over a considerable period of time. When the Belfast PRO opened in 1924 it was in the shadow of the destruction of the PROI in Dublin in 1922 which destroyed nearly all the records generated by the courts and other organs of central government in Ireland dating back to the middle ages. In an attempt to replace these records Dr Chart, the first Deputy Keeper of PRONI, wrote to all the major landowning families in the province asking them to deposit their family and estate records. The then Earl of Antrim agreed to deposit part of his estate office records and to allow copies to be made of family documents. As a result in 1928 PRONI received approximately 300 documents, mainly leases for the baronies of Dunluce and Kilconway (formerly D265) and around the same time Dr Chart made transcripts of some of the more important documents then held by Hambro's Bank in London (T473). It is probably fair to say that at this time the importance of the archive was not recognised, material dating from after 1801 was not even considered for deposit and the archive lacked the large quantities of political papers which made other estate collections so attractive. However over the subsequent years the importance of even very routine estate papers was increasingly recognised by both historians and genealogists and in the 1960s PRONI made a more detailed survey of the records at Glenarm.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: MacDonnell family, Earls of Antrim, Glenarm Castle, County Antrim ↴
One of the largest collections of privately owned papers to be deposited in PRONI is D2977, the records of the MacDonnell family, the Earls of Antrim. This collection, which contains approximately 50,000 documents, comprises the administrative records, dating from the early seventeenth century, of a landed estate which at one time included the whole of the four northern baronies of County Antrim, an area of more than 330,000 acres (approximately 520 square miles). The greater part of the archive is given over to nineteenth and twentieth century documents generated by the day to day running of the estate and its related businesses, which included mines, railways, fisheries and harbours, however it also contains important earlier material and documents which throw light on the lives not only of the Earls but their tenants and employees.
The earliest records in the PRONI collection date from the time of Randal “Arranach” MacDonnell, the first Earl of Antrim, who in 1603 was granted a charter recognising his ownership of “the Route and the Glynns”, an area equivalent to the modern Baronies of Glenarm, Dunluce, Kilconway and Cary (including Rathlin Island) in County Antrim.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
The collection is arranged as follows:
D2977/1 Title deeds
D2977/2 Legal papers
D2977/3B Lease books
D2977/4 Out letter books
D2977/5 In letters
D2977/6 Reports of the estate of the Marchioness of Londonderry
D2977/8 Rent books
D2977/9 Rent ledgers
D2977/11 Cash books
D2977/12 Check books
D2977/14 Rent agency accounts
D2977/15 Bogs and turf cutting rights
D2977/16 Household accounts
D2977/18 Farm accounts
D2977/19 Wages books
D2977/20 Miscellaneous accounts
D2977/21 Tithe papers
D2977/22 Election papers
D2977/23 Manor Courts
D2977/24 Glenarm Soup Kitchen papers
D2977/25 Valuations and surveys
D2977/26 Encumbered/Landed Estates Courts
D2977/27 Case for advice of counsel
D2977/28 Collieries and mining
D2977/29 Carnlough Harbour, Railways, Lime Works and Mines
D2977/30 Glenariff Iron Ore & Harbour Co.
D2977/31 Glenarm Harbour
D2977/34 Glenarm Whiting Mill
D2977/35 Estate maps: bound volumes
D2977/36 Estate maps: unbound
D2977/37 Drawing and plans
D2977/39 Glenarm Unionist Association
D2977/40 Massareene Estate rent agency
D2977/41 Antrim Iron Ore Company
D2977/43 Glenarm Castle
D2977/44 Ship wrecks
D2977/46 Tuftarney mines (Crommelin Iron Ore Company)
D2977/47 Income tax registers
D2977/49 Eglantine Chemical Company
D2977/50 Glenarm & District Electricity Supply Co.
D2977/52 Crop registers
D2977/53 Gamekeepers papers
D2977/54 Garron Tower
D2977/55 Glenarm Peoples Institute
D2977/56 Ballygally Castle Hotel
D2977/57 Carnlough Penny Bank
D2977/58 Carnlough Clothing Society
D2977/59 Carnlough Mechanics Institute
D2977/60 Glenarm Provident Fund
D2977/62 Portrush Market
D2977/63 Glenarm Saw Mill
D2977/64 Historical notes, lists of documents, pedigrees
D2977/65 Agent’s notebooks
Conditions of Access & Use
The collection can be consulted in the reading room in PRONI in accordance with PRONI guidelines.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
Items may be copied for personal research use only. If a researcher wishes to publish any documents from this collection, a request must be submitted in writing to the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.
c 50,000 documents
Material Language Script
A descriptive list is available to search online at: http://www.proni.gov.uk/
Archive Web Link →
PRONI holds a considerable number of related collections:
D1375 McGildowny Papers
D915 Stuart, Wray, Traill, Legge and Earl of Antrim family papers
D1242 Papers of O'Rorke, McDonald & Tweed, 1630-1969
D1835 Greer, Hamilton and Gailey
D3560 Photographs and plans relating to Glenarm Castle
D4041 5 letters from Charles I and Queen Henrietta Maria to, or on behalf of, the Marquis of Antrim
D4091 Papers of Sir Schomberg MacDonnell, Louisa Countess of Antrim and the Stuart family of Dalness.
MIC615 The diaries of Louisa, Countess of Antrim
Descriptive Control Area
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.
National Council on Archives: Rules for the Construction of Personal, Place and Corporate Names. Chippenham: National Council on Archives, 1997.
UK Archival Thesaurus (UKAT)