The history of the Lawrence family is recorded in the Lawrence Family Album (GS01/1, also included in Galway County Council Archives’ collection), which was complied by Rev. Charles Lawrence in the 1890s. This has been transcribed and included on the Ask About Ireland website . It recounts the coming to Ireland of two brothers, John and Walter Lawrence in 1571, the acquisition of lands at Ballymore and Lisreaghan, its subsequent loss and repossession:
‘John the elder brother married a daughter of O'Madden Lord of Longford Captain of his nation and last chief of his name, by which marriage he acquired a large territory in the Barony of Longford, and County of Galway, together with the O'Madden Vault in the Cathedral of Clonfert. In consequence of the imperfect registration of the Indentures of Composition made before Sir John Perrott, John Lawrence, in common with other gentlemen surrendered his property to the Crown after the death of Elizabeth, and received it back again under Patent from James 1 (See Patent Rolls, 16. James I). John Lawrence settled at Ballymore, where he erected his Castle by regulation temp. Queen Elizabeth in the Parish of Clonfert, Barony of Longford and County of Galway’ (GS01/1) and
‘Mr Lawrence had the whole of his extensive Estates seized and sequestered on account of the Rebellion which began in the Kingdom on the 23rd October 1641 but claimed them from the usurped Powers sitting at Athlone in 1654 as his a ancient property and had a decree from said pretended Commissioners to have satisfaction for his lands according to his qualifications and had some satisfaction set out to him in other lands in the Province of Connaught by final settlement from said Commissioners to Loughrea. At the restoration Mr Lawrence claimed the restitution of his entire property, but could only get back a portion of his lands which were eventually confirmed by Patent dated 5th August 29th Year of King Charles II’ (GS01/1).
The remainder of the family history is also recited in the Album, recording marriages to other landed families, in particular the marriage of John (1698-1730) to an heiress, Mary Scott, the daughter of John Scott Esq., of Greenish and Cappavarnagh, Co. Galway, and of Mount Serat, West Indies. The introduction of that wealth enabled their son, Walter (1729-1796), to build the mansion at Bellview and to collect and adore it with various works of Italian art, some by Canova. The sale of these items was considered by Rev. Charles Lawrence in the early 1890s (GP1/86, & 293-294).
In 1782 Walter formed the Bellevue Volunteers in support of Grattan’s Parliament and constructed the ‘Volunteers’ Gate, which is still standing and has inscribed on it in Latin ‘Liberty after a long servitude was won on 16th April, 1782 by the armed sons of Hibernia, who with heroic fortitude, regarding their ancient laws and established their ancient independence”’.
When he died his son, Walter (1793-1873), inherited the estate.
In 1851 Walter Lawrence advertised for sale in the Encumbered Estates' Court approximately 4000 acres in the baronies of Dunmore, Clare and Longford, county Galway and 311 acres in the parish of Shrule, barony of Kilmaine, county Mayo; ‘…a very large position of the property was sold in 1851’ (GP1/311).
Walter had a large family and as his first two sons, Walter (+1863) and John (+1872?), predeceased him the estate passed to the third son, Reverend Charles Lawrence. The estate, which was comparatively small in 1876 (2,373 acres ) was heavily encumbered and having to support the large family was in constant financial difficulty. Much of the material in this collection reflects the difficulties which Charles inherited. In 1892 he instructed his solicitor, Russell, to appoint a Receiver, ‘It was in order to protect the Senior creditors that I found it necessary with the Sanction of the Judge to appoint my Agent Mr Mahon, Receiver under Deed’ (GP1/311). At that time the Rental of the Estate was £1,543.7.0 and the gross Poor Law Valuation was £1,260.8.0 (GP1/204).
The ongoing changes in legislation (the Land Acts) regarding land ownership and rental had implications for the management of the estate, as did the second Home Rule Bill in 1893; ‘The regaining of public confident and the overthrow of the Gladstonian Home Rule bill might induce your money Lender to advance the ten or twelve thousand pounds you alluded to some time ago at four and a half per cent. The security for this sum would be as you know of first class character. The untenanted portion of the demesne £630 and the three small solvent holdings within the demesne making in all a rental of £730’ (GP1/316), and also that ‘…no rents can be got at since the Land League began’ (GP1/138).
According to Dr Egan’s article ‘In 1912 there was a great sale of the art treasures. By then most of the land had been sold to the tenants. A final sale in the nineteen twenties was followed by the demolition of the mansion. No member of the family in the male line is now alive’.
Archival History ↴
Collection purchased by Galway County Council Archives in 2002 via a 3rd party from an antique dealer who found the material in a chest which he had purchased at an auction of material from Glenarm Castle, Co. Antrim.
Immediate Source Acquisition ↴
Content & Structure
Scope & Content: Lawrence family ↴
As the collection’s original order has been lost an artificial order was imposed by the Archivist during processing.
The collection is divided into several sections, the first six Sections, A to E, include personal family letters which are arranged mainly by family member. Many of these are between female Wale family members, and serve to illustrate their close relationship.
Section B contents interesting letters regarding membership of the Free Masons.
Section F, which has sub-sections, contains material relating to estate business and family trusts, primarily consisting of correspondence with agents and solicitors regarding the heavily mortgaged estate, the payment of interest on loans, the appointment of a Receiver and efforts to secure further loans so as prevent an enforced sale of the estate. Several items make reference to the sale of art objects. This has generally been arranged chronologically or in accordance with the most prolific group. Many of the letters from the various correspondents could be cross referenced to each other as they relate to the same topics.
Section G contains material relating to tenants, such as letters from tenants, and also material relating to the management of the Brennan farm and the orphans of a much respect tenant. Rev. Charles Lawrence shows great interest in their welfare, writing of his concern ‘…for his (Brennan’s) little orphan children and trust you will lose no time in applying in the proper quarter for the guardianship of them as you are in every respect the one who should have charge of them both as their nearest of kin and as residing yourself as a tenant on my estate. Where I hope that one of Michael’s sons will one day also reside in his late father’s home….’(GP1/355, pp2-3).
Sections H and I consist of miscellaneous material and church related material, and Section J contains the Golding letters. The latter do not appear to have any apparent relationship to the Lawrence papers, but are listed here given that they were included in the collection. However, the Golding Family held property in Moyne, county Mayo and may therefore be distant relations to Georgina Blake who married Walter Lawrence (1783-1873) in 1813. Likewise GP1/2 does not appear to have any direct connection to the Lawrence Papers but is included in Section A for chronological purposes and also because Lawrence (1893-1873) was married to a Blake.
Where items are undated the information within was used to as far as possible to determine which section the item may rightly belong.
Appraisal Destruction ↴
As there was no discernible original arrangement the archivist arranged the collection generally by family member and then primarily in chronological order
Conditions of Access & Use
Available by appointment. Unrestricted access. The material in this collection is available to all bona fide researchers by appointment only, and subject to the conditions of access governing the consultation of archival material at Galway County Council Archives.
Conditions Governing Reproduction
No material may be reproduced from this collection without the written permission of the archivist, and reproductions are subject to the conditions of access.
IE GCCA GS01/6 Laurence, Walter of Belview, Lawrencetown, county Galway: Conveyance of lands of Brodellagh, Carnakelly in the barony of Kilmaine, county Mayo, 1818.
IE GCCA GS01/1 Lawrence, William: Family Book and Photograph Album
Descriptive Control Area
ISAD(G): General International Standard Archival Description. 2nd ed. Ottawa: International Council on Archives, 2000.