If you had gone for a stroll through Rathcoole village on this day in 1654 you might have seen a fella riding around on horseback with a rather large measuring-tape. His name was Jonas Archer, and he was using the tape to measure lands that had belonged to Catholics.
These Catholics had rebelled in 1641, leading to what became known as the Eleven Year War ; ultimately leading to Oliver Cromwell coming to Ireland, severely kicking Catholic ass and dividing the Catholics’ land among some of his soldiers and merchants. Before he could do so, he needed to know how much land each of the Catholics had, well, had confiscated would be more appropriate. This led to the first detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world. Thank you, Oliver, for putting us on the map, so to speak.
Mr. Archer didn’t just draw up a list of names with the amount of land to be confiscated; he also drew a map, which is available along with maps of Saggart and Newcastle for everyone to see on the Down Survey of Ireland website (downsurvey.tcd.ie).
Jonas noted that Rathcoole possessed two old castles, many good houses and cabins, and the ruins of an old chapel.
A publication by the Royal Irish Academy indicates that there is now no trace of the medieval church, or the ruins that Mr. Archer saw, and that no account of its size and appearance can be traced. However, it is believed that the current Anglican Church that occupies the site was built on the original foundation of the chapel. Other accounts have indicated that there is very little known of the history of the original chapel due to the destruction of the Public Records Office during the Irish Civil War on June 30th, 1922 but we at Rathcoole Community Centre are endeavouring to trace any nuggets of wisdom that may be hidden in the annals of Irish history.
The notable name of Scurlock appears on the list. The Scurlock family had been in possession of Rathcoole Manor since the 1470’s. A lot of the land is referred as belonging ‘to the college’ – these lands were gifted to St. Patrick’s Cathedral as far back as the twelfth century. They were originally given to the Archbishop of Dublin, John Comyn, in 1131 by Prince John, the son of King Henry II, who held the title Lord of Ireland at the time. The Archbishop granted the titles to St. Patrick’s Cathedral, a gift that was acknowledged by Pope Clement III in 1181 and again by Pope Innocent in 1216.
The ‘to the college’ reference indicates that the land belonged to the Church of Ireland.