The Irish Achesons

From Familygenes Wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

The Plantation of the Scots in Ulster[1]

The majority of Scots who migrated to Northern Ireland came as part of this organized settlement scheme of 1605-1697. Plantation settlements were confined to the Province of Old Ulster, in the Counties of Antrim, Down, Armagh, Tyrone, Donegal, Cavan, Fermanagh, and Londonderry. As many as 200,000 Scots crossed the North Channel to settle in Ulster in this approximately 90 year period. The Plantation of Ulster took place in two stages. The first stage was confined to the two eastern counties of Antrim and Down. The initiative was taken by Scottish fortune seekers.

Although the British Crown encouraged and co-operated with those responsible, it was fully a private venture. The second stage of settlement was far broader in scope, including six counties in Ulster. It was a project of the state, conceived, planned, and closely supervised by the British governments of England and Ireland. The plantations included settlers from England and Scotland, although Scots outnumbered those from England by a ratio of 20 to 1. The primary purpose of the plantation scheme was to populate the northern counties of Ireland with loyal British Protestant subjects, to counterbalance and dominate the Irish Roman Catholics. Scotland was only too willing to participate.

It was seen as a way to eradicate Scotland of the hordes of lowland Scots who in poverty had turned to a life of marauding and horse thievery, which had become an occupation in itself in the Scottish countryside. Hence in the early years of the Plantation, the majority of the settlers were mainly Lowlanders. Indeed, receiving landlords in Ireland encouraged the arriving Scots to bring as many horses and cattle as possible to the new colony, obtained by whatever means. Scotland found this a small price to pay to eliminate the larger problem.

The Acheson clan from Scotland settled in counties Armagh and Tyrone.

Acheson of Gosford Castle, county Armagh[2]

Earls of Gosford coat of arms

Sir Archibald Acheson, descended from an East Lothian family, settled in Ireland in 1610 as part of the Plantation of Ulster. In 1611, he received a grant of all or part of the manors of Baleek, Coolmalish and Drumorgan (Armagh), amounting to about 8,000 acres; and in 1612 the manor of Corrowdownan (in and round the town of Arvagh (Cavan)), which was some 6,500 acres. He was a Master in Chancery in Ireland 1621-27, and was one of the baronets of Nova Scotia created by the Earl of Stirling in 1628 along with a grant of 16,000 acres in the intended plantation in Nova Scotia. At about this time, however, he returned to Scotland where he served as Second Secretary of State before his death in 1634. As a centre for his Irish estate, he built a fortified house, known as Clonkearney (or Clancarney) Manor, which was burned in 1641 during the revolt of that year. It was not rebuilt immediately, but was replaced by a new manor house on a different site in the later 17th or early 18th century, which was called Gosford House after the village in Scotland from which the family came. Here Dean Swift stayed with Sir Arthur Acheson, 5th baronet, for some months in 1728-29.

Gosford Castle: perspective drawing of the house as designed by Thomas Hopper in 1819-21

Sir Archibald Acheson, 6th baronet (1718-90), who was an MP in the Irish Parliament for thirty-five years, was created 1st Baron Gosford in 1776 and 1st Viscount Gosford in 1785. In the 1780s he remodelled and modernised Gosford House, but it was burned down in about 1805, shortly before the death of the 2nd Viscount, who had been created 1st Earl of Gosford in 1806. The 2nd Earl (1776-1849), who married the only daughter and heiress of Robert Sparrow of Worlingham Hall (Suffolk), began the rebuilding of Gosford to the designs of Thomas Hopper as a vast neo-Norman castle in 1819-21: a project which was only completed by his son in 1862. The 2nd Earl also expanded his Co. Armagh estate to about 12,000 acres by purchasing most of the property of the Richardson family of Richhill (his mother’s family) and all the surviving property of the Graham family, formerly of Ballyheriden (the latter rounding off the existing Gosford estate in the manor of Drumorgan, round Hamiltons Bawn). In 1835, the 2nd Earl was created Baron Worlingham of Beccles in the UK peerage, giving him a seat in the House of Lords, and sent to North America as Governor of Lower Canada, 1835-38. He became separated from his wife, who returned to live at Worlingham Hall until her death in 1841, after which it was sold.

The building of Gosford Castle and the land purchases by the 2nd Earl crippled the family finances. The 3rd Earl (1806-64), who was Liberal MP for County Armagh before inheriting the title, and who was created Baron Acheson in 1847, built up a remarkable library at Gosford, which was sold by the 4th Earl (1841-1922) in 1878, reputedly to settle a gambling debt. The 4th Earl was part of the Prince of Wales’ set, and spent far more than he could afford; in 1921, shortly before his death, the contents of Gosford Castle were sold, and although the family retained ownership of the estate until 1958 (when it was sold to the Northern Ireland Forestry Commission), the house was not privately occupied thereafter.