Sir Ralph Bingley, c. 1570-1627: Ulster Planter

The plan for plantation in the six escheated counties in Ulster devised between 1608 and 1610 provided, in its barest essentials, for the allocation of the forfeited land to individual grantees of three types, grouped together in precincts which corresponded in most cases with the baronies into which the counties had been divided. The prime responsibility for colonisation devolved to the undertakers, civilian grantees of either English or Lowland Scottish origin, themselves separately grouped by precinct and to whom the London companies in the Londonderry plantation are most nearly equivalent. Unlike the undertakers, the servitors, military officers and officials already in Ireland and mainly English were allowed to have Irish tenantry. In addition, Irish grantees selected from the forfeited area were restored to some of the land and were, with a consequent measure of transplantation, placed in the same precincts as the servitors. Provision was also made for land grants for proposed corporate towns, for a free school in each county and for the reformation parish clergy; and Trinity College, Dublin, received a substantial endowment. Exceptional features, however, distorted the symmetry here and there – the grant of the forfeited land in Inishowen to Lord Deputy Chichester was one such, the honouring of preplantation grants to a few prominent Irish owners was another. Termon and erenach land, disputed as to whether it had forfeited in accordance with the legal claims of the Crown to the temporal land or should be regarded as ecclesiastical, was finally granted to the bishops as a major addition to the traditional episcopal land.

Already since the end of the Nine Years’ War and distinct from the plantation arrangements, grants of dissolved monastic land were being made mainly to the resident servitors, some of whom were also gaining possession of land reserved for the forts which had played an important part in the English wartime strategy. Hence a precinct or barony designed at plantation for a particular category or categories of new grantee would also contain some land the ownership of which was determined by considerations deriving either from the plantation plan itself or from other prior circumstances. The plantation plan, essentially to grant land to 86 individuals of clearly defined type, was thus implemented in 1610 within a somewhat more complex framework. Also the principles of land measurement adopted meant that the intention to grant relatively small estates of three sizes, 1,000, 1,500 and 2,000 acres, was frustrated: estates granted under these conventions turned out to be many times larger while some accumulations by purchase also took place. Neither were the conventions themselves uniformly followed: many of the servitors received grants under the nominal 1,000 ‘acre’ minimum, while in the case of the Irish grantees the principle was effectively abandoned and the majority received very small acreages. The number of grantees involved – some 120 undertakers, 60 servitors and 300 Irish – offers some impression of the scale of the operation.1

The career in Ulster of Ralph Bingley, a man tolerably representative of the servitor class, impinged on a number of the aspects of change in land ownership sketched above. Paid in Ireland as Captain of Foot from 8 August 1598, his appearance was part of a larger reinforcement of the English army intended, before plans were changed after the defeat at the Yellow Ford, to be shipped from Chester to Lough Foyle as a major tactical initiative in the conduct of the war. His immediate background was that of the professional soldier who had attended neither university nor inn of court. He had taken part in Drake and Hawkins’s raiding voyage to Panama and Puerto Rico in 1595–6. In 1596 he was nominated to be joint mustermaster of the trained bands in Hampshire with responsibility for the defence of Portsmouth and in the following year was concerned with raising soldiers in Suffolk and especially with preparations for the Earl of Essex’s Islands (or Azores) voyage.2 This military apprenticeship was served in the context of the war, naval and privateering, with Spain; he must have approached his employment in Ireland very much in that light. The parentage and date of birth (c. 1570) of Ralph, the second of at least three brothers and probably a descendant of John Bingley, the Earl of Derby’s bailiff of the manor of Hawarden in 1474, cannot be precisely established. Yet what evidence we have suggests that in the late sixteenth century his family, the Bingleys of Broughton – a place some five miles from Chester, where another branch of the family can be found, but in the parish of Hawarden in the Welsh county of Flint – were very minor landholders, hardly of gentry status but having some influential connections. The family seems to have been a fairly numerous one, some of whom were involved in Sir Ralph’s enterprises, notably Richard, his younger brother, who was in Ireland initially as lieutenant of his company, and the older brother, William, who mortgaged his land in Flint to accompany him on the expedition, fatal to both, to the Isle of Rhé in 1627.3

A decisive moment in Bingley’s career came when the proposed military expedition to Lough Foyle finally landed in May 1600. Sir Henry Docwra, commanding some 4,000 men, had as governor of Lough Foyle with his base at Derry a military jurisdiction over a region stretching to the Bann and Blackwater eastwards and taking in north Donegal. Docwra secured by diplomatic and military means the support of a number of prominent Irish figures including Niall Garbh O’Donnell, cousin of Hugh and an aspirant for the chieftainship, and in 1601 proceeded to install garrisons in strategic out-centres within his jurisdiction. Thus Bingley, commanding 150 foot, was lodged in Rathmullan priory in MacSweeny Fanad’s country.4 Even before the formal termination of hostilities in March 1603 he was building up a landed base within the area of Docwra’s governorship. Hence in May 1602 he received a Crown lease of the monastic land of Rathmullan, of Inch island (3,069 acres), part of O’Doherty’s country and of the entire fishing of Lough Swilly, the latter complementing Docwra’s tenure of the fishing of Lough Foyle. A parallel grant of fishings in west Donegal in 1603 to John Bingley (probably a member of the Chester branch), who had held the influential post of deputy to the Treasurer at War in Dublin since c. 1599, indicates that both were co-operating at this early stage in a region appearing to be open to new English exploitation.5

Further, in May 1603 Ralph renewed his lease of the previous year, now greatly expanded to also include, principally, the monastic and erenach land on which Derry was based, the monastic land of Kilmacrenan near Letterkenny and lay lands at Carrigans some five miles from Derry, where an O’Donnell fort had been occupied ‘with a little new dressing’ by Docwra, the latter seemingly now, like Lifford, an arbitrary expropriation of lay land by the government.6 Furthermore it can be safely inferred that he was able to convert much of this with additional Donegal monastic land into fee farm ownership by the notorious system of general grants, whereby a courtier or official authorised in London to receive a patent of land to a certain value had lands, usually very undervalued, included in his patent which he then disposed of to a local interested party.7 The mechanism operated in Bingley’s case through James Fullerton, a favourite of the new King and later one of the plantation planners, and Sir Henry Brouncker, president of Munster.8 It may be superficially surprising then that many of these substantial takings were sold. Lands on the Foyle were disposed of to a fellow servitor, Edmund Leigh; Docwra came to own the land at Derry. By far his largest sale, of Kilmacrenan (some 29,000 acres) and other smaller areas of monastic land, for at least £1,200 and probably £1,600, was made to Rory O’Donnell, Earl of Tyrconnell. He thus retained, principally, the lands at Carrigans (possibly on lease) and Inch, footholds equidistant from Derry, appointing his brother Richard, now holding a pension from the state, to let them in June 1604.9

A number of factors account for these sales. Although he had risen to be one of the colonels of the army, paid ten shillings per day apart from his captain’s pay, and was knighted in Dublin in 1603, army reductions progressively eroded his income. His colonel’s pay terminated in March 1604, his Irish foot were discharged in September when he was transferred to County Down and his English foot, reduced to fifty in June 1605, were entirely discharged in September of that year.10 Thus, although he had been operating more successfully and somewhat independently of Docwra, the post-war reorganisation of Ulster must have been as discomfiting to Bingley as it was to the governor of Lough Foyle.11 The restoration of Hugh O’Neill which frustrated Docwra’s expectations and reversed the earlier strategy with which he had been intimately involved was paralleled by a somewhat similar settlement in Donegal. Although some provision was made for Niall Garbh, and O’Doherty’s title to Inishowen was not disrupted, Rory O’Donnell who had only surrendered in December 1602 was created Earl of Tyrconnell.12 Docwra’s authority was limited to Derry, now developing as a settler settlement with Richard Bingley leaseholder of its customs and incorporated in 1604 with Ralph as an alderman.13 Hence although Rory O’Donnell later catalogued his complaints against the local captains – extortions by their soldiers, partiality towards Niall Garbh who he claimed plotted with Bingley to murder him, and duplicity by Bingley, supported in Dublin, over the land sale whereby he ‘lost both the lands and [the] money’ amongst them – the captains for their part subject to army cuts and with their local contacts in disfavour could not predict the flight in 1607.14 Many, like William Cole whose position in the Ballyshannon command was somewhat similar to Bingley’s, sought military employment elsewhere. Those fortunate to retain command of a fort, like Caulfeild at Charlemont, would develop landed interests; others without a command, like Phillips at Coleraine, but temperamentally adapted to building up an estate, were fewer. Even Docwra disposed of his company and town in 1606.15

It need not be surprising in these circumstances that a man of Bingley’s experience and energy became quickly involved in the renewed English interest in North American trade and colonisation. One such project, entirely independent of the Virginia Company chartered in April 1606, probably itself intended as a fishing expedition to Maine but which may have been linked either with a number of simultaneous schemes (precursors of Calvert’s Maryland) to establish a Catholic colony or with two other venturers whose ships were at Drogheda in summer 1606, was that of a group of members of the London Fishmongers’ Company negotiated in March 1606. When the scheme was organised to the point where a passport was issued, in May, by the Lord High Admiral, Charles Howard, Bingley appears as captain of the ship Triall of London, owned by one group of Fishmongers and chartered to another, the master being Arthur Chambers, one of the charterers.16 How Bingley came to be involved has not been explained. However he was already in London in the second half of 1605, engaged amongst other things in taking out a grant of arms, and could offer some investment derived from the previous five years in Ulster.17 His most likely contact was with William Angell, fishmonger to the King, one of the owners of the ship. To Angell’s numerous overseas interests must be added an Irish dimension, though it emerges only in 1607 when as a farmer of the impost on yarn he was negotiating with the Mayor of Chester on Irish yarn importation.18More plausibly the contact was made through John Bingley, whose profits in Ireland were considered to be exceeded only by those of his patron, Sir George Carey, who was in regular contact with London in his official capacity and about to move there as an exchequer official, and who appears to have been on the Irish fringe of a group of closely-linked speculators which included (with Angell) Arthur Ingram and Lionel Cranfield, all of whom had close contacts with high-ranking ministers of state, the Howards and the future Earl of Salisbury amongst them.19

Whatever its intended destination or broader affiliations, the Triall voyage, although afforced by Bingley who brought in at Chester a Welsh ship owner intent on a tobacco voyage to the West Indies, never got beyond European waters. There were delays, squabbles and unseemly incidents at Dublin, Waterford and Kinsale (where it was alleged Bingley was consorting with pirates) and Roger Bamford, the purser representing Angell (the other vessels had withdrawn), sought an order by Chichester to prohibit Bingley proceeding to sea. Eventually, when the charter period had expired in December, he went to sea with 100 men aboard. Although he apparently still claimed to be bound for Virginia – though he may perhaps have intended a privateering visit to the West Indies – the voyage degenerated into a piratical adventure to the Bay of Biscay and the Spanish coast before returning, six weeks later, to Baltimore, County Cork.

He later explained that his ‘doings at sea’ had been due to bad weather and loss of supplies, protesting that when he first ‘intended’ his voyage his ‘thoughts did soar too high to stoop at [the] base and forbidden baits [of ] pirates’. However in the altered circumstances of Anglo-Spanish relations after the Treaty of London (1604) his actions were to have diplomatic repercussions. The Spanish ambassador asserted he sold prizes in Irish ports with official connivance and Salisbury criticised him as having become a pirate while ‘first insinuating his purpose to be an actor in that worthy action of enlarging trades and plantations’. Although he extricated himself after a short imprisonment from charges in the High Court of Admiralty, Triall having been recovered for her owners, the evidence for piracy is substantial though it does not prove this was Bingley’s original intention.20 Further, he continued to ‘hover off and on’ the Munster coast until July 1607 when he presented two boats for the admiral’s use to a naval captain then attempting to deal with the ubiquitous problem of piracy there.21 Also, though the evidence is not conclusive, he appears to have had dealings with Thomas Crooke of Baltimore, who had purchased land from Sir Fineen O’Driscoll, and was one of a group of English settlers (which included John Winthrop, uncle of the future governor of Massachusetts Bay) engaged in a post-war Munster plantation enterprise in that area of Cork.22 Nevertheless for Bingley the Triall affair had been a disaster in spite of what limited and immediate profits it may have brought.

A combination of official support in Ireland and convenient circumstances led, however, to his complete rehabilitation. The urgent mobilisations required by O’Doherty’s rising (April–July 1608), to the outbreak of which Bingley’s lease of Inch had been a contributory factor, presented him with new scope and employment. Initially, promptly and at a time when Dublin feared invasion, his role was a naval one, successful in capturing O’Doherty’s boats. Government accounts reveal payments to him for May and June as captain of two barques, almost certainly of the Wirral which he had pressed, hired, manned and victualled; for five months thereafter he was captain of foot, latterly garrisoned at Doe and Rathmullan and involved in the capture of Tory Island, a final place of resistance of O’Doherty’s supporters.23

It is a measure both of their private expectations and official support that both brothers’ attentions were now, as plantation planning proceeded, assiduously converging on Ulster. Captain Richard, dispatched with a royal galley from the Thames to the Scottish Isles in May 1608, was engaged in 1609 and 1610 in transporting Ulster swordsmen to Sweden and became Constable of Doe Castle in August 1610.24 Sir Ralph, seeking to pre-empt any other grants that might be made under the plantation arrangements of the monastic land formerly sold to O’Donnell and now formally declared forfeit to the Crown by reason of his attainder, secured a Crown lease of some of this (including again a foothold at Rathmullan) in December 1609; the circumstances of this suggest that a mutually convenient accommodation had been arrived at with Lord Deputy Chichester, who had been successful in soliciting a grant of O’Doherty’s country for himself and to whom Bingley surrendered his lease of Inch in the same month. In an explicit deal with Chichester in 1610 he re-secured title to the land, also formally forfeit, at Carrigans, the rents of which he had collected since 1608. There were, however, limits to what his Dublin influence could secure. The overall structure of plantation had been devised in London and as planning there was being completed in April 1610, Sir Ralph’s expectations, despite Chichester’s support and his claim that O’Donnell left £600 unpaid, of securing a regrant of the extensive Kilmacrenan monastic lands were frustrated. However, since in the allocation of land to servitors the Dublin government was to be given considerable initiative within the predetermined structure of precinct allotments, the English Privy Council recommended he receive ‘an extraordinary proportion of land as a servitor in some other place as may best suit with the convenience of the plantation and the occasions of Sir Ralph Bingley’.25

Later in 1610 Chichester and the Dublin plantation commissioners travelled through the escheated counties to install the grantees or, technically, to issue warrants to the sheriffs to grant them possession. Bingley’s assignment as a grantee in Doe and Fanad (otherwise the barony of Kilmacrenan, the allotment in Donegal for servitors and Irish) – a 1,000 ‘acre’ estate (some 7,120 statute acres), with an extra 213 ‘acres’, but also with the accompanying urbanising responsibility, to promote a settler town for the barony at Rathmullan as well as some additional privileges (ownership at their deaths of 999 ‘acres’ assigned to two Irish widows and ferries over Lough Foyle and the Finn) – was that of a key though not overendowed figure within the terms of the plantation plan. Further, the structure of grants in the barony conformed tolerably if not strictly with the local requirements of the plan that three-fifths of the forfeited land be guaranteed to Irish grantees. Also, with Richard Bingley granted land adjoining Doe Castle and Ralph’s estate mainly in the Rosguill peninsula controlling Sheephaven and Mulroy Bay as well as overlooking the Swilly at Rathmullan, their local importance in the development of the plantation would be considerable. They not only held, the one as Constable of Doe and the other as grantee of Rathmullan, the two principal castles of the MacSweeney lords of Doe and Fanad but their lands were so located as to dominate those of a group of the Irish grantees.26 Instead, with the residency requirement not enforced, Bingley embarked on a policy of expansion while his brother, an absentee, acquired the surveyorship of the navy in May 1611 and, knighted, sold his lands in 1613 to John Sandford, his successor in the constableship and an earlier associate in the transportations to Sweden.27

Sir Ralph’s complex land dealings, a series of inter-related moves probably completed within a few years, by which he became owner of two undertakers’ estates in Lifford precinct, are not precisely documented. However his ownership of Kilmacrenan land was greatly extended by two processes, one carrying a faint odour of corruption, the other suggesting an element of strong arm tactics. Additional monastic land conveniently adjacent to his plantation allotment and significant pieces of his 1609 leasehold – the monasteries at Rathmullan and Balleeghan, the latter close to Carrigans – were passed in a general patent in 1611, assigned immediately to Henry Perse the lord deputy’s secretary and sold by him to Bingley in the following year. 28Opportunity to acquire the lands of neighbouring Irish grantees presented itself to many servitors. Bingley’s acquisitions, though some of the evidence derives only from the later patents of those to whom he sold land, appear to have amounted to as many as eleven of the Irish grantees’ lands. Also, harsh methods may have been employed. Ten of these grantees took out their grants in a joint patent (to them an unfamiliar document) with Bingley in May 1611 which was probably held by him. Also we know that Bingley was himself ‘the sheriff ’ against whom some of them complained in August that he ‘detained’ their land. Further, he had secured the temporary control of a group of horse from the garrison at Castlefin. At the same time, some Irish grantees – two O’Gallaghers and an O’Donnell have been detected – perhaps preferring not to transplant, may have opted for a mutually convenient if precarious alternative: year to year tenancies on his undertakers’ estates.29

The sale of the land so accumulated in Kilmacrenan, probably some 26,420 acres,30 much of it to former military associates and which may have made his purchases of undertakers’ land self- financing, allowed him to pass over his building obligations. Thus Andrew Knox, the Scots Bishop of Raphoe, acquired, along with a Bingley marriage (Sir Ralph was childless), the Rathmullan lands (4,410 acres) and urbanising responsibility there, the discontinuity (since Knox was an energetic coloniser) probably accounting for its failure to be incorporated.31

Some of the less judiciously chosen English undertakers, reluctant to fulfill their obligations, opted instead to sell their assignments, creating in effect a minor land market in England from 1610 favourable to energetic purchasers. Two such in Lifford precinct were Sir Maurice Berkeley and the ageing Sir Robert Remington, a former Vice-President of Connacht rather than a conventional civil grantee. Their estates, both 2,000 ‘acre’ proportions and one of them purchased on his behalf by Sir Richard in England, became Bingley’s property, probably, in the light of other evidence, for no more than £200 or £300. These estates, the one based on Ballybofey (31,783 acres including mountain) the other (7,136 acres) stretching inland from the Swilly and bounding near Manorcunningham with the Scots in Portlough, linkable with Balleeghan and Carrigans and lying more closely within the hinterland of Derry with which his association (Mayor, 1624) continued under the Londoners as an alderman by the 1613 charter and where a relative was installed, had clear advantages over his Rosguill assignment.32 They also became his final property. The lands at Balleeghan and at Carrigans where he had built houses and mills, deviously re-acquired in Ireland in 1610 and 1611, had, quite properly, been declared O’Donnell property by inquisition in 1608 and had on that basis formed parts of the estates allocated in England to various Scottish undertakers. Despite litigation with the new owners and persistent appeals, supported by Dublin, right up to 1627 to the English Privy Council, he failed to validate his title. London, with varying enthusiasm, would consider compensation – Bingley, demanding £800, turned down £500 in 1613; it would not, with similar claims being made, by recognising his title set a precedent for questioning the inquisitions of 1608 on which the plantation was based.33

It is then as an undertaker that Bingley’s plantation performance must ultimately be judged. His building operations, since it has been possible to identify the sites, reveal indeed a measure of conformity to the plantation plan (which prescribed that the undertaker by 1614 at the outside should erect a residence on each estate surrounded by a bawn, ‘near’ which his tenantry should live in village fashion) but equally demonstrate that no fixed pattern was strictly followed. Thus on the Lough Swilly estate where he lived and also concentrated his initial efforts, with brick-making underway and seven houses for tenants already erected ‘at his own charge’ by 1613, his house and bawn, completed before 1619, had been built at Farsetmore overlooking the Swilly and ‘well seated for service’; while the site chosen for the village placed it ‘within a mile’ away, probably at Dromany Little in a ‘place of continual passage’, the route from Derry via Letterkenny to west Donegal. On the Ballybofey estate building operations had not started by 1613 (an effect of ownership change) and, delayed by litigation – overruled by the English Privy Council in Bingley’s favour in 1618 – with another claimant to ownership, had not been entirely completed by 1619. Here the landlord house, Drumboe, although having itself as described in 1622 some architectural similarity, in the use of returns, with that at Farsetmore (but without a bawn), had been built very much closer to Bingley’s village of Ballybofey, where he was licensed in 1619 to hold fairs and markets, although it was separated from it by the unbridged River Finn. Both villages, typical of many throughout the plantation, were small: Ballybofey contained twelve thatched houses and cottages ‘inhabited for the most part with British’ in 1622; the other, a ‘village of thatched houses’ in 1622, contained six houses and a mill with ‘more in building’ in 1619.34

Any attempt to calculate the size attained by his colony, of course only partially village dwelling, runs into difficulties. It may well be however that the return in Pynnar’s survey in 1619 for both estates of 50 tenantry recorded as families, making with undertenants 124 males, represents much the same group of people as that of the commissioners in 1622 who found 52 tenantry but only 55 British men ‘present’. If his tenants were for the most part married, then a colony of some 50 at this time represented a tolerable if belated conformity with the requirement of 40 families, to constitute 96 adult males, of the plantation conditions. Against this has to be placed the list of 57 adult males, including only 2 of 8 named tenants deriving from 1611 and 1613, who mustered for the estate in c. 1630 shortly after Bingley had died.35 Some account clearly has to be taken of a number of factors – imperfections of the sources, variations in family size, deaths and some betterment movement of tenantry as well. An example of the latter is found in the case of Thomas Lloyd who a source probably deriving from family tradition informs us moved to Leitrim after Bingley’s death under the auspices of a fellow Welshman, Sir Maurice Griffith of Carrick-on-Shannon.36 There is also, since the plantation estates cannot be seen as entirely self-contained entities, an element of localised absenteeism to be considered. One example of this is also strongly suggestive of the relationship between the region as a whole and the local towns. Thus Edward Tarleton, householder in Lifford and Derry, money lender and cattle dealer and recently Sheriff of Tyrone, emerges in 1633 not only holding land on the Ballybofey estate in right of his wife, widow of Lieutenant John Dutton, one of Bingley’ tenants, which was sub-let to Irish occupiers, but holding, similarly, two areas of episcopal land as well.37 Bingley’s colony, more densely settled on the Farsetmore estate than on the other, was at any rate tolerably representative of the level of plantation prevailing on estates in this precinct as a whole.

His tenants divide in origins into a number of groups. Some 40 of the 57 on the muster roll were Scots, their presence, we may assume (unless recruited by Bishop Knox), due to the general participation of Scots in the plantation rather than to any direct recruitment by Bingley. However a small but significant element, some of them freeholders involved from an early stage, was made up of former army officers or their connections, some of Flint/Cheshire background, who like Bingley had had military careers in north-west Ulster but had not themselves succeeded in getting grants of lands. The presence of a larger group, probably part of a following of ‘forty Englishmen’ seeking land which Bingley had allegedly already ‘drawn’ to Ulster by 1609, some of whose surnames (Ridgate, Griffith, etc.) had firm Hawarden associations, taken with the fact that Thomas Lloyd, mentioned above, a recorded follower of Bingley’s, came from Wrexham, Denbighshire, strongly suggests that he had recruited tenantry in his own home area.38

The stipulated removal of the Irish population from undertakers’ estates as a whole was widely evaded. Government policy was obliged to take account of the undertakers’ reliance on their rents and services; the resultant compromise, finalised as part of the Graces in 1628, permitted Irish tenants on one-quarter of each estate.39 Although on Bingley’s more densely settled Farsetmore estate much of the better land was in the hands of British tenants since the first recorded lettings in 1611, it is unlikely that on either estate the Irish share had been reduced to one-quarter by the time of his death. Many of his earlier Irish tenants had been men of sufficient local prominence to have been inserted into the pardons granted to Niall Garbh O’Donnell in 1601 or to Rory O’Donnell in 1603, or to appear in pardons granted after O’Doherty’s rising. A few had acted as jurors in the taking of inquisitions concerned with plantation preliminaries, while a few also were, as we have seen, grantees in their own right. This continuity was, however, by no means an assured one. Irish tenants held on an annual or short-term basis, sometimes as sub-tenants to Bingley’s British tenantry. Beyond this there are only the vaguest indicators of the relations of both elements: a trace of inter-marriage suggests a degree of co-operation but the execution at the assizes in 1631 of an Irish tenant from the Ballybofey estate for high treason suggests that prior to 1641 the framework of relationships, though they might deteriorate occasionally, was an effectively controlled one.40

Although no estate papers survive, material on estate finance is unusually forthcoming. In November 1637 Robert Harrington, farmer of the Grocers’ lands in the Londonderry plantation who had married Bingley’s widow, sold both estates for £5,850. If we think in terms of ten years’ purchase and make allowance for intervening rent increases, it is possible to envisage an annual return of some £400 in the 1620s. This figure receives credence from some contemporary estimates: £400 or £500 by relatives, c. 1635; £500 by creditors in 1641. Against this, however, has to be placed the recoverable detail of debts and mortgages. His most substantial borrowings, a total of £1,050 – adequate to meet all his building costs – deriving from two merchants, one of London, one of Dublin, reveal a combination of military muscle and merchant finance in Ulster colonisation. Of this, £800 at 10 per cent interest had been borrowed on the security of the ‘mill and lands’ of Carrigans (hence Bingley’s insistence, noted above, on £800 compensation) from Mathias Springham, London merchant tailor and a prominent member of the Irish Society. That Bingley had defaulted in his payments, probably after Springham’s death in 1620, emerges from a chancery decree in 1624 in favour of Springham’s heirs, the locally-installed George Costerdine of Coleraine amongst them, for the interest and arrears. More hazy details of further borrowing, about £80, and of an incompleted sale of a piece of land, involving John Ravenscroft (of Lifford in 1641), a Flint associate, come to light in damaged chancery pleadings in 1622 and 1624 in which Bingley admitted receipt of ‘forty Barbary ducats and piratical stuffs and parcels of gold and silver lace and other trifles’ which he denied were worth £100 and said had been anyhow recovered by Ravenscroft in rents. Later in 1630 and in 1641 two less substantiable claims were put forward. One, on behalf of Sir Richard’s (d. 1625) widow, asserted that Sir Ralph had designated part of the estate as her jointure; the other, in a petition to the English House of Lords by two people, one, Richard Annyon, being probably a Chester merchant, was a claim for debts of £160 backed by a bond of November 1626. However when the estate was sold only one encumbrance – Springham’s loan was, of course, secured on Carrigans – a 1620s mortgage for £100 to Sir Matthew de Renzi, collector of the impost on wine and midlands planter, comes to light.41

Part of the reason for this mid 1620s financial embarrassment may well be found in separate projects and more extravagant aspirations. While there is no suggestion that Bingley, with his estates a going concern, became a consistent absentee, he did make many ‘journeys into England’, clearly maintaining his contacts in north Wales and Chester. The debt to Richard Annyon suggests commercial connections with Chester; it was certainly a transit point, as in June 1620 when he and a tenant, John Nicholas, consigned to Derry baggage in quantity ‘containing made apparel wearing linens and other household goods’. More significant, perhaps, were the contacts maintained in London, amongst them with William Ravenscroft, a Lincoln’s Inn lawyer and early supporter, and, presumably through Ravenscroft, with the latter’s powerful relative, the Cheshire-born Lord Chancellor Ellesmere, since Ellesmere’s son appears as a trustee for Bingley’s widow in 1628. It is almost certainly in an English context, where projects and projectors abounded, that we must see an abortive scheme, objected to by the monopolist in 1620, for the manufacture of looking glasses. Furthermore by 1621 he was a householder (or property owner) in the Charterhouse area of London, sufficiently established to be a local assessor of the subsidy.42

Bingley’s failure, as we have seen, to get onto the reduced Irish military establishment in 1611 combined with the long peace of James’s reign meant that continued military employment was denied him. However, to a soldier whose mind had been formed in the anti-Spanish warfare of Elizabeth’s reign, the war with Spain from 1625 and with France from 1627 offered renewed prospects for a military career. In 1626 a scheme, addressed to the Duke of Buckingham, for victualling 6,000 soldiers in Ireland was his first attempt in this direction. In 1627, arguing from historical precedent for the dependability of Irish soldiers (whose military excellence was highly praised) in English service abroad if ably led, he put forward two schemes to employ them which would, he suggested, also improve the internal security of Ireland since ‘it swarms with idle men that are more fit for the wars abroad than to disturb the peace … at home’. One, for which he sought Buckingham’s approval, was a proposal to counter a likely Spanish invasion of Ireland with a privateering-style assault on Spanish treasure in the West Indies and Central America. This project, which would require only royal approval (for which the King should have ‘the quinto of all the spoil’) and the provision of arms to be paid for later, would involve soldiers raised by Bingley, their victualling by the adventure of each city and county of Ireland and the putting up of ships by merchants, all three parties to share in the takings of the expedition. It was assured of success, in his view, since the negroes in the Indies would act as guides in return for their freedom. It was however his other scheme which found favour; hence regiments of soldiers from Ireland, one led by Bingley, the other by Sir Pierce Crosby, were incorporated into an expedition led by Buckingham which was defeated, with Bingley’s death, at the Isle of Rhé in October 1627.43

As an undertaker Bingley’s performance in Ulster had been average or below. However his Ulster career as a whole, despite its greater complexity, had much in common with that of a number of other military captains who built up estates in a similar manner. He is therefore to some degree a representative figure. His lack of scruple seems to have been a family failing. Thus Sir John, after his downfall in the English Treasury scandal of 1619, was forced back in 1627 on a second Irish official career. Sir Richard, although suspended as Surveyor of the Navy in 1618, at a time when he was advocating with others an unsuccessful project to use Irish land for hemp growing, remained a naval captain (being later Vice-Admiral and Admiral of the Narrow Seas) with little further Irish connection. The early involvement in Ireland of all three had, however, laid the crucial foundations of their subsequent careers. Their participation also in wider English schemes of trade and colonisation – Sir Ralph as activist, Sir Richard and Sir John as prominent investors in the Virginia Company and the Africa (or Gynney and Bynney) Company – epitomises well the relationships between English enterprises in Ireland and further afield in the early seventeenth century.44 I am extremely grateful to Dr K.R. Andrews, Mr John Appleby, Mr Randal Bingley, Dr R. Loeber, Miss Joan Sinar of Derbyshire Record Office, Mr A.G. Veysey of Clwyd Record Office and Mr J. Grisenthwaite of Chester City Record Office for their advice and assistance.

  1. For a map see T.W. Moody, F.X. Martin, & F.J. Byrne, eds., A New History of Ireland III, 1534–1691 (Oxford, 1976), pp 198–9. It may be noted that this plan did not apply at all to colonisation in Counties Antrim and Down.
  2. TNA, A.O. 1/287/1080, f. 66; S.P. 63/268, ff 63–4v; Acts of the Privy Council of England (hereafter APCE) XXVI (1596–7), 50–1, 79–80; XXVII (1597), 101–5, 160–4; XXVIII (1597–8), 250–4.
  3. R. Bingley, Bingley: An English Family Notebook (privately printed, Shenfield, Essex, 1978), pp 54–7, 82–5; TNA, S.P. 63/271, f. 4; Clwyd Record Office, Hawarden, D/BJ/C2; P/28/1/1, passim; National Library of Wales, Aberystwyth, Hawarden Peculiar, Probate Records, Inventory, O. Bingley [1567].
  4. H. Docwra, ‘A Narration of the Services done by the Army ymployed to Lough–Foyle’ in J. O’Donovan, ed., Miscellany of the Celtic Society (Dublin, 1849) (hereafter Docwra, Narration), p. 250; Chester City Record Office, M/MP/12/43.
  5. Fiants Ireland Elizabeth, no. 6653 in 18th Report of the Deputy Keeper of the Public Records in Ireland (Dublin, 1886), p. 80; Docwra, Narration, p. 270; Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, p. 14.
  6. Docwra, Narration, p. 251; J.C. Erck, A Repertory of the Inrolments on the Patent Rolls of Chancery in Ireland … James I (Dublin, 1846) (hereafter Erck, Repertory), pp 64–5.
  7. For a discussion of how this system worked see T.O. Ranger, ‘Richard Boyle and the Making of an Irish Fortune’, IHS, X (1957), 288–9.
  8. Erck, Repertory, pp 22, 40–1, 112–14.
  9. Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, p. 46; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1606–8, pp 217, 370; 1608–10, p. 172.
  10. TNA, A.O. 1/289/1085, ff 21, 44, 53v; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1603–6, p. 200. A crown lease in County Down (Cal. S.P. Ire. 1606–8, p. 67) appears to have had no long-term significance.
  11. Docwra decried the lease of Inch (dated one day before O’Doherty’s pardon) as an affront to O’Doherty (Docwra, Narration, pp 271–2, 275, 277–9).
  12. N. Canny, ‘The Treaty of Mellifont and the Re-Organisation of Ulster, 1603’, Irish Sword, IX (1969–70), 249–62.
  13. RIA, Charters of Irish Towns, 7; Erck, Repertory, p. 61.
  14. Cal. S.P. Ire. 1606–8, pp 364–4. Chichester later said that Bingley had been ‘in a sort compelled’ to sell the land to O’Donnell (Cal. S.P. Ire. 1608–0, p. 172).
  15. T.W. Moody & J.G. Simms, eds., The Bishopric of Derry and the Irish Society of London, 1602– 1705, I, 1602–70 (IMC, 1968), 40.
  16. D.B. Quinn, ‘The Voyage of Triall 1606–1607: an Abortive Virginia Venture’, The American Neptune, XXXI, No. 2 (1971), 85–103.
  17. BL, Add. MS 14, 295, ff 79v, 112. There is no evidence that he had commanded Tremontana.
  18. Chester City Record Office, M/L/2/201; 6/80. On Angell’s position in the Fishmongers’ Company see Guildhall Library, London, MS 5570/1, ff 56, 138.
  19. TNA, S.P. 63/217, f. 9; Sackville (Knole) Manuscripts, I (HMC, 1940), passim; Salisbury [=Cecil] Manuscripts, XXI (HMC 1970), 1; V. Treadwell, ‘The Establishment of the Farm of the Irish Customs, 1603–13’, EHR, XCIII (1978), 585–6; NAI, C.P./L, 1 indicates a later connection between John Bingley and John Halsey, another of the ship’s owners.
  20. The treatment of the Triall voyage derives entirely from Professor Quinn’s paper (see above, reference 16).
  21. Cal. S.P. Ire. 1606–8, pp 223–5. It was proposed to use one of these boats to patrol the north Irish and Scottish coasts to stifle opposition, allegedly supported from Donegal, to plans for a lowland plantation in the Scottish islands. Later, in August, during Bingley’s imprisonment – in Dublin – Chichester, seeking authority to release him, stated that Bingley had agreed with the French merchant for the restoration of this ship and payment for its cargo (TNA, S.P. 63/222, ff 65–6v).
  22. TNA, S.P. 63/234, f. 162. Crooke, later a shipowner, was summoned to London in the summer of 1608 to answer general charges of abetting the local pirates; and was returned at the end of November, exonerated and approved and a partner in a scheme, supported by Salisbury and in which John Bingley was involved in 1609, with Dudley Norton and Thomas Wilson, two of Salisbury’s secretaries, to produce local timber for the navy (TNA, S.P. 63/225, ff 222–4v; Salisbury [=Cecil] Manuscripts, XXI, 40). Yet also in November – and again two years later – the Lord High Admiral referred to the Munster presidency the hearing of a suit initiated by two Bayonne merchants against Crooke and an associate for the recovery of their ship, the Mary and its cargo of pitch, allegedly taken by Bingley piratico more and received by them (TNA, H.C.A. 14/39, 61 and 149 (copies); 14/40, 48).
  23. Cal S. P. Ire. 1606–8, pp 568, 594; TNA, A.O. 1/289/1087, f. 33v; 1/290/1088, ff 36v. 43, 43v; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1608–10, pp 27, 33, 97. Curiously O’Doherty’s representations had led to the English Privy Council issuing orders to revoke Bingley’s lease on the day his rising began (Cal. S.P. Ire. 1606–8, pp 475–6, 488–9).
  24. Cal. S.P. Ire. 1606–8, pp 518–9; 1608–10, pp 251, 264, 343, 387, 458–61, 496–7, 509.
  25. Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, pp 159, 183; Inquisitionum in Officio Rotulorum Cancellariae Hiberniae Asservatarum Repertorium, II (Dublin, 1829), (hereafter Inq. Cancell. Hib. Repert.), Donegal (II) Jas I; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1608–10, pp 172, 441. The Kilmacrenan monastic land was granted to Trinity College but by 1614 Sir Ralph was tenant of a part of it (TCD, Muniment Room, D 71).
  26. Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, pp 224–5; L.W. Lucas, Mevagh down the Years (2nd. ed., Portlaw, County Waterford, 1972), pp 47–58.
  27. W.G. Perrin, ed., The Autobiography of Phineas Pett (Navy Records Society, 1918), pp 92–3; Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, p. 293
  28. Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, pp 197–8, 292–3. It may be noted that a general grant to Sir John Davies in 1614 included Doe castle, itself excluded from Richard Bingley’s patent, which he sold to Sandford in the same year (ibid., p. 268).
  29. NAI, Lodge MS V, 498–9; VI, 343; Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, pp 224–5, 293; Analecta Hibernica, VIII (I.M.C. 1938), p. 253; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1611–14, pp 31, 262–3; Salisbury [=Cecil] Manuscripts, XXI, 302–3, 360; Inq. Cancell. Hib. Repert. Donegal (12) Chas I.
  30. With the disappearance of the appropriate plantation maps of 1609, grants made in terms of the large Donegal quarters (ceathrúna) are not easily assimilable to modern townlands. Sir Richard’s estate was some 4,627 acres in extent.
  31. BL, Add. MS 4756, ff 115, 116–7; Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, pp 436, 508; Andrew Knox, Bishop of Raphoe and His Descendants (Derry, 1892), p. 18. Knox’s efforts to secure a military command for Bingley, ostensibly to protect the bishop, were dismissed by Chichester in 1611 as a move on Knox’s part to ‘gratify’ Bingley ‘in respect of some private bargain betwixt them’ (Salisbury [=Cecil] Manuscripts, XXI, 302–3).
  32. Hastings Manuscripts, IV (HMC, 1947), 171–3; T.W. Moody, The Londonderry Plantation (Belfast, 1939), pp 132, 283, 448.
  33. Cal. S.P. Ire. 1611–14, pp 214, 262–4, 322–4; TNA, S.P. 63/236, ff 121–24A; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1625–32, pp 131, 246; APCE, XXXIV (1615–16), 127–8, 418–9; XXXVI (1618–19), 78.
  34. Hastings Manuscripts, IV, 171–2; G. Hill, An Historical Account of the Plantation in Ulster at the Commencement of the Seventeenth Century (Belfast, 1877), pp 519–21; BL, Add. MS 4756, ff 115, 116–7.
  35. BL, Add. MS 4770, if. 192–2v; Inq. Cancell. Hib. Repert. Donegal (12) Chas I.
  36. J. Burke, A Genealogical and Heraldic History of the Commoners of Great Britain and Ireland, IV (London, 1838), pp 89–91. (I owe this reference to Mr Randal Bingley). For a discussion of these problems as they arise in Tyrone see P. Robinson, ‘British Settlement in County Tyrone, 1610–1666’ IESH, V (1978), 5–26.
  37. NAI, R.C. 9/1, pp 167–72. Bingley had himself become a tenant on a neighbouring estate in 1616 (Inq. Cancell. Hib. Repert. Donegal, (10) Chas I).
  38. BL, Add. MS 4770, ff 192–2v; Inq. Cancell. Hib. Repert. Donegal (12, 14, 17) Chas I; Clwyd Record Office, Hawarden, P/28/1/1; sixteenth and seventeenth century deeds in F. Green, (ed.) Calendar of Deeds and Documents, III The Hawarden Deeds (Aberystwyth and Cardiff, 1931); W. Ravenscroft & R.B. Ravenscroft, The Family of Ravenscroft (London, 1915), pp 6–9, 14, 39–42; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1608–10, p. 172.
  39. T.W. Moody, ‘The Treatment of the Native Population under the Scheme for the Plantation in Ulster’, IHS, I (1938–9), 59–63.
  40. Fiants Ireland Elizabeth, nos 6483, 6761; Cal. Pat. Rolls Ire., Jas I, pp 136–9; T.W. Moody & J.G. Simms, (eds) op. cit. p. 28; Cal. S.P. Ire. 1606–8, pp 555–6; Inq. Cancell. Hib. Repert. Donegal, (12, 14, 17) Chas I.
  41. TNA, C5/388/71; S.P. 63/271, f. 4; House of Lords Record Office, London, Main Paper, 20 January 1641; BL, Add. MS 19,840, f. 17; W.S. Ferguson, ‘Mathias Springham, 1561–1620’, Transactions of the London and Middlesex Archaeological Society, XXIII (1972), 194–203; NAI, R.C. 6/1, no. 304; C.P./AA, 109; /BB, 14; TCD, MS 839, ff 133–3v; Melbourne Hall, Derbyshire, Cowper (Coke) MSS, draft King’s Letter 5 July 1630.
  42. TNA, S.P. 63/271, f. 4; E190/1323/1, f. 24v; S.P. 14/113, no. 80; E179/142/279, [m. 16]; Hastings Manuscripts, IV, 1; NAI, Lodge MS, V, 95–6.
  43. TNA, S.P. 63/243, ff 28–9v; /268, ff 63–4v; /244, ff 182–3v; Cal. S.P. Dom. 1627–8, pp 186, 197, 227, 324–5, 423, 443, 471, 535; APCE, XLII (1627), 292–4, 297, 367, 472–3; XLIII (1627–8), 43.
  44. Cal. S.P. Ire., 1625–32, p. 200; A.P. McGowan, (ed.) The Jacobean Commissions of Enquiry 1608 and 1618 (Navy Records Society, 1971), pp xxv–xxvi; APCE, XXXVI (1618–19), 63; XXXIX (1623–5), 219, 221, 457; T.K. Rabb, Enterprise and Empire (Cambridge, Mass. 1967), p. 247. It may be noted that Angell, an unsuccessful applicant for Ulster land in his own right, and Halsey, two of the owners of Triall, held one-third each of the Fishmongers’ lands in County Londonderry between 1619 and 1628 by lease from the Company’s farmer (Guildhall Library, London, MS 5570/2, ff 684, 708).