Monday, 13 May 2013

17th-century Ireland revealed in 300-year-old maps

A new Trinity College website has brought together a unique 17th-century map collection for the first time in 300 years as a free, publically accessible online resource. The Down Survey website maps out in great detail the dramatic transfer in landownership from Catholics to Protestants and changes our understanding of 17th-century Ireland (video below).

The Down Survey of Ireland was undertaken by the Cromwellian regime in the years 1656-1658 and introduced modern mapping techniques into Ireland to create the first recognizable maps of the country. It was also the first ever detailed land survey on a national scale anywhere in the world and measured all the estates to be forfeited by Catholic landowners.

This magnificent map collection, the originals of which were destroyed in two fires in 1711 and at the Four Courts in 1922, comprises county, barony and parish maps and is rich in detail showing not only townland boundaries, but also churches, roads, rivers, bogs, woods and settlements.

Led by Dr Micheál Ó Siochrú, Associate Professor in Modern History, TCD historians have now tracked down over 2,000 contemporaneous copies of the original survey maps in dozens of libraries and archives throughout Ireland, Britain and France, and brought them together as a free online resource.

By overlaying these maps onto Ordnance Survey maps and Google maps, and employing GIS technology, the website allows users to explore this turbulent period in Irish history to an extraordinary level of detail.

Key features of the website include:
  • 2,000 magnificent county, barony and parish maps from the Down Survey
  • National, provincial and county maps detailing massive landownership transfer
  • Mapping out of murders and violent assaults reported during the 1641 rebellion
  • Representation of 17th-century road network
  • Searchable database of over 10,000 landowners
The official launch of the website took place this evening at Trinity College Dublin. Watch the video below (it's 5.5 minutes long) for a great overview of the website and how it links up with TCD's earlier release of the 1641 Depositions.

Dr Micheál Ó Siochrú will be presenting a lecture about the Down Survey project at the IGRS Open Day in Dublin on Saturday 25 May. Details.