Kilkenny History

A Callan lease of 1839 and Griffith’s Valuation

A Callan lease of 1839 and Griffith’s Valuation

Niall C.E.J. O’Brien

In the absence of census records for much of the nineteenth century most people search for their ancestors in such records like Griffith’s Valuation. But the information in these records has to be examined with a cautious mind. The Griffith’s Valuation for the town of Callan in County Kilkenny shows that Michael Hearn held ten plots in Mill Street of which one plot was held by him from Viscount Clifden. In the absence of other evidence one could conclude that Michael Hearn held all ten properties from Lord Clifden. Yet this would be a wrong conclusion. This article publishes that absence records which contribute to that different conclsion.

On 15th June 1839 Richard Ryan, gent, of Callan, Co. Kilkenny and Michael Maher, gent, of Waterford City made a lease of 41 years of two adjoining holdings in Mill Street, Callan, to Michael Thomas Hearn, gent, of Callan at an annual rent of nine pounds. The holdings were previously known as Quinlan’s and Coonan’s.[1] John Coonan was a tithe payer with an address at Broadmore in the civil parish of Callan and may have been associated with the building on Mill Street.[2]

The two holdings measured 51 feet long on Mill Street and extended 150 feet on the rear, towards the river but not quite meeting the river as Lord Clifden’s estate bounded the holdings on the river side (north side). The two holdings were bounded on the south by Mill Street and on the east by the widow Butler’s holding and on the west by Crole’s holding. The lease agreement of 1839 was witnessed by Richard Colleton of no given address.[3]

There were a number of people called Michael Hearn listed as tithe payers for Callan but it is not possible to identify the Michael Hearn that was later associated with Mill Street.[4] The Hearn family were important merchants in Callan in the early nineteen century. In 1801 Michael Hearn was listed as operating a bank in the town.[5]

In the spring assizes of 1839 Michael Hearn was listed among the cess payers in the Barony of Callan. In the summer assizes of 1839 Michael Hearn was a cess payers living in the town of Callan.[6] Slater’s postal directory of 1846 recorded Michael Hearn as a baker in Callan but did not give the street address where his business was conducted. There were four other bakers in the town which then had a population of 3,111 people. The same 1846 directory recorded John Hearn as a publican in Callan.[7]

By the time of Griffith’s Valuation (about 1850) Michael Hearn had developed the two holdings in Mill Street into a number of different plots. He also seems to have purchased or taken a lease on other buildings to the west so that Michael Hearn had ten plots in a group to the junction of Mill Street and Clodeen Lane.[8]


Mill Street in Callan with the first three houses shown on the left held by Michael Hearn

The details of these ten plots starting at plot 103 at the junction of Mill Street and Clodeen Lane was the following. Plot 103 was a car office held by Michael Hearn from Viscount Clifden (worth £4 10s). Plot 102 was a vacant house and yard with Michael Hearn as the immediate lessor. Plots 98 to 101 were each a house and yard rented by various people from Michael Hearn. Plot 98 was rented by William Kelly and was worth £2. Plot 99 was worth £2 2s and was rented by James Jacques. Ellen Hearn rented plot 100 (worth £2) while William Cass rented plot 101 (worth £2 10s). Plots 94 to 97 inclusive were rented by the Poor Law Guardians of the Callan Union. The Guardians used the four plots as an auxiliary workhouse with offices, yard and garden (2 roots 24 perches). The buildings on the four plots were worth £40 which was the same value of the Friary Roman Catholic chapel three doors further east along Mill Street.

the Callan Poor Law Union was established on the 27th March 1839 and covered an area of 166 square miles across the Counties of Kilkenny and Tipperary. In 1840-41 a workhouse was erected in 1840-1 on a six-acre site to the south of Callan. The workhouse was declared fit for the reception of paupers on 21st December 1841, and received its first admissions on 25th March 1842. The workhouse was used as a knitwear factory in the twentieth century.

During the Great Famine the workhouses in almost every Poor Law Union was overwhelmed by people needing help. Auxiliary workhouses were established in new buildings or more usually in leasing existing buildings such as the buildings held by Michael Hearn. The Hearn buildings was not the only auxiliary workhouse in the Callan Poor Law Union. Another was established at Ballingarry.

The property of Michael Hearn as given in Griffith’s Valuation can give a misleading impression of ownership. Michael Hearn was the immediate lessor of nine of the ten plots on Mill Street. The tenth plot had Viscount Clifden as the immediate lessor. In the absence of the 1839 lease mentioned above an observer of Griffith’s Valuation could concluded that Michael Hearn held all ten plots from Viscount Clifden. But as we known this conclusion would be wrong.


Extract from Griffith’s Valuation showing the ten plots on Mill Street held by Michael Hearn

At least one and possibly two or three more of the ten plots were rented by Michael Hearn from Viscount Clifden but the 1839 lease shows that four or five plots were instead leased from Richard Ryan and Michael Maher. The column therefore that listed the immediate lessor in Griffith’s Valuation is indeed what it says, the immediate lessor. This immediate lessor is not necessary the actual owner of the property. It could be the case in some instances that the actual owner of a particular property may not appear in Griffith’s Valuation because he had leased the property to an immediate lessor who subsequently rented it to the occupier who appears in the second column of Griffith’s Valuation.

It is not known when Michael Hearn of Mill Street died. In 1876 another Michael Hearn of Callan owned 56 acres of land.[9] In the 1901 census a person called William Hearne was recorded as a baker in Mill Street and so collected the family tradition.[10] By 1901 the ten plots held by Michael Hearn, including the two holdings leased in 1839 had changed size and shape. The corner of Mill Street and Clodeen Lane was by 1901 a shop held and owned by James Lanigan. The next house was a private dwelling followed by a pub and then another private dwelling.[11]

This brief article shows not just how people should take care when searching Griffith’s Valuation but also how urban properties can change in size and function over the years. The size of property out in the countryside didn’t change as much in the nineteenth century.

The lease of 1839 for Mill Street was part of the records of Michael Buggy and Co., solicitors of Parliament Street, Kilkenny which were deposited in the Public Record Office of Ireland in 1981 with an accession number of 999/317.[12] Further research among the Rate Valuation books in the County Kilkenny Archives Office would give extra information on the properties held by Michael Hearn and how they changed over the years.


End of post


[1] Anon, ‘Kilkenny Deeds’, in Old Kilkenny Review 1982, Vol. 2, No. 4 (New Series), p. 397

[2] accessed on 13 October 2015

[3] Anon, ‘Kilkenny Deeds’, in Old Kilkenny Review 1982, Vol. 2, No. 4 (New Series), p. 397

[4] accessed on 13 October 2015

[5] James W. Gilbart, The History and Principles of Banking (Bell & Daldy, London, 1866), p. 181

[6] County Kilkenny general assizes and presentments (Kilkenny, 1838), pp. 97, 101


[8] Griffith’s Valuation, County Kilkenny, Barony of Callan, Parish of Callan, Callan South, Mill Street

[9] accessed on 13 October 2015


[11] accessed on 13 October 2015

[12] Anon, ‘Kilkenny Deeds’, in Old Kilkenny Review 1982, Vol. 2, No. 4 (New Series), p. 393


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