See also: Ardsallagh

Ardsallagh Townland Census of 1821

By Bernadette Murray


Three miles south of Navan, Co. Meath, the River Boyne curves through a bend of almost 90⁰ from its general easterly course to the sea at Drogheda, to flow briefly in a northerly direction towards Navan.  The townland of Ardsallagh – Árd Salach – in the former parish of Ardsallagh occupying part of the south-east corner of the barony of Lower Navan in County Meath is situated in the region under the shadow of the hill of Tara near Bellinter Bridge. The study of the 1821 Census gives the details of the occupiers of the Ardsallagh townland in the early nineteenth century.  King George IV ordered that a census be made of the entire population of Britain and Ireland. This first properly structured census of Ireland was taken in the year 1821.  The value of this census is that it included, on a house to house basis, the names of individual members of each household, information on age, relationship to head of household, occupation, the number of storeys in each house and the size of each holding.

When the census was completed it was stored in the Public Records Office which was in the Four Courts in Dublin. Following the Easter Rising in 1916 and the subsequent fighting in June 1922 this was also where the army had stored their ammunition.  During the shelling, the Four Courts received a direct hit causing an explosion. The building caught fire and the west wind of the building in which the Irish Public Records were located and destroyed. The consequence of this was that most of the records that had been stored in the Public Records Office were lost. According to one story, a volume which contained eh Census Record for the Barony of Upper and Lower Navan was amongst some papers and documents blown up into the air and eventually recovered on the opposite side of the River Liffey.  However it may have occurred, it is extremely fortunate that these records for the Navan baronies survive. Since the Ardsallagh townand forms part of the Barony of Lower Navan, it is available for study.[1]

There are almost two thousand pages in this volume.  The entries area hand written, the writing is indifferent and on some of the pages the ink has faded.  Other pages are damaged and frayed at the edges which make them different to read. This comment is applicable to the Ardsallagh enteries and so, being difficult to decipher, care is required to transcribe them accurately (Appendix 1). Because these pages are all taken from the handwritten manuscript, some of the spellings are different to those used today but have been retained in their original format.  Concentrating first on the houses, each house was allocated a house.  There are eighteen entries recorded by the enumerator and of these fifteen were occupied, all one storey dwellings.  Of the remaining three houses, one a building with four storeys was uninhabited with the comment that ‘there is the remains of a dilapidated house’, one was a blacksmiths forge and the remaining building was the remains of the castle which had been built by the Nangle family in the twelfth century.  It survived under the ownership of the Ludlow family until after Earl Ludlow’s death in 1803 when the castle had lain empty and was neglected for a number of years.  The census of 1821 confirms that it was in a dilapidated state. The census does not give any indication as to the location of any given house/ However if correlated with the Ordnance Survey map of 1834 and the Griffith’s Valuation carried out in 1854, the location of buildings can be determined.  The castle can be identified on the first Ordnance Survey map and also the location of the corn mill on the bend of the river.  There was also a manuscript note on the census stating that ‘there is an old church on this townland with a burial ground which has been lately enclosed with a stone of five feet high’.

Using this census the population structure and the occupations can be looked at in detail.  The number of persons in the townland in 1821 was ninety one, thirty mine males and fifty two females living in fifteen houses.  It is noted on examining the occupations that there is a wide range of activities recorded and this included paupers and widows.  The listed occupations are summarised in Table 1.

Occupation                            Number                   Holding

Farmer                                    1                   16 acres

Farmer and Miller                       1

Gardener                                 1

Blacksmith                               2

Carpenter                                1

Labourers                                6

Stockman                                1

Flax Spinners                            3

Servants                                  4

Paupers                                   3

Widows                                    1

Total                                      24

Table 1 Occupation of household members in Ardsallagh Townland

This population picture is indicative of the composition of this rural society. There are only two farmers listed, one with a holding of 16 acres of land and the other farmer, who is also listed as a miller, with no land. An explanation for this is that the latter may have qualified for listing as a farmer by having a lease of land in an adjoining townland.


Fig 1 Ardsallagh Townland 1821 family names and house occupancy

While the sixteen acre land holding may seem small, frequently the acreages quoted were inaccurate.  In most of the agreements between landlord and tenant, the hedges. Ditches and rivers were excluded from measurement. In later censuses when the lands were re-measured it was found that in many instances the measurements would be increased by at least ten percent.  The measurement used at this time was Irish Plantation Measure or Irish Acre, five Irish acres equalling eight Statute acres.

A population of ninety one living in fifteen houses gives an average number per house of 6.o7 persons.  The actual number living in each house is set out in Figure 1. This presents a picture of overcrowding in some of these one storey houses. It is therefore interesting to look at the composition of some of the families.  There were ten people in the house occupied by the blacksmith (family name Monaghan) which included his wife and daughter, four nephews one of whom was also a blacksmith, two nieces and his son in law.  Three of his nephews were children under eleven years of age. His son in law was a labourer, his daughter was a flax spinner and one of his nieces a house servant.  It is obvious that this was a family that was fully occupied and most of them were working in the blacksmith’s forge.  There were nine people in the house of the miller and farmer (family name Byrne). Again these were various family members, his wife, two sons, two daughters, his sister-in- law, his brother-in-law and one other person. In this family one daughter was only three years old and the other daughter was twenty three. His wife was age thirty four, which would suggest that, taking the ages of his daughters into consideration, the miller was married twice.  He is also the only person of the workforce who claimed to have more than one occupation and this perhaps would indicate the seasonal mature of the milling activity.

In the house occupied by three people, the family name is Hand, a mother with her two daughters both of whom are flax spinners.  The family lived beside the Corn Mill on the river Boyne.  It is interesting to note that, in the Ordnance survey Letters of County Meath, reference is made to the hereditary association of the family name of Hand with Corn Mills. Tradition days that the first mill in Ireland was built by a Scottish millwright, named Hand.  He was brought to Ireland for that purpose by the King of Tara, Cormac Mc Art.   The mill was always hereditary in the family of the Hands and the descendants of the original builder worked the mill for nearly a millennium.[2] The mill was built in the townland of Blundelstown which was located across the river Boyne from Ardsallagh.

Some of the households included members with no kinship ties with the family, suggesting that these may have been the vulnerable members of the community, perhaps unable to work and supported in this way within the rural townland. The age structure of the population is set outin Figure 2.


Fig 2 Age structure of Ardsallagh townland, 1821

The population of the townland gives the impression of a young population. There are thirty four people under fifteen years of age, representing thirty six per cent of the population and only two individuals over sixty five.  An interesting feature is portrayed in the 21 – 40 age group, there are nine males and twenty three females, a total of thirty two people being thirty five per cent of the population.  Dividing this age group by gender the females represents twenty five per cent of the population (Figure 2).  The predominance of females in this age group may lead one to believe that in the absence of an interested landlord or substantial tenant in 1821, the male workforce of this age group had left the townland to seek employment elsewhere.  The percentage of the total population within a specific age group is shown in Figure 3.

Ardsallagh Townland 1821 census by Age


Fig 3 Population age structure of Ardsallagh townland 1821

The conclusion of the foregoing is that taking the skills of the occupants of the houses into consideration, it indicates that these skills were  those if a workforce employed in the running of a demesne and that this workforce was mostly employed in such a demesne.  At the time of the census in 1821 the estate was the property of absentee landlord, George James Ludlow the third and last Earl Ludlow, who at this time had no desire to maintain a large residence in Ireland. This estate, under absentee ownership, does not appear to have been well managed, much of the timber had been felled and the former castle was now in ruin.

Appendix 1 Townland of Ardsallagh, Parish of Ardsallagh, Barony of Navan Lower, 1821 Census


Townland of Ardsalla in the Parish of Ardsalla Barony of Navan Lower. 1821 Census

#House,       No. of Name of Inhabitant             Age     Occupation  No of Acres



1                       1

BRYAN MONAGHAN ,                                                     58,         Blacksmith

MARY MONAGHAN HIS WIFE ,                                       54,

MARY MONAGHAN HIS DAUGHTER,                                35         Flax Spinner

JOHN MONAGHAN HIS NEPHEW,                                   40          Blacksmith

JAMES CLARKE HIS SON IN LAW,                                  36          Labourer

CHARLES CLARKE HIS NEPHEW,                                   11

JOHN CLARKE HIS NEPHEW,                                           7

PATRICK CLARKE NEPHEW,                                            3

BRIDGET CLARKE HIS NIECE,                                       27

BRIDGET REILLY HIS NIECE,                                         26        House Servant


2                    1

JOHN CARPENTER MCCANN,                                        46        Carpenter

SARAH McCANN HIS WIFE,                                          38

JOHN McCANN HIS SON,                                               4

MARY McCANN HIS DAUGHTER,                                     6


3                   1 THIS IS A BLACKSMITH'S FORGE


4                   1

JAMES CULLEN,                                                            30

JUDITH CULLEN HIS WIFE,                                           24

ROSE CULLEN HIS DAUGHTER,                                       1

JUDITH CULLEN HIS SISTER,                                        27


5                 1

JAMES CLARKE,                                                           52

MARY CLARK HIS WIFE,                                              48

THOMAS CLARKE HIS SON,                                         10

ANN CLARKE HIS DAUGHTER,                                      24

CATHERINE CLARKE HIS Daughter,                            20

PHILIP LEDWIDCHE NURSE CHILD,                             1

MARY MOONEY  LODGER ,                                          50                  Pauper

MARY MOONEY HER DAUGHTER,                                 18




6                1

JAMES COGAN,                                                          26         Outdoor servant

ANN COGAN HIS WIFE,                                             24

MARY COGAN HIS DAUGHTER,                                    4

CHARLES CALESTER HIS NEPHEW,                          14

MARY CLARKE,                                                         24

NICHOLAS MOONEY,                                               30                Stock man

MARY CALESTER LODGER,                                       24


7               1

MATTHEW GRIMES,                                                 55                Labourer

CATHERIN GRIMES HIS WIFE,                                30

PATRICK GRIMES HIS SON,                                      2

MARY GRIMES HIS DAUGHTER,                              14

MARGARET GRIMES HIS DAUGHTER,                       4

MARY GRIMES HIS MOTHER,                                 70


8                1

JAMES MONAGHAN,                                              45               Labourer

ANN MONAGHAN HIS WIFE,                                 34

PATRICK MONAGHAN HIS SON,                            14

BRYAN MONAGHAN HIS SON,                                11

JOHN MONAGHAN HIS SON,                                   8

JANE MONAGHAN HIS DAUGHTER,                          3

CATHERINE RUFSELL LODGER,                             45              Pauper



9                   4


10                1

THOMAS BYRNE,                                                  45           Miller and Farmer

CATHERINE BYRNE HIS WIFE,                             34

JAMES BYRNE HIS SON,                                      13

CHRISTOPHER BYRNE HIS SON,                        18

MARY BYRNE HIS DAUGHTER,                             23

CATHERINE BYRNE HIS DAUGHTER,                     3

ELIZA SCANLON SISTER IN LAW,                        34

JAMES CURRY HIS  ?,                                          66

THOMAS SCANLON HIS BROTHER IN LAW,          44                  Labourer


11                1


12                1

JANE HAND                                                       46              Pauper

CATHERINE HAND HER DAUGHTER                   25              Flax Spinner

MARIANN HAND HER DAUGHTER                       23             Flax Spinner

13            1

JOHN MULLEN,                                                55,              Labourer

MARY MULLEN HIS WIFE,                                46

NICHOLAS MULLEN HIS SON,                           14

PATRICK MULLEN  HIS SON,                             11

CHRISTOPHER MULLEN HIS SON,                       8

MARIA MULLEN HIS DAUGHTER,                         16


14           1

THOMAS NEVIN,                                                26,            Labourer

CATHERINE NEVIN,                                           30

JULIA NEVIN HIS DAUGHTER,                              3

MARY REID HIS SISTER IN LAW,                        22


15            1

MARY COURTNEY,                                             50

PATRICK COURTNEY HER SON,                         19

THOMAS COURTNEY  HER SON,                         13



ANN COURTNEY HER DAUGHTER,                         7


16           1

JAMES FOLEY,                                                  30,             Farmer

MARY FOLEY  HIS  WIFE,                                  30

ELISA FOLEY HIS DAUGHTER,                            2

JOHN FOLEY HIS BROTHER,                             34

MARY FOLEY HIS MOTHER,                              58

MATTHEW REILLY,                                           18,         House Servant

ANN KENEGAN,                                                20,         House Servant

17            1

ELIZ LUDLOW,                                                 38,        Widow

ANN LUDLOW HER DAUGHTER,                         12


18            1

MICHAEL CAVANAGH,                                        38        Gardner (sic)

ROSE CAVANAGH HIS WIFE,                              35

PETER CAVANAGH HIS SON,                                1

MARY CAVANAGH  HIS DAUGHTER ,                      7