Saturday, 14 December 2013

Peter Radcliffe seeks a fair rent, Malahide, 1882

After the Famine, the main objectives of the land struggle in Ireland became known as the ‘three Fs’ – fair rent, freedom of sale and fixity of tenure. Legislation in 1881, based on these principles, transformed the relationship between Irish tenants and landlords and newly established Land Courts gave tenants access to a judicial rent review. We learnt all this in school, but it never held any real context until I could apply it to people that I ‘knew’.

My 4th great-grandfather, Peter Radcliffe, and a number of his neighbours in Malahide, Co. Dublin, were tenants of Lord Talbot de Malahide. In October 1882, they applied to the Land Courts to have a fair rent set.  Peter was well into his eighties at this time, but it was not the first time he had taken Lord Talbot to court.

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Irish Land Courts, 1882 (Freeman’s Journal)
The case was heard by the sub-commissioners in Balbriggan Co. Dublin, headed by Mr. R. Kane. While a reduction in rent was granted, it was not without controversy and it is unlikely that Peter and his neighbours felt they had received a fair deal. The sub-commissioners set the ‘fair’ rent at a figure exceeding that which Lord Talbot’s own appointed agents had argued was fair.  The controversy was reported in the Freeman’s Journal on 11 October 1882. 


The sub-commissioners’ ruling was also published in the House of Commons sessional papers in 1882.[1] Peter Radcliffe was said to have leased just over 4 ½ acres in the townland of Yellow Walls, Malahide. His annual rent was reduced by over one pound a year, but nevertheless, Peter still had to pay one pound and eight shillings a year more than Lord Talbot’s agent had determined was a fair rent.

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(Freeman’s Journal, 1882, Malahide tenants)

The Land Commission report also shows that Peter Radcliffe’s rent had previously been increased in 1850 and in 1855. Talbot had increased the rent by 11 shillings a year in 1855, when a drainage system was installed on the land – not exactly an incentive for tenants to make improvement to their holding. At least with the land court decision, Peter’s rent was fixed for a further fifteen years, even if he did make improvements.



[1] Irish Land Commission, return according to provinces and counties of judicial rents fixed by sub-commissions and Civil Bill courts, as notified to the Irish Land Commission during the months of September, October, and November, 1882, specifying dates and amounts respectively of the last increases of rent where ascertained, H.C. 1882 (c. 3451), lvi, 889, pp 72-3.

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© 2013 Black Raven Genealogy


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