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Plantation of Ulster (1609-) Although entitled the plantation of Ulster, the scheme drawn up and implemented during 1609-10 comprised only six of the nine counties of the province of Ulster; Armagh, Tyrone, Fermanagh, Coleraine/Derry (later to become known as Londonderry) Cavan and Donegal. The remaining three counties, Antrim, Down and Monaghan, had been the subject of settlement initiatives in the period 1603-7. The plantation of Ulster originated in the aftermath of the Flight of the Earls in 1607. Hugh O’Neill, earl of Tyrone and Rory O’Donnell, earl of Tyrconnell, had fled to the continent in highly suspicious circumstances. Convinced that treason had been planned the crown authorities took steps to confiscate the lands of O’Neill and O’Donnell and their associates. Initially, guided by the lord deputy of Ireland, Sir Arthur Chichester, a relatively small-scale settlement of protestant colonists was planned. This intention was abandoned following the rebellion of Sir Cahir O’Doherty in 1608. A further swathe of confiscations ensued. But the plantation was not only to increase in scope  but also in scale. The native inhabitants of the affected areas, those known as the ‘deserving’ Irish, were to find that their proposed stake in the revised settlement was to be greatly reduced, provoking considerable discontent. The primary beneficiaries of the plantation project, English and Scots settlers, as well as the protestant Church of Ireland, were to be allocated almost three quarters of the confiscated lands. A classic example of a public-private initiative, the British ‘undertakers’ were assigned the lands at favourable terms. Proportions allocated varied from 2000, 1500 and 1000 acres.

Life size model of a Londoner on display in the Harbour Museum, Derry

 Undertakers were expected to settle twenty four British males per thousand of lands granted. Stipulated building conditions were also scaled according to the size of the proportion granted. Thus undertakers who were granted the largest proportions, 2000 acres, were expected to build a castle on their lands. Building and settlement requirements were allocated three years for fulfilment. However, continuing political uncertainty in Ireland militated against large numbers of protestant settlers arriving by the time this period had elapsed. Subsequent migration resulted in a settler population of some 40,000 in Ulster by 1640.


Coleraine, 1622. Likened by Sir John Davies to the building of Carthage in Virgil’s Aeneid.


Links webchat with Dr John McCavitt (Feb.2003) 

The Ulster Plantation Centre:

See website the Irish Society, Londonderry:  

BBC Plantation of Ulster website:

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