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Petty’s Down Survey Barony Maps of Clare (1658-59)

The Down Survey Maps
The maps record townland names, acreages, territorial boundaries and quality of land: pasture, mountain, arable, bog etc. Features such as rivers and mountains are noted, as are castles, churches and important houses. The scale used was generally 40 perches to an inch, one perch equalling 21 feet (6.4 metres). The Down Survey also preserves many 17th century placenames. Although Petty knew practically nothing about the Irish language, and believed the country would benefit from its destruction, he emphasised the importance of fixing the spelling of Irish placenames, in anglicised form. He aim was to translate the names into English, while preserving their meaning, rather than substituting unrelated English names for them. Many placenames were corrected by Petty’s surveyors, so that it is an improvement on previous surveys, though at times lacking in uniformity.

The official maps resulting from the Survey were parish maps. The barony maps were drawn from the parish maps and intended to show the relative situation of the parishes within the baronies. The original 2,000 parish maps were destroyed in fires in Dublin in 1711 and 1922. Copies of a number of the parish maps survive in various institutions, but none of the Clare parish maps have survived. Among the 214 manuscript barony maps still in existence are copies of three original Clare barony maps: Bunratty (comprising the later Bunratty Upper and Bunratty Lower), Corcomroe and Moyarta. These maps were part of a set, entitled ‘Hibernia Regnum’, being sent from Dublin to London in 1707, when the vessel carrying them was captured in the English Channel by a French privateer. They eventually ended up in the Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris. In 1907 the French government gave permission to the United Kingdom Ordnance Survey to make photographic reproductions of the maps, which were published the following year. Clare County Library holds copies of these maps, given here.

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