Towns and Villages

Under the rules of the Plantation the settlers were to live together in towns and villages. They were not to live scattered across the countryside. Their houses were to be built close to the fortification constructed by the undertaker. In this period towns were viewed as centres of civilisation, hence the importance attached to them in the Plantation. Towns were also seen as places of strength in the countryside as well as entities through which the Protestantism could be promoted. For the most part, however, the reality was very different. Philip Robinson has estimated that around two-thirds of Plantation estates lacked a nucleated settlement. Furthermore, many of the settlements that were denoted ‘town’ or ‘village’ in the Plantation surveys were unimpressive clusters of six to twelve houses.

Several reasons can be suggested for the absence of nucleated settlements from most of the Plantation estates. In part it was a reflection of the limited resources of the undertakers to develop an urban centre on their proportions. The development of a town was a major investment on the part of the landowner and beyond the means of most. It is of little surprise that urbanisation was most successful in County Londonderry where the London companies were active in developing towns on their estates. Most of the towns established by the London companies in the early seventeenth century are still important settlements today, including Ballykelly, Bellaghy, Dungiven, Macosquin, Magherafelt, Moneymore and Muff (now called Eglinton).