The Coddingtons as landlords

Map from Newgrange and the Bend of Boyne by Geraldine Stout

Without estate papers it is difficult to get an exact acreage for the Coddington estate. This is further complicated with some of the lands being held by different relations.

In 1695 Frances Osborne of Stackallen recovered lands from tenant, John Blackley. In 1704 Sarah Osborne, relict of John Osborne, leased lands to Henry Osbourne of Dardistown, lands at Slavinstown, Hilltown, Garnanstown, Ardcalfe, Rathbranchurch and Wilkinstowne, Kilberry.  The lands at Staleen, Oldbridge, Sheephouse, Donore and Rathmullen amounted to 1,892 acres in 1711 when they were the property of the Earl of Drogheda. The lands at Tankardstown, amounting to 470 profitable acres in 1715 were inherited by the Coddingtons through marriage into the Osborne family.

In 1759 there was a settlement of lands of the Tenison estate  in Counties Londonderry, Longford, Louth and Monaghan.

Coddington Lands in the 1836 surveyed by the Ordnance Survey

Old Bridge – Donore Parish. This townland contains 732 acres including 21 acres of the River Boyne. It is the property of Nicholas Coddington Esq, whose residence, Oldbridge House, embraces much of it. It contains a good deal of planting. Some of the fiercest fighting of the Battle of the Boyne took place in this townland and here may still be seen some of the trenches and redoubts used by the Irish army. The land is very productive, when cultivated, but much of it is under pasture. There is neither waste or bog. Farm is a good house with a well planted demesne. Grove Island contains 5 acres. It lay at the point of attack by the Duke of Schomberg and his division at the Battle of the Boyne, and in the river nearby the Duke was killed during a charge of the Irish Horse. Yellow Island contains about 16 acres.

Sheephouse – Donore Parish – This a townland contains 373 acres and is the property of Nicholas Coddington. In it are the ruins of an old church and graveyard. There is also here an excellent limestone quarry, the stone of which is much used for building. In the old church James II is said to have slept the night before the battle of the Boyne.

Donore – Donore parish – This townland contains 478 acres and is partly under tillage, partly well cultivated. Donore House is in this townland as well as some good limestone quarries. It is the property of Nicholas Coddington Esq.

A large swathe of lands to the west of Navan, 1298 acres,  belonging to the Earl of Essex were leased in 1703 to Dixie Coddington. The terms were for “the natural life of John Coddington, eldest son of said Dixie Coddington and Patrick Grimes of Holme and Patrick Yeoman and for and during the natural life of the longest liver of them yielding and paying therefore and thereout yearly during said term the annual or yearly rent of two hundred pounds”, with a provision that a charge of £125 a new name could be inserted  in the event of one of the three named persons dying. This type of lease was called a lease with “lives renewable forever.” The penalty for adding a new name to a lease was small, half a year’s rent every thirty of forty years. By 1750 the Coddingtons were benefiting from substantial profit rents. By 1841 there were over 200 tenants and subtenants in the six townlands of Ardbraccan parish, held by the Coddington. By the nineteenth century  a considerable farm was being leased by the middleman, William Thompson, who resided on a 60 acre farm. The remaining 960 acres were sublet.

Betaghstown, Ardbraccan Parish – The lease of 21 August 1703 from Richard, Earl of Ranelagh, to Dixie Coddington of Holmpatrick, of Grange and other lands in the manor of Dorranstown, barony of Navan. It contained 228 acres and 35 perches statute measure, and is all under cultivation.  It is the property of Nicholas Codington, Esq., of Oldbridge, whose agent is Henry Coddington, Esq., of same place.  It is let under leases of 1 life and 21 years (but the leases are nearly expired) at the yearly rent of from £1-11 shillings-6 pence to £2 per Irish acre.  The tenants purchase their bog at £1 per perch.  The soil is mainly of a pretty good loam, and produces per acre:- 9 barrels of wheat, 12 barrels of oats, 50 stone of flax, or 300 bushels of potatoes.  Size of farms, from 1 to 66 acres.  The inhabitants are all Roman Catholics.

Nealtown, Ardbraccan Parish – It contains 484 acres and 34 perches, statute measure, and is all under cultivation.  It is the property of Nicholas Coddington, Esquire, of Oldbridge, near Drogheda.  Agent, Henry Coddington, his son and heir.  It is let under leases of 1 life or 21 years at the yearly rent of from £1- 10 shillings to £2- 2 shillings per Irish acre.  The tenants are all Roman Catholics, and purchase their bog at £1 – 2 shillings and 9 pence per perch.  The soil is loam, and produces 11 barrels of wheat, 16 barrels of oats, 56 stone of flax, or 330 bushels of potatoes per Irish acre. The size of farms is from 2 to 125 acres. The County Cess is 1 shilling and 4 pence per acre per half year.  There is a Roman Catholic Chapel situated on the south side of this townland, near the road from Kells to Trim.  It is capable of accommodating about 1,000 persons.

Neilstown Park. Ardbraccan Parish – It contains 20 acres 1 rood 12 perches, statute measure, and is all under cultivation.  It is the property of Nicholas Coddington, Esquire, of Oldbridge, near Drogheda.  Agent, his son and heir Henry Coddington. The whole townland is held under a lease by Archdeacon Pakenham at the yearly rent of £2 per Irish acre.  The soil is good loam, and produces 12 barrels of wheat, 16 barrels of oats, 56 stone of flax, and 360 bushels of potatoes per acre.  County Cess is 1 shilling 2 pence per acre per half year. The road from Kells to Navan passes along the north side of this townland.

Durhamstown: Ardbraccan Parish – It contains 1,027 acres and 12 perches statute measure, and is all under cultivation.  It is the property of the Earl of Essex, and it is held under a lease renewable for ever by Nicholas Codington, Esq., of Oldbridge, near Drogheda, at the yearly rent of 3 pence per acre.

The whole townland is again held under a lease renewable for ever from Nicholas Coddington, Esq., at the yearly rent of 6 shillings per acre by William Thompson, Esq., of Oatlands House.  In this townland, Mr Thompson retains 60 acres attached to Oatland House, and sublets the remainder to under tenants as follows:- 73 acres under a lease of 3 lives or 31 years, 84 acres under a lease renewable for ever, 105 acres under a lease of 2 lives or 31 years, and the rest of the townland in farms of from 1 to 50 acres, at a yearly rent of from £1- 7 shillings to £2 per acre.

The soil of this townland is good loam, and produces per acre:- 12 barrels of wheat, 16 barrels of oats, 56 stone of flax, or 360 bushels of potatoes. The tenants purchase their bog at £1-1 shilling per perch. The County Cess is 1 shilling and 2 pence per acre per half year. Beside Oatland House, the residence and demesne of Mr. Thompson, there is a neat house near the east side of the townland, known by the name of Robertstown.

Coddington Estate Lands in Griffith’s Valuation 1854/5

Lands of Henry B. Coddington

Oldbridge townland, 732 acres of which 600 acres is demesne. The rest is owned by Coddington but divided up into plots and houses.

Grove Island 5 acres

Yellow Island 16 acres

Ardcalf townland, Slane 73 acres

Mullaghroe townland, Slane 117 acres

Tankardstown house and townland, Gernonstown 383 acres.

Betaghstown townland, Ardbraccan 228 acres

Durhamstown townland, Ardbraccan, 280 acres

Grange townland, Ardbraccan 493 acres

Irishtown townland, Ardbraccan, 162 acres

Neillstown, Ardbraccan, 484 acres

Neillstown Park townland, Ardbraccan 20 acres

Lands of Mrs Coddington:  Balgatheran townland, Tullyallen, Co. Louth 482 acres

Lands of Eleanor H. Coddington: Donore townland 478 acres, Sheephouse townland 373 acres

Lands of John G. Coddington: Doolarghy townland, Ballymascanlon, Co. Louth 135 acres,

Ardagh townland. Tullyallen, Co. Louth 120 acres

In 1876 List of Landowners

Henry B. Coddington held Oldbridge 2604 acres in Meath and in Wicklow 619 acres.

Eleanor Coddington, Oldbridge held 850 acres

Mrs. Coddinton, Oldbridge held 6 acres in Meath.

William Coddington, Oldbridge held 642 acres in Meath

John S. Coddington of Raglan Road, Dublin held 272 acres in Wicklow.

John George Coddington held 120 acres at Dulargy, Louth

In 1883 Henry Coddington is listed as holding a total of 3737 acres (Bateman).

The townland of Keeverstown, Co. Louth, was leased to Henry Coddington in 1774 from the Derby estate. A new lease was granted in 1785 to Henry Coddington for the lives of three of his sons. A later 1788 lease identifies Henry’s older brother, Dixie Coddington as the landholder.

A local story from Wicklow : “Ballinabarney and Kirikee, between Rathdrum and Avoca in Wicklow, were owned by a landlord, Coddington from Oldbridge, Co. Meath. A local family sub-rented the area and collected the rents. A brother and sister, the Finns, lived near the Ballintombay-Ballinabarney boundary. They reared two cattle from which they were able to pay the rent. One year the cattle got a disease and died. When they couldn’t pay their rent, they were put out of the home and it was burnt to the ground. The neighbours made a makeshift home for them at the bottom of the road on what was then a triangle in the middle of the road.”

Mr. Coddington seems to have acted as an agent for other landlords in the area . The Dundalk Democrat of 15 June 1850 records him acting for the Fortescue estate. In the 1870s Coddington acted as agent for Lord Clermont at his Carlingford estates.

Poor Laws and Board of Guardians

H.B. Coddington served as a member of the Board of Guardians for the Drogheda Union.

The Poor Law was an attempt to come to terms with some of the problems arising out of widespread poverty in Ireland in the early 19th century by providing institutional relief for the destitute.

The Irish Poor Law Act of 1838, heavily influenced by an English Act of 1834, divided the country initially into one hundred and thirty poor law unions each with a workhouse at its centre.

Each union was administered by a board of poor law guardians, some of whom were elected and some appointed from the local magistracy. The system was originally designed to accommodate 1% of the population or 80,000 people but, by March 1851, famine had driven almost 4% of the population into the workhouses. As the 19th century progressed the poor law unions were given many additional functions, particularly in relation to health, housing and sanitation.

Under the Local Government Act, 1898, the poor law unions lost some of their housing and sanitation functions to newly established rural district councils, but remained responsible for poor relief. The early 1920s saw the abolition of poor law unions in the south of Ireland (with the exception of Dublin) and the closure of workhouses to reduce costs.

Reduce Rent not Salaries.

Dundalk Democrat 15 June 1850 – Editorial

“The Imperial Parliament, or law manufactory, has its Joe Hume to look after the pounds, shillings and pence of the empire, and see that they are expended with economy and without extravagance. He examines the pension list, the army and navy estimates with scrupulous care, and his watchful eye soon detects anything which may savour of waste of public funds.

There is scarcely a board of guardians in Ireland that has not its Joe Hume in miniature; but the course they take is sometimes most unreasonable and unjust. We know something of the manner in which some board perform their duty and we must say that those members who seem anxious to be economical, generally direct their attention in the wrong direction.

It is no uncommon thing to see some guardians expressing their desire to have the expenditure of the unions in which they reside reduced; but how do they generally act in endeavouring to effect their object? The first thing they do is to cry out “that the salaries of the officers must be lowered,” and forthwith they move to have the clerk’s salary, the salaries of the master, matron, schoolmaster, schoolmistress, porter, and relieving officers reduced 10 or 20 per cent. Now, we have the interests of the ratepayers as much at heart as any of those parties, and we pronounce this course to be most unwise and ridiculous.

It is the interest of the ratepayers, as well as the guardians, to have good, honest, and efficient officers; and how will they procure such persons if they do not give them fair salaries? Those you employ, almost in every instance, generally give you labour in proportion to the pay they receive, and assuredly you cannot expect that a public officer can or will do his duty as well for a miserable salary, as he would if paid what is fair and reasonable for his services. It is therefore the duty of poor law boards to pay their officers a salary sufficient for a comfortable support, and fair remuneration for their labours.

In the board room of the Drogheda Union last week, Mr. Coddington, of Oldbridge, a landlord who charges high rents, moved that the salary of the relieving officer of Termonfeckin should be reduced to £20 per annum; that of the relieving officer of Monasterboice to £20; and that of the officer of Stamullen to £20. What a wise and economical guardian they have got in Mr. Coddington. He would give about a shilling a day to those men who hold responsible and onerous situations. He would, we suppose, give the same salary to a labourer who knows not how to read, write, or keep accounts! This Mr. Coddington must be a strange sort of character. He says the reduction which he proposes in the relieving officers’ salaries would save the union £70 a year. That would be about 4s. a day, and if the union he valued at £67,000, it would be a farthing in the pound saved to the ratepayers. And for saving this paltry sum Mr. Coddington would risk the engagement of a staff of relieving officers who have given satisfaction to the board, to the ratepayers and to the poor of the union.

The motion was not carried, for the guardians rejected it; but Mr Coddington told them “that they should use every fair means to relieve the ratepayers, many of whom were not in a condition to pay high rates.”

And who have brought the ratepayers to this condition? Who but the rackrenting landlords. They are the persons who have beggared the tenant farmers; they are the men who have made workhouses, and rates and relieving officers, and all the grinding machinery of the poor law, an institution of the country.

When we see our steamboats laden with emigrants; when we see crowds of paupers gathering round those huge prisons that stud the land; when we witness ragged mendicants walking the streets of our towns; when we behold shopkeepers standing idle behind their counters; when we see artisans and labourers unemployed, we say, these things arc all caused by the cruel and heartless landlords of the country.

Mr. Coddington is a landlord ; and no sooner did we hear of his conduct in the board-room, and see his language in print, than we requested a friend to visit his estate and inform us how he had let his land. We were anxious to see what was the revenue he liked to enjoy himself, at the time he was endeavouring to reduce the salaries of the relieving officers. The intelligence we have received leads us to believe that Mr. Coddington can see a moat in his neighbour’s eye, but cannot discover a beam in his own.

We are informed that Mr. Coddington charges some of his unfortunate tenants £3 an acre for their farms! Is not this liberal conduct? A poor law guardian complains that the farmers ” are not in a condition to pay high rates,” and he at the same time charges some of them. £3 an acre for their land. It is no wonder that they are unable to pay rates when they are asked to pay a rackrent like this.

Our correspondent says, “one tenant of Mr. Coddington, who held two large farms a few years since, was obliged to give one of them up, he owing at the time, a year and a-half’s rent; he still holds the other, but I am told he is on his last legs.” That is, the rackrent weighed so heavily on his shoulders that it made him nearly a beggar. Mr. Coddington may now see that the way to relieve the ratepayers is not by reducing officers, salaries, but by reducing rents.” – Dundalk Democrat 15 June 1850

Land Question Raised 1870

In January 1870  H.B. Coddington used a dinner for the installation of a new mayor in Drogheda to comment on the major issue of the day – the land issue. The Dundalk Democrat of 8 January 1870 commented: “Mr. Coddington must have a very small amount of brains in his head, when he ventured to state in such an assembly that landlords and tenants might be left to settle their own affairs. What must we think of the class to which Mr. Coddington belongs, when he, a fair representative of the order, could make such a statement? There he is at  Oldbridge, going on towards his seventieth year. He had read of landlord cruelty and extortion; of rackrents, plunder of tenants, the depopulation of whole districts, agrarian murders and emigrants leaving Ireland at the rate of 100,000 a year. He has read we dare say of judges in Dublin having stated whilst deciding cases relative to land, that they were administering injustice; and he must have read of Scully and other tyrannical landlords, who treated their tenants in the most despotic manner. And notwithstanding all this, he had the folly to stand up  in the midst of an intelligent audience to vindicate a false theory, and telling them all that Ireland is improving as bullocks are multiplying all over the country. Mr. Coddington was cried down and he was obliged to resume his seat.”

Parish Priest Wins his Case

In 1882 Rev. Fr. Kearney, P.P. Bohermeen took his landlord to court in relation to the valuation of his holding of twelve acres. A substantial house had been constructed to serve the priest of the parish. The priest’s contention was that it was not an agricultural holding and the court ruled in his favour.

Not for Reducing Rent

In 1881 twenty-eight tenants at Staleen petitioned their landlord, Arthur S. Crawford, for a reduction of their rents by 20%. D.L. Coddington, who was agent for the estate, advised Crawford to “please give it to them hot.” Both agree that it is the Land League behind the agitation. Crawford wrote to Coddington: “I shall be prepared after the Land Bill to revise rents generally.” In 1887 land issues were still going strong in Ireland. The tenants at Staleen had again petition Crawford for a reduction. Coddington advised Crawford “I should be decidedly sharp with them – it is because of your reduction last year that they ask for more this year….but as you gave them something last year I advise you to say ‘you would do the same- for once’ it was against my wishes that you gave reductions last year and now all is more difficult. The whole thing is done by the Priest – he wrote it and signed it for both Chairman and Secretary, he is Chairman of the League in this part of the Country”

The Tenants of Mr. Coddington

A letter with a nom de plume was published in the Drogheda Independent in December 1885 taking Coddington to task as a landlord in the Ardbraccan area – . The people of the adjoining estate of H.B. Coddington, Esq, seem to belong to a distinct generation with the canker of serfdom impressed on their slavish brows. The teachings of your patriotic journal, the spirit of the surrounding tenantries, and even the advice of their own self-sacrificing curate produce as little effect  on them as the dews of heaven upon the lion’s main. The Jamaican planters  never exercised  a more tyrannical sway over their unfortunate slaves as did this Cromwellian landlord does over his tenants… They met their landlord (or his agent D.L. Coddington), at Dormstown to-day and paid their old rents without  a murmur, all the large farmers submissive as West Indian thralls ….”


In the same issue the Drogheda Independent commented: “We are sorry to see a gentleman of independent means like Mr. Coddington making for himself the odious name of rack-renter. Surely he must admit that this is not the time for exacting rents more than treble the valuation. Besides Mr. Coddington should be the last man in Dormstown to do anything that would summon up the bitter memory of the past. Rack-renting suggests at once the idea of eviction, and the people of Bohermeen might well be suffered to forget the Crowbar Brigade of ’65. We well remember the heart-rending scenes that then took place. Many respectable families were thrown on the road-side to die. They could be seen for weeks sheltering behind the blackened walls. Many of them died in Navan workhouse or ended their days in exile. Will Mr. Coddington, by his harsh treatment of his tenants keep alive those bitter memories?”

Labourers Cottages

Under the Local Government Act of 1898 the new Rural District Council were responsible for the operation of the Labourers Acts which providided housing/cottages for farm labourers. A highly divisive decision was to add an extra half acre this creating allotments of an acre. Many RDCs cut corners to try and placate the labourers. A number of landlords challenged the RDCs role. Colonel Coddington was one of those landlords.

Irish Independent 16 December 1901

On Saturday, in Kings -Bench No. 1, before the Lord Chief Justice, Mr. Justice Gibson, and Mr. Justice Madden, judgment -was given in the case of the King; (Coddington) v. the Local Government Board, in which the point involved was whether the Local Government Board , had power to acquire lands compulsorily without first seeking to obtain them by agreement or exchange for the purpose of annexing half acre plots to plots of similar size acquired under a previous scheme under the Labourers Act, and on which cottages had been erected. The proposed scheme was propounded by the Meath Rural District Council, and the prosecutor, Col. Coddington, who is a large ratepayer in tie Drogheda Union, sought for certiorari and prohibition order against the Rural Council and the Local Government Board.

Mr. Justice Madden, in delivering the. judgment of the Court, said the prosecutor’s contention was that the land could not be compulsorily acquired until, all reasonable steps to obtain land in the same locality by agreement or exchange had been in the opinion of the Local Government Board bona fide made. The Local Government Board and the Meath Rural District Council contended that the orders that had been made were valid, and could not be questioned by certiorari. The question of the validity of provisional orders in these cases was of general interest, and importance, because it had been stated that several schemes had been passed by the Privy Council, to which the same objection was applicable. He did not think it necessary to deal with the question that had been raised as to the jurisdiction of the Court as to certiorari. The question really was, could the sanitary authority that had already acquired a cottage and plot of ground acquire by purchase an additional plot of ground, to be added to that already acquired?

Otherwise than by compliance with the provisions in the Acts dealing with the acquisition by agreement or exchange. He drew a distinction between the terms”authority to purchase” in the Act of1885 and “purchase by agreement,” etc., in the Act of l886. The Land Clauses Acts were incorporated in the Labourers Acts, and, therefore, it was clear that the authority to purchase included compulsory purchase. The provision in the 12th section of the Act 1886, relied on for the prosecutor, was, in his view, conversant solely with the purchase of land by agreement for the purpose of allotment. For these reasons he was of opinion that the Provisional Orders were -warranted, and that the application to. make absolute the conditional order should be refused, with costs to the Rural District Council

Meath Chronicle 12 September 1908

The Coddington Estate New Rules. A Rather Drastic Code.

Drogheda Independent, Saturday, December 24, 1910;

The new rules on the Coddington estate seem to be of a very drastic character, judging them by what came under our personal observation lately. On the Monday of this week, when having our usual walk, we came upon an adventure which we will here proceed to chronicle. A motor car, occupied by a man and a woman, met a farmyard dray car, on which sat a young man and an aged-looking woman, on the road just where the Rampart merges into Pass. The horse in the dray-car manifested a slight restiveness as the motor approached, and the motor car driver slowed up and stopped. The horse drawn vehicle had pasted the other satisfactorily, and both were again proceeding on their respective ways, the dray-car towards Oldbridge, and the motor car towards Drogheda, when the driver of the motor car backed his car, and shouted at the driver of the dray-car to stop, which he at once did. The driver of the motor car then alighted, and proceeding towards where the dray-car stood, asked the aged-looking woman—and in no very gentle tones—why she was in the dray-car, and then began to question the driver thereof as to why ‘he had given anyone a lift, in contravention of his orders. After some interchanges between the aged -looking woman—the wife of a tenant, we understand, on the Oldbridge estate—and the motor car man, the old woman descended from the half empty dray, and, taking her little parcels with her, proceeded homewards on foot. Struck by an incident so unusual in Ireland, we were curious to ask who was the motor car man, and were informed that he was Mr Arthur Coddington, the young Laird of Oldbridge, who stood towards the dray car driver in the relation of matter to man. Further queries revealed the relationship between the dray car driver and his contraband passenger as that of nephew and aunt! As a manifestation of the newer chivalry, we think the incident we have related above would be very difficult to beat. But it has another aspect, and it is on that account we are at the trouble of placing it on record. As the dray car driver proceeded on his journey, after his rather unpleasant encounter with his irate master, we heard the lad say to his aunt as he passed her on the road, “I’ll be sacked Friday night for sure” Well we sincerely hope he was mistaken. Discipline is a much-needed virtue in Ireland, we admit, but the giving of an aged aunt a lift on a car from town on Xmas week, though it may have been a contravention of the Oldbridge new code, was surely not so grave an offence as would merit such condign chastisement as the young dray car driver conjured up, in his dread of the consequences of his breach of the Coddington Estate new rules.

Lands at Mullaghroe, Slane were sold 1915.

From the School’s Folklore Collection 1930’s

The Local Landlords

Mr Crafford (Crawford) was the landlord and he owned all the land around Donore. He lived in Belfast and Mr Coddington looked after the land for him. It was after the Battle of the Boyne that the land was given to Mr Crafford. It was divided into small farms, and the tenants were not allowed to cut down trees for firewood, nor had they any claim to any game on the farms. If the tenant disobeyed the landlord he was evicted. Mr Crafford was a very bad landlord.

Gerard Victory (Scolaire) Donore N.S, The above was got from – John Victory (aged 60) Donore

It is thought that the Coddingtons sold off their land holdings except for the 700 demesne following the 1903 Land Act. The Land Acts (officially Land Law (Ireland) Acts) were a series of measures to deal with the question of tenancy contracts and peasant proprietorship of land in Ireland in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Five such acts were introduced by the government of the United Kingdom between 1870 and 1909. The “Wyndham Act” – the Land Purchase (Ireland) Act 1903 was a new scheme for tenant land purchase, sale was to be made not compulsory, but attractive to both parties, based on the government paying the difference between the price offered by tenants and that demanded by landlords. The landlords were compensated in cash that was raised by government issue of guaranteed land stock yielding a dividend of 2.75 percent. The purchase price of the land was calculated in terms of rent years (the previous rent multiplied by a specified number of years). The number of years varied.