John Carvile’s project for plantation

The typescript of this article entitled ‘John Carvile’s project for plantation in Ireland, 1609’ is available in the R.J. Hunter archive in PRONI (D4446/A/1/51)

Detailed projects by applicants for plantation land in Ireland in the early seventeenth century are not common. John Carvile, whose scheme, submitted in November 1609, is printed below,1 was a north of England lawyer with a military background who had, earlier in 1609, under its second charter, invested in the Virginia company.2 Although be did not receive a grant of Irish land on which to try it, Carvile’s project deserves examination as an example of thinking on the practical problems of colonisation and Carvile himself may also not have been untypical of a number of Englishmen (people with a legal training) who were engaged in colonisation in one of the crucial periods of its history.

John Carvile’s father, also John, originally from the West Riding of Yorkshire3 was a captain in the English garrison at Berwick-on-Tweed, Northumberland, a frontier military and administrative centre, vital in Anglo-Scottish relations.4 His mother was a daughter of John Bennett, ‘Master of the Quene’s Ordenance of the North Parts’, a principal officer in the Berwick command.5 The younger John entered Queen’s College, Oxford in May 1583 aged eighteen,6 was admitted to the Middle Temple in 1588 and called to the bar in 1596.7 From 1595 be was solicitor to Henry Percy (1564-1632), ninth earl of Northumberland.8 Although the Percy estates were mainly in Yorkshire and Northumberland, the ninth earl lived exclusively in the south of England – at Petworth in Sussex, at Syon House in Middlesex or in London itself.9 The solicitor’s professional duties would have to take account of these facts, so it is not surprising that we find a letter addressed to him as of the Inner Temple, London in 1597,10 and that he married the daughter of a prominent member of the Yorkshire gentry (Robert Kaye of Woodsome) in the following year.11

He was living at Nunmunckton in the Yorkshire West Riding in 1609 when his project was presented and had probably been there earlier12 seemingly on lands owned by the earl, and was receiver of the rents of his lands in this area in 1612 and 1613.13 At this time he was receiving £10 per annum from Northumberland, plus expenses.14 In 1608 and. subsequently he was also acting for Sir William Wentworth, the Yorkshire father of Sir Thomas, later Irish lord deputy, in a dispute with the earl of Shrewsbury.15 In 1607 he seems furthermore to have had some part, which does not emerge clearly, in the disposition of recusants’ property.16 In 1612 his gentry status was recognised when his pedigree was recorded.17 In 1621-2 and again 1624-6 he was member of parliament for the Yorkshire West Riding borough of Aldborough.18

The project is largely self-explanatory, but a few comments may be worthwhile. In asking for 8,000 acres Carvile may well have been thinking in terms of the earlier Munster plantation, the plan of which provided for estates descending in size from 12,000 to 4,000 acres.19 In offering to settle 100 families he was, however, committing himself to a higher density of settlement than was prescribed in Munster where 91 families per 12,000 acres was the norm. The conditions of the Ulster plantation as formulated at the time of Carvile’s application laid down that grants should not be larger than 2,000 but did not specify the number of tenants required, but in their final form in 1610 ten families or 24 adult males per thousand acres was the requirement.20 The detailed break of occupations is of the greatest interest. The concern for defence, especially the request that the crown should provide arms for the tenantry, indicates a practical cast of mind derived no doubt from his military father. It may be noted also that the settlement he envisaged was one in which the tenants should build their own houses. The proposal to erect a fulling mill and bring cloth-workers indicates that he intended to transpose the Yorkshire woollen industry into his new settlement.21 His commitment to land enclosure and settlement in hamlets is also noteworthy. His intention to bring a ‘house hold’ or ‘family’ of twenty-four servants and its proposed composition is also of special interest. It may serve to illuminate the household size and structure of large settler landowners in Ireland. A household establishment of twenty-four, including two bailiffs of husbandry, would have placed him on a par with the substantial gentry of Yorkshire.22 Lord Salisbury, the lord treasurer to whom the project was directed, was the London government minister most directly involved with Irish affairs and in particular with the planning of the Ulster plantation.

Carvile’s application coming when it did, in November 1609, suggests that he may well have been seeking a grant of some of the escheated lands in Ulster. The proposed plan for the organisation of that plantation had been published early in 1609, but was still under re-consideration and grantees of estates had not yet been selected. The nature of his application, however, suggests that he was influenced by the terms of the Munster scheme. It is likely that an earlier interest in Ireland was behind, his application but in his, as in most cases of applicants for land at this time, we can only set out a number of possible contacts and connections to account for it. A youthful interest in Ireland may have been stimulated by contacts with some of his father’s former colleagues at Berwick who bad subsequent careers in Ireland, notably Sir William Drury who was marshal at Berwick from 1566 to 1574 and lord president of Munster from 1576,23 and Sir Valentine Browne, at Berwick as treasurer and victualler 1566-76, who was appointed a commissioner for the Minister plantation in 1584 and became a grantee of an estate there.24 Alternatively if his application was simply an immediate, if unorthodox, one under the Ulster plantation scheme a layer who attended the assizes25 would have been well placed to hear news of it from the assize judges in circuit.26 He could also have become interested through contact with any of a number of Yorkshire men most from the West Riding, who were applying at that time.27

Probably the most likely stimulus however derived from the brothers of his employer the earl of Northumberland. At least three of these had been involved in Irish affairs. Sir Charles Percy (1572-1628) took part in the capture of Cahir castle under the earl of Essex in 1599.28 Sir Richard (1573-1627) fought at the Blackwater and Kinsale,29 where he was later governor30 and had returned to England with an Irish pension by 1608.31 When it is noted that George Percy (1580-1632), who went on the original voyage to Virginia in 1606-07 under the first charter and was one of Virginia’s first governors, and through whose influence no doubt Carvile invested under the second Virginia charter of May 1609, had himself also spent two periods in Ireland at the end of the sixteenth century32 and the beginning of the seventeenth then the Percys seem the most likely source of Carvile’s concurrent interest in Ireland and Virginia. The Percys having been in Ireland when they were would have been familiar with the organisation of the Minister plantation, hence plausibly the reason why Carvile’s application, which from its timing was probably in response to the Ulster confiscation, was couched in ‘Munster’ terms. His case at any rate illustrates the kind of contacts many Englishmen must have had with Ireland by the early seventeenth century.

We have no way of knowing why he did not receive an Irish estate. He may have lost interest and not pursued his application or been unwilling to accept under the Ulster terms. As a practising lawyer in England he may have been thought unlikely to uproot and reside in Ireland. Possibly because he had just been acting for Sir William Wentworth in litigation against the earl of Shrewsbury his application was vetoed by Shrewsbury33 who was one of those who selected the grantees for Ulster in 1610. Perhaps his association with Northumberland who was in prison in the Tower of London from 1605 to 1621 as a result of charges against his arising from the Gunpowder plot34 was the most likely cause of his rejection. More generally, few Yorkshire men succeeded in acquiring Ulster laud in 1610.

There is however a postscript to the story in November 1634 a certain John Culpeper accused Carvile before the English privy council of failure to pay debts, longstanding, of £2,000. Carvile, he said, had ‘obscured himselfe and lived in privileged places’ where he could not ‘procure him to be arrested, and hath lately bene in Ireland and purposeth shortly to goe thither againe, standing outlawed, having land worth above five thousands which hee hath secretly conveyed to his friends in trust, thereby to defraude the petitioner of his debt.35 However, the court found that he ‘doth now shelter himself in the Middle Temple’, had him arrested and some days later made an order for the payment of the debt.36 In the background of the case a connection between Carvile and Sir Thomas Wentworth, now Irish lord deputy, emerged, so it seems that his second, equally unsuccessful, Irish episode derived from his association with the Wentworths, going back, as we have seen, to the time of the first. During Wentworth’s administration Yorkshire people were probably being advanced in Ireland in greater numbers than in the early part of the century,37 and Carvile may have hoped to include himself amongst them. He had known Sir Thomas since at least 161338 and had received a letter of sympathy on the death of his daughter from him in 1620.39 Furthermore the borough of Aldborough for which he had sat had (or came to have) some association with the Wentworths, and Christopher Wandesford, at one time Carvile’s fellow MP for that constituency, became one of Wentworth’s leading supporters in Ireland.40

Twice it would seem, then, the prospect of profit in Ireland eluded him. What we know of him suggests that, on balance, John Carvile would probably not have made the best planter material: this need not detract, however, from the inherent interest of his project.


My p’iect and desire concerninge plantation in Ireland

ffor place to plant in
To have a place assigned ther, wher I may seate my self, with 24 men servants in my family, and aboute 100 families more of artificers husbandmen and laborers (to be carryed with me out of England), in two manner houses, and hamlets, to be fitly cast and built (for exercisinge of husbandry) alltogether.

That the place may be such as hath within the p’cinct therof, some convenient river or streame wheruppon may be built one or moe come milnes and fullinge milne, woods havinge sufficient tymber for all manner of buildings and plowgeaxe, and sufficient imderwood. for fire and hedginge, and stone for wallinge slatinge and lyrae.

The p’sons to be planted, of families to be carryed over bes mine owne
The p’sons whom I intend to carry with me, with ther. families (besides such servants as ar to be in myne owne house) be 2 soldyers of good behaviour that have some skill in fortifications and trayninge of men to fortifye and direct for defenc against sudden incursions of wild Irishe, a surveyor to plot and measure out the places to be planted as I shall direct him, 2 carpenters milnewrights and 2 whelewrights, for woodwork, 2 masons 2 wallers and 2 slaters tilers for stonework, 2 milners wherof the one to have skill in fullinge of cloth, 2 blacksmiths 1 lock smith and 1 cutler for iron work, 2 clothworkers for makinge of wollen cloth, and 2 lynnen weavers for makinge of ly’n cloth, 40 husbandmen with a drawght or theme of oxen or horse for every of them, and 16 or laborers for husbandry work, and 2 ministera to preach catichise and teach children.

The p’sons of mine owne family
The persons whom I intend to carry in mine owne houshold. be two baylifs husbandry, 8 plowmen, 4 heardmen, two clarks, one butler, one cooke, one or for brewinge and bakinge, 2 horskepers and 2 gardeners.

The quantitye of grownd to be planted uppon
The quantitye of grownde (which I desire, to plant all thea p’sons uppon) is 8,000 acres or therabouts besides mountaines bogs and unimprovable underwoods to be devided and set fourth as followeth viz:

ffor 2 severall manner houses to be ‘built, with a convenient village to adioyne to either of them (wherin the foresayd artificers ar to be planted viz: half of them in the one village, and half in the other village) 3,000 acres, of w’ch 1,000 acres to be assigned for the demesnes of either manner house, and 500 acres amonge the artificers in either village.

ffor 4 hamlets, wherof two to be assigned to belonge to either manner house, the one uppon the one syde therof, and the other on the other syde, 5,000 acres viz for every hamlet 1,250 acres, wherof 1,200 acres are to be distributed amonge 10 husbandmen to be planted in every hamlet, and 50 acres or therabouts, amonge 4 or 5 laborers to be placed with them in every of the same hamlets. Of the 1,200 acres to be distributed among the husbandmen, every one of them is to have 120 acres viz: for tillage 60 acres, to be devided into 4 severall closes for plowinge, and other 60 acres to be divided into 3 or 14 closes, for meado and pasture, and of the O acres to be divided amonge the laborers, every of them is to have 10 or 12 acres viz: 1 or better for a garden and orchard, L or S for a close of meadoe and the residue of the sayd 10 or 12 acres for a close of pasture for 2 or 3 kine.

The manner of p’cedinge in the plantation
The plantation is to begon in the springe tyme of the yeare, against which tyme sufficient store of all necessaries for maintenanc, as well of appaxell as victualls, must be p’vided, to serve for 2 years, beforehand, and also munitio’ of warre fit for every p’son, therby to furnishe readily a sufficient band of men of the same inhabitants when nede shall require. The munition I wold desire to be p’vided and delivered to every pt son out of his Ma’ts store, for the safe kepinge and rnaintayninge wherof good securitye shalbé given to his Ma’t, the rest of all necessaxyes, with sufficient stock of cattell for husbandinge of the p’misses, shalbe p’vided by the planters themselves.

The first work of plantation must be to make a sure fort, wher all the p’sons aforesayd may Temaylle for ther strenght in safety, untill other necessary buildings, after a strong manner of buildinge, shalbe made for them.

Secondly, aboute the syte of every manner place and also of every hamlet must a great ditch be casten and well set with qiickset, 3 or L rowes double, with little flankers in every corner therof, wherby all the sydes of the same may be scowred with shot, and therby the sayd manner places and hamlets the better watched in the night tyme, for p’servation of the goods and cattell to be ther kept, from theves and wolves.

Thirdly, within the circuite of thos ditches little cottages ar to be built for every artificer to dwell in, and for every husbandman to dwell and threshe ther come in (in such places as they am to build ther dwellinge houses afterwards), untill they may conveniently build the sayd dwellinge houses, every one of them, one after an other, as they shall fall to build by lot, as spedely as by the labor of their artificers and themselves, they shalbe able to build the same.

ffourthly, after thes cottages erected (or p’adventure before) 1 wilbe necessary to build come milnes for grindinge of such come as shalbe spent amonge them.

Lastly, (thes necessaries beinge thus p’vid.ed) the husbandmen am to begin ther tillage and inclosures of the grounds allotted to every of them in the best manner that the nature of the soyle and utteranc of com’odities them will afford, and all them inclosures are to be set with quickset.

Reasons for corn of the designes aforesayd
The reason of p’vidinge double artificers of every kinde, is to p’vent the hinderanc that might happen by the death of one, when noe other of that qualitye should be them, to p’cede in such work as the party dyinge had begun.

The reason why so m’ch quantyte of ground is desired for every of the p’sons aforesayd, is for that noe good can be don in this plantation without the help of such as to be industrious, and out of ther p’sent estate of weith in England am able to p’vide stock of cattell, implements of husbandry and all necessaries, aswell of apparrell and houshold stuffes as of victualls to serve them for 2 or 3 years after the beginninge of ther plantation, before they can get sufficient in that behalf by ther indeavors in lerlande. And noe such p’ sons will adventure ther p’ sons and goods to the spoyle of the wild Irish in thos parts, and forsake ther native contry, without hope of good inheritanc for ther payiies in tyme to corn, when it shall please god to graunte quietnes in that contry.

The desire to carry so many families to plant under my self in one place together is therby to have in continuall readynee a. competent strenght. of men (to avoyd any sudden robbery or violenc by wild Irishe) of such Englishe as I shall knowe to be true, and to depend. uppon my co’maunde and p’tection, under his Ma’ties authoritye.

Yf my intent aforesayd shall be liked. by my L. treasorer and his Lordship wold be pleased to favor and further my suite, concerninge the p’misses, I wold be willinge to undertake the same in fee farme, at such rate and to begin at such tyme as his honor shall think fit, the charge aforesayd considered

John Carvile of Nunmonkton in
the county of York
of the Society of
the Middle Temple
ultimo Nov. 1609
proiect for the private plantation
Mr. Carvyle


1. P.R.O. London (now The National Archives), S.P. 63/227, ff. 191-3. A heading only appears in Calendar of State papers, Ireland, 1608-10, p. 323, where the defective York is read as Cork. It is printed here for the first time by kind, permission of the Keeper of the Public Records. Punctuation has been modernised and the sub-headings italicised.

2. Alexander Brown, The genesis of the United States (Boston, 1890, reprinted New York, 1964), ii, 846,

3. His family came from Melton (Joseph Foster (ed.), The visitation of Yorkshire made in the years 1584-5 . . . . to which is added the subsequent visitation made in 1612 … (London, privately printed, 1875), p. 501, and was also associated with South or North Milford (ibid.; C.J., ‘Grant of arms to John Bennett in 1560’ in The Herald and Genealogist, iv (1867), p. 95)

4. Ibid.; C.B, Norcilife (ed.), The visitation of Yorkshire made in the years 1563 and 1564 (London, Harleain Society, xvi, 1881), p. 23; Helen M. Wallace, ‘Berwick in the reign of queen Elizabeth’ in English Historical Review, xlvi (1931), pp. 79-88.

5. Norcliffe, Visitation . . . in . . . . 1563 and 1564, p. 23; C.J., ‘Grant of arms. . . . .’. ‘., Bennett was from Newcastle-upon-Tyne and was buried there.

6. Joseph Foster (ed.), Alumni Oxniensis: the member of the university of Oxford, 1500-1714, Early series, Vol. A-D (Oxford, c.1892),

7. H. A. C. Sturgess, Register of admissions to the honourable society of the Middle Temple (London, 1949), i, 59.

8 G.R. Bathe (ed.), The household papers of Henry Percy ninth earl of Northumberland (1564-1632)

(London, Royal Historical Society, Camden 3rd ser. xciii (1962)), p. 150.

9. Ibid., pp xviii—xix.

10. H.H.E. Craster, A history of Northumberland (Newcastle-upon-Tyne and London, 1907), viii, l73-4.

11. J.W. Clay (ed.), Dugdale’s visitation of Yorkshire (Exeter 1899), i, 76.

12. Batho, Household papers, p. 91.

13. M.E. James (ed.), Estate accounts of the earls of Nortumberland, 1562-1637 (Durham and London, Surtees Society clxiii (1955)), pp 232.

14, Batho, Household papers, pp 90 91, 136, 137.

15. J.P. Cooper (ed.), Wentworth papers, 1597-1628 (London, Royal Historical Society, Camden 4th ser. 12 (1973), p, 44,

16. Historical Manuscripts Commission, Salisbury (Cecil) Manuscripts, xix (1607) (London 1965), pp. 27-8. In 1603 a John Carvile received a grant of an advowson in Essex (Cal. S.P. Dom., 1603-10, p. 34).

17. Foster, Visitation . . . . in 1584-5 . . . (and) 1612, p. 501.

18. Batho, Household papers, p. 150; G.R. Park, Parliamentary representation of Yorkshire (Hull, 1886), pp 221-2, I am grateful to Dr. P. Roebuck for this reference. He appears to have been an active M.P. concerned with chancery’ reform W.M. Mitchell, The rise of the revolutionary party in the English house of commons, 1603-29 (New York, 1957), p. 98; R. Zaller, The parliament of 1621 (Berkeley, Los Angeles and London, 1971), p. 125).

19 . For a valuable short study see D.B. Quinn, ‘The Munnster plantation: problems and opportunities’ in Journal of the Cork Historical and Archaeological Society, LXXI (1966), pp 19-40.

20. G. Hill, An historical account of the plantation in Ulster at the commencement of the seventeenth century, 1608-20 (Belfast, 1877) pp. 78-85; T.W. Moody (ed.), ‘The revised Articles of the Ulster Plantation, 1610’ in Bulletin of the Institute of Historical Research, XII (1935), pp. 178-83.

21. Carvile’s Yorkshire in-laws the Kayes of Woodsome, improving landowners rising, from the middle to the upper ranks of the county gentry also owned fulling mills (as well as mining coal and working iron forges), and may have been the immediate source of this item in his scheme (J.T. Cliffe, The Yorkshire gentry from the reformation to the civil war (London, 1969), pp. 53, 58, 97).

22. Cliffe, Yorkshire gentry, pp. 111-14, 385-7.

23. Wallace, ‘Berwick in the reign of queen Elizabeth’, p. 81; Nicholas P. Canny, The Elizabethan of conquest of Ireland: a pattern established, 1565-76 (Hassocks, Sussex, 1976), p. 104.

24 Wallace, ‘Berwick in the reign of queen Elizabeth’, p.81 R. Dunlop., ‘The plantation of Munster, 1584-49’ in English Historical Review, iii (1888), pp. 252, 267.

25. James, Estate accounts, p. 174.

26. How the Ulster plantation was promoted is not precise1y clear, but the assize judges may well have been asked to assist in the recruitment of applicants.

27. The principal list of applicants is in Cal. S.P. Ire., 1608-10, pp. 548-51. Carvile’s name is not included, but the list is incomplete, Furthermore his application went forward at a time when there was a lull in planning for the Ulster p1antation. If Carvile was the ‘officer’ the earl of Northumberland sent to see Salisbury earlier in 1609 (H.M.C., Salisbury (Cecil) Manuscripts, xxi (1609-12) (London, 1970), p 41), then he could have been made interested in Irish land by the lord treasurer himself.

28. R. Bagwell, Ireland under the Tudors (London, 1890), iii, 326.

29. Cal. S.P. Ire., 1603-6, p. 591.

30. He was appointed governor of Kinsale and an adjacent area by patent, 29 May 1605 (J.C. Erck (ed.), A repertory of the enrolments on the patent rolls of chancery in Ireland . . . . James I, Vol. I, Part I (Dublin, 1846 pp. 261-2; R. Caulfield (ed.), The council book of the corporation of Kinsale (Guildford, Surrey, 1879), p. xxxi.

31. Cal. S.P. Ire., 1606-8, pp. 615-16; ibid., 1608-10, p. 168.

32. Philip L, Barbour, The three worlds of captain John Smith (London, 1964), pp. 110-11. 427-8. A later connection between Carvile and Sir Edwin Sandys (P.R.O., C2Jas1/C28/7) who was prominent in the foundation of Virginia, did not involve colonisation. It is extremely unlikely that the Lieutenant Carvell who received a pension in Ireland in 1603 (Cal. S.P. Ire., 1603-6, p. 428) was the same person – he may, perhaps, have been relative.

33. Cooper, Wentworth papers, p. 44.

34. Batho, Household papers, p. xix.

35. P.R.O., P.C. 2/44, p. 227 (f. 105); Cliffe, Yorkshire gentry, pp. 154-5. He had also, been arrested in Yorkshire in 1627 (Batho, Household papers, p. 150). Interestingly, there had been Culpepper involvement in the Londonderry plantation (T. W. Moody, The Londonderry plantation, 1609-41 (Belfast, 1939), pp. 379-80.

36. P.R.O., P.C. 2/44, p. 277 (f. 105), p. 244 (f.114v)

37. For Yorkshire men who ‘went out’ to Ireland then see Cliffe, Yorkshire gentry, pp. 17, 87.

38. Cooper, Wentworth papers, pp. 55-6.

39. Ibid., pp 131-2.

40. T. Lawson-Tancred, ‘Parliamentary history of Aldborough and Borougbbridge’ in Yorkshire Archaeological Journal, xxvii (Leeds, 1924), pp. 326-9, 359.