Earl's Gift

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An early 19th–century map of the “Earl’s Gift” Demesne showing lands near the town of Donemana, Co. Tyrone, in the parish of Donagheady and diocese of Derry has recently (2019) been repaired and conserved. These lands were colourfully surveyed for the Hon. Revd Charles Douglas by Robert Craig in 1830.

Glebe–houses (rectories, parsonages) and (historically) glebe lands (farmland) were the residences of the parochial clergy in their respective parishes, enabling them to easily and regularly provide pastoral care to their parishioners and to be a visible presence in the wider community. This deceptively simple statement belies the fact that for over 150 years (to the 1830s), senior clergy of the Church of Ireland were quite pre–occupied with the question of the availability of glebes and glebe–houses as an incentive to clergy to reside in their parishes. Like the churches, funds were also administered for glebe purchase, and glebe–house building (and rebuilding), through the aegis of the Board of First Fruits in the late 18th and early 19th centuries. Glebe houses in rural parishes often had associated farm outbuildings (offices).

Glebe house plans and particularly the drawings of the outlining and associated lands are particularly scarce, when makes this particular example all the more significant not just from a local history perspective but also the in wider national context of assessing the property ownership scope of certain members of the Established Church clergy.

In this case, the Hon. Revd Charles Douglas (1791–1857) was the second son of the 14th Earl of Morton. Ordained in the Church of England, he came to Ireland as rector of the parish of Donagheady in the diocese of Derry in 1825 and continued to serve there his death in 1857.

Clearly of significant independent means, but also benefiting from the grant funds available, Douglas was enabled to commission a professional surveyor, Robert Craig, to measure out his property, and draw the survey map of the lands where he had laid out a house and planned demesne on the former “Earls Gift Castle” estate.

This estate which originally extended to 1,000 acres was formerly associated in the 17th century with Sir John Drummond who laid out the original “Earls Gift Castle” and town of Donemana. But for this survey map which provides visual evidence of the castle, associated farmyard parish church, church lands and outlying areas, the association of over 95 acres of these lands with one Church of Ireland cleric might have remained relatively unknown. Indeed the only parish history available in the Library collection, published in 1979, by the Revd E.T. Dundas, makes no mention of it.

The colour map depicts various field boundaries, and the location of townlands, including Benown where the original parish church was located, as well as the castle, farmyard with stables and other outbuildings, landscaped garden and pleasure grounds. Immediately to the north–east of these and connected by a road is the original parish church. Today this building is a ruin, having been replaced after disestablishment when the original had fallen into disrepair, in 1879.


Sources for this article include:

  • Church of Ireland Library

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    Last modified: Tuesday, 01 February 2022