Historians pouring over Irish archives found in attic dating to 1600s

LIMERICK, Ireland: Documents have been discovered in Limerick that include land leases, maps, letters, and lists from tenants dating back to 1670.

They were found in the attic of a house in Limerick.

Authorities note that the archive provides documented notes and details about the history and life in Limerick and Clare dating to the 1600s.

According to Dr Paul O’Brien, a lecturer at Mary Immaculate, he met Brendan Dennehy of Limerick who said he had a large collection of old boxes of documents which he had been watching over for some 30 years.

After being examined, it was determined that the documents were the contents of a land agent who was in business in the Munster-area since 1850.

However, upon closer examination it was learned that the documents belonged to some of the largest landlord families in Limerick and Clare — the Verekers, Arthurs, Westrops, Newsoms O’Briens and Mac Donnells, and held land leases, maps, letters and lists of tenants dating back four centuries.

"It contains documents, some dating back as far as 1670, and outlines the real lives and everyday business of the landlords, the merchants and the tenants of those times," said O’Brien, as quoted by RTE.

"The list of tenants is of particular interest, because they were not listed by name in our history. Now we can see their names, their rents, and sometimes the eviction notices, as these were often the silent people in our historical records."

Calling the discovery "invaluable," O’Brien described the collection as a once in a generational find due to volume of documents, which will become a major historical resource.

"We have examined only some of the documents and it will take years to search, read and catalogue it, and we hope to eventually digitize it so that it is widely available.

"The national library is now interested in helping us examine and categorize it, but our plan is to keep it in Limerick," he added.

Dr Helene Bradley, a Historical Geographer at Mary Immaculate, is focused on the many maps of landlord estates dating back to the 18th and 19th centuries, before the ordnance survey office began mapping the area.

"These documents can fill in so many gaps in our history and will now be primary sources for our research," she said, according to RTE.

An initial review of the documents noted that many related to St Mary’s Cathedral in the Limerick, which dates to the 11th century, and will detail much of the church’s history.

An example of the variety of historical documents includes a will of benefactor Alice Craven from 1726, who left all her money to alms houses for widows and poor children.

"I am still a Trustee of that charity and we were missing documents.and this may fill in the gaps in that jigsaw. In fact, that trust gave money to widows on Christmas Eve, which is still carried on to this day by the Trust," said Niall Sloane, Dean of St Mary’s Cathedral in Limerick, as reported by RTE.