On 4 September 1607, Hugh O'Neill and about ninety of his family and supporters sailed from Rathmullan in Donegal in what became known as the ‘Flight of the Earls’. Although his intention was to raise a Catholic army in Spain and return to Ireland, he never came back. For the English, an opportunity and a justification had been found for the Plantation of Ulster.
The first requirement of the planners of the plantation was to understand the nature of what the King had seized. The government therefore established a commission charged with completing a survey of his new possessions.
The mapping was carried out under the direction of Sir Josiah Bodley, a military engineer, who had commanded the garrison at Armagh. Bodley travelled through Ulster, between July and September 1608.
The maps he produced were used to determine the areas that would be allocated to each planter. Unfortunately, his maps were grossly inaccurate.
On 29 May 1610 Francis Sacheverell, a gentleman claiming an income of £300 a year, was allocated a Grand Lease in perpetuity for two adjacent 1,000 acre precincts: Legacorry and Mullalelish.
The Sacheverells were an old family of Norman descent. They are first recorded in the parish of Sawley, Derbyshire where, in 1154, a Robert de Sacheverell founded the Church of St Mary.
In total, some twenty-two townlands were now under his management, less some one hundred and twenty acres that were reserved as glebe land to support the church at Kilmore. Six hundred acres were set aside for Sacheverell’s own use while he was expected to bring in settlers to farm the remaining one thousand three hundred acres. However, deficiencies in Bodley’s maps meant that the actual area of land now owned by Sacheverell was some 7,500 acres, although the authorities would not realise this for another fifty years.
In 1611 King James I sent Lord Carew to check on progress with the plantation. He found that Sacheverell was resident in Legacorry and had “brought over three masons, one carpenter, one smith, nine labourers and two women, four horses and a cart”. He had built three houses for his tenants and was building a castle for himself at Mulladry. However, by 1613 he had yet to bring over a single tenant farmer, although at the time of the inspection he was said to be looking to recruit some from England.
A report on the plantation in 1622 by Nicholas Pynnar found that Sacheverell had built at Legacorry “a convenient dwelling house of stone and lime, covered with thatch, and around it a bawn of clay and stone, rough-cast with lime, 198-foot-long, 19 foot broad, 8-foot-high, with four open flankers of the same height. In which house, himself, with his family, now inhabit."
Francis Sacheverell died in 1641. At his death, he may have felt some satisfaction at what he had achieved. His estate had been planted and now supported around a hundred men and their families. He had four sons, two of them living on family land and the other two in gainful employment. His heir was married to the daughter of one of the most important men in Ireland, the late Sir John Blennerhasset. He also had grand-children, Henry and nine-year old Anne. His mortgages had been paid off and he was living again in his castle at Mulladry. At the age of 67 he had lived almost twice as long as the average for men at that time.
Sir Phelim O’Neill, lawyer, landowner, MP and Irish nobleman seizes Charlemont Fort, the home of Toby, 3 rd Baron Caulfeild and the Rebellion of 1641 begins. The Irish leaders sought to exploit the English Civil War by carrying out a coup in Dublin. This failed but the rebellion continued elsewhere with the native Irish attacking the planters with great ferocity.
The settlers in Legacorry and Kilmore suffered terribly as their neighbours turned on them. In one atrocity in Shewis, men, women and children were liked into a house which was then set alight. At Portadown, Protestants were forced off the bridge over the Bank and drowned.
The Sacheverell family were captured by rebels and held prisoner. Eventually they were released but when they returned to their estate in Legacorry they found that their house had been burned to the ground and all their possessions stolen.
Eventually, both the Royalists and Parliamentarians sent armies to Ireland to quell the rebellion, but it was not until Cromwell finished the task in 1650 that it was crushed.
Edward Richardson joined Colonel Castle's Regiment in Dublin as 4th Captain, alongside 10 other officers and 960 men. His unit would later take a leading part in the sack of Drogheda.
Ex-army officers were granted land the value of which was determined by their rank and length of service. This was a relatively easy way for Parliament to discharge the large arrears of pay that these officers had built up. Under the scheme, a Captain received a debenture with the value of £714.19.7, which was sufficient to buy 1,544 acres in County Armagh.
This is probably how Edward Richardson came to meet the Sacheverells. He obtained some 950 acres in the barony of the Fews and 356 acres in Orior, only a few miles from the Sacheverell estate. He also came into the ownership of land in Counties Meath and Kerry. This must have made Edward as attractive to Anne Sacheverell’s mother and uncle as it made Anne – who had inherited 2,000 acres from her father – to him.
Major EdwardRichardson and Miss Anne Sacheverell were married in 1654 and their first son, William, was born in 1656.
A census in 1659 showed there were 99 people living in Legacorry village, of which 66 were English or Scots, far more than in any other townland in either Kilmore or neighbouring Mullabrack.
From 1661 to 1666 Major Richardson served as an MP for County Armagh in the Dublin Parliament. He had an anxious time at the restoration of Charles II, having served under Cromwell, but eventually his and his wife's ownership of the Richhill estate was confirmed.
Dendrochronological (tree ring) analysis of the roof timbers of Richhill Castle indicates that the joists were cut in c1664.
King James II [pictured] is deposed by Prince William of Orange. He fled to Dublin where he and his Catholic supporters took over the government.
The Richardsons were now considered traitors. Edward was replaced as MP for County Armagh by a Catholic, Constantine O’Neale, and his son William’s name appeared on a bill of attainder. William and the two thousand similarly listed were to forfeit their lands entirely and possibly also their lives – if King James could capture them.
King William sent an army, under the command of Marshal Frederick Schomberg, 1st Duke of Schomberg, to crush James. This landed at Ballyholme near Bangor in August 1689. Schomberg marched south to Dundalk but found his way blocked by a Jacobite army. The two forces maintained a standoff throughout the following winter; Schomberg’s troops suffering badly from disease, lack of food and constant harassment by Irish irregular forces. Schomberg was, for at least some of this time, based at Legacorry. He issued a set of orders from the village that have survived. These read:
“By Frederick Duke of Schomberg, General of their Majesties Forces.
These are to direct and require you to cause the several troops of the Regiment of Dragoons under your command, at Monaghan, Armagh and Markethill, to march forthwith to Benburb and the house adjacent, where you are to encamp and remain until further orders, and to receive the other two troops of the said Regiment at Ballyshannon as often as you shall have occasion.
Given at our Headquarters at Legacorry, the 14th day of May 1690.
To James Wynne Esq,
Colonel of one of their Majesties
Regiments of Dragoons
By the General’s Command”
Schomberg's army went on to a great victory over King James at the Battle of the Boyne, but he himself was killed in action. The Williamite army’s financial accounts show that part of it was quartered at Legacorry again in 1690, when stores, muskets and powder were stockpiled in the village. Tradition states that King William passed through Legacorry and tethered his horse to an oak tree in the grounds of Richhill Castle.
Edward Richardson died, aged about 70, in 1690 and was survived by his sons William and John, and by his wife Anne.
William Richardson (1658-1727) became an MP for the County of Armagh in 1692, sitting alongside his neighbour from Lurgan, Arthur Brownlow (1645-1711). The 1692 session of Parliament lasted less than a year and only four acts were passed. These recognised the title of King William and Queen Mary; encouraged Protestants to settle in Ireland and increased the duty on beer.
In 1695 William Richardson married Elizabeth Reynell, the twenty-one-year-old daughter of Sir Richard Reynell 46 . Reynell was a distinguished lawyer and judge who had been appointed Lord Chief Justice of Ireland in 1691.