The Grants in Waterford City from 1500 to 1690

The original family, the descendants of the Barons of Iverk, had lived just over the River Suir from Waterford since the Norman invasion. It was inevitable that some of them, probably younger sons, would make the short journey to Waterford, and settle there. They certainly were not welcome in the city in 1447 when a statute of Henry VI declared it lawful for the mayor and citizens of the town to ride with banners displayed against the Walshes, Powers, Grants and Daltons who had for a long time been traitors and rebels, and had continually robbed the kings subjects. The walled towns were under the protection of the king, and they jealously guarded their independence from the feudal lords. But on many occasions, their citizens, who were relatively wealthy, came under attack from the larger local families.

In the early 1500's we find the first references to the Grants in Waterford. They then had a fairly prominent role in the town right through to Cromwell, with Matthew Grant being mayor in 1641. In fact of the 1005 recorded Freemen of Waterford from 1552 until 1650, 22 had the surname Grant, which put them among the leading families. They remained in Waterford after the confiscations, but never really regained their former position in Waterford society. It should also be remembered that although Waterford was the 3rd largest city in Ireland during the 17th century, its population was only 2400 in 1600, rising to 6000 by 1700.

The Irish Genealogist in 1978 gave a complete list of Waterford Freemen, with their dates of appointment:-

We cannot say if all of them lived in Waterford, it is probable that some of the Iverk families were also freemen of Waterford.

The first Grants to settle in Waterford were three men, probably brothers - William, James and Thomas. They were merchants plying the wine trade with Portugal. There is a nice story concerning James and William. They were returning from Portugal with three other ships, all leaden with wine, when a storm forced them to shelter in Baltimore Bay. There they were captured by the O'Driscolls, and their cargoes stolen. This act was the last straw for the citizens of Waterford. They had suffered from the O'Driscoll's piracy for some time. The great galley of Waterford put to sea, routed the O'Driscolls, and set fire to their castles. William Grant appeared on the roof of a burning castle, and was saved by Captain Butler firing him a rope tied to an arrow, with William making his escape by sliding down the rope.

But it is their brother Thomas who was more successful. He first appears as a juror in 1537 at Waterford. And in the same year in a Kilkenny court Henry Forestall, described as his servant, was found guilty of buying goods before they could reach the market, hence creating an artificial shortage that he could exploit. This episode points out how Thomas earned his money. He went on to become Bailiff of Waterford from 1542 until 1550.

Thomas was succeeded by his son James, who was Bailiff from 1557 to 1560. James had three sons who were all merchants. This is an historically interesting period, covering the Spanish Armada. England was at war with Spain, so Sir Francis Walsingham, who had the best intelligence service in Europe, was not able get news of the Armada through his usual English sources. But the Irish merchants, who were assumed to be anti-English, were allowed to enter Spanish ports. Usually three ships at a time left Waterford with a cargo of hides or dried fish, and returned with wine. Richard Grant sent letters to Walsingham, via his brother Peter, which put the Armada's strength at 120 ships and 50000 men (in the event we know that 130 ships and 30000 men sailed in the Armada). He was also able to report the Spanish Admiral Sidona's death causing a delay to the sailing of the fleet, and that the main seller of bread in Lisbon had been arrested for mixing lime with the bread and causing the death of many troops of the Armada. He adds that Englishmen in the crews of Irish ships were being taken off by the Spanish, and subjected to the rack.

Peter was rewarded with a pension of 2 shillings per day in 1585, and Richard was appointed Clerk of the Munitions in Waterford around 1588. He still held this job in 1600, when he is noted in the Calendar of State Papers as supplying Ormond with gunpowder.

But their brother Patrick seems to have risen even faster through the expedient of persistent lobbying of Ormond for land and position. He is first noted as a servant of Ormond, who entrusted him to take the Catholic chaplain of the Earl of Desmond in chains to Lord Burghley in 1586. He was an attorney, and a nephew of Alexander Bryver. He petitioned for the post of Gentleman Porter in 1587, which would make him responsible for the dispatch of official documents. There are a number of land transfers in Co Cork and Queens Co where he receives land that he petitioned for. Most he transfers straight to Ormond, and was involved in not a little sharp practice, being investigated and found guilty of impoverishing the exchequer by his actions. He disappears from records in 1599, when he was made a Freeman of the town.

The last piece of intelligence reported was from John Grant in 1603 who writes as having seen 10000 foot soldiers and 500 mounted troops in Lisbon. John's ship was called "The Grace of  Waterford". John was made a Freeman in 1599.

Therefore with the aid of a published pedigree in the 1604 will of Richard Grant, and the above information, we can construct:

Matthew Grant first appears in a deed concerning land at Cawley, New Ross. The Ballinabouly family also held land near New Ross at this time, and so may be related to Matthew. By 1626 Matthew was Sheriff of Waterford, again in 1634, and finally Mayor in 1640. He married Catherine Skidy (who died 12/10/1627) and remarried to Catherine Porter in 1636. He was buried with his wives in a tomb in the Old Franciscan Monastery in Waterford, which later became the French church. Matthew lost all his land in the Cromwellian confiscations. He lost 282 acres at Kilkeleheen Parish, just over the river from Waterford, plus two houses in Barriston St. My feeling is that he was a descendant of the first James or William in Waterford. Having reached the prominence of being mayor he died in 1640, the family seems to disappear with the confiscations. A John fitzMatthew, who would be his son was made a freeman in 1635.

There is also a will recorded of a Robert Grant, butcher, in 1627 whom I cannot place. And also a reference to a James and Jasper refusing to ferry English families over the river in 1641.

The 1641 owners of property are given in the Civil Survey :

The 1653 Survey shows fewer Grants, Cromwell had taken his toll:

After the Cromwellian purge, the Grants were slow to reappear in Waterford. According to Prendergast, the city of Waterford had remained from the Norman conquest to the Cromwellian era "an English oasis in a desert of Irish". In 1647 it was reported to have no natural Irishmen in it, nor would it admit any. Henry Cromwell ordered Col Leigh, the governor of Waterford, in Sept 1656 to remove all Irish papists from the town.

1659 Pender gives 5 "Irish" Grants in Waterford City, including Patrick Grant, merchant

1662 Waterford Subsidiary Rolls (Waterford Library)

The only Grants who can be definitely traced in the post Cromwell period are Stephen and Jasper, whose family trees follow. Stephen the baker appears in 1682, and his life until he moves to Cork around 1700 is recorded. As is that of Capt. Jasper Grant the privateer who bought Grantstown. But neither wished to say anything about their origins. Perhaps not altogether unreasonable in the political climate that existed then in Ireland.

My conclusion is that three brothers from Ballinabouly, Thomas, James and William, settled in Waterford in 1537. They were joined by other younger sons from the Iverk families over the years. They became upper middle class merchants, only to loose virtually everything in the Cromwellian confiscations. Only two families remained in the city between 1660 and 1700, viz Stephen and Jasper who both deliberately hid their roots. Eventually more Grants came to Waterford from the surrounding countryside, and there are numerous Grants there in the 1980's, in fact the greatest concentration of Grants in Ireland today (as measured by the telephone book) are in Waterford.

The Grants at their beginnings in Waterford appear to be arranged in generations. The list of freemen (see page 34) shows a gap in Grant freemen between 1573 and 1596, and again between 1605 and 1632. My analysis leads me to assume the following tree\generations.

The momentous events over the period 1640 - 1670 undoubtedly led both Jasper and Stephen to conceal their roots. The chances are that Jasper was a son of Matthew, the mayor in 1640. And Jasper was a name used by the family.

Stephen was a new Christian name - one can only assume that it came from a maternal grandfather.




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