Evidence of Samuel Fenton
Where do you live?
At 23 Upper Gloucester Street, Dublin. ,
What is you occupation?
A solicitor and agent to Alexander Carroll Esq of Mountjoy Square, the proprietor of Ashford.
Have you read the evidence given by Simon Moran at Bray relative to that estate; and have you any thing you wish to bring before the commissioners upon the subject?
Having read the evidence, which would appear to show an act of oppression on the part of Mr. Carroll, it is my wish to explain the facts of the case. Mr. Carroll, by lease in 1823 demised a portion of the lands of Ashford to a man of the name of Thomas Byrne. There was a covenant against subletting, and also a covenant to enforce the keeping of the houses in the ordinary repair. We wished to prevent any disgraceful appearance of the buildings and also receptacles for filth; but a great many mud cabins being erected in this beautiful village of Ashford, Mr. Carroll’s attention was drawn to it, and he took the opinion of counsel, and being advised he could evict those parties and get rid of the tenants, he did not do so, thinking it might be an arbitrary act. He purchased the lease of the middleman, and paid what appeared to me to be an exorbitant price for it.
When was this?
In 1835 , and long before any idea of the poor law coming into operation, and not with any view to evade the poor law; it was done to improve the appearance of the property. In 1836 he took a surrender of the lease, and took the tenants into his own hands; he did not pull down a single tenement, but I continued to receive the rent of those cabins year after year from 1835 down to 1840 or 1841, I think so late as 1842. Those tenants got considerably into arrear from time to time, and the houses became dilapidated. Mr. Carroll forgave the rent and allowed the tenants to go away and take the materials of their cabins, which they did in every instance most cheerfully. There was not an ejectment served in any one instance.
Was any allowance made to those persons?
Some of them owed up to two or three year’s rent, as well as I can recollect in the absence of my book, and those arrears were forgiven them.
What might it amount to?
These cabins were from £1 10s up to £2 or £3. About £2 a house upon the average.
Had they any land attached to them?
A small plot, not so large as this room.
Was any allowance in money given them?
What number of persons were removed?
I cannot state exactly the number of persons removed, but the number of tenants upon the holdings surrendered were twenty; of these four are remaining in those tenancies. Three or four of those tenants absconded. There were some of them convicted at the sessions for larceny, and sent to gaol.
Generally what was their character through the district?
About one half of them bore very good characters, and some six or eight men were very bad characters. It was a receptacle for rogues and very bad characters indeed. A great many thefts were traced home to this place. Mr. Carroll’s woods were very much plundered by the inhabitants of this place. The removal of the tenants occupied the period from 1835 down to 1842, as the parties were disposed to leave of their own accord and free will.
Do you know the quality of the ground they had among them?
They occupied about 200 yards along the road, and not more than six to eight yards deep. One tenant had a field in the rere of about one acre; and with that exception the others had no land, but merely an enclosure behind, with a pig-stye. There was no instance of any legal proceedings being taken except in one case, where a person was convicted of stealing potatoes, and he had never paid a farthing rent. In that case I processed him under a civil bill decree, and afterwards discharged him without payment upon giving up the house, which he did freely, and I re-let it to another person. As long as the houses remained good they were never pulled down; the parties levelled them themselves and took away the materials. They were most thankful for the indulgence shown. I have here the lease to show that we did not frighten the party by any covenant, but that we gave him the value.