Ref NoLE04
TitleEyre Family Deeds
DescriptionAll the material originated in the first half of the early nineteenth century, and is associated with Robert Hedges Eyre's attempts to regain control of the properties in Galway City and the Eyrescourt estate.

The Eyre family deeds, numbering 152 items, were listed in volumes 20, 21 and 23 of the Journal of the Galway Archaeological and Historical Society by M Hayes McCoy between 1942 and 1949. This descriptive list follows the ordering done at that stage to ensure that researchers using her descriptions can utilize the originals with ease.

The Eyre family were probably the most successful of the Protestant families to settle in Galway in the aftermath of the siege of the town in 1652, and the subsequent confescation of the property of the old merchant families. The family can be traced to Giles Eyre of Bickworth in Wiltshire. Two of his sons, John, third eldest born in 1623 and Edward, sixth eldest born in 1626, arrived in Galway with the Cromwellian forces. Both brothers were active in the Cromwellian army in Ireland, with John being involved in the 1657 land settlement as one of the commissioners appointed by Parliament to dispossess the Irish of their lands. John acquired much of the O'Madden lands in the Barony of Longford, which later provided the Eyrecourt estate near Ballinasloe. John was elected Mayor of Galway in 1661 and his brother became recorder. Edward, having served as recorder from 1659 and 1661, himself became Mayor in 1663. Later, in 1670, he acquired favourable leases to much of the area to the immediate north of the town and around the town walls from the Corporation, as well as the area between the town and the sea, which later formed Merchant's Road, the New Dock, the Long Walk and Eyre's Dock.

John's son, another John, known as 'proud Eyre', served as mayor between 1704 and 1706, being the subject of several unsuccessful attempts to remove him from office from within the Corporation. He married Margary, daughter of Sir George Preston, and therby gained the rights to Galway's lucrative salmon fishery. He died in 1709, and his first cousin, Edward, became head of the family. He is reputed to have been a lawyer and served on the Connacht Circuit (his father is noted in the King's Inn Admissions for 1658 but there is no mention of this Edward). He served as Mayor from 1710 - 1711, and, as his father had done, acquired property and privileges in the town. In 1710 he secured the rights to the salmon fishery his cousin had acquired by marriage, and in 1712 he acquired the rights to Mutrton Island and the area over to Lenaboys from Charles Morgan of Kilcolgan (who's grandfather John had received as a grant from the Corporation in 1663). It was this Edward who gave what later became known as Eyre Square as a public park in 1712 to the Corporation, and continued to build up his property holdings all around the town, specializing in taking over previous favourable corporation leases to the Protestant ascendancy of the town. In 1709 he acquired Thomas William's lease of the area around Fort Hill, in 1710 he acquired Bullingbrook Parks, and in 1728 he acquired Kirwan's Park (in Shantalla). He died in 1739.

By his will his substantial properties demised to his three surviving daughters, and his grandson Robert Hedges. Eventually in 1787 Robert's son, Edward Hedges Eyre acquired all of the Eyre property. He was in a poor financial position and he fled his creditors to France in 1790. When he returned ot London in 1803 he was thrown in prison and died there the following year. He brother Robert Hedges Eyre took over the Eyre property, which fell into neglect in the course of the eighteenth century. His cause received a decisive boost with the discovery in La Touche's Bank in 1813 of a cache of legal documents relating to the Edward Eyre of the early eighteenth century.

Robert Hedges Eyre, living in Macroom Castle, County Cork, issued a series of leases in the course of the early nineteenth century, which display his success at re-activating his title to the Galway lands. He was also quite active in promoting the interests of the town (which in turn increased the value of his properties. In 1811 he had theForthill burial ground enclosed as a mark of respect to the people of the town. He also developed the Land Walk and surrounding quays and in 1831 he provided much of the property for the Commercial Dock operating under the Galway Harbour Commissioners, as well as new roads leading to the docks. He also leased lands for the Galway Gasworks in the same area. He died without issue in 1840, and his grand-nephew, the Rev. Robert Hedges Maunsell Eyre succeeded to the property. The property in Galway as sold under the Incumbered Estates Court to a Mr. Ashworth in 1852, and the two hundred year old association of the Eyre family with the town of Galway ended at that stage.

This collection, consisting of leases and other legal papers, was acquired by the James Hardiman Library sometime in the late 1930s.
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