The Townland of Knock

Vol. 2 No. 2 - 1973

The Townland of Knock

by Philip B Wilson

The small townland of Knock, in the parish of Seagoe, lies in the south-east corner of Craigavon. The main Portadown-Gilford road bisects the townland and the Lurgan-Tandragee road runs along part of its north-caste boundary. Two busy petrol stations lie within its limits, as does the head navigation for small boats on the River Bann. Perhaps it is not surprising therefore, that communications have played a significant part in the townland's history. In the late sixteenth century Knock, Knockballybryanboy as it was sometimes called, belonged to the Earl of Tyrone who had a small castle the on one of the two islands formed by division of the Bann at that point. Both islands are shown on Francis Nevill's islands map of 1703 1, and their precise position and extent may still be determined by a careful examination of stereoscopically paired aerial photographs. 2

The Earl of Tyrone's little blockhouse at Knock defended not only the most important ford over the Upper Bann, but also one of the major passes between Armagh and Down. Barthelet's map of 1602 3, another 1602 map of the N. Armagh/ E. Tyrone area, 4 the 1608 map of the six escheated counties of Ulster 5 and Sir Josias Bodley's plantation map of 1609 6 all mark Knock clearly. It is therefore strange that there is no mention of the townland in the original Co. Armagh grants of 1609-1610. 7 Hugh O'Neill, Earl of Tyrone, had fled from Ireland on 3 September, 1607, and the ownership of Knock was not, apparently, resolved until 10 December, 1616 when a document states that the Earl, having forfeited his land after the flight, is seized of the townland called Knockballybryanboy ... beside the ... land of ... Oliver St. John". 8

An enterprising publican

Sir Oliver St. John, who lived in a castle at Tandragee held the most powerful position in Ireland, that of Lord Deputy from 1616 until 1622. Knock was therefore briefly in the King's possession but was granted three weeks later, 2 January 1617 to Richard Atherton. 9 Sir Oliver St. John and Richard Atherton had procured a joint licence to sell wine and aqua vitae in the Manor of Ballymore and in all places in the Barony of Orior with the exception of the lands of the Archbishop of Armagh. Knock, of course, is in the Barony of Oneilland East, but its position as the major crossing point of the Upper River Bann had obvious attractions for an enterprising publican.

Atherton sold Knock to Sir Oliver St. John in 1622, and by this date Sir Oliver had further consolidated his position across the Bann by acquiring the Manor of Kernan.


Prominent families living in the townland in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries were Hunter, Smith and Benison. A Muster Roll of 1631, 10 lists a William Hunter and a Henry Hunter as bearing swords. These men, about whom no further details are known, were presumably the forebears of Henry Hunter who owned the eastern half of the townland in 1753. A John Smyth is also recorded in the 1631 Muster Roll as bearing a sword and he may well have been the father of Richard Smith, an important resident in the townland in 1664.

Knock figured quite prominently during the 1641 Rebellion and the Depositions of June 1642 make the first mention of a bridge, probably made of wood in the townland - "Our men (i.e. General Monro's) came very late a night to their quarter upon the Band (sic.) at Knockbridge, where some o: the rebels were cutting the Bridge, but the dragoons which were in the van alighted and the ground on this side being a deep marsh and the causey (sic), all broken, and beat them from their work, and chased the rebels on the other side and brought over above 20 of their cows and some mares". 11

Pender's Census of 1659 mentions six people in Seagoe Parish by name. One of these men is Richard Smith, gentleman 12 and the Hearth Money Roll of 1664 records Mr. Richard Smith as an inhabitant of Knock and states that his house had two hearths. 13 Apart from the fact that most people listed had only one hearth, it is quite unusual for the appellation "Mr." to be prefixed before a name in this Roll. As has been shown above, there is every indication that the Hunter family was already in the townland at this date. It therefore seems probable that Richard Smith held the land which later passed to Joseph Benison. Smith's house was most likely located at the bottom of the present Knock Lane on or near the site of the Earl of Tyrone's blockhouse.

"These packs of insolent bloody outlaws"

Sir Oliver St. John's rich Co. Armagh lands eventually passed to his grandnephew, Henry St. John, whose only son died as the result of a chill following a too strenuous bout of tory-hunting. This death resulted in Henry dedicating himself to a relentless policy of extermination of "these packs of insolent bloody outlaws", Chief of these outlaws was Redmond O'Hanlon, two of whose men murdered Henry at Drumlin Hill, in the eastern corner of Knock townland on Wednesday 9 September, 1679. Henry was accompanied on this fatal occasion by Rev. Lawrence Power, rector of Ballymore, who gave a full account of the affray during the course of the funeral sermon. 14

For the next 80 years or so little is known of the history of the townland, but from 1753 onwards more detailed information on Knock's inhabitants is available from leases and estate maps. The 1753 Rent Roll of the Manors of Ballymore and Kernan shows that Knock was almost equally divided between two major tenants, John Benison and Henry Hunter. 15 An undated map shows that while both men held just over 50 acres, 16 John Benison controlled all the old roads within the townland, including an old road to Portadown which ran through, rather than alongside, Carrickblacker Golf Course. This control of communications also supports the proposition that Benison held the lands formerly tenanted by the Smith family.

The year 1753 also saw a significant parliamentary by-election in Co. Armagh. At this time the man most responsible for government in Ireland was Primate Stone,, and his favoured candidate was William Brownlow of Lurgan. The opposition "Patriot Party" supported the Honourable Francis Caulfeild of Charlemont. Brownlow was ultimately returned by 4 votes after a bitterly contested election, in which the two major landholders in Knock voted on opposite sides. Benison cast his vote for William Brownlow, while Hunter supported Caulfeild. 17

Couzens map of tenant holdings

The first map showing any of the tenants' holdings in detail is that surveyed by John Couzens in April, 1807. 18 At that date the Hunter family still held some two-thirds of their original tenancy but the eastern portion had been taken by John England and George and Valentine Joyce, 'benison's holding had, by then been redistributed amongst at least four other tenants.

As only the Hunter lands are shown in detail this survey was possibly undertaken at subdivision following the death of the father of Henry and William Hunter.

No. Tenants' Names A. R. P. A. R. P.*
1 Henry Hunter 10 2 21
6  0 35 16  3 16
3 William Hunter 18  1  0
1  1  1 19  2  1
5 George Joyce 6  1 21
6 Valentine Joyce 3  1  7
7 John England 3  1  7
8 Francis Burrell -  2 25

Leases for the original Benison holdings were re-issued in 1827 19 and the information which these provided enables an accurate map to be drawn for that date for the western part of the townland. Maps 3 and 4 together present a reasonably complete picture of the size and distribution of tenants' holdings in Knock during the early nineteenth century.

No. Tenants' Names A. R. P.
1 William Bell 11  3 16
2 Henry Black 8  3 30
3 George Black 16  2  7
4 Widow Summerville 2  2 12
5 John Neill 2  3 33
6 James Campbell -  2 14
7 James Cavanagh -  3  6
8 William Campbell 3  3  0
9 Jacob England 3  3 17
10 Widow Campbell 4  2  8

* Editor's Note - Tables of tenancies shows area of tenancies in acres, roods and poles (A. R. P.).

An acre is 4,840 sq. yards or 22 yards (a chain) by 220 yards (a furlong/furrow length). Originally it was considered to be as much as an oxen could plough in one day and later it was limited by statute to 40 poles by 4 poles. The metric unit of area for land is a hectare which, rather prosaically, is 100m x 100m, or 10,000 sq. m; an acre is approximately 0.4 hectares. A rood is a quarter of an acre, or 1210 sq. yards. A pole, confusingly, is a unit of length as well as of area - a rod, pole or perch is 5.5 yards long and a pole is also a square rod or perch i.e. 5.5 x 5.5 yards or 30.25 sq. yards in area.

Today not one of the original nineteenth century tenants' surnames is perpetuated in the townland, although many of the families retained their tenancies, or ownership, until well ii the present century. Descendants of almost all these families are, however to be found in Knock itself, neighbouring townlands and in the town of Portadown.


  1. Map of Glan Bog, surveyed am levelled by Francis Nevill, for the 'design of drawing a canal for making a passage for boats' from Lough Neagh to the sea, 1703 P.R.O.N.I.D695/M/1.
  2. Ordnance Survey of Northern Ireland, vertical aerial photographs (1962) numbers 559806 559807.
  3. Map of the Province of Ulster and South Ulster, including Armagh by Richard Barthelet, 1602 P.R.O.N.I.T2543/1,
  4. Map of North Armagh/East Tyrone area, 1602, P.R.O.N.I, T2543/2.
  5. Map of six escheated counties of Ulster including Armagh showing lands intended for plantation C.1608.P.R.O.N.I.T535.
  6. Sir Josias Bodley's plantation maps, 1609, P.R.O.N.I. That for O'Neilland East is T1652/ 29.
  7. Calendar of the Irish Patent Rolls of James I, Dublin C.1830.
  8. Inquisitlonum in Officio Rotulorum Cancellariae Hiberniae, Vol. II Dublin, 1829.
  9. Calendar of the Irish Patent Roll; of James I, Dublin, C.1830.
  10. Co. Armagh Muster Roll, 1631. P.R.O.N.I. T934.
  11. Co. Armagh Depositions, 1641. Bound typescript in Armagh County Museum Library - Original in British Museum.
  12. Render, S. (editor). A Census of Ireland circa 1659, Dublin, 1939.
  13. A Hearth Money Roll for Co. Armagh, 1664. P.R.O.N.I. T604.
  14. Power L. 'The Righteous Man's Portion,' London, 1680.
  15. A Rent Roll of the Manors of Ballymore and Kernan, the Estate of Sir Frances St. John, Bart., for November 1753 and May 1754 P.R.O.N.I.D1248/R/80.
  16. Map of Knock townland (undated) P.R.O.N.I. D727/47.
  17. Co. Armagh Poll Book, 1753. P.R.O.N.I. T808/14936.
  18. Map of part of Knockballybryanboys, County of Armagh, surveyed in April, 1807 by John Couzens. P.R.O.N.I. D727/ 47.
  19. Leases of land in Knock townland, Tandragee Estate Papers, P.R.O.N.I. D1248/L 625-631,