SAVAGE (Medieval Ireland)

The Savage family was one of the principal English families of medieval Ulster. William Savage witnessed one of John de Courcy’s charters and his son was among those taken hostage by King John in 1204 as sureties for their lord. In 1276 Robert Savage held a large estate in north Antrim, probably granted by Hugh de Lacy between 1227 and 1242. Under the de Burgh Earls, in the later thirteenth century, the family of de Mandeville in particular overshadowed the Savages, although Richard Savage attended parliament in 1310 and held the north Antrim manor in 1333. The family prospered from the eclipse of its main rivals during the serious political crisis of the 1330s. The Bissets were deeply involved in the Bruce wars; the De Mandevilles were involved, through Henry, in the conspiracy of the earl of Desmond in 1331. More importantly, the earl of Ulster was murdered in 1333 by a combination of De Mandevilles and Logans. Robert Savage was the chief juror in the subsequent inquisition into the Earl’s lands and, with Henry de Mandeville, took charge of the earldom on behalf of the earl’s widow and baby daughter. Along with John Savage, he was rewarded in 1342 with grants of land in the Six Mile Water valley of modern south County Antrim. Together with the Savage estate in north Antrim, his lands straddled the client Irish kingdom of the O’Flynns of Ui Tuirtre. Robert’s position was such that he was perceived by the annalist of St. Mary’s Dublin as the mainstay of English power in Ulster in 1358 and that his death in 1360 marked a serious blow to that cause.

By the mid-fifteenth century, lands of the Earldom of Ulster had been seized or granted to the O’Neills of Clandeboy, displacing English and Irish families alike. The Savages established themselves in an estate in the south of the Ards peninsula of modern County Down. The Savages appear to have acquired (either by grant or force) former lands of the Earldom there: Ballyphilip (or Portaferry) and Ardkeen, both sites of Savage tower houses. To the north of their lands in seventeenth century Inquisitions it was recorded that the area around Kircubbin was held by O’Flynns "of the Turtars;" the two families’ fortunes seem to have been linked together. In the sixteenth century, the towers of Quintin, Ballygalget, and Kirkistown castles were added to the family holdings. In the fourteenth century Henry Savage was summoned to Parliament, while through the later fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Savages were frequently appointed seneschals of Ulster: They were established as the senior family of the English interest in the region. The family had established a landed estate that, in economy, politics, and social connections was closely parallel to the gentry estates of the north Pale. During the seventeenth century, they made a successful transition to the new order, intermarrying with the Montgomeries, Viscount Ards and turning Protestant, although Patrick Savage of Portaferry was severely indebted and needed to be rescued by Montgomery.

Next post:

Previous post: