Clontarf  Lease Dispute

Vernon Document No. 1: Summary

          This is a copy, dated October 1860, of an original document dated 24 June 1800.  The original document sets out the legal position concerning the proposed extension or renewal of a lease of lands in Clontarf, which is being sought by Sir William Gleadowe Newcomen from John Vernon.

           John Vernon the Elder acquired the Manor, Castle and Lands of Clontarf in 1750 on a life tenancy, but with the power to bequeath this life tenancy to his eldest son George Vernon, who in turn had the power to bequeath his life tenancy to his eldest son and so on down the generations.  In addition, George Vernon had the power to lease any or all of the Manor, Castle and Lands of Clontarf for a term of 71 years or three lives. It was customary during the 18th century for three persons to be named in a lease and for the lease to last until all three had died.  Very often, the persons were well-known – for example the Prince of Wales was often one of the names – so that it would be generally known when they had died. 

On 26 October 1778, George Vernon issued a lease of part of those lands, including a Dwelling House, to William Gleadowe Newcomen (who later became a baronet).  The lease was to last for 71 years from 29 September 1778, or for a term of three lives.  It was also agreed that George Vernon would renew the lease to Sir William on two conditions:

  1. If Sir William enclosed the lands adjoining the Dwelling House from the High Road leading to Raheny, with a wall made out of lime and stone.

  2. Sir William also held a lease from the Earl of Howth of the Mansion House and lands of Killester.  If this Killester lease were to be renewed, then Vernon will renew the lease of the lands of Clontarf for the same number of years as the Killester lease, as long as this did not exceed a term of 91 years.

By the time the original document was written on 24 June 1800, George Vernon had died and his estate – including the Manor, Castle and Lands of Clontarf – had come into the possession of his elder son John Vernon, who had married Elizabeth Fletcher in 1780.  Sir William had enclosed the premises leased to him with a wall, thus fulfilling the first condition laid down in his lease.  On 1 May 1794, Sir William had also obtained a new lease from the Earl of Howth of the Mansion House and lands of Killester, which in his view fulfilled the second condition, entitling him to a renewal of the lease of Clontarf which he held from the Vernons.  He therefore applied for a renewal or else a new lease of the lands of Clontarf for a term of 91 years, backdated to 1 May 1794.

            While acknowledging that Sir William had complied with the terms for extending the lease, John Vernon contested this application on two grounds:

(a)     Firstly, under the terms of his own life tenancy of the Manor, Castle and Lands of Clontarf John Vernon was not in a position to issue any lease for longer than a period of 71 years.  He could not therefore issue a lease to Sir William for a period of 91 years.

(b)     John Vernon conceded that he might be bound by the terms of the lease issued to Sir William by his father George Vernon and should therefore issue a renewal or extension to Sir William.  But even then, this would amount to an extension of the current lease for an additional period of twenty years, dating from October 1778, giving a total of 91 years.  John Vernon was completely opposed to issuing Sir William with a new lease of 91 years from May 1794, as had been requested.

John Vernon therefore sought the opinion of his lawyer William Saurin, whose views were as follows:

  • John Vernon was not bound in any way by the terms and conditions laid down in the lease issued by his father George Vernon.

  • However, if Sir William was prepared to surrender his lease from George Vernon and accept a new one, then John Vernon could issue a new lease, which could be for 91 years from May 1794.

Vernon Document No. 2: Summary

This second document was prepared by a firm of solicitors called Franks of Lower Fitzwilliam Street, and is in part a commentary on the first Vernon Document.  Although the document is undated, on internal evidence it would appear to date from 1801.  It reveals that Sir William had decided to surrender his original lease of the lands of Clontarf and that John Vernon had agreed to issue him with a new lease for a period of 91 years, with the commencement backdated to 29 September 1778.  This would mean that the lease would expire on 29 September 1869.

The only point at issue was the question of whether John Vernon did have the right to issue a lease for a period of 91 years, given that he was only entitled to issue leases of the lands of Clontarf for a period of 71 years.  Lawyer William Saurin’s opinion is cited, stating that in his view the new lease should be issued for a period of 68 years from 29 September 1800. This would mean that the lease would expire on 29 September 1868 (one year earlier than the lease sought by Sir William).

William Saurin’s opinion is being submitted to Franks for their view, and so that they can draft a new lease in such a way that it will be legally binding.

 The Original Documents may be inspected at Dublin City Archives,

138-144 Pearse Street, Dublin 2.