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Joseph Ruddock, the eldest son of John Ruddock and Mary Hinds, was born on the family farm in the townland of Growell , Co. Down on 16th October 1859. He was baptised on 13th November 1869 at Dromore Cathedral. At this time there was a sizeable family community living at Growell and in 1863 a total of eight separate Ruddock households existed at the farm. In the mid 1860’s however, all of the families but two left the farm and dispersed to the surrounding areas and to Belfast. The "old farm" to the north side of the road to Lough Aghery was transferred to James Ferguson, leaving only the smaller portion to the south of the road, the "Lough Aghery farm", occupied by Robert Ruddock. A survey of the Kilwarlin estate carried out by the Marquis of Downshire in 1856 plots the exact extent of the land and position of the houses. The remains of the buildings on the older part of the farm have now almost entirely disappeared, the present owner, Adam Poots, having bulldozed the area and "tidied it up" in about 1975. On the Lough Aghery farm which was added to the holding by reclamation of bogland during the first half of the 1800’s, the remains of a stone built house and outhouse can still be seen.

The last Ruddock to live at the farm was Andrew Reid Ruddock, an evangelist, who emigrated with his family to California in 1921, ending the Ruddock connection with Growell which began around two hundred and fifty years ago.


In 1775 Robert Ruddock leased from the Marquis of Downshire a small farm of 8 plantation acres (about 14 statute acres), in the townland of Growell, Co. Down. The lease was in the common form of a "lease for lives", in other words it was agreed to run for the longest of the lives of three specified people. In this case the lives named were those of Robert’s third son John, then aged 16, his youngest son Alexander, then aged 13 and his grandson William, then aged 3, the child of his son, Robert the younger.

The adjoining farm of seven and a quarter plantation acres was leased at the same time by Hugh Ruddock, for the lives of his son William, then aged 21, his son Robert then aged 13 and William Robinson.

It is not yet known where Hugh and Robert lived before 1775 but it is likely that they were already in occupation of the same farms as sub-tenants of the previous leasee. Although not completely certain in the absence of an earlier lease map, it seems highly probable that the area of Growell covered by the new leases granted in 1775 is the same as had previously been held as a single lot (136 plantation acres) by a lease for lives granted to James Stannus in 1716. The new leases all refer to the leasees as being "of Growell".

On Hugh’s death in 1800, his farm passed to Eleanor Moreland, Mary Ruddock and Jane Ruddock. The name of the tenant in the lease book later becomes simply Widow Moreland. Hugh’s son William died an unknown time before 8th October 1793 and his son Robert enlisted as a soldier in 1785 and was not heard of again. The lease on Hugh’s farm ran out when William Robinson died on 30th April 1845.

When Robert Ruddock died in 1807, the farm, was divided between his three sons, Robert, John and Alexander and a contemporary estate survey shows three separate houses then existing.

The farm was gradually expanded over the course of the next half century by reclamation of bogland, both at the north end of the old farm and, from 1811, to the south of the nearby road to Lough Aghery. The tithe applotment records of 1828 also show a John Ruddock and a Joseph Ruddock as holding small areas of land of one and a half and one and a quarter acres respectively in the neighbouring townland of Drumlough. These holdings which are no longer recorded from 1836 cannot be accurately located as there are no surviving maps from the tithe composition act survey. They were probably extensions of the farm at the northern end into the neighbouring townland of Drumlough

The terms under which Robert, John and Alexander held the farm made them "40 shilling freeholders", entitled to vote, and their names appear in the freeholders registers for 1813 to 1821 and for 1824.

Robert’s grandson William, named in the lease, died in 1815, John is noted in 1830 as having died "near two years since" and the lease finally expired when Alexander died on 23rd December 1834. The custom of granting leases for lives had been phased out and tenancy was continued thereafter "at will".

The tithe applotment survey was carried out following John’s death and records the titheable land at Growell as being held by John and Alexander, each holding being in two parcels. Again, in the absence of maps it is not possible to be precise about how the land was redivided but the measurement of road in one of Robert’s holdings corresponds with the road adjoining the Lough Aghery farm so it can reasonably be assumed that Robert occupied the Lough Aghery farm plus part of the old farm while John’s holding was in two parts on the old farm.

By 1863 when the general valuation of Ireland (Griffith’s valuation) was carried out for Co. Down, the subdivision of land had reached extremes with the expanded old farm , now totalling 17 statute acres, divided between six holdings. Income from the land was supplemented by weaving, stonemasonry, shoemaking and dressmaking.

Then in the mid 1860’s, the Ruddock families appear suddenly to have left the old farm.

On the Lough Aghery farm, when Robert died in 1867, the farm passed to John Ruddock and then, in 1904 to his son Andrew Reid Ruddock.

In 1893 John Ruddock (father of Joseph Alexander Ruddock and who left the Growell farm in the 1860’s), acquired a small farm at Maze where he lived until his death in 1908. The Maze farm, now covered by the prison, was left in John’s will to his eldest son, Joseph Alexander Ruddock, then a constable with the Royal Irish Constabulary in Co. Fermanagh. Rented at first, it was bought from the Marquis of Downshire under the provisions of the Land Act and Joseph A. Ruddock lived there for a time from 1912, after retirement, before selling the farm and moving with his family to Derry.


In 1775 the Ruddock community at Growell consisted of the families of Hugh and Robert Ruddock, probably between fourteen and twenty people in all in three or four generations. Hugh’s son Robert enlisted as a soldier and was not heard of again, his son William died at a relatively early age and, as his farm passed to Widow Moreland, Mary Ruddock and Jane Ruddock on his death it must be presumed that the Ruddock name died out in this part of the family.

Robert’s three sons, however, continued to live on the farm as did his grandson, William and over the next hundred years, at least sixty children, possibly considerably more, were born to the Ruddock families who remained at Growell. The infant mortality rate was high, however, and by 1859 when Joseph Alexander Ruddock was born, the community would probably have consisted of thirty to forty people of the Ruddock name.

There was a considerable amount of interchange between the Presbyterian church and the Church of Ireland, perhaps influenced in the earlier part of the century by the fact that the Presbyterian church at Drumlough was only a stone’s throw away while the Church of Ireland at Dromore was a good five miles. In the middle of the century there appears to have been something of a swing towards the Church of Ireland, first for baptisms and marriages, then for burials. From 1845 and the introduction of the Marriage Act, many of the marriages took place in the Registrars’ offices at Lisburn and Banbridge, a custom apparently common for members of smaller sects, for mixed marriages and sometimes for Church Of Ireland members.

Two family lines have emerged so far: our own and that of John Ruddock, now in America. I have summarised the information relating to these two lines under the names of the key people in the male line of descent.

Alvin Ruddock, 1988.

Additional Notes, 1999:

The Ferguson family to whom the farm was transferred in the 1860’s is the family of Harry Ferguson, inventor of the Massey Ferguson tractor. This family were tenants of a neighbouring farm , where Harry Ferguson was born.

The Maze prison (Long Kesh – H Blocks) does not appear on ordnance survey maps – it is the blank space on the map at the townland of Maze.

I have since discovered that some of the Ruddocks at Growell were part of the Plymouth Brethren movement which started in the 1820’s in Ireland and England. This would account for the unusually high number of marriages recorded at the Registrars’ offices rather than in the mainstream churches, since Brethren would not have been licensed to conduct marriages. It may also mean that some events are not recorded at all, especially those prior to the start of civil registration (1845 for marriages, 1864 for births and deaths). I have not, for example, been able to find any marriage record for cousins John and Rosanna Ruddock (parents of Andrew Reid Ruddock and grandparents of John Ruddock) who were in that line of the family that remains Brethren to the present generations.