Collection Spotlight: Sean Sexton Collection

We turn the spotlight on to the Sean Sexton Collection, exploring images of rural Ireland in the late 19th century during the Land War with these rare photographs.


Milkmaids, 1857 (gold-toned albumen print), William Despard Hemphill (1816-1902) / Sean Sexton Collection 


The Sean Sexton Collection gives you a fascinating glimpse in to Irish history, including scenes from rural ireland and the evictions that took place during the Land War -  in which tenant farmers resisted eviction by the English landlords after they struggled to by their rents in the aftermath of the Great Hunger.


After the Bailiffs' visit, Ireland, c.1888 (albumen print), Irish Photographer (19th Century) / Sean Sexton Collection


An evicted family at Derrybeg, County Donegal, Ireland, late 1880s (albumen print), French, Robert (1841-1917) / Sean Sexton Collection 



The Irish Land War was an organized campaign of civil unrest in Ireland that lasted from the 1870s until the 1890s. It was called a 'war' and there were violent incidents and deaths during the campaign, but the Land War - led by the Irish National Land League - was essentially a non-violent movement of tenant farmers with the aim of resisting the landlords' efforts, backed by the British government, to evict tenant farmers who were struggling the pay the ever increasing rents.


Irish labourer, c.1858 (b/w photo), Irish Photographer (19th Century) / Sean Sexton Collection


Michael Davitt (Irish name: Mícheál Mac Dáibhéid) 1846 – 1906 Irish republican, Member of Parliament (MP), founder Irish National Land League. / Sean Sexton Collection



Efforts by tenants were made to protect their homes, including thorny bushes being placed in windows and doors to prevent armed police and British soldiers from entering, boiling water and cow dung being fired at them to warn them away when they came with an eviction order. Police took to using battering rams to to remove these protections and enter the buildings.


The eviction of tenants for non-payment of rent on the Vandeleur estate, 1888 (albumen print), Irish Photographer (19th Century) / Sean Sexton Collection


Thanks the the mainly peaceful work of the National Land League and the Ladies Land League - a movement which numbered around 200,000 people - the number of evictions were kept much lower than they had been during the Great Famine, and a repeat disaster was averted.


The Cleary family, given temporary accommodation by the Land League following their eviction from their home on the Vandeleur Estate, County Clare, Ireland, July 1888 (b/w photo), French, Robert (1841-1917) /
Sean Sexton Collection

See more images of Ireland from the Sean Sexton Collection

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