The Worshipful Company of Grocers is one of the twelve great Livery Companies of London. In order of civic precedence it ranks second after the Mercers Company. It received its first charter in 1428-29. The lands conveyed to the, "Grocers," by the Irish Society in consideration of its financial contribution to the plantation of the land between the Rivers Bann and Lough Foyle including what was known as O'Cahan's Country, surrounded what is now the village of Eglinton, (formerly Muff). Although the lands were allotted on 17th December 1613, the assurance from the Irish Society was not sealed until 8th January 1619. Following the Restoration the Irish Society executed a new and confirmatory conveyance in favour of ,"The Grocers."
Until the autumn of 1821, the estate was leased out. The last tenant was David Babington and he was paying a rent of £2750 pa. From 1821 the Grocers proceeded to develop and improve their estate. They repaired two of the three mills on the estate, a resident agent was appointed and drainage and reclamation work was implemented. A Sessions House and Market House were built at Muff and a dispensary was established. In1828 a School House for Girls was built in the village. A building for the Constabulary was built in 1825.
In 1872 the Grocers resolved to sell their Estate. Messrs Stewart & Kincaid of Dublin were appointed as selling agents. They recommended redeeming the tithe which was achieved for the sum of £7425. Messrs Stewart & Kincaid valued the estate at £150,000 after redemption of the tithe. The Manor was disposed of in eleven lots as follows:-
Lots 1 & 2. W. F. Bigger £ 20,800
Lot 3. G. Stevenson. £20,000
Lot 4. G. George (tenant). £9,157
Lot 5. Tenants. £13,700
Lots 6 & 7 Davidson. £41,500
Lot 8. Tenants. £12,000
Lots 9 & 10 W. F. Bigger. £30,000
Lot 11 Dr. McCutcheon. £8,000
The eleven lots totalled 11,745 acres and the total sale price was £157,257 10s. A piece of slob land was sold for an additional sum of £399. At the time of the sale 70 persons were receiving relief at the hand of the Grocers to the extent of £339 per annum..
I note from the property pages of the Belfast Telegraph that the Davidson family are again marketing their property at Main Street Eglinton known as the Manor House. It will be somewhat sad when this property passes out of the family after over one hundred years of family ownership. The present residents, Alastair Davidson and his wife are, I understand, one of only two husband and wife pairings in Northern Ireland who have both been Deputy Lieutenants. Alastair Davidson's father, Kenneth (Kenny) Bulstrode Lloyd Davidson was also a Deputy Lieutenant. The original estate was purchased by the Davidson family from the Grocers Company, one of the Livery Companies of London.