Cloonfree townland aka Cluain Fraoigh (lit. 'lawn of the heath') aka Loughfinlough can be found about a mile just west of Strokestown village (on the Tulsk side of the town) in the Civil Parish of Cloonfinlough. It is in the Electoral Division of Annaghmore, and the Barony of Roscommon.
Cloonfree was an ancient residence of the Kings of Connacht. By the time of the Great Famine in the mid-19th-century, all that remained was a square fort with a single fosse, covered with brushwood. In 1851, archaeologists unearthed a substantial find of antiquities in the artificial island nearby. In 1666, Captain Nicholas Mahon was awarded substantial lands in the barony of Roscommon to include Cloonfree. The Mahons estate house was situated nearby at Strokestown Park aka Strokestown House. In Irish Plantation measure Cloonfree was a large townland of over 358 Irish acres (400 statute acres).
In 1805, the 1st Baron Hartland (1738-1819) sub-let 14 acres and 3 roods to Luke Brice who occupied Cloonfree Cottage (a "desireable residence and country seat"). In 1824 the Tithe Records confirm Brice was the main under-tenant (middleman) to Bartholomew Mahon Esq. (heir to Baron Hartland) at Cloonfree. His son, Richard Brice inherited the lands in 1830 but fell into insolvency and it was taken over by Dublin merchant James Gorman (Brice's creditor an assignee). John Ganly had been residing at Cloonfree Cottage in 1840 but was evicted for non-payment of rent after 6 months. The cottage was advertised to let in July 1840 and auctioned for sale later that month. Gorman sold Cloonfree Cottage and farm attadched to Matthew Ryan of Co. Tipperary in October 1848. Cloonfree Cottage was the residence of freeholder Maurice Conry in 1824 and 1830 (and George Knox Esq. by 1835). From 1841 Mr. Robert French also resided at Cloonfree Cottage for about 7 years.
In 1824 (Tithe Applotments) Cloonfree's main tenants were:
James Beirne, Patrick Beirne, Patrick Brannon/ Brennan, James Clancy/ Glancy, Andrew Daly, Peter Dempsey, Martin Dempsey, Thomas Dolan, Patrick Donlan/ Donnellan, Daniel Donnellan/ Donnelly, Michael Donnelly, Cooney Duffy, Loughlin Gilleran, Michael Gilleran, Patrick Gilleran, Martin Hanly, Peter Hunt, Owen Kelly, Bryan Kilmartin, Patrick Owens (McOwen, McKeon), and John Nerney / Neaherney & Co. (other partners unnamed), James McCoy, Henry Mee, Richard O'Connor, and ? Sheils.
Other families in Cloonfree (part of a rundale system and not names on tax records) also included Carberry, Naughton, Cunningham, Dillon, Egan, Farrell, Finnerty, Gannon, Igoe, McLoughlin, Scally.
In March 1829, the following names of residents of Cloonfree were recorded in a court case [Roscommon Journal]. Anne Dolan (age 22, born c. 1807, father deceased); Patrick Owens (age 16, born Aug. 1813); Pat Gilloran; Mr. Conry; Mr Hogg;
In May 1829, Bartholomew Mahon Esq. of Roscommon registered his freehold of houses and land in Cloonfree at a value of 50 pounds. Daniel Donnelly aka Daniel Donnellan / Donlan registered a house and land and grazing with offices at Cloonfree at a rateable value of 10 pounds in 1829 and 1830. In 1829, James Rock, Patt Byrne, and Ned Dillon (Edward Dillon) of Cloonfree also each registered a dwelling-house, offices and lands to the value of 10 pounds. "The Palace Bog" was the name of the bog cut by Cloonfree's tenants for turf.
In October 1830, the house of Daniel Donnelly of Cloonfree was broken into and a gun taken from him. He was severely beaten. [Roscommon & Leitrim Gazette - 1830]. In 1839, the name of Pat Turner of Cloonfree was mentioned in a court case.
During the famine, the Mahons evicted many tenants. In May 1847 alone, the Mahons evicted 1470 tenants from their estate. In November of that year, Major Denis Mahon became the first landlord to be murdered in retribution for mass evictions.
An 1852 court case Mahon v. Ryan confimes Dan Donnely and M. Donnelly of Cloonfree were brothers.
Cloonfree borders the following other townlands:
- Ardakillin to the west
- Bunnamucka to the east
- Cloonfinlough to the south [Banaghan, Beirne/ Byrne, Brannon, Caulfield, Connor, Croghan, Fearns, Flynn, Igoe, Mulhooley, Sweeney]
- Cloonrane to the west [Brannan, Conry, Dempsey, Duignan, Farrell, Flynn, Kennedy, O'Malley, Michell, Scally, Tighe, Ward].
- Cloonslanor to the east [Dwyer, Kelly, Parkes]
- Cloonsreane to the north
- Falsk to the west
- Lisroyne to the east
- Nadnaveagh to the west