The following excellent description is by Nigel Crowe.
This valuable group of records exists in parallel with the main series of Manorial Records, and the Registered Deeds. The documents result from a prolonged effort on the part of the Derby Lords of Man to convert the tenure from the traditional Customary Tenure of the Straw towards a system of Tenancies at Will.
Tenants were periodically encouraged or required to enter into LEASES with the Lord or his Commissioners, for which they were obliged to pay a lump sum or FINE to the Lord. Leases commonly lasted for 21 years (preferred by the Lord) or for the duration of three lives chosen by the tenant. Such leases were entered into by the larger land-holders in the late sixteenth century, and again early in the seventeenth; A Survey of leases was made in 1630.
The first GENERAL FINING took place in 1643, and was imposed by James, 7th Earl of Derby, after the loss of the Lancashire estates, in order to-finance his continuing support of the Royalist cause. Each holder of Lord's Quarterland and Mills, and most-of the better off Intack and Cottage holders, were compelled to enter into leases, and pay fines of several times their annual Lord's Rent. Quarterland-holders paid approximately two times, Cottagers paid four times, and Mill owners even more then this.
Many of the leases were to endure for THREE LIVES. These were not three successive lives or generations, but rather existing lives chosen with a view to maximising the length of the lease, and the ensuring the security of the tenant's immediate family in the holding. The tenant frequently nominated himself, and one or more of his children, where he judged them young enough, but healthy enough for the purpose. In other cases, the children of neighbours or of leading officials were chosen. It must be stressed that while the heir to a holding was frequently named as one of the lives in the lease, there was no requirement to do so. The lives named in a lease had no special claims on the holding itself, and could only succeed to it by the normal means of Heirship, Will, Intestacy, Settlement or Sale.
The records generated by the General Fining of 1643 are voluminous, and are arranged by parish, and then by tenants name. They do not usually mention the names of the holdings, nor are the entries within the parishes in the usual sequence or circuit invariably followed in Liber Assed. The following information is usually included in the entry;NAME OF TENANT MANORIAL STATUS OF LAND (e.g. half a quarterland" etc)
LORD'S RENT OF THE LAND
NAMES OF LIVES, with relationship, or parentage of children nominated.
AMOUNT OF FINE (given in Roman Characters)
The 1643 General Fining was restricted to Lord's Land. After the Restoration of the Derbys, in 1666, the Eighth Earl resumed the practice of granting leases for fines, and extended the practice to the Abbey Lands. Some Lord's tenants also extended their leases by paying further fines and inserting lives or extending a term of years.
During the 1670's to 1690's, the Lord's officials monitored the survival of the nominated 'Lives'. A few parochial returns survive, indicating that a fairly sophisticated system of information-gathering was in place at one time. Comprehensive SURVEYS OF LIVES REMAINING IN LEASES were made in 1679 And 1691, and have left valuable records behind them. These followed different formats:
1679 FORMATNAME OF 1679 TENANT
NAME OF TENANT WHO LAST COMPOUNDED
MANORIAL STATUS OF LAND
LORD'S RENT OF LAND
FINE AT LAST COMPOSITION
NAMES AND NUMBER OF LIVES IN BEING
1691 FORMATNAME OF 1691 TENANT
NAME OF TENANT WHO LAST COMPOUNDED
NAME, AGE AND (if off Island) RESIDENCE OF LIVES IN BEING
STATEMENT THAT ALL LIVES EXPIRED
Once all the lives nominated in a lease had died or EXPIRED, an additional rent became payable to the Lord. The names of the tenants liable to pay these amounts appeared from time to time in the Lords own Accounts, separate from the Manorial or Composition records. (See Index to those transcribed)
The ACT OF SETTLEMENT of 1703 was extremely important for Manx Land Tenure. It followed negotiations between the Bishop and representatives of the Manx land-holders, on the one side, and James, tenth Earl of Derby, on the other. The main provisions were;1. Confirmation of the ancient tenure
2. Doubling of the Quarterland Rents on the Lord's Lands.
3. Payment of a fine on every descent or alienation of land.
4. Regulation of mortgages of land.
5. Provision for a further General Fining (the last) in 1704/5.
There survive two near-contemporary listings of tenants associated with the Act of Settlement;
1. List of fines to be paid following Act of Settlement. (Ref: Derby Papers 1715/15). The record was compiled by parish, and its format was as follows;NAME OF TENANT IN 1704
AMOUNT OF FINE PAID AT LAST COMPOSITION
NUMBER OF LIVES REMAINING OR
STATEMENT THAT ALL LIVES EXPIRED
AMOUNT OF NEW FINE (given in Arabic Characters)
This listing follows the sequence of the 1643 Composition Book, and could be of assistance if difficulty was being experienced in identifying the correct holding or tenant in the 1643 records.
2. The definitive record of the payment of the new fines. The working copy is to be found in Liber Assed, and this is superior to the fair copies found in the Composition Records.
There is a mid-eighteenth century transcript of the 1703/6 period Composition Book in the Bridge House papers which used to be regularly produced in the Museum Library, and was often referred to as the 'Composition Book 1643-1703'. The original was a fresh compilation into which a great deal of work went, and the collection of the Fines was a matter of considerable financial importance. The final version of the record is a document of considerable authority and standing, and equates to a complete Manorial Survey of the Lord's and Abbey lands at that time.
As has already been seen, special pains were taken with the Intacks, and also with the cottage rentals, to make the record accurate. In the case of Douglas, the Setting Quest for Onchan, who were responsible for the identity of tenants and amounts of rent payable, were assisted by four additional men for the town rents.
The resulting record was also compiled by parish, but follows a different format from the earlier Composition records, as follows;NAME OF TREEN (or COTTAGE INTACK OR MILL HEADING)
NAME OF TENANT IN 1703/6+
MANORIAL STATUS OF LAND NAME OF QUARTERLAND etc
DATE OF LAST COMPOSITION
NAME OF PERSON LAST COMPOUNDING*
AMOUNT OF FINE PAID AT LAST COMPOSITION NUMBER OF LIVES REMAINING, OR
STATEMENT THAT ALL LIVES EXPIRED AMOUNT OF NEW FINE (given in Arabic Characters)
There are occasionally additional pieces of information, such as the relationship of the tenant to the person last compounding. In the case of town or cottage property, there may be some indication of the type and number of different buildings comprised in the Cottage Rent.
It is clearly seen from the foregoing that the entries centre on the tenants, and the amount of the fines to be paid. Where one tenant had several holdings in the same parish or town, there was a tendency to deal with them together. In rural areas, the traditional arrangement of Treens and Quarterlands was borrowed from Liber Assedationis, and for the first time in the Composition records, there is a structure to the entries within each parish, which follow closely the arrangement in the Libri Assed for the latter seventeenth century. Considerable changes between the names in the 1702 L.A. and the new Composition Book will be detected.
In the case of most of the Intack and Cottage property on the Island, the old incremental lists were abandoned, and new listings compiled. These were again tenant based, but tenants were listed in some sort of geographical order. In the case of Douglas, of which an intensive study has been made, there is a circuit (real or imaginary) which passes around the town, dealing with the tenants in the order of their principle holdings. Secondary properties are consolidated in the same entry. Where there were absentee owners, they were either dealt with under their principle holding, or after the entry for a relative who, perhaps was looking after their affairs. There are obviously gaps in the geographical sequence, where multiple properties were held by residents in other parts of the town.
In the Lezayre Intacks, the names of tenants resident in other parishes who held curragh Intacks there were listed at the end of the parish list, under the heading of their own parish of residence.
After 1707 there was an effective merger between the Composition records and Lib. Assed, certainly as far as Intack and Cottage properties are concerned. When the succeeding volumes of Lib. Assed were compiled, the same new sequences of Intacks and Cottages were used, and the intacks later added to as further enclosures were made. The same order was maintained as long as the Manorial Records were kept up.
As has been hinted at above, from about 1570 to 1702, and again from 1707 to 1916, there was a very close link between the Libri Assed or rent rolls
The Composition Books basically provide a series of snapshots of the situation in given years, but do not provide information on the transmission of ownership or tenancy.
+It appears that the record of the 1703 Act of Settlement Compositions was intended to be retrospective to the date of the Act. There is evidence that enquiries and researches were still being carried on in early 1706 into certain intacks in Lonan, and this probably happened in other parishes.
In the case of Douglas, the majority of fines were paid during 1707. There are some alterations and inconsistencies in the working copy of the record which show that it was in the course of preparation for a considerable period, and it is safest to consider it as relating to the period 1703/6.