[From General View of Agriculture, 1794]


THE isle of Man is nearly centrically situated between Great Britain and Ireland. The middle of the island is in 54 deg. 46 min. north latitude, and is computed to be 32 miles long. and 12 broad in the widest part. Five twelfths are heathy mountains, and moorish ground; and the remainder arable, pasture, and meadow land.


A CHAIN of hills and mountains run nearly the length of the island, and occupy a very considerable part of the center: these are pastured with sheep, colts, and young black cattle, and afford fuel, from the peat mosses, for the greater part of the inhabitants. The right of pasture belongs to the public. The prospect from Snefield or Snowfield, the highest mountain (computed to be 580 yards above the level of the sea) is very extensive; as from thence on a clear day, not alone the whole island, but also the three neighbouring kingdoms, and the principality of Wales, may be distinctly seen.


THE two extremities of the island are of this description, and abound with good arable and pasture land. The south end is composed of many different soils, of which the greater part is loam. Stiff clays, which are difficult to till, prevail in some places, and fend in others. Lime-stone bottom lays under a very considerable tract; the expence of raising it, prevents its being used as a manure so generally as it ought. Great quantities of sea wrack, or alga marina, are driven ashore by the winter storms, which prove a valuable acquisition to the cultivators of barley within two miles of the shore; it has also been tried for potatoes, and answers extremely well as to quantity, but inferior in quality to what is raised on farm yard dung. This manure is found to be of so volatile a nature, as to be totally expended the second crop. The extremity of the island, to the northward of the mountains, is a plain containing about 48 square miles of valuable improvable land, and mostly consists of a sandy loam, on a bottom of clay or marl; it also contains an extensive mosses, which, within these ten years, has been improved by means of a large open drain. Another tract of 500 acres of flat clay is dedicated to hay, and appertains to different estates in the neighbourhood which have no other meadowing.


RIVERS, or more properly streams, (as none run a course of above six miles, and few above half that distance) are numerous. The four principal streams take their rise in the mountains, and have their exit at the four towns, where they form harbours. In their course they are essentially useful for the several corn and flax mills, and abound with trout and salmon in the season of the year.


THE climate is rather milder than in the neighbouring parts of Great Britain and Ireland, particularly in winter, the frost and snow being slight and of short continuance: on the other hand, a disadvantage arises from the want of that heat in summer so friendly to vegetation, which causes late harvests, and of course prevents the grain from arriving at its full size and weight, and reduces the value of the straw for fodder.

Frost and snow seldom appear here before Christmas, and within there few years have been so slight as to be little impediment to cultivation.

The island being much exposed by its situation in the middle of the Channel, suffers much from gales of wind and falls of rain, which are frequent, and of long continuance. In the spring months easterly winds often prevail, and render the feeding of the land more difficult, and less complete; they likewise prove very prejudicial to the tender shoots of corn.


THE island is divided into Seventeen parishes, and has four towns. Castletown is the chief, and seat of government, Situated near the Southern extremity; and contains about 500 houses; on an average of five to a family, the number of inhabitants amounts to 2500. In the centre of the town Stands an old castle, which, although built seven hundred years, is in a high state of preservation; and gives the name to the town.

Douglas is considerably larger, and is the chief place of trade, being the best dry harbour in this part of St. George's Channel; it has 900 houses, and at five to a house, makes the number of inhabitants 4500.

Ramsay has not above 300 houses, and 1500 inhabitants; although an indifferent harbour, it has a good road-stead, where outward bound ships often shelter in gales of westerly

Peel is about the same size as Ramsay, On a small peninsula near it are the ruin. of a curious old castle.

In five villages, which contain 200 houses, the numbers amount to 1000, and the rest of the inhabitants residing in the country raises the total population to about 26,000.


IN the original division of properties in this country, the lands were divided into lots from 50 to 150 acres, very few exceeded 200; consequently the proprietors, who for the most part cultivated their own lands, were nearly on a level. Till within these thirty years, the landed properties altered little in value, for want of a spirit of improvement, which circumstances have now changed; the herring fishery occupying their attention in the summer season, when the saving their crops and draining their land should have been their chief employment. This is so far, as yet, an evil to the farmer, although it cannot be denied that it is productive of emolument to the country in general, by the introduction of considerable sums of money in return for that commodity.

Several gentlemen and yeomanry have now paid particular attention to agriculture, and have found it greatly to their interests, both by the additional produce of their estates, as well as by their examples to their tenants, who following an improved mode of cultivation, can afford to pay better rents, and have a greater profit to themselves.

There is still a very considerable tract of land capable of great improvement; but the proprietors are either unable, for want of sufficient capital or information; or content with the system inherited from their ancestors, neglect to use those means which would with certainty add considerably to the real value of their lands. Some of them are, however, more attentive to their interests; and by their laudable exertions, a spirit of emulation is riding, and of course the country in general is improving in appearance and real value. On some estates in particular, as compleat tillage, and as regular a system of husbandry, is in practice, as can be seen in any place where the nature and situation of the lands are equal. Taking the tythes in kind, which is customary in most of the parishes, is justly considered a grievance, and a great impediment to improvements; many farmers desisting from laying out their money where the most considerable share of the profit rests with those who are subject to no risk, and not any share of the expence. Many estates are, however, clear of this incumbrance, which operates as a tax upon industry; and in lieu have purchased their tythes, or pay an annual modus or prescription, which can never be altered. A greater blessing could not fall on this country, than an universal payment of the tythes in a settled sum of money.


THE leases generally granted, are for seven, fourteen, or twenty one years. Till the year 1777, leases legally dropt at the death of the inheritor and lessor; but since, inheritors can grant leases for twenty-one years certain, on the most improved rent. Time of entry, at the twelfth of November. Rents usually paid at Christmas and May. The terms, or covenants of leases, bind the occupier to maintain and deliver the buildings and fences in tenantable repair, he having received them in the like condition, which is often ascertained by a jury of four understanding men. What buildings he also makes are subject to the same regulations. Restricting the tenants cropping too frequently, is in most leases a particular covenant, allowing three crops of grain in succession, and then either laying the land down with grass seeds, or assisting it by a fallow or fallowing crop. Many, though so bound, make it a rule not to exceed two crops of grain, and find it their interests. Another common agreement is to expend the hay and straw on the farm, as also the manure; in the neighbourhood of the towns, this is often dispensed with, and the farms not injured, as manure is there purchasable.


THE lands in the vicinity of the towns are mostly in the occupation of their inhabitants, whose universal custom is to hold as much as the demands of their families require, and give a greater rent than could be afforded by farmers. Two guineas per acre are given for same grounds; and even more, where a piece of remarkably good land is convenient. Thirty shillings is a common price; but for farms, none, or very few, exceed a guinea. At two miles distance from the towns, the prices are from twelve to eighteen shillings; and the uplands are set from five to twelve. There is a great quantity that does not fetch that rent. No other measure is used here but the English statute acre.

The value of stock employed in agriculture is uncertain and various, as scarcely two farms are alike, or require the same capital. Thirty-five shillings per acre will probably be the average of most parts of the low, and ten shillings of the uplands. As milk makes a chief part of the subsistence the inhabitants, a considerable portion of land is allotted for the support of cows; most farms keep six at least, some twelve, but very few as many as twenty. The butter produced from there is mostly exported to England, where it is much in esteem.




In wheat,








Hay from sown grass,











Plough horses,










Milch cows,


Fatting cows and heifers,




Grassing to six cows,


Four horses,


And twenty Sheep.

House Servants, two men and three boys; with six labourers and twenty-five additional hands in harvest. Families, seven; and souls, forty. This farm was divided among six tenants, who kept sixteen horses, and maintained thirty souls.



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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001