[From Cannell's Guide, 1843]
We shall now proceed to give a general outline of its
Of which little is known until after the Norwegian conquest, except that it was supplied by a succession of Bishops, as the ancient records were taken to Norway, where, it is said, they were destroyed by fire : our present records commence in the beginning of the 15th century. All ecclesiastical writers, however, of any credit, and the most ancient and authentic traditions agree that St. Patrick was the first who planted the Christian religion in the Island, from whose time there has been a succession of Bishops ; yet as it was not certainly known who they were, or in what order they sate, we shall pass them over, and notice those only whose actions have rendered them worthy of record. The first of these is
Dr. Isaac Barrow, who was appointed to the See in 1663. He was an eminently pious man, and the first and greatest benefactor of the clergy of his See, who at that period were exceedingly poor. He used his interest so effectually with his Majesty King Charles the Second, that he obtained a grant of £100 per annum, payable out of the excise for ever, for the better maintenance of the poor vicars and schoolmasters of his diocese. He also raised a subscription amongst the English nobility and gentry, which enabled him to purchase the impropriate tithes of the Island from Charles Earl of Derby, and added two estates of his own which he placed under the management of trustees, who have been enabled with assistance to erect a College near Castletown, which was founded in 1830 by the Hon. Cornelius Smelt, then Lieutenant-Governor, the Bishop of the diocese, and the other trustees, and which his late gracious Majesty King William IV. was pleased to permit to bear his name. It is an elegant and very fine building, and forms a spacious cruciform structure, 210 feet in length from east to west, and 135 feet from north to south ; from the intersection rises an embattled tower, 115 feet high, strengthened with buttresses, surmounted by an octagonal lantern turret, intended for an observatory, having in each of its faces an elegant lofty window, and crowned with a parapet. There is also a public lecture room, a large hall for a library, four large class rooms, and houses for the masters, containing numerous apartments for the accommodation of pupils, and every requisite arrangement for the purposes of the institution. The Principal and other masters must be members of the Church of England and graduates of the Universities. The masters are allowed to receive pupils as boarders. The College was opened in 1833. The pupils are numerous. His Excellency the Governor, the Lord Bishop, and. the Attorney-General have each founded prizes, to be contended for at midsummer. A chapel is annexed to the College, and two full services are performed in it every Sunday. The public are admitted, and enjoy ample accommodation of free seats. Thus the pious intentions of the worthy prelate have been fulfilled, after an interval of nearly two centuries. The name and good deeds, therefore, of that excellent prelate, will be remembered with gratitude, so long as any sense of piety remains. Dr. Barrow held the bishopric for only a few years, and was promoted to the see of St. Asaph.
During Bishop Barrow's time, the people called Quakers, though very few in number on the Island,suffered some severe measure in common with the sectarian non-conformists throughout the empire. They have never since attempted to form a society in the Island,, and the only memorial extant of their having existed as a distinct body, is their burial-place in the parish of Maughold, called the " Rolick ny Quakeryn."
Bishop Barrow was succeeded by Dr. Henry Bridgeman, who was succeeded by Dr. John Lake; after him followed Dr. Baptist Livinz, who died in 1693, and the see remained vacant five years, when,
In 1698, that great prelate, the learned doctor, and holy confessor, Bishop Wilson,- whose " praise is in all the churches," was consecrated. Whether we consider him in his study, in his family, in the cottage of the poor, in his pulpit, in his high episcopal ministrations, in the synod of his diocese, in the court of England, or in person he was, in all the same admirable man,. On his arrival, he beheld a people depressed by poverty and neglect, and with whose language he was unacquainted ; his residence at bishop's Court was in ruin, the churches throughout this diocese were in a dilapidated state, and the principles of the inhabitants greatly debased by illicit traffic Although the revenue of the bishopric did not exceed £300, by frugality and economy he accomplished much.; he rebuilt his house at Kirk Michael, and repaired the churches. In summing up the character of this truly great man, said one of his biographers, "every part of his life affords, adisplay of the most genuine charity and benevolence. Whether we consider him as a son, a husband, a a parent, a master. or a Bishop, we shall find few equal - no one superior to him. He had studied, and :he practised physic with success,. For some time after he settled, he was the only physician on the island; keeping a shop of drugs for general use, which he distributed, as well as his advice, gratis; but when some gentlemen of the faculty came up to settle on the Island, he gave up to them that part of his practice which could alone conduce to their emolument attendance on the rich - the poor he kept always to himself He was so charitable, that it was not unaptly observed by a gentleman who knew him well, that 'he kept beggars from every body's door but his own.' He was the divine, the scholar, and the gentleman. He was so fond of his flock, and so attached to his diocese, that no temptation could seduce him from their service, no bribe could remove him. He had been frequently offered an English Bishoprick, but he always declared that he would not leave his wife in his old age, because she was poor." Some instances of his zeal involved him in difficulties, which, though well meant, perhaps, exceeded the proper limits; a copy of the "Independent Whig," a publication which he considered subversive of the discipline of the established church, having been sent as a present to the public Library of the Island, the Bishop ordered it to be seized, for which the Governor committed the man to prison, who was not liberated until an unpleasant altercation had taken place.
Soon after this a more serious difference between the civil and ecclesiastical head was the result of the Bishop's excluding from the communion of the Church the wife of the Governor, on account of an act of defamation, for which she refused to ask pardon of the injured party. The Governor's Chaplain having by his own authority, admitted her to the communion, the Bishop suspended him for disobedience; upon which the Governor, conceiving he had acted illegally, laid a fine upon him and his two Vicars General. On their refusal of payment, they were committed close prisoners to Castle Rushen, where they lay nine weeks, till the Bishop, by petition to the Council in England, obtained the release of himself and his companions ; and the Council afterwards reversed all proceedings. So much was the Bishop beloved in the Island, that his arrest was likely to have occasioned a serious tumult, had he not pacified the people by an address from the Castle wall, and he afterwards declined prosecuting the Governor, for damages.
By living a righteous and godly life, this excellent divine attained the 93d year of his age and the 58th of his consecration, and expired on the 7th March, 1755, dying as he lived, praising God in Psalms, and detached sentences of the Te Deum, and was interred at the east end of Kirk Michael church yard; over his grave is placed a small marble monument, surrounded with iron rails, through which may be read the following too modest inscription.
SLEEPING IN JESUS,
HERE LIETH THE BODY OF
THOMAS WILSON, D. D.
LORD BISHOP OP THIS ISLE,
Who died March the 7th, 1755, aged 93, and in the
eighth Year of his Consecration.
THIS MONUMENT WAS ERECTED
BY HIS SON, THOMAS WILSON, D. D.
A NATIVE OF THIS PARISH,
Who, in Obervance to the express
Commands of his Father,
declines giving him the Character he so justly deserved.
LET THIS ISLAND SPEAK THE REST.
and so it will !" says the before-quoted biographer. When turning to the stranger, or their children, the grateful Manksman will relate a tale of the wondrous goodness of their dear, their much-beloved, much lamented Bishop. Telling them, (and witnesses they were) whose hunger he had satisfied, to whose thirst he had given drink -, what strangers he had relieved ; whose nakedness he had clothed ; whose sickness he had administered to ; and what prisoners he had visited. The widow, comforted by his bounty, with her lisping orphans, shall declare the praises of their pious benefactor. And perhaps some faithful minister of the Gospel may conclude the story, by saying. that He was a Bishop 'blameless as the steward of God; not self-willed, not soon angry, not given to wine, no striker, not given to filthy lucre; but a lover of hospitality, a lover of good men, sober, just, holy, temperate ; holding fast the faithful word as he had been taught.; and that he was able by sound doctrine, both to exhort and to convince the gain-sayers.' "
Bishop Wilson was succeeded by Dr. Mark Hildesley, Vicar of Hitchin, in Hertfortshire, and when he came to the See he found that Church which, fifty years before, the then Governor of the Island had described as -"fast falling. into ruins," rebuilt and beautified, her breaches healed, and her discipline reformed; so that nothing was left for him but to preserve and strengthen those things which he found, he made it the great and invariable rule of his conduct to tread as nearly as possible in the steps of his excellent predecessor. On his coming to the diocese undertook the arduous tusk of getting the Scriptures translated and printed in the Manx language ; a work which had been begun by Bishop Wilson, and which he completed by distributing it among twenty-four of his clergy skilled in the Manx language ; with the assistance of the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, and many persons of eminence and distinction. At first he only printed the New Testament, the Common Prayer, the Christian Monitor, Lewis's Catechism, and Bishop Wilson's Form of Prayer for the Herring Fishery; but the benefactions coming in beyond his expectations, he was encouraged to set on foot a translation of the Old Testament entire, which, with the assistance of his clergy, he also happily accomplished. The clergy of the Island were particularly active in this good work, apportioning, out their several parts, which they finished with zeal and judgment.
Bishop Hildesley had this work so much at heart, that he often said, "He only wished to live to see it finished, and then he should be happy, die when he would." He received the last part of the Bible on Saturday, the 28th of November, 1772, and emphatically sung his Nunc Dimitis in the presence of his family; and next day, in the evening, after family prayers,. he preached a lecture on the uncertainty of human life, how many instances were constantly happening in which people were deprived of their senses in a moment: Thus, in a prophetic manner, foretelling his own death ; for on Monday, after dining cheerfully at Bishop's-Court with his family and one of his clergy, he was seized with a stroke of the palsy, which in a moment deprived him of his senses, and in this situaion he remained till the Monday following, when he died.
According to his own desire he was buried as near his predecessor that could be, wishing to be united in death with that man whose example he had endeavoured to imitate while living.
To him succeeded Bishops Richmond and Mason, the latter of whom, aided and assisted by voluntary subcriptions, erected St. George's Chapel in this town; he died in 1784, and was followed by Dr. C. Crigan who filled the See for thirty years, during which time considerable strife existed between, the House of Athol and the inhabitants, in consequence of the former frequently insisting upon some fresh impost which the people would not submit to. In these contentions Dr. Crigan took no part ; he died in 1813, when the Duke of Athol conferred the Bishoprick on his nephew, the Hon. Dr. George Murray; who became extremely unpopular in consequence of his endeavoring to collect the tithe on potatoes, and all the green crops on the Island. In resorting to this apparently harsh measure, in which he was legally justified, his lordship was charged with a desire to deprive the lower class of their principal staff of life, from selfish and interested motives, and much confusion and dissatisfaction, was thereby created. The Bishop, however, was stimulated by the best and purest feelings of the human mind ; he saw that the incomes of the clergy, at that time did not equal the wages he was paying to his upper domestics, and that they were totally inadequate to the support and maintenance of their families ; he felt, therefore, an anxious desire to render them more comfortable, and to place them in an independent station in society ; and his conduct and actions during the whole period of his episcopacy, clearly demonstrated that he was not actuated by mercenary motives. The passions of the people, however, were inflamed, and by a portion of the insular press they were incited to such a degree, that tumults and threats prevailed throughout the Island, and the assemblages of the people were so numerous and powerful, that the regular troops in the Island were unable to control them, and the disturbances and conflagrations which ensued, induced the Bishop to relinquish his claim. The British government, in order to pacify the Island, which had become much disturbed in consequence of this attempt, translated him to the See of Rochester.
Although he rendered himself unpopular by pressing too severely upon the poor for tithe, it is but justice to say the Church of Mann is much indebted to him, inasmuch as he purified the Ministry of several priests whose lives had been a scandal to their holy order, and to the Church in which they served; this he did, by suspending some, and degrading others. He was a high churchman in every sense of the word, but exercised none of its authority against dissent. On his translation to Rochester Dr. William Ward succeeded to the See. This was the first appointment by the Crown since the whole of the rights of the Island had been annexed to the British empire. This Divine did much during the nine years of his Episcopate, to benefit his diocese. He distinguished himself by the exertions which he made for the maintenance and elevation of his church, by endeavoring to remedy the defects in the incomes and education of the clergy, whom he was anxious to place on a footing of competence and comfort; and in the number and state of the churches which were in a most ruinous and dilapidated condition. He had recourse to English charity, and succeeded in raising. funds sufficient for the building and re-building ten new churches and chapels, and obtained from Earl de Gray, a floating Chapel, which is regularly filled with mariners, who would enjoy no other means of attending divine service.
When in 1837 the British Parliament suppressed the See, and annexed it to that of Carlisle, Bishop Ward used his utmost endeavours to get the Bishoprick restored. By his strong remonstrances to the government,- by the memorials of the clergy, - by the petitions of the inhabitants,- and by the exertions of the friends of the church throughout the empire, that part of the act which related to the Isle of Mann, was repealed, and the See was preserved. In a memorial to the commissioners, his lordship concluded with this strong, forcible, and energetic appeal :-" I will never cease to repeat the warning with the greater earnestness, as the approach of my death hastens the accomplishment of this measure. To avert this threatened calamity from my church, I am prepared to make any sacrifice; for I believe most solemnly that in a very few years after the removal of the Bishop, the name only of a church will be left to her; and her empty walls will stand as sad memorials of an arrangement, needless and uncalled - for in itself, burdensome to Carlisle, and destructive to her own best interests."
The appeal of the clergy of the Island for the preservation of the See was equally forcible and energetic. "A diocese," they say, "which filled the hands of an apostolic Wilson, cannot reasonably be deemed too small, especially when its population is more than doubled since his day; the duties of that diocese could not with propriety and adequacy he discharged by the Archdeacon; and as to enriching its parochial Clergy by the spoils of their Bishoprick, your Petitioners dislike the principle, and dread the example; they attest not indeed to conceal that the vicars of the diocese are in straitened, in very straitened, in lamentably straitened circumstances, from which they humbly solicit, and would gratefully accept, honourable relief; but they disclaim a wish to procure temporal advantage at the expense of spiritual loss."*
*A very Interesting little work, detailing the whole of the Bishop's proceeding, and containing copies of all the memorials, petitions, and protests from the clergy and laity, to avert the threatened calamity, collected with much care and industry, has been published by the Rev. Wm. Perceval Ward. M.A. the late Bishop's son. it contains much valuable information, and may he obtained at the publisher's of this guide.
Bishop Ward died in 1838, when Dr. James Bowstead succeeded him, and held the See but a very short period, being translated to that of Lichfield, when it was conferred upon our present Bishop, whose first act was nobly and generously to relinquish the surplus revenue of the See in favour of the poor clergy. Dr. Pepys took possession of the Bishoprick in April, 1840.
In 1839 an act was passed by the Insular Legislature, to commute the tithes of the Island for £5050, which is thus apportioned amongst the clergy
To the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Mann £1515 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Patrick 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of German 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Marown 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Michael 141 8 0
To the Rector of the Parish of Ballaugh 303 0 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Jurby . . 141 8 0
To the Rector of the Parish of Andreas. 707 0 0
To the Chaplain of a Chapel of Ease in the said Parish of Andreas 101 0 0
To the Rector of the Parish of Bride 303 0 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Lezayre 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Maughold .. .. .. 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Lonan 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Conchan 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Braddan 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Santon 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Malew .. .. .. 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Arbory .. .. .. 141 8 0
To the Vicar of the Parish of Rushen . . . . . 141 8 0
To the Trustees nominated in conveyance of the impropriate Tithes of Michael, made by Dr. Thomas Wilson, for the benefit of clergymen's widows 141 8 0
These sums are independent of the lands attached to the See, the yearly rental of which is about £500, and the glebes belonging to the vicarages.
In the Island there are twelve chapels of Ease, besides the seventeen parish churches and the Mariners' chapel, and the services of the church are not more solemnly performed, or so strictly in conformity with the rubric, in any diocese in England. In most country churches the service is performed alternately, in Manx and English, and it is truly gratifying to witness the devotion that is paid, and the respect which is shewn to the clergyman and every part of his family.
Dissenting chapels are scattered over the Island in every direction, and they are generally well frequented. In no part of the world is religious toleration better established ; no licence is required either for the preacher, or the place in which he ministers, and liberty of conscience is enjoyed by all ; and the best understanding prevails amongst the inhabitants whatever their religious creed and tenets may be.