[from History of IoM, 1900]



2. Trade and Industry. 1

In accordance with the economic theories then universally accepted, the government of Man during this period was continually endeavouring to further the supposed interests of its subjects by arbitrary and vexatious interference with their trade. Thus, as we have already seen, no baron was allowed to take more than 5 out of the land, except in merchandize, and no merchant was allowed to take any money whatever, without a special licence. 2 But, at the same time, it was " ordained that every Chapman and Shipman 3 should have licence to take goods and cattle off the island " as oft as his profit serveth," 3 provided that he " warne the Lieutennant and have Lycense to goe."3 Very strict regulations, however, were made with regard to imported merchandize, so that strangers should not make undue profits on it when selling " by privy bargains." It was therefore ordained that "noe alien coming into any haven in Man, pass into the land noe further, but to the next parish church,"4 and that " noe manner of person bargaine nor buy such merchandize before it be seen and allowed by the Lieutennant and Councell ; and that they shall appoint 6 or 4 discreet men of the country to be solemnly sworn " to deal with the alien merchants, and to " endeavour them truely to make bargaine for the profitt of the Land."5 It was also provided that " if any salt, iron, timber, or any commodity that is useful for the country be brought into any port or haven within the Isle to be sold, no manner of persons are to intermeddle therewith or buy the same at wholesale, until the same shall have lain for three tides after notice to the intent the country may be furnished according to the rate it is to be sold for by that time; otherwise, if any offend therein, he shall, upon presentment to the Great Inquest, be severely fined, unless he do sell the same to the country at the rate which he bought it." 6 Care was also taken, while providing for the interests of the natives as opposed to those of strangers, and for the interests -of the retail as opposed to the wholesale purchasers, " that the Lord be served first of such stuffe to the use of himself or his houses." 7 In 1429, uniform weights and measures were established. 8 It was the duty of the comptroller in his capacity as clerk of the market to rectify them. In 1502, we find a decision of the deemsters with reference to the "discreet men of the country " who bargained with the merchant strangers, from which we learn that they ' were " in antient times . . . chosen and appointed by the Great Enquest," 9 and, if any of them " did not deal justly,"9 they were presented by the same authority. Towards the end of the same century, however, they seem to have been usually coinmissioned by the governor or his deputy. 10 But, though these " discreet men " held an important post in connexion with insular commerce, the chief officer in all matters relating to trade was the waterbailiff, or customer,11 who had a deputy in every port. His duty, in this capacity, was to look after the lord's dues, " and to write what goods is taken out of the Countrey, and what is brought in," 12 receiving the customs thereon ; to " make a Booke of every Shipp, Pickard, and Boat, that bringeth any wares into the Countrey, and the Day when she cometh, and what wares she brings into the Land and what Wares she taketh out of the Land, and what Custome is due for the same, and to deliver a Copy thereof to the Comptroller or his Deputy." 13, In 1523, there were further regulations made with reference to " Merchants who were Strangers." When any of them arrived in the island he was to be taken before the governor, " to show him what his loading is, and," 14 what is more significant as showing the isolation of the island, " to tell him newes from whence he came." 15 Having thus satisfied himself as to the contents of the cargo and obtained all the "latest news," the governor proceeded to drive, if possible, the unfortunatemerchant stranger " to a bargaine." He then commanded him "to stay till his pleasure be further known," and, summoning " the clearke of the ships," he informed him of the progress of the bargain and ordered him "to send word to the four merchants,"16 whose duty it was to endeavour to make a better bargain if they could. When the bargain was completed, it was written down, and then, after the lord, 17 the tenants were served in proportion to the size of their holdings.

In 1561, it was enacted. that no wares should be carried off the island without permission of the governor and Council, and that lists were to be made of all ships and wares, both on arrival and departure from the country, by " the Clark of the Ships," 18 who was to note " how and to whom the same wares are distributed, and what wares he shall carry out of Mann, and how much custome is due for the same." 19 In 1577, "Rates of the Customs," to which we will refer more particularly later, were fixed. 20 In 1587 came a dearth of corn, in consequence of which it was ordered " that no corne shall be hereafter lycensed nor none transported hereafter alltho the lycense be alreadie granted " 21 and juries were sworn in each sheading " to inquire into every man's store of corn and to present the same that it may be brought to market." 21 This dearth seems to have come to an end in the following year, but it was not till 1593 that any exportation of grain was allowed, and then only as a special concession to tenants not otherwise able to discharge their rents,"22 . who were permitted to export only so much as sufficed for this purpose. There were also strict regulations of the internal trade of the country which was carried on in the markets of the various towns. Thus, the inhabitants were ordered to bring such merchandize as they had to spare to the market on pain of imprisonment, and it was ordained that " there be no wares carried forth but such as is lycenced," 23 that nothing be bought before "the markett Bell be rong," 23 and that the " country " was to be served before strangers. 23 The lastmentioned order about the natives being served first was confirmed by a decision of the deemsters, in 1596.24 Corn was again scarce in 1597, and the deemsters, with a view to prevent its being exported, ordered that " all such as repayre to any market to buy corne do take their corporall oath before the fouer men appointed for the marketts that the corn so by them bought is for their own use." 24

It is evident that the farmers were discontented with the frequent prohibitions of the exportation of corn and live stock, since, in 1601, when agreeing to pay " a duble rent in money," 25 they took the opportunity of bargaining that they should "yearly hereafter duringe all the tyme of the contynuance of this agreement have free liberty of transportation for corne or cattle growing and increasinge upon their severall farines for the best advantage, provided allwayes that sufficient be reserved for the necessary use and relieffe of all the whole inhabitants." 26

The chief exports were cattle, sheep, corn, hides, wool, flax, hemp, leather, honey, wax, herrings, cod and ling, both fresh and salted, and powdered beef, which were mainly sent to England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Spain, and Portugal. From the last three countries wine and salt were received in return, 27 and, from the first three, manufactured goods generally, especially woollen cloths and hats, though, as the Manx made most of their garments at home, the quantity of these could not have been large; also timber,28 coal,29 iron, brass, nails, pitch, tar, soap, starch, resin, and salt.30 But it is clear, both from Earl James's remark that " this Isle will never flourish until some trading be," 31 and from the fact that, between 1594 and 1638, the largest recorded amount of the customs duties was only 106,32 that the total amount of Manx trade was very trifling. We have no record of the amount of the customs duties between 1638 and 1660, when Manx trade was comparatively active, but, judging from Blundell's statement that the articles we have just referred to were sold at double the price 33 they fetched in England, the insular merchants must have made large profits. Before 1643, Manx trade had been conducted by barter; after that date, the arrival of the English refugees supplied the people with money, so that we find them paying their rents in specie instead of "in sheep, hoggs, or other cattle and poultry." 34 One result of the use of the new medium of exchange was the enactment of a law, in 1649, by which. the interest on loans was limited to 10 per cent., and punishment was ordered to be inflicted on any one who exacted more than that amount.35

One of the most necessary means of reforming and improving trade, viz., the establishment of standard measures, which had been first decreed in 1429, was stringently enforced by James, Earl of Derby, and Lord Fairfax, those who did not possess correct weights and measures being severely punished.36 They issued ordinances against forestalling 37 and regrating, 38 and prohibited provisions from being exported without the governor's licence. They also endeavoured to regulate the prices of beer and bread. Thus, in 1650, when the usual price of beer was twopence per quart, the lord ordained that three pints should be sold for twopence. The brewers, however, protested that they could not produce the beer for such a price, and they promised to give the lord a shilling for every barrel sold, if he would continue the old prices. This bribe proved effectual, and the request was granted.39 In 1652, the price of beer was ultimately fixed at twopence for three pints, and it was ordered that " white bread " was to be sold at 15 ounces for a penny, and " brown bread " at 21 ounces for a penny, the reason for these changes being that corn was cheaper.

Much of the internal trade seems at this period to have been transacted at the fairs, and each district evidently desired to have as many fair days as possible. Thus, in 1647, the inhabitants of Ramsey complained to the Legislature that the Maughold fairs interfered with their trade, and it was, consequently, ordered "that the ffayre upon St. Bartholomew's day (24th August) be transferred to Ramsey, while that on SS. Simon and Jude be left in Maughold." 40 The importance attached to the fairs is also shown by the complaint of the glovers, who were both then and at a more recent period numerous in the island, that they were not able to maintain their families by their trade, because the skins upon which they depended were bought by " Scotch, Irish, and Manske peddlers . . . without bringing of them to any faires or marketts." 41 They therefore asked that skins should be neither bought nor sold except in the markets and fairs. An order to this effect was consequently issued, with the consent of the Keys.

Judging from the statistics of the only year (1594), in which we have an account of exports and imports separately, the export trade of the island at this period was larger than the import trade. 42 By far the larger part of the former came through Douglas, Ramsey having the next largest amount, then Peel, Derbyhaven, and Castletown, in the order given.43

All the food and, probably, nearly all the clothing of the people, was obtained at home. Their sheep and cattle, corn and flax, provided them with meat, milk, bread, beer, and woollen and linen garments. Beer was usually brewed in private houses, there being about ten brewing-pans licensed in each parish, for which a rent was paid, and which were sent round from house to house.44 The women spun both wool and flax, and the yarn was sent to a weaver, some of whom were found in every parish. The woollen yarn was, as a rule, unbleached, it being taken from the loghtyn, or native sheep, which was a mixed dark-brown and grey colour (keeir as lheeah). When the yarn was woven, it was straightway made into clothes, for, till the seventeenth century, it was not usually either milled or tucked. The shoes, or carranes, were made of raw hide, salted and dried, and laced with thongs of the same material at the top of the foot.45 All the manufacturing trades were regulated by laws intended to ensure that the work done should be of good quality. For example, the oath taken by the members of the " Great Enquest " on their appointment bound them to " enquire whether all petty craftsmen doe execute their occupation justly ; that is to say, shoemakers, coblers, taylors, websters, women, weavers, and smiths; if there be any of these that do otherwise than the old lawes of this Isle will permit," they were obliged by their oath to "present them." 46 And, in 1609, this law was extended by the Council, who, " upon adviced consideration had, of the great necessity inducing the same, thought fit and accordingly ordered, that every Great Enquest within this Isle shall take all weavers sworn before them to deal truly and uprightly with the country in such goods and webs as they send to them to be wrought, and that they will not conceal, pilfer, or any other way defraud the country of such their goods and webs as they send unto them to be wrought, but be just and faithful in the exercising of their said occupation, according to the Laws of the Island. And if such weavers (provided still they be sufficient workmen to undertake the country work, otherwise to be put to service) refuse to take an oath in that nature, upon a presentment made thereof by the Great Enquest, they are to be fined in 3s. 4d. to the Lord and to be inhibited from working untill they have taken such oath in effect as aforesaid. And if any weaver will make any unlawful work or use any other indirect dealing with the Country or keep their Webs unwoven in their Houses for a whole year, upon presentment of such by the Great Enquest they are to be amerced in a severe fine." 47

Earl James tried to encourage the insular manufactures by wearing a suit made entirely of the native loghtyn wool;48 to increase the numbers of the Manx craftsmen, which were scanty, and to improve their methods, by importing English artizans. 49 His efforts, as far as stimulating production at least is concerned, seem to have been successful, since we learn from evidence given in 1658 that such of the fulling mills as were then in existence were altogether insufficient, the cloth sent to be fulled being occasionally kept more than a year before being finished. The Tynwald Court therefore ordered several new mills to be erected, notwithstanding the vigorous opposition of the owners of the old mills, some of whom were clergymen. 50


1 Further information on this head will be obtained from the accounts of Agriculture, Fishing, and Mining (see Book VIII.).

2 Statutes, Vol. i. p. 20. This conservation of coin was, of course, strictly in accordance with the economic ideas of the time.

3 Ibid., p. 15.

4 Ibid., p. 19. There was a similar provision in 1561 (Ibid,, p. 27).

5 Statutes, vol. i. p. 19.

6 Customary Laws MS. This law was confirmed by the deemsters in 1596 (see Lib. Scacc.).

7 Statutes, vol. i. p. 20 (1422). This was called the right of pre-emption.

8 Notices about regulations of these are among the most frequent entries in the Records. The following, in 1582, will serve as an instance :"Whereas ther hath ten some controversie amongst the common people of the isle, of what quantitie the selling and buyinge measures of the cuntry ought to be for appeasing and reformacon whereof and uppon sufficient trial and prove what bath ben the ancient order of the isle for measures,-It is fully concluded and agreed upon, at the court here this day holder by consent of the said Richard Sherburne, captayne, and the rest of the officers present at this said court, that evry ferlet within the said Isle shall be made of the quantitic of thirtene pottels measured with wheate, stricken measure, evry pottel conteynynge thre wyne quarters, Chester measure, and that one ferlet and pottel to the like quntitie and proporcon shall be made and sealed to be kept within eyther of the castels, to the entent that from tyme to tyme the cuntry measures may be reformed and scaled as occasion shall require, and that by the said measures, barly, otes, and malte, shall be upheaped, and wheate, rye, pease, and fitches, and beans, to be stricken accordinge to the ancient custome of the Isle." "Constitution" (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi. p. 233. From Lib. Scacc) Butter was also sold by the "quart " of 21 lbs., and wool by the " quart " of 7 lbs. The Manx yard contained 37 inches.

9 Rotul.

10 Lib. Placit., 1582.

11 In England, the comptroller was one of three ancient officers of customs, the customer and the searcher being the others. The customer received the duties, the comptroller (contarotulator) enrolled payments at the custom house, while the searcher received from them the document authorising the landing of goods, which was termed a warrant. The document authorising exportation was called a corket or coquett, from the words at the end of the document, " quo quetus est ; coketus est" (S. Dowell, Hist. of Taxation and Taxes, p. 138).

12 Statutes, vol. i. p. 17.

13 Ibid., p. 36.

14 Ibid., p. 27.

15 For a description of the reception of a stranger about the middle of the seventeenth century, see Appendix A.

16 Statutes, vol. i. p. 27. Previously to 1502 they were chosen by the " Great Enquest," but, after that date, by the governor (see Rotul., 1502. Lib. Placit., 1581). Both they and the clerk were permitted by law to take fees from the stranger merchant (Statutes, vol. i. pp. 27-8).

17 There is a curious clause stating that " choice wine " was only to be sold to the "Lord, the Captain, the Bishop, the Abbot, and the Archdeacon " (Statutes, vol. i. p. 28).

18 This official received 2d. on every 20s. worth sold (Rotul., 1636).

19 Statutes, vol. i. p. 36.

20 In 1610, it was ordered by the governor and Council in order to prevent any evasion of these duties that no goods were to be shipped or landed " but after sun-rising or before sunset " (Lib. Scacc.).

21 Lib. Scacc.

22 Statutes, vol. i. p. 63. These were given in the form of " Orders " in 1594, but were probably only the republication of old customary laws.

23 Ibid., vol. i. p. 63.

24 Lib. Scacc.

25 See Book VII. 26 "Rotul." (Manx Note Book, vol. i, P. 63).

27 Douglas "is frequented by the French and other foreigners, who come hither with their bay salt, and buy up leather, coarse wooll, and salt Beef, to export with them " (Camden's " Britannia," Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 5).

28 In 1654, the Manx petitioned " the Honourable the Commissioners of the Revenues for the Province of Ulster ' to grant them a free trade for timber and other commodities' : and, consequently, the port of Strangford was opened to their boats" (Lib. Scacc.).

29 Order for shipping coals from Cumberland to the Isle of Man in 1637: " To our lovinge ffrend Henrie Skelton Esquire Deputie to the Coale frarmers at the porte of Carlile in Cumberland. These-after our hãrtie comendacons, Sc. These are to will and require you to demand and receive heareafter but the sume of VIs. per ton for 200 ton of coales to be transported out of your porte for the provicon of the Isle of Man from all such masters of Ships or Barques as shall be deputed under the hand of the Captaine of the Isle or under the hands of one of the Deemsters of the same to be transported for the said Island. But iff in any one yeare the transportacon for that place shall exceed 200 tonn then you are to take for all such Coales as shall exceede that number the summe of Vs. the Chalder as formerly and for see doing this shall bee your Warrante and so wee bidd you hartily (farewell and reste. Your lovinge ffrend." Signed by James, Lord Strange (Lib. Scacc).

30 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 37-40, Chaloner (Manx Soc. Vol. x. p. 52), and Blundell (Ibid. Vol. xxv. p. 83).

31 Manx Soc. Vol. iii. p. 23. By this he evidently meant external trade. No doubt Manx trade received a blow by the passage of the Navigation Act in 1651, which confined the carrying trade to and from England to English ships.

32 See under Revenue, 4, p. 314.

33 Manx Soc. vol. xxv. p. 82. If this was correct, Blundell's remark that they were the most thriving portion of the community needs no further proof. But the statement about the price seems inconsistent with the assertion of another contemporary writer that the old system of the four merchants bargaining with the " merchant stranger continued," by which " the people have by the faithfulnesse of their four merchants the full benefit of y the commodity brought in." (Chaloner, Manx Soc., vol. x. p. 54).

34 Blundell (Ibid. vol. xxv. p. 60).

35 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 105-6.

36 See Statutes, vol. i. pp. 81, 86-88, and 103-105, also Lib. Scacc. 1657-8 and 1660.

37 I.e., anticipating the market by buying goods before it took place.

38 I.e., buying to sell again in the same market. 39 Lib. Scacc.

40 Lib. Scacc. 1647.

41 Ibid., 1647. This order was repeated in 1657.

42 The years from 1643 to 1651 should, however, probably be excepted from this statement. Exports were called" outgates," and imports " ingates." In 1594 these were 22 9s. 10d. and 9 16s. 2d. respectively (seneschal's office).









s d

s d

s. d


s. d


5 5 9

1 .2 0

1 9 6

1 12.5

0 6 6


15 13 7

3 10 8

2 2 11

0 16 10

0 5 10


20 19 4

4 12 8

3 12 5

2 9 3

0 12 4

1597 (Ingates & outgates )

45 6 7

9 16 2


6 13 2

1 2 4


35 6 6

11 15 5


7 7 6

6 11 1


47 0 0

27 0 0

7 0 0


7 0 0


44 A gossip, according to an old Manx proverb, was said " to go about like a brewing-pan."

45 For a full description of the old Manx costume see Folklore of the Isle of Man,, pp. iv-v.

46 Statutes, vol. i. p. 53.

47 Parr's MS. See also Lib. Scacc. 1609, and Lib. Placit, 1611.

48 Blundell (Manx Soc. vol. xxv. p. 43). 49 Lib. Scacc.

50 Ibid. This demand also showed progress in refinement and taste, since the people of a former generation were usually satisfied with undressed cloth. See p. 315.


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