[from History of IoM, 1900]



§2. The Final Struggle with the State.


The final struggle between Church and State in Man, or, as it may be more accurately defined, between the Church, the Keys, and the great majority of the people on the one hand, and the Lord of the Isle, with his paid officials and a small minority of the people on the other, differs from previous struggles owing to the fact that the Keys, instead of being passive instruments in the power of the governor, were, except between 1727 and 1736, active adherents of the Church. And yet, notwithstanding this and the long-continued leadership of Bishop Wilson, who was a man of real ability and power, as well as goodness, the Church had ultimately to give way on all the principal points at issue. But, though defeated, so great was Bishop Wilson's influence on his contemporaries, and so large a part did he play in matters civil as well as ecclesiastical in the Isle of Man, that, during the greater part of his episcopate, his biography is practically the history of the time. 1

Thomas Wilson, who was born on the 20th of December, 1663, was the sixth child of Nathanael Wilson, a farmer, living at Barton in Cheshire, and of Alice his wife. He was educated at a school in Chester, and at the age of eighteen was entered at Trinity College, Dublin, where he took his degree in Arts in due course. He was ordained deacon, in 1686, at the cathedral church of Kildare, and was shortly afterwards licensed by the Bishop of Chester to be curate at Winwick, the parish of his uncle, Dr. Sherlock, in that diocese. In 1689, he was ordained priest. In 1692, he became tutor to Earl William's son, James, and, in the following year, the earl offered him the living of Baddesworth in Yorkshire, which he declined, because he had determined never to accept a living the duties of which he could not perform owing to non-residence. In November, 1697, the earl pressed him to accept the Bishopric of Man, which he at first declined ; but, after further persuasion, he gave way, and was consecrated at the Savoy church in London by the Archbishop of York, assisted by the Bishops of Chester and Norwich, on the 16th of the following January, having a few days previously been created a doctor of divinity by the Archbishop of Canterbury. Within a fortnight of his consecration, he was again offered Baddesworth, but he declined it on the same grounds as before. Early in April he started for his new diocese, being installed in its cathedral on the 11th of that month. We will now briefly consider the chief characteristics of his episcopate. One of the most important and interesting of these, and the one from which the bishop's troubles were mainly to arise, was the maintenance of ecclesiastical discipline in the Manx Church, at a period when that of the Church of England had practically ceased to be administered, and when the Church itself in that country was in a most unsatisfactory condition. It is with this that Bishop Wilson's name is inseparably connected, though, as will be seen, when the account of the discipline in his time has been compared with that administered by his predecessors of the seventeenth century, he did not increase its severity,2 but, on the contrary, endeavoured to mitigate it.3

With a view to the administration of discipline, and to the regulation of his Church generally, he laid, in 1704, his famous " Ecclesiastical Constitutions " 4 before the clergy, by whom they were signed, so that, in the words of the preamble, " We may not stand charged with the scandals which wicked men bring upon religion while they are admitted to and reputed members of Christ's Church; and that we may by all laudable means promote the conversion of sinners, and oblige men to submit to the discipline of the Gospel."5

The total number of the offences which came under the cognizance of the Ecclesiastical Court between 1698 and 1726, when the discipline was most active, was about the same as that of the previous thirty-eight years, but presentments for the non-observance of saints' days became less numerous, though at Convocation in 1708 a special order was made for their observance, while presentments for immorality were as common as ever, and those for drunkenness and swearing perhaps even more common. The punishments for these offences were generally less severe after 1698 than previously, and it may be mentioned with regard to the penalty of being dragged after a boat in the sea, which was inflicted on one wretched woman, that it was strictly in accordance with the law 6 and also that the use of the bridle was no innovation.6 In 1710, there occurred, for the first time, a difficulty in getting the churchwardens and chapter-quests to present offenders against the spiritual ordinances, but this seems to have been overcome, and a reference to the Records will show that the discipline was vigorously carried on without opposition till 1713, when its administrators came into collision with the official class, whose cordial support had hitherto been given to them.7 This collision arose out of the bishop's practice of mitigating the fines which from time to time were laid on offenders by the ecclesiastical courts, thus causing, as these fines were levied in usum domini, a reduction of the lord's revenue, which would not be acceptable to Lord Derby, who was already disappointed at the financial results of the Act of Settlement, and dissatisfied with the bargain the commissioners had then made for him. As the bishop had been the chief of the commissioners, and as he now declined to surrender his right of reducing the fines, Lord Derby gradually became alienated from him. The discipline was not, however, as yet actually interfered with, and so, in 1714, the bishop's charge at Convocation was mainly directed to the necessity of seeing that censures were properly performed, and that the offenders were not to be received "into the peace of the Church without their giving at least outward signs of repentance." On the same occasion he complained that cases of drunkenness were not presented, and he ordered that they were to be particularly enumerated among the offences for presentation.

At last, in 1716, the conflict between Church and State was precipitated by the action of an unfortunate woman, who declined to perform penance, and was consequently excommunicated. She appealed to the Lord of the Isle, and this appeal was allowed by the governor, though, according to the ordinance of 1636,8 the appeal in purely spiritual matters was to the metropolitan, the Archbishop of York. It might, however, have been objected that this ordinance was not legally binding as not being a statute, and that, in any case, it did not absolutely forbid appeals to the earl. The bishop, having been summoned to appear before Lord Derby for a hearing of this appeal, declined to do so, and was consequently fined £10; but he afterwards seems to have succeeded in showing the correctness of his view, for the fine was remitted. For four years after this, the bishop was left in peace, and he made use of his opportunity by insisting on the necessity of Church discipline at a time " when," according to him, " not only evil practices, but evil books and evil notions are become very common."

The governor then renewed his opposition to the discipline by refusing a soldier to take offenders who had been committed by the ecclesiastical court to prison; his next step, in June, 1721, was to imprison and fine the Rev. John Woods, episcopal registrar, for omitting to read a precept in church because it had not been seen by the bishop; and, finally, he summoned the bishop and his vicars-general to answer the following charges: " First, that the Ecclesiastical Court assume to themselves a power of hearing and determining causes in their Court contrary to the rules that the Statute Law of this Isle directs.9 . . . Secondly, that the Lord Bishop of this Isle calls a convocation, . . . at times and for causes that are not comprehended in the law for calling a convocation.10 . . . Thirdly, that the said Court have taken upon them to summon persons not within their jurisdiction, contrary to the known laws of this Isle." 11

The bishop and his vicars-general declined to answer the above summons until it was " determined by the 2 Deemsters and 24 Keys (the proper judges of such causes) whether it was legal and practicable for the attorney-general to bring such a charge against a whole Court, where no appeal had been made." 12 The governor and Council had, in the meantime, condemned them, on all the above counts, in their absence, and required them " to retract and cancel " 12 their late proceedings. They also refused their appeal to the House of Keys, stating that the attorney-general had acted " pursuant to his oath and office," and that " a complaint of this nature is not cognisable before the 24 Keys, but properly before the Right Honourable the Lord of this Isle, who is also Metropolitan and Chief of the Holy Church of this Island." The case was then dropped for a time. The storm was, however, soon to arise again, being originated by the governor's determination to prevent any of his household or the soldiers of the garrison submitting themselves to ecclesiastical authority. It would seem that a soldier had sinned in a way which would subject him to penance, and, though his misdeed had not been discovered, he submitted himself to this penalty voluntarily. For doing this he was tried by the comptroller and " the Jury of the house within the garrison of Castle Rushen," 13 by whom it was recommended that he should " receive such condign punishment . . . as his crime demerits." He was, consequently, imprisoned by the governor, and, after being kept in prison for fourteen days, was drummed out of the garrison. 14

Another case involving this question of jurisdiction, that of Archdeacon Horrobin, also arose at this time. The archdeacon, who was also the governor's chaplain, had, in October, 1721, excluded one of his congregation, a widow, from the sacrament because of some slanderous remarks made by the governor's wife against her. She appealed to the bishop, and demanded an investigation. This was granted, and, since the governor's wife could not prove her statements, the widow, having cleared herself of the charge upon oath with sufficient compurgators, according to Manx spiritual law, was permitted to take the sacrament, while the governor's wife was required to make an apology and ask forgiveness before being admitted to it. She not only declined to do this, but came to the sacrament, being admitted to it by the archdeacon. For this, and for some unorthodox doctrines 15, in his sermons, he was called to account by the bishop, and, since he failed to defend himself satisfactorily, he was suspended at Convocation in 1722. The archdeacon, instead of appealing to the Archbishop of York, threw himself into the hands of the governor, who now took up the case against the bishop and vicars-general with renewed vigour. His first step was to send them a copy of the decision in Bishop Phillips's time, 16 to the effect that the lord's or governor's household, officials, and soldiers were exempt from ecclesiastical jurisdiction.17 He next required them to "retract and cancel" their late proceedings against the archdeacon and Bridson ; and, finally, he closed the chapel at Castletown without any pretext whatever. The bishop and his coadjutors replied to this attack by delivering, to the governor at Tynwald a public protest, in which they denied his jurisdiction over them, and again demanded " to have the Deemsters and 24 Keys called to deem the law truly."

They were, however, unable to persuade any of the Council to record their protest, and the governor expressly denied the Archbishop of York's authority, declaring not only that the Earl of Derby was and should be metropolitan, but also that he, the said governor, would punish any person that should in any case presume to appeal to the archbishop. The Keys having then departed from the Tynwald without having been consulted, the governor and the Council proceeded to fine the bishop £50 and the vicars-general £20 each " for their contempt." This, being without the sanction of the House of Keys, was, of course, absolutely illegal. They refused to pay the fines, and were imprisoned 18 in Castle Rushen in June, 1722. This action all but caused a popular tumult, for the people " considered the bishop, and that very justly, not only as their faithful pastor and unwearied benefactor, but as the champion likewise of their political rights and liber ties." 19 The prisoners determined, by the advice of the Archbishop of York and others, to bring their case before the Privy Council. In doing so, they prayed for the king's order for their release, " they being ready to give security for the payment of the fines if the same shall be legal." 20 They asked also that their accusers should return their answer in writing, and that they should have free access to the insular Records to prepare their case. Their prayer was, after some delay, granted, and, the order for their relief having arrived, they were discharged after nine weeks' imprisonment. During the greater part of this time their letters and friends were kept from them, and they were treated with harshness in other respects. "The day of the bishop's release caused great jubilation throughout the island. . . . Never were there more sincere congratulations than were expressed on this occasion. Old and young, rich and poor, broke forth into acclamations of joy, and formed such a procession as had never before been witnessed." 21

His first step on his release was to collect the evidence for his case against Lord Derby, the governor, and the officers, which was not settled till July, 1724. This long delay was partly owing to the governor being unprepared with his documents, but partly also to the lagging steps of the law. At last, on the 4th of July in that year, the Privy Council met, and ordered that the " judgements or sentences given by the Governor, Council, and Deemsters of the Isle of Man on the 9th and 10th days of February 1721/2 be reversed and set aside, in regard they had no jurisdiction. And for that the order signed by the Governor as made at a Court of Tynwald the 25th day of June, 1722, was not an order of that Court ; that therefore the fines imposed by the said order upon the said Bishop and Vicars-general be restored to them." 22 The further petition of the bishop and vicars-general against the governor and officers for disrespect to the royal authority in their way of receiving the orders in Council was also adjudicated upon at the same time, it being decided that " such contempt " had been proved. The arrest of the governor, Horne, who had either resigned or had been dismissed in 1723, was ordered, but does not seem to have been carried out. The decision was thus, as far as it went, in favour of the bishop, but it must be remembered that the two principal points in dispute - the question of appeals from the ecclesiastical courts, whether they were to the lord or to the archbishop, and the liability of the earl's household and soldiers to Church censures-were left untouched, while the right of the ecclesiastical courts to the aid of the civil officers to enforce its decrees was not referred to.

It is interesting to find that, in a " Summary of Grievances " presented to Lord Derby in 1723 by a deputation from the House of Keys, redress was sought for the grievances of the Church, which included the points recently in dispute between the bishop and the governor, as well as for the grievances of the State.

Sympathies of the Manx with the bishop.

It is probable, therefore, that the sympathies of the country were with the bishop and his administration of Church discipline. The only apparent result of this protest was that Lord Derby sent a governor, Lloyd, who was even more hostile 23 to the Church than his predecessor, since he went so far as to give places as soldiers to those who had incurred Church censures. His governorship, however, came to an end early in 1725, 24 and, under the rule of the deputy-governors, Christian and Sandforth, there were symptoms of better relations between Church and State.25

Better relations between Church and State.

Thus, at the Tynwald, in July, 1725, the bishop was permitted to lay before the court the question as to whether or not his demand of a soldier from the garrisons to carry out ecclesiastical censures, which had recently been denied, was legal or not. The court decided this point in his favour, and the deputy-governors promised that its decision should be carried into effect in future. At this time, too, the chapel at Castletown was re-opened, the attempt to authorize publications in church without the bishop's consent was virtually abandoned, and the fine inflicted upon the Vicar of Malew was remitted.

Prospect of better relations spoiled by new Governor.

But, at the end of the same year, with the appointment of Governor Horton, " who was unfortunately most prejudiced against the Church, Churchmen in general, and in particular the laws and discipline of this Church," 26 this brief peaceful period came to an end. He brought with him a letter from Lord Derby, in which he claimed that the insular spiritual laws were abolished by the Act of 33 Henry VIII., by which the Isle of Man became part of the province of York-a claim which had not hitherto been heard of. It was, nevertheless, to be speedily put in force by the governor promptly quashing the recent decision granting soldiers to put in execution the orders of the ecclesiastical courts. This was naturally a great blow to the Church and to her discipline, because recusants could now set her censures at defiance. It would seem that for some time past the revision of the spiritual laws had been desired by the clergy as well as the laity.

Revision of spiritual laws suggested.

To this end, some of the Keys, with the concurrence of the bishop and clergy, had transmitted to Lord Derby, through the governor, a draft of certain amendments and alterations, and also a draft of an order to be signed by him, mitigating the severity of the execution of some of the spiritual laws until the revised code became law.

But Lord Derby suspends them

He signed the order accordingly, but, instead of doing as the House of Keys wished, he suspended the whole code until "it should be amended and revised by the Legislature." 27

Keys protest against this.

The Keys at once remonstrated against this order, pointing out that " the consideration of the Spiritual Customary Laws will take some time before they can be concluded upon and published," 28 and " that, if a suspension or stop shall be put to the execution of the said Customary Laws . . . till other be substituted in their stead, the ecclesiastical jurisdiction will for so long a time . . . be in great measure, if not entirely, at a stand; no debts can be recovered, nor the people, so far as depends on these courts, be secure in body, goods, or fame, and an encouragement will unavoidably ensue to all vice and immorality, which of late is but too notorious among us." 28 They concluded with requesting that " this our representation may be recorded, and a copy thereof transmitted with all convenient speed to our Right Honourable Lord."29

This very reasonable request was refused by the governor, and so the Church and the civil government were once again at open war.

The contest continues.

The governor then (1727) took the extraordinary step of depriving the sumner-general, who had been appointed by the bishop in 1712, of his office, and appointing another in his place. 30 The bishop thereupon remonstrated at the Tynwald Court, and asked " that the two deemsters and twenty-four keys " might " deem the law truly " on this point. No notice was taken of this request, and the governor and the lay members of the Council departed from Tynwald before the bishop could get an opportunity of laying his grievance before the court.

Question referred to Privy Council.

The bishop consequently sent a memorial to Lord Derby, and the House of Keys also forwarded a petition to him. Lord Derby, however, refused all redress, and so the House of Keys appealed to the king in Council. Their petition was referred to Lord Derby„ who asked the governor and his officers to report upon it. They accordingly prepared a draft § of their view of the case to be laid before the Privy Council.

Governor and council state their case.

In this they stated that "many of the clergy of the . . . isle . . . have, against the ties of gratitude and allegiance, been for several years last past very active and restless in opposing the civil government . . . and in exalting the ecclesiastical power in opposition to it." That " the arbitrary practice and proceedings of the Spiritual Courts . . . are carried on and exercised to the great destruction and ruin of numbers of families there; " and that the power thus " arrogated by the Bishop and clergy " is " utterly destructive of and inconsistent with the liberties and properties of the inhabitants, and with the Protestant religion itself." They added that the assistance of soldiers claimed by the ecclesiastical court had been abused by their having sent " the poor people " to prison " on sundry trifling occasions," and that, " as the appeal to York was too expensive, though it was the only way of the said poor people being released from prison," the governor, " to prevent the rights and liberties of the people . . . from being overturned and destroyed by such pretended Church power," had refused the aid of the soldiers. They further stated that the spiritual customary laws were " only divers absurd arbitrary pretended practices, devised, contrived, and from time to time made use of by such clergy as were officers of the ecclesiastical court at their own pleasure, and never received or had any sanction or authority, consent or allowance of the lord or legislature of the said island ; " 33 and that " the temporal laws of the said Isle are sufficient, and the only proper national security for body, goods and fame of every subject."

Nothing more heard of the case.

Nothing more, however, was heard of the case on either side, possibly on e account of the want of funds on the part of the appellants. Thus were the administrators of the discipline subjected to a series of rebuffs which were approved of by Lord Derby, who took the extreme step of reulitting an excommunication, and the governor caused his order to this effect to be published in Kirk Braddan, notwithstanding the bishop's protests.

The discipline began to fail.

It was, indeed, clear by this time that the discipline, as far as moral offences at least were concerned, was failing, and the governor further undermined its authority and received assistance in his attacks upon it by nominating members of the House of Keys who were subservient to him.34

The chapter courts, however, still continued to be held, and, though it seems from the ecclesiastical records that there were often no presentments, some few offenders were still censured, and underwent penance.

Nature of presentments.

It appears, also, that voluntary submissions to penance became more numerous than formerly, which shows that the system still met with approval.

Convictions for robbery.

Between 1726 and 1736 there had been several convictions for robbery, previously a rare crime in the island, and smuggling was becoming the chief business of its inhabitants. Against these offences, the bishop fulminated in a pastoral letter to his clergy, and he asserted in his Episcopalia that " this surpassing growth of wickedness" 35 was due "to the great contempt that of late has been put upon the discipline of the Church." 36 But the advent of the Atholl regime in 1736 brought some relief to the Church, because the ecclesiastical laws, instead of being abrogated, were reformed by legislation in a way which was probably in conformity with public opinion. 37

The result of this legislation seems to have been that the number of ordinary disciplinary cases decreased, and that there was a marked absence of disputes between the civil and ecclesiastical courts.38 It, in fact, brought the struggle between Church and State to an end.

There was, however, another cause for the decadence of the discipline and of all spiritual life, viz., the pursuit of smuggling, which still continued to increase. From the demoralization this caused, and from the uncertainty about the Impropriate Fund, 39 arose a difficulty in obtaining suitable men to take Holy Orders, and so hard pressed was the bishop in this respect, that we find him getting leave from the Archbishop of York to ordain before the usual age. The men thus introduced were frequently very unsatisfactory, and there was, consequently, a great increase of censures on clergymen, as well as numerous exhortations to them from the bishop.

In his later days, the bishop continued to be as earnest as ever about the administration of the discipline. Thus, in 1749, he asked the clergy " to be very serious and earnest in their public and private admonitions of persons under Church censures; " and he ordered that " the presentments of every circuit may be laid before him before the censures are sent out." But it was all in vain. The presentments became fewer, and the penalties inflicted fewer still and much lighter in character, seldom exceeding an admonishment. This was partly due, doubtless, to the failing health of the bishop, but also to the spirit of the time.

To our brief survey of the administration of the discipline as it appears in the Records, we may add the evidence of a contemporary and alien witness (resident in the island from 1720 to 1730) 40 who remarks that the laws were put into execution by the ecclesiastical courts with severity, and that the clergy held " a kind of tyrannical jurisdiction over the Manks people, in spite of the temporal power, which is continually endeavouring to abate the rigour of it, but in vain: for these spiritual masters are, in a manner, idolized by the natives, and they take care to maintain their authority by keeping the laity in the most miserable ignorance." 41 He also states that the discipline was " perpetually dinn'd into the ears of the laity," that they were under " the indispensable obligation of submitting to it," 42 and that "the abject creatures are drove to prison like sheep to a fold, and from thence to publick penance, as quietly as those beasts are to the slaughter; deterred, on the one hand, from murmuring, by the threatenings of severer punishments and persuaded, on the other, that patient submission to the inflictors is the supremest merit in the eyes of heaven." 43 He declares, too, that the methods taken by the Church to prevent fornication have not been successful, and that the custom of purging or swearing innocence leads to perjury.43

It is not, however, difficult to show that this indictment is an exaggeration. If the jurisdiction of the bishop and clergy had really been so tyrannical as he states, it would have alienated the people from them, whereas it is clear that the bishop, in particular, was most popular; and the statement that the people were kept in ignorance is sufficiently disposed of by referring to the account given of the bishop's constant endeavours to promote education by establishing schools and libraries in every parish. 44

Let us now enquire how the Manx Church, under Bishop Wilson, provided for the religious needs of the people, and compelled them to conform to her ordinances as to services, &c. On reference to the canons of February, 1704, 45 we find that some of them regulated the services of the Church, especially Confirmation and the Holy Communion; and that they enjoined the duty of catechizings, which was also constantly referred to in the bishop's Convocation charges. As late as 1747, he insisted more strongly than ever " upon the duty and necessity of catechizing in the Church," which, he remarks, is "bound upon us as strictly as laws, and canons, and conscience can oblige any minister of God; " and, at the saiue time, he referred to the schools, which he had established in each parish, as the places where this good work should be carried on. He also thanked the clergy who had " broke through a bad custom of having the Lord's Supper administered in country parishes only three times a year," and called attention to the desirability of observing " the rubric which requires such as intend to receive to give in ' their names the week before." Some years before this, he had issued an order to all the clergy to observe strictly the rubric for the office of Public Baptism, and to take care that the whole Morning or Evening Service be read "whenever any child shall be baptized on any other day besides Sundays or holy days, lest the Holy Sacrament of Baptism degenerate into a formal ceremony. Confirmation was also the subject of a charge at Convocation (in 1738), it being ordered " that the names of all persons confirmed shall for the future be recorded in the Church Registries." This was a matter of some importance, as no unconfirmed person could then be admitted to be married without a special dispensation.

Observance of Sundays and saints' days.

There were frequent regulations, too, for enforcing due attendance at church both on Sundays and Saints' days. Thus, at Convocation in 1716, it was ordered "that there be particular care taken that the parishioners duly attend evening prayer," and "that those families & other persons who are notorious for absenting from Divine Service on the Holy days and solemn Feasts of the Church, be reproved by the rector or vicar. And if afterwards they continue obstinate, they are to be presented & censured." And, on a similar occasion, the following notice was issued : "Forasmuch as a late indulgence in relation to holidays has been shamefully abused; it is ordered that for the future all the Festivals and solemn Feasts of the Church shall be religiously and strictly observed by all persons within this diocese, according to the ancient and laudable custom of this church, by attending God's public worship, and abstaining from work on those days."

Negligence in method of conducting service.

A very strong admonition was, at the _same time, issued against fishing on Sunday. The clergy, too, had their share of admonition, for the bishop commented on the negligence and irregularity of some of them reading " the service of the Church after an hasty, careless, and indecent manner," and on the " notorious indecency of the clerks hurrying the responses, and psalms, and hymns as fast as ever they can clatter them over," by which they " lead the people into the same error."

Bishop's remarks on preaching.

With reference to preaching, he made the following preg nant remarks: " As to sermons, I am confident that a good deal may be done towards hindering the growing sins of these times, if all the clergy would but seriously lay to heart the real and present necessities of their own people, and speak to them after a plain and affecting manner, and not make their sermons harangues and their own particular fancy."

Younger clergy to read homilies.

But many of his younger clergy were not capable of preaching, and, therefore, he ordered that " the curates of vacant livings, being deacons, shall for the future on the Lord's day at Morning Service plainly, distinctly, and audibly read one of the Homilies of the Church, standing in the reading desk." What the result of these regulations was, we learn from Bishop Hildesley, who wrote, in 1755 : " Never did I see more justice done to our excellent Liturgy in any place than in the congregations of this Isle, whether it be in Manks or English, the responses were duly made, and the directions of the rubric punctually and regularly attended to, in kneeling and rising in proper time and place;" 46 and, in 1762, " the adult natives, to a man, I think I may say, are conformists of the established communion of the Church of England ; and so exact and punctual, for the most part, in their attendance on the public offices of divine worship, and especially at the sacrament (there being no less than six hundred at the communion in a country parish church at Easter), that there is little or no occasion for presentments on this head." 47

Another subject which received much attention from the bishop was that of parochial organization. Thus each rector or vicar was advised to keep books with " a particular register of every family in his parish, with the times he visited them, in what state be found them, and what hopes he had of reforming what he found amiss in them." As a further means of increasing their knowledge of their respective parishes, he promoted the observance of the old custom of perambulating the boundaries, and he provided them with a form of service to be read when doing so.48 He also enjoined upon them the necessity of maintaining the churches, parsonages, schools, and parochial libraries in good order, and of attending to the regular keeping of the registers. Another notable point in Bishop Wilson's episcopate was his earnest care for the promotion of education.".49 In 1706, he was able to devote a considerable sum to educational purposes, because, in that year, he received orders from the trustees of the "Academic Fund," who then had more than £1,200 in their hands, to invest £650 for increasing the salary of the academic master at Castletown, to spend £250 on a grammar school in Douglas, and, with the remainder, to liquidate certain outstanding claims. This grammar school in Douglas, which had for long been greatly needed, since the population of that town was rapidly increasing, was placed under the charge of the chaplain of the new chapel dedicated to St. Matthew, which was built at that time. The academic school at Castletown was now established in the old chapel, the grammar school being carried on in the same building and tinder the same headmaster. The parochial schools, other than those which received the " Royal Bounty," 50 also gained large additions to their endowments, chiefly through the charity of Lady Elizabeth Hastings. 51 The bishop was thus enabled to relieve the clergy of their teaching duties by appointing masters or mistresses to take charge of the schools. These teachers were, in the terms of their licences, " to instruct the children in learning and good manners," to " be diligent in teaching them the Church Catechism and their prayers," and to " bring them up in the fear of God." But, though the clergy were relieved of their teaching duties, they were still required to visit the schools frequently, and, at Michaelmas and Lady-day, to return to the bishop the number of scholars, the books they read, and their proficiency. More advanced education also benefited at this time by private benefaction. Thus, the grammar school at Peel, founded in 1746, was the gift of a private donor, who endowed it with a sum of £500, in order that, in the words of his will, the income should be paid " unto a proper schoolmaster qualified to teach Latin, and such other learning as may fit youth for the service of the country in Church or in State.52

While providing for the young, the bishop did not neglect the needs of those beyond school age. To this end, he carried out a project for founding public libraries in every parish throughout the island, and he tried to ensure their being cared for by obtaining an Act of Tynwald, which made the rectors and vicars of each parish accountable for the books. 53

As a further means of educating and edifying his people, he published various religious books in the Manx language, as well as the Gospel of St. 1LTatthew. This last is said to have been translated by him and his vicars-general when confined in Castle Rushen in 1722,54 but it was not published till 1746. Before his death, the Gospels of SS. Mark, Luke, and John, and the Acts of the Apostles had also been translated, though not published. It certainly seems strange that, with all his zeal, not only for the education, but also for the spiritual welfare of his flock, Bishop Wilson did not undertake the translation of the Bible and Prayer Book into Manx, especially seeing that two-thirds of the people spoke no other language.

The next point we may notice is the energy in church building and restoration displayed during this period, but space will only permit us to do so very briefly. Castletown chapel, in 1698, and St. John's chapel, in 1709-, were built mainly from the funds which had accumulated during the vacancy of the see. Lezayre church was also built in 1704, St. Catherine's chapel, Ballure, in 1706, and St. Matthew's chapel, Douglas, in 1708, and Kirk Patrick, in 1710. In 1717, an addition was made to Ballaugh church ; in 1733, a church was built at Lonan ; in 1745, a chapel was built near Ramsey on the site of Bishop Parre's old building; and, in 1747, Malew church was thoroughly repaired. In addition to this church building, rectory and vicarage houses were built or repaired in nearly every parish in the island. They were, indeed, greatly needed, since it appears by the Glebe Houses Act of 1734, that " several of the vicarages and one of the Rectorys now and for some ages past have not had Houses upon them . . . some others being in a ruinous Condition." 55 It was, therefore, enacted that a rector or vicar building a house on his glebe land was to receive two-thirds of his expenditure from his successor, and the successor was to receive one-third of original expenditure from the next incumbent. Each incumbent was to be responsible to his successor for dilapidations. Several new glebes were added by the bishop's exertions.

The style of Bishop Wilson's church building is favourably commented upon by a recent critic, who says that he " quite caught the old spirit of Manx churches," and that " he was faithful to the type, and preserved it, in all instances."56

It should be recorded, that, on his arrival in the island, he found Bishop's Court for the most part in ruins, and its farm in a state of utter neglect. He rebuilt the house and planted numerous trees, which now add so greatly to the beauty of the grounds, while he improved the farm so successfully that it soon greatly increased in value.

Among other important questions which arose at this period was that of Church dues. Bishop Wilson, a strict upholder of the Church in all things, consistently insisted on the payment of her dues. Though corbes had not been regularly paid for some time past, he decided, at a Convocation held at Kirk Michael in 1712, that " Corse presents " were " due by the law . . . without controversie," the persons committed for not paying them having pleaded that they thought they were obsolete. It was ordered, at the same time, that the widows of the clergy should pay to their husbands' successors " ten shillings by way of corbes to be laid out for their use in books at the discretion of the Ordinary."57

At the same Convocation, it having been noticed that for five or six years past much of the land had been planted with potatoes, and so withdrawn (as was supposed) from being tithable, 58 an order was made that all persons should " give a just account and proportion of their potatoes unto the rector, vicar, or proctor of their respective parishes, as of any other tithe growing or produced off or from the earth: the tithe-owners and agents to take care that no prejudice do accrue to the Church by their neglect in this matter." This decree was received quietly enough at the time, but more than a century later, as we shall see, it was a cause of considerable commotion. At this time, too, there arose a tithe question between the abbey tenants and the clergy. It would seem that no composition had been made in the Act of Settlement for the tithes of the abbey demesnes made over by Earl Charles, but that they were left to be paid in kind, which arrangement, the abbey tenants complained, put them in a worse position than the other tenants, and, therefore, some of them proposed " that the Clergy should take one-half the Lord's rent instead of full tithes." This was agreed to by the clergy, but only a portion of the tenants would pay in this way, while some continued to pay in kind, and the rest refused to pay at all. A good deal of trouble was thereby caused for some time. The malcontents, however, gradually admitted the clergy's claim. There were also troubles with those who claimed to be free from tithe by prescription.59 Another question, which had given trouble before this period, and was not to be settled for some time after it, was that of the tithe of fish. The fish when landed were divided into five portions, and then the proctor chose the clergy's share, which was one-fifth. There were constant grumblings at this exaction, and numerous pleas for exemption on the score of prescription. The clergy, nevertheless, continued to get the tithe, though it led to much ill-will between them and the fishermen.60 And yet, in spite of these difficulties, the attitude of the people towards the Church, according to Bishop Wilson, was, on the whole, a favourable one.61

Let us now briefly enquire into the character and condition of the clergy at this period. Something will have been learned about them from what has been already stated, and to this the testimony of Waldron, which applies to the period before 1730, and of Bishop Hildesley, who was probably better acquainted with the latter period, may be added.

Waldron, whose account is, however, clearly much too unfavourable, considers them to be, on the whole, very ignorant; he remarks that " they look and inove and speak as if they knew themselves to be of a different species from their hearers," and he finally disposes of them by the comprehensive statement that they were " evil ministers " ; 62 while, though the clergy of Bishop Wilson's latter days were certainly inferior to those of his earlier, Bishop Hildesley speaks of them as " in general a very sensible, regular, decent set of men almost without exception." 63 Our own impression, derived from private letters of the time and from memoranda in the Records, is, that they were neither evil,64 nor, except in some cases after 1736, ignorant. The two leading men amongst them, William Walker 65 (born 1679, died 1729) and Phillip Moore 66 (born 1705, died 1783), were able and well-educated men. The former was Bishop Wilson's chief companion and friend during the first part of his episcopate, and the latter held the same position during the last part of it.

As to the incomes of the clergy, the bishop writes: " The livings are generally small. The two parsonages are indeed worth near sixty pounds a year, but the vicarages, the Royal Bounty included, are not worth above twenty-five pounds; with which, notwithstanding, the frugal clergy have maintained themselves, and sometimes pretty numerous families, very decently."67

The bishop's own income was less than £300 a year at his accession, but it improved so rapidly under his good management that thirty years later its amount was £400. It arose " from a demesne, some lands in lease, and appropriations, with the advowsons of Kirk German, Kirk Braddan, -Kirk Jurby, two-thirds of Kirk Patrick, and one-third of some other parishes." 68

A very brief survey of the various doctrinal questions which arose during this period, 69 will suffice. In 1718, a complaint was made to the bishop that two of his clergy, William Ross and Alexander Macon, masters of the Academy at Castletown, had " advanced some opinions which savour of Popery." He therefore required them to meet him and the rest of the clergy that they might know what they had to say to this charge. They consequently prepared a written defence, after consideration of which, the bishop and clergy pronounced " that there is no reason, to us appearing or known, to charge them with Popery, or even of being Popishly affected." On this Keble comments that, "considering the defendants' position, one cannot doubt that in the main their teaching harmonized with Bishop Wilson's, and that he must be counted (so far) among the most exclusive of 'High Churchmen' of the day."70

This view receives some confirmation from Waldron's complaint of the toleration of " Papists " by the bishop and clergy, and from his statement that the chief subject of their sermons was "the power of the Priesthood, and the Discipline of the Church." 71 This power, he remarks, " is, indeed, their cornerstone, the foundation on which the stupendous structure is erected to such a gigantic and formidable heighth, most certainly framed after the model set before them by their grand masters, the Romish clergy." 72

It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary to mention that the bishop held the strongest views against anything that savoured of freethinking. As instances of this we may quote his denunciation of a book of this tendency, called The Independent Whig, which had been introduced into his diocese, as " most pestilent " ; his speaking of the " spirit of profaneness, libertinism, and heresy" that was abroad, and his warning to his clergy that there never was more need than now of taking "heed to ourselves and to the flock over which the Holy Ghost has made us overseers."

We may note that he provided special prayers from time to time, as the occasion arose. One of these occasions was during the wet harvest of 1708, which, in the bishop's words, "may too likely be attended with sickness and scarcity of bread unless God in mercy hinder it." He therefore issued a suitable form of prayer to be used, "until it shall please God to send us more seasonable weather." Not only did be thus provide prayers for special occasions, but for special needs. The most interesting of these is the " Form of Prayer to be used by those clergy who attend the Boats in the HerringFishery"; and he also ordered the following petition to be inserted "in the publick services of the Church," 74 viz., "That it may please Thee to give and preserve to our use the kindly fruits of the earth, and to restore and continue to us the Blessings of the Seas, so as in due time we may enjoy them." The expression "restore and continue" refers to the comparative failure of the annual shoal of herrings, which had been a trouble to the island for many seasons. The old custom of the clergy attending the boats of the herring-fleet every evening before they put out to sea, to pray with the fishermen and so to let them start with a blessing, was, at the same time, ordered to be continued. He also drew up forms for consecrating churches, chapels, and churchyards, 75 for receiving penitents and excommunicated persons back into the Church, and for a service to be read when perambulating parish boundaries; and he composed a prayer for persons performing penance.

In conclusion, we must now touch upon the character of Bishop Wilson, as shown in his life and works. To do this adequately is beyond our powers, and we therefore confine ourselves to giving the testimony of others, so that from them, and from the account of his episcopate in the preceding pages, our readers may be able to form their own estimate. His contemporary, Waldron, could not withhold from " the amiable qualities which adorn the character " of the bishop their due weed of praise, stating that he was " in his own nature what our blessed Saviour recommends, mild, humble, tender, compassionate, and forgiving; " and concluding that " the abundant charities he bestows, and which are too well known not to have reached wherever this treatise will arrive, are better testimonials of him than the words of any author." 76 His charities were indeed extraordinary. As early as 1693, he dedicated one-fifth of his income " for pious uses and particularly for the poor." 77 After he came to Man, he rapidly increased this proportion, till at length he gave away more than half his income. Our next evidence about him is from the Rev. Philip Moore, who knew him intimately " He was an honour to humanity, and added dignity to the nature of man. He gave the world a living example of the divine power and efficacy of Christianity, of which his whole life was a most lively transcript. He was a person whose integrity was inflexible, his holiness pure, and his piety fervent; of admirable probity and simplicity of manners; of a most engaging behaviour, affability, and sweetness of temper. His piety, beneficence, and charity will be remembered and recorded by the people of this Isle, with gratitude and affection, to the re motest generations. In his private conversation he was agreeable and entertaining, lively and facetious without levity; and always consistent with the dignity of his character; never at a loss for something pertinent and proper to illustrate his discourse; on these occasions nothing ever proceeded from his mouth but what was good, to the use of edifying, and ministered not only grace, but also pleasure and delight to the hearers."78

Then, in order of date, comes the evidence of Butler, Bishop Hildesley's biographer, who says " He was eminently distinguished for the great sanctity and rectitude of his life, no less than for his benevolence, hospitality, and unremitting attention to the wants and happiness of the people entrusted to his guardian care. He encouraged agriculture . . . established schools ... and founded parochial libraries. . . . His virtues were, in short, so numerous, so amply displayed, that he approved himself in every sense an inestimable blessing to the Isle of Mann, and an ornament to human nature. Venerable in his aspect, meek in all his deportment, his face illumined with true Christian mildness, and his heart glowing with godlike philanthropy, he went about, like his Divine Master, doing good."79

As to his literary work, we have the following evidence from competent observers: "His sermons are the affectionate addresses of a parent to his children ; descending to the minutest particulars, and adapted to all their wants." 80 " His writings," says Dr. Beattie, " are an inexhaustible as well as an inestimable treasure of virtue and piety. When I think of what he has done, as well as what he has written, I am struck with astonishment and rapture; for I cannot help considering him one of the greatest and best characters that has done honour to human nature since the apostolick age." 81 " To think on Bishop Wilson with veneration is only," says Dr. Johnson, " to agree with the whole Christian world. I hope to look into his books with other purposes than those of criticism; and, after their perusal, not only to write, but to live better." 82

Bishop Wilson died on March 7, 1755, in the ninety-third year of his age, and the fifty-eighth of his consecration, and was buried at Kirk Michael. He had been offered translation, but declined, saying, " I will not leave my wife in my old age because she is poor." 83


1 For full particulars about this great and good man we refer our readers to his biographers, Cruttwell, Stowell, and Keble. From the two volumes written by the latter, and published by the Parker Society, much of the information given in this chapter is derived, and is frequently quoted without reference. The writer has, however, also referred to the insular ecclesiastical records during this period, but has found very little that Keble does not mention.

2 See Sodor and Man, ch. v. pp. 120-123, and 148-50, and ch. vi. pp. 171-4 and 188-9. The truth of this statement can, however, be only fully appreciated by any one who has carefully studied the Ecclesiastical Records.

3 According to Waldron (Manx Soc., vol. xi. p. 26), " long and uninterrupted custom has made the spiritual court of such an arbitrary authority, that should he (the bishop) derogate from it, he would be in great danger of public opposition as well as private hatred from the whole body of the inferior clergy; he may therefore be said rather to comply with it than approve of it."

4 Statutes, pp. 155-9, or Sodor and Man, pp. 189-91.

5 Statutes, vol. i. p. 155.

6 See Sodor and Man, pp. 108-9. '

7 As proof of this, we may note that all appeals from the Church Courts to the Staff of Government had been dismissed, and that a " receiver " who had been accused of embezzlement and perjury was handed over to the Church to be tried for the latter offence.

8 The governor based his opinion upon the letter of Edward Fletcher in 1627, and the agreement of the vicars-general with it, while the bishop relied on the Act of 1542, Earl James's letter of 1628, and the ordinance of 1636. See p. 358 and Sodor and Man, chap. v. pp. 99, 123-6; also, for decision of 1677, ibid., pp. 183-4.

9 The principal case alleged was that of Bridson, Vicar of Marown, who had been suspended by the vicars-general for calumny against the bishop.

10 The last Convocation had been in August instead of at Whitsuntide.

11 This refers to the question of the jurisdiction over the garrisons, and especially to Horrobin's case. See pp. 493-5.

12 Note by Bishop Wilson in episcopal register.

13 This seems to have been a sort of standing court-martial.

14 " The Lord's claim," says Keble, " corresponds with Henry the II's quarrel against Becket for presuming to excommunicate the King's tenants; and the Bishop's summoning his synod at will was the prerogative of which the other Henry, in the sixteenth century, showed himself so jealous, and which he so effectually extinguished " (p. 465).

15 He appears to have said that "great and good actions, wherever found, were sufficient to obtain the rewards of another life," and that " a man may be saved in any religion if he live well " (Keble, pp. 425-6).

16 See Sodor and Man, p. 123.

17 It would seem that the recent practice, if not the ecelesias-tital law, as regards exemption from Church censures, was in accordance with the governor's view, though the general practice, during the seventeenth century at least, told in the bishop's favour.

18 The window of his cell, from which he is said to have given his blessing to the people who flocked from all parts of the island to receive it, is shown to this day. It was usual, as noted by Bishop Hildesley, for the people " upon meeting their diocesan to kneel down on one knee and ask his blessing " (Memoirs, p. 98).

19 Keble, p. 519.

20 Ibid., p. 529.

21 Stowell, p. 177.

22 Ecclesiastical Records.

23 According to his own account, however, he proposed to deal with Bishop Wilson's party by crafty methods, since, in March, 1724, he wrote to Lord Derby: " It was impossible for me to do your Lordship any service by falling into the methods of the late Governor without wadgeing a war with a whole country, and that too upon a very weak and sandy foundation. . . . This, my Lord, oblidges me to make use of the ffox his tail and not the Lyon's skin. And iff after all I cant from hence gather any Holly into your Lordship's Hive, I shall with the utmost indignation detest and abhor them." In reply to this Lord Derby writes: " I would never make use of foulc means till I find fare will not do " (Loose Papers. Knowsley). 24 He is said to have been dismissed for drunkenness.

25 We may note that Archdeacon Horrobin had submitted to the bishop and had been restored to his benefice.

26 Bishop Wilson (MS. letter).

27:An order was issued for such revision by Lord Derby on the 8th of April, 1726, but no steps were taken to carry it out. In this order it is stated that the spiritual laws had not been confirmed by Tynwald in 1577 (Episcopal Registry).

28 Keble, pp. 673-4.

29 Keble, p. 674.

30 Only one case is on record before 1727 of this officer being appointed by the lord (see p. 359), but after that date he was invariably appointed by him. (See Keble, pp. 697-702.)

31 It formed part of the general petition (see pp. 784-5). 32 It is not known whether it was presented or not.

33 This is an incorrect statement (see pp. 842-3).

34 See p. 786.

35 Keeble, p. 773.

36 Keble, p. 773.

37 See p. 860.

38 In 1748, a new scale of fees for spiritual officers was fixed (Statutes, vol. i. p. 253).

39 See pp. 465-8.

40 George Waldron, who was employed by the British Government to report on the import and export trade.

41 Manx Soc., vol. xi, p. 16.

42 Ibid., p. 21.

43 Manx Soc., vol. xi. p. 21.

44- See Sodor and Man., pp. 216-17. 45 Statutes, Vol. i. pp. 156-8.

46 Manx Church Magazine, vol. i. p. cxiv.

47 Hildesley's Memoirs, p. 419.

48 See Folklore of the Isle of Man, pp. 114-117.

49 See his Ecclesiastical Constitutions (Statutes, vol. i. p. 158).

50 See p. 468.

51 These schools now get about £4 4s. each annually front this source. For full particulars see Isle of Man Charities, pp. 40-2. See the same for other charitable bequests, among which the most valuable was the clergy's " Widows and Orphans Fund," initiated in 1730, at the suggestion of Dr. Thomas Wilson, the bishop's son (pp. 45-50).

52 Isle of Man Charities, p. 60.

53 Statutes, vol. i. p. 208.

54 Hildesley's Memoirs, p. 42.

55 Statutes, vol. i. p. 208. This was repealed by the " Ecclesiastical Residences and Dilapidations " Act, 1879, by which money may be borrowed by incumbents to improve their residences. This money to be paid off in thirty years, and the apportionment of payment between an outgoing incumbent and his successor to be "in such proportions as they shall be respectively entitled to receive the profits of the benefice for the year in which such avoidance may happen " (Statutes, vol. v. p. 19).

56 Neale, p. 34,

57 Repealed by the "Glebe Houses " Act of 1734, which did away with corbes payable to the clergy from their predecessors (Statutes, vol. i. p. 209).

58 Only what was cut from the ground being. according to an old customary law, tithable.

59 A notable case of a surrender of a tithe held by prescription in 1715 is recorded in the Manx Church, Magazine, p. cxix.

60 In 1711, there was an appeal against this tithe by the fishermen, but it was decided in favour of the clergy.

61 Manx Soc., vol. xviii, p. 98.

62 Manx Soc., vol. xi. p. 25.

63 Memoirs, p. 419.

64 With one or two notorious exceptions.

65 For brief biography see Manx Note Book, vol. i. pp. 90-97. 66 Ibid, vol. i. pp. 136-41, and vol. ii. pp. 31-6.

67 Wilson (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 111).

68 Browne Willis (Ibid., vol. xviii. pp. 130-1), i.e., one-third of the tithes of every other parish, except Andreas and Alalew. 69 See also Horrobin's case, p. 494.

70 Keble, p. 387.

71 Manx Soc. vol. xi. pp. 20-1.

72 Ibid., p. 24.

73 But this account is probably an exaggerated one. Bridson, Vicar of Marown, one of Bishop Wilson's opponents, wrote, in March, 1724, that " Popish Mass is frequently said at Duglas " (Loose Papers. Knowsley).

74 I.e., in the Litany.

75 Cruttwell, vol. i. pp. cxliii-cxlvi.

76 Manx Soc., vol. xi. p. 26.

77 Keble, p. 63.

78 Cruttwell, pp. xxiv-v.

79 Hildesley's Memoirs, p. 15.

80 Ibid., p. 314 (Bishop Horne).

81 Ibid., pp. 314-15.

82 Ibid., p. 315. 83 Keble, p. 767.



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