[from History of IoM, 1900]

Chapter II



THE Ecclesiastical Constitution of the Isle of Man is, at the present day, in nearly all respects which differentiate it from the ecclesiastical constitution of England, obsolete. We, therefore, while indicating what parts of it are still in active operation, write about most of it in the past tense.

There is little definite information about it before the re-organization of the Manx Church on a post-reformation basis, which probably took place when its spiritual statutes were committed to writing.

This, as we learn from contemporary evidence,1 was done about the year 1610,2 not in 1577, as stated in the Statute Book. Some idea of the constitution of the reformed Church may be most conveniently obtained from an analysis of the " spiritual laws," including those which, although, for the most part, probably administered at this period, were not ratified by the Legislature till 1667. These, together with the laws of 1610, make in all 145 " breast " laws, or judicial dicta recorded for the guidance of the courts. 3 A large portion of these laws is concerned with the clergy’s powers. The powers and privileges of the bishop, to take him first, were very considerable.

Powers and priveleges of the Bishop.

As Baron 4 of the Isle 5 he held his own court ; he had, and has, a seat in the Council, ranking next to the governor, and he is the supreme administrator of the spiritual laws. He has the privilege of appointing two vicars-general, and he has the patronage of four of the ancient vicarages, viz., Braddan, German, Patrick, and Jurby. When he has the right to present to an incumbency, and does not do so within six months from the Easter next following the avoidance, the right of presentation falls to the Crown. If a minister commit any heinous fault, he may be suspended and proceeded against by him, with the advice of the clergy. He had his herring scout and fishing-boat tithe free, and he received the following fees : For every citation sixpence, for every " suspencion " eighteen-pence, and for excommunication two shillings and sixpence ; " also, when any great offence is worthy excommunication, then the ordinary hath been used to take for the Excommunication, Absolucion, and receiving all such persons into the Church again ten shillings." He also received one penny for the name of each fornicator presented by the chapter-quest. For probate, his fee was, by the decision of the Commission of 1532, limited to sixpence, or, for a poor man, to twopence.

Of the archdeacon and vicars-general.

The archdeacon, or his official acting as his substitute, also held courts, in which, excepting the episcopal causes,6 he had the same jurisdiction as the bishop ; 7 he had, and has, a seat in the Councîl and had the right to his herring scout and fishing-boat without paying any tithes. The vicars-general are appointed by the bishop, and hold their offices during his tenure of the see, or during pleasure. 8 They are the judges of the bishop’s 9 Church courts, and are entitled to seats in the Council. Since 1846, the bishop has appointed one vicar-general 10 only, who presides over the sole remaining ecclesiastical court. 11

Of the Clergy.

Let us now consider the rights and privileges of the clergy generally. The penalty for assaulting a clergyman was excommunication, and for cursing " an officer either spiritual or temporal " the offender was to be " committed immediately into St. German’s prison, and not released till he first gave bonds to perform his censure, which is to wear the bridle for several market days at the several market towns for the space of an hour in the height of the market." It was provided that any difference in a matter of slander between a clergyman and a layman was to be adjudicated upon by a jury, one half of whom were clergymen and the other half laymen, also, that, when laws about spiritual concerns were enacted by the Tynwald Court, the consent of the clergy was necessary to make them binding.12 No one is allowed to sit or bury in the chancel of any church without the consent of the rector, who is obliged to keep the chancel in repair, while the parishioners have to maintain the body of the church " within and without, with all ornaments and other necessaries." 13 An important privilege was that ‘ ‘ all instituted Parsons and Viccars of thirds or Viccars of pension, ought to have his brige and staff ; that is to say, if they have a man servant that cometh to them of his own free will, he ought. not to be taken from them." On the other hand, they were severely punished for transgressing the spiritual laws. Thus, if they married any one without licence or banns, they were suspended for three years, and, if they performed a clandestine marriage, they and all present were excommunicated and committed to St. German’s prison.

Their fees.

As to their fees, rectors and vicars were allowed to choose their fishing-boats at Easter time, and their scoutes at herring-fishing time. 14 The mortuaries received by them were as arranged in 1532,15 it being provided that none were to be paid for those who died when less than ten years old. They also received twelve-pence " for every will and inventory, except there be a legacy left by the deceased to the minister to the value of twelve pence."16 With regard to tithe, each tenth stook of corn was taken by them, and no one was allowed to make up his stacks before the tithe stooks were taken by the parson or his proctor. " All Tyth Flax and Hemp " was ordered " to bc brought to the Parish Church with the seed thereof," also the tithe butter and cheese in the months of June, July, August, and September ; and all those that deposed " they have neither butter nor cheese made within any of the said monthes," were, if they had " one milk cow, to pay two pence, and out of four goats two pence." Sheep, lambs, purrs, (or wild swine), calves, colts, geese, eggs, hens, honey, wax, fish of all kinds, were subject to tithe, and various fantastic arrangements are to be found in the Statute Book with reference to its incidence. All trades were tithable. " All persons that are marryed and unmarryed that have received the corn-rnunion before," paid twopence every Easter, while those that received it for the first time paid one penny.17

Their duties.

The duties of the clergy, as we learn from the churchwardens’ oath, 18 were " to read the service of the Church on Sundays and Holy days soberly and distinctly, and in due time. To preach one sermon every Sunday (having no lawfull impediment) in such Language or Tongue as shall be to the best edification of the people. To catechize the youth of the parish every Sunday in the afternoon , and to explain some part of the Church Catechism after so plain and familiar a manner as may be to the edifying of the Parishioners. To suffer none to come to the Holy Sacrament of the Lord’s supper until such time as they be confirmed. . . . To visit the Sick, to marry none without Banns or Licence, nor at any time but betwixt the Hours of Eight and Twelve in the forenoon : and to live so soberly as to be a Pattern of Religion and Virtue to his whole Parish."

Functionaries of the clergy.

Besides the clergy, there are their functionaries, the archdeacon’s official, the sumner-general, the episcopal and archideaconal registrars, the proctors, and the sumners. The archdeacon’s official, as we have seen, presided over the archdeacon’s court. 18 Since 1874 he has held a merely titular office so far as the public is concerned. Probably his only functions are to advise the archdeacon with respect to his duties as such and to represent him on occasions when archidiaconal duties need not be performed by the archdeacon in person. The sumner-general has still, in some cases, to take letters of administration of the estates of deceased persons, but his position as apparitor of the ecciesiastical courts has become almost a sinecure. 19 Though appointed by the governor, 20 he takes the oaths of office before the bishop or vicar-general. The episcopal registrar kept the records of the episcopal courts and made office copies of them, took depositions of witnesses, made distribution of estates when called upon by the court and reported on matters referred to him by it. The archidiaconal registrar performed similar duties for the arch-deacon’s court. Both these officials were done away with in 1874, and a diocesan registrar was appointed, whose duty is to keep the diocesan records.

The proctors collected the clergy’s dues. 21 They were abolished on the passage of the Tithe Commutation Act in 1839, and a tithe agent appointed 22

The sumners, whose duties are now confined to delivering citations from the ecclesiastical court as the sumner-general’s deputies, had formerly to " call within the church with the advice of the Vicar or Curate all such things as he is requested of the Parish that is gone or lost," to " stand at the chancell door at the time of service to whip and beat all the doggs" 23 and to convey offenders against the spiritual laws to gaol.

The parish clerks, who, since they were, and are, chosen by the people,24 are in a different category to the other functionaries, " had to ring the Bells in due time, to attend the minister (when required) at the visitation of the Sick, at the burial of the Dead, or baptism of Children. To raise the Psalm when required by the Minister, or else to procure it to be done to the satisfaction of the Minister." Their duties are now mainly confined to attendance at baptisms, weddings and funerals, and to repeating the responses at the church services.

Their fees.

The sumners and clerks were mainly paid in kind, the sumner receiving " for his paines and duty doing one principall cheese " from each tenant, also one choice lamb and one fleece of wool, and of the corn crop he had " a band of three lengthes of three principal comes porcion alike paid from every husbandman." For conveying a prisoner to gaol he received fourpence.25 The clerk had the cheese tithe, the lamb, and the fleece in the same way as the rectors and vicars, also " a groate (fourpence) out of every plow," and from those " that have no plowes and keep smoak," one penny. He also received a portion of what is called " Clark’s silver" at deaths, which " on the south side of the isle is elevenpence, and the head penny, of which the curate has sevenpence, the parish clark threepence, and the parson’s clark twopence." On the north side of the island the amount of "Clark’s silver" was fifteen pence, but it is not stated how it was divided. The clerk’s corse present was at the funeral of a man twenty pence or his " apparell," and at the funeral of a women seventeen-pence. These were the fees paid by the representatives of well-to-do people ; with regard to poor people, it was a matter of agreement.26

Churchwardens and their duties.

The churchwardens, four for each parish, were, and are, elected by the people when assembled in vestry once yearly. Their duties were " to see good orders kept in the church and church-yard, their church-yard ditch to be well made, to make a true and just accompt to their parishioners four times in the yeare, to enquire of all offences committed against the Spiritual Law : as also to see all lawful injunctions read in the church, to present all those that use Witchcraft or Sorcery, Adulterers, Fornicators, Blasphemers, Drunkards and such like : also such as profane the Sabbath, that refuse to come to church to have divine service, or receive the blessed sacrament .27

At the present day their duties are practically confined to collecting the cess, or Church rate, to distributing the morning collections for the benefit of the poor, and to assisting the rector, or vicar, in maintaining the church and churchyard in good order.

The chapter quest.

Another body, now obsolete, connected with each parish and its church was the chapter-quest, consisting of four men, who were empanelled every year by the bishop or vicars-general to perform much the same duties as the churchwardens.

Laws relating to criminal matters.

Another very considerable portion of these spiritual laws relates to criminal matters and, more especially, to offences against morality. The following are the more important and characteristic of them. " That such as defame the dead are to make pennance28 and to ask the kindred’s forgiveness, because it is done in disgrace of all his Relations, and Publication to be made that none revive the same in Penalty of £3 to the Lord’s use and forty days’ imprisonment." " That if any aspersion be cast on man or woman, the slanderer is to be punished if he cannot prove the same, and the like publication to be made for the living party as for the dead." The punishment for slander against the living was usually that of wearing a bridle 29 at the market cross of the nearest town, or to make from one to fourteen Sundays’ penance, according to the enormity of the offence, in the several parish churches. Common whores were " to be drawn after a boat in the sea during the Ordinarie’s appointment." 30

Adulterers were usually condemned to " make seven Sundays’ pennance in several parishes, and for a relapse fourteen, and adding always the number of seven as oft as they transgress, besides a fine to the Lord with imprisonment."

" Whosoever commits Fornication shall make three Sundays’ pennance, and if they marry that they go from the Sheet to the Ring ; " 31 and, " All offenders censured to Pennance are to per-form their censures and satisfy the Law before they be admitted to the Holy Communion, and to pay threepence to the minister for every day’s Penance for writing certificates, and to the Sumner twopence, and if the offender bring not a sheet he is to pay the Sumner fourpence for furnishing him, and no appeal be from the Church, and none offending be privileged from censures."

If any one appealed from the spiritual judges to the " Staff of Government," he was handed back to the former for punishment if he could not prove his case.

Reputed sorcerers or witches were presented by the chapter-quest, and examined by the bishop. If he thought their conduct suspicious, he appointed a jury, and, if this jury could " bring or prove any notorious fact or crime done by them, then they were handed over to the civil authorities for trial.

The severest punishment imposed by the Church was excornmunication.32 It was only made use of in the case of hardened offenders, and, as we have already seen, of slanderers of the clergy.

Such were the laws, now fallen into disuse, under which was administered the famous discipline of the Manx Church, about which Bishop Wilson wrote:

" There is nothing more commendable than the discipline of this church. . . . Offenders of all conditions, without distinction, are obliged to sub-mit to the censures appointed by the church, whether for correction or example (commutation of penances being abolished by a late law), and they generally do it patiently. Such as do not submit (which hath hitherto been but few) are either imprisoned or excommunicated ; under which sentence if they continue more than forty days, they are delivered over to the Lord of the Isle, both body and goods." 33

Laws relating to wills.

An even larger portion of these laws was occupied with the disposition of the estates of deceased persons, especially those of intestates.34 Thus, the Ordinary had power, in certain cases, of amending dispositions or supplying the neglects of a deceased person, where they seemed obviously contrary to natural piety. For instance, " if any make a testament and leave not sixpence legacy to their children, unmarried, legitimately begotten" the Ordinary may make such children executors ; or " if any die intestate, having no children legitimately begotten, but only base children, then the Ordinary shall make and ordain his next of kindred, both of father’s and mother’s side, to be lawful executors; and the base-born to be rewarded of charity, at the discretion of the Ordinary." Generally speaking, the Ordinary was allowed a large discretion in apportioning the remains of a parent’s property as was best for the education and maintenance of the children.35

The tender care of the Manx ecclesiastical law for the interests of the destitute and of children was also shown by the following : When a person died who owed money, and his debts were found to " surmount " his inventory, the lord received the first share, then the orphans, and, finally, others. 36

Attendance at church was, as we have seen, ordered to be enforced by the churchwardens and chapter-quests, and it was ordained, by the thirty-first law, in 1667, " that there be a communion in the Church at least eight times in the year, . .

and all at fourteen years to receive, but first to be examined by the minister, or be presented, unless a lawfull cause appear."

Main characteristics of the Manx ecclesiastical code.

" The main characteristic of the Manx ecclesiastical code " 37 is its prevailing supposition that " faith " 37 generally prevailed, and no doubt this was actually the case till the eighteenth century. Excommunication would therefore be a horrible reality in this world, and so would the penalty of taking a false oath in the next. Accordingly we find that a great part of the evidence in many cases lay in the voluntary oaths of one or more of the parties. Thus " in a difference depending betwixt party and party, when one gives it to the other upon his oath absolutely, there shall be no further hearing of that matter in the Spiritual Court." This implies so much trust in men’s oaths as to ignore all risk of collusion. Again : " When sufficient men are sworn to prize " [appraise] " children’s goods, the said goods shall not be forced on them, under pretence of overrating them (for men must discharge their consciences), but the executors or overseers must take all things according to prizement " ; also that " for fathering an illegitimate child the woman’s oath is sufficient," though it was not sufficient to prove a promise of marriage.


Upon such grounds, the Manx legislators encouraged compurgation generally, and, more especially, that solemn process of purgation which is thus described in the tenth customary law : " He that entereth his claim within a year and a day after the probate of the will and endeavouring to prove the same within the said limited time, without Bill, Bond or evidence, shall prove the same upon the grave of him or her from whom the same was due with lawfull Compurgators, according to the ancient form, viz. lying on his Back with the Bible on his breast and his Compurgators on either side one." This swearing on the grave seems to have been prescribed in default of documentary evidence between a deceased person, his debtors and creditors.

In 1609, it was abolished by the Tynwald Court,38 but it, nevertheless, continued in vogue for nearly a century later.

The portion of these laws relating to the dues of the clergy caused a great deal of discontent ; they were, therefore, in 1643, through the mediation of the 7th earl, modified as follows

(1) The fee of three shillings and fourpence, taken by the clergy for distributing the goods of a child under 14 years, was reduced to sixpence. (2) The parson or vicar of a parish was to have the nomination of the clerk, with the approval of the bishop, as the appointment of clerks by the lord had been complained of. This deprived the people of their ancient right of election, but it was restored by the spiritual laws of 1667. (3) The clergy having taken one shilling for making wills, and having refused to prove wills unless they were written by them, it was ordered that every man may make his own will. (4) It having been stated that the clergy had taken eight shillings as a corpse present for goods worth four pounds, and in the same proportion for other values, it was ordered that no corpse present should be taken when goods were under the value of six pounds twelve shillings and fourpence, when of that value and under the value of twenty pounds, the corpse present was to be twenty pence, when under forty pounds, three shillings and fourpence, when forty pounds and above, six shillings and fourpence ; and, moreover, only housekeepers and masters were to pay any corbes. (5) Tithe butter and cheese were to be done away with, but, in lieu thereof, payment was to be made on cows, sheep, and goats. The proctors for collecting the harvest tithe were to be named at an earlier date, since farmers had suffered from their non-arrival by their crops wasting in the fields. The clergy were not to be allowed to demand " their small tythes and offering money " on Easter Sunday, because " an undecent and irreverent use" had sprung up of their demanding these dues " at the time the people are to receive the Communion;" indeed it was stated that they sometimes stopped the people " from receiving the blessed sacrament, because they have not paid their duties." It was therefore enacted that they should receive these dues on Monday or Tuesday in Easter Week; also, it having been complained that orphans’ goods and debts had not been sufficiently secured by the spiritual court, it was ordered that, if the bishop or his officers did not take sufficient security, they were to make the loss good. These laws were assented to by the Keys, and certain representatives from the parishes.39

There were no further modifications of these laws till 1685, when some new regulations as to the duties of ministers and churchwardens were made at Con-vocation.40

"Constitutions" of 1704

Then, in 1704, came the Ecclesiastical " Constitutions " of Bishop Wilson, which may be briefly summarized as follows :—

1. No one to be confirmed unless properly in-structed.
2. Or to be admitted to the Holy Sacrament till confirmed.
3. No one to be Godfather or Godmother or to be married without receiving the Holy Sacrament.
4. Unconfirmed children and servants to attend evening prayers so as to be instructed previous to confirmation, under penalty of a fine to be imposed on their parents or masters.
5. No one having incurred the censures of the Church and having done penance to be admitted to penance again unless the Church be fully satisfied of his, or her, repentance. If he, or she, does not satisfy the minister or churchwardens of this, the Church shall proceed to excommunication.
6. No one living a disorderly life to be admitted to the Holy Sacrament.
7. No money to be received on the Lord’s day, under penalty of censure.
8. Commutation, or money payment in lieu of penance, to be abolished.
9. Children to be sent to school. Parents neglecting to send them to be fined.
10. Salaries of schoolmasters to be increased.
11. Poor children to be taught gratuitously.
12. Poor people may keep their children at home some weeks during the summer, provided that they send them to church every third Sunday at least, one hour before evening service, to be taught there.
13. Names of persons absenting themselves from church to be entered.
14. Convocation to be held on Thursday in Whitsun week every year.41 This alone of all the " Constitutions " is still acted upon.

With the exception of articles 10-12, relating to education,f which were new, there was nothing con-tamed in these constitutions which had not had legal sanction before. As regards articles 5 and 8, which relate more especially to discipline, the former put an end to the lax practice of admitting obdurate offenders more than once to penance, without resorting to a severer punishment, and the latter confirmed the prohibition of commutation, enjoined by Act of Tynwald in 1691 . 42 The constitutions were considered " very reasonable, just and necessary " 43 by the Tynwald Court, and were consequently confirmed by it. In 1736, the same authority abolished the practices of compulsory compurgation and of delivering over persons excommunicated in the spiritual courts, body and goods, to the Lord of the Isle. 44 Voluntary compurgation, however, was allowed, and excommunicated persons were imprisoned for three months. From this time, as we have seen, the spiritual laws were not so generally enforced, and, by the beginning of the present century, they had become practically obsolete.

Having thus briefly summarized the more important of the ecclesiastical laws, let us now enquire into the constitution of the courts which administered them.

Three classes of Church Courts.

There were three classes of Church Courts, in which the bishop presided either in person or by deputy. 45

Summary Courts.

First, the Summary Court, in which the proceedings were almost entirely viva voce. During the summer half of the year, i.e., from St. Mark’s day to St. Simon and St. Jude’s, it was presided over by one of the vicars-general, and during the winter half by the archdeacon or his official. It also granted letters of administration for all intestates, in unopposed cases ; it gave sentence on claims by way of legacy or debt,46 and on all other matters relating to the goods of the deceased ; and also concerning tithes 47 and other Church dues.

Chapter Courts.

Second, the Chapter Court, to the cognizance of which all immoralities and other violations of discipline within each parish were presented by the ministers and churchwardens and chapter-quests, who held a sort of inquest every third week with regard to the cases which they should present. The Chapter Courts were held in circuit by the vicars general and archdeacon’s official twice a year in each of the six sheadings. Their business, besides the trying of the disciplinary causes, which, in most cases, were disposed of summarily, was the admission of churchwardens and chapter-quests, the granting probate of wills, and administration of the estates of intestates.

Consistory Courts.

If disciplinary causes and matters relating to wills and administrations in the bishop’s jurisdiction were not disposed of summarily, the case was remitted to the third court, the Consistory Court, which was the highest of the ecclesiastical courts. To it appeals lay in all the cases above mentioned, and besides them, it dealt with certain cases which were reserved as episcopal causes.49 It also had a general jurisdiction in all matters of ecclesiastical cognizance. The proceedings in it were entirely documentary, sometimes by written plea or answer, but generally by evidence committed to writing. In some cases, e.g., where sentence of deprivation on a clergyman was to be pronounced, the bishop’s personal presence was required, in others, his virtual presence by his vicars-general was sufficient.50

Bishop Wilson's opinion of the ecclesiatical courts.

As to the working of these ecclesiastical courts generally, Bishop Wilson comments : " In matters spiritual, it is easy to observe very many footsteps of primitive discipline and integrity ; offenders are neither overlooked nor treated with imperiousness; if they suffer for their crimes, it is rarely in their purses, unless they are very obstinate, and relapse into their former or other great offences. As for civil offences that come before these courts, they are soon dispatched, and almost without any charge."51

They had greater power in Man than in England.

The ecclesiastical courts acquired more extensive powers in Man than in England, 52 inasmuch as it not only belonged to them to determine the validity of wills, and to grant administrations, but to sustain all causes respecting them, or concerning the legacies or the debts of the deceased, within one year and a day from the probate of the will, or granting of administration ; 53 and likewise all suits against executors and administrators, as such, at any time within two years from the cause of action. They also for divers offences, besides inflicting Church censures, detained the offenders in the ecclesiastical prison, which was a subterraneous vault in the Castle of Peel, in order, after an examination of a jury of six (whom they were authorized to impanel), to be delivered, if judged necessary, for further trial and punishment, to the temporal power ; and not only did they commit to their dungeon for the purpose of such detention, but confinement there was sometimes ordered, by their definitive sentence, in affairs merely spiritual.

The staff by which these laws were administered consisted of the archdeacon, nominated by the lord, and the two vicars-general, the diocesan registrar, the archidiaconal registrar, and the sumner-general, whose special duties we have already referred to.

Bishop Short's account of the Manx Church.

We have already seen that some of these officers had a share in the civil government of the island. In 1842, Bishop Short referred to the constitution of the Manx Church and its courts as follows : " It seemed to resemble what an English diocese was before the days of Charles I. There were no visitations, but the bishop held an annual Convocation, which could enact canons binding on the clergy in foro conscientiæ, but not in foro legali, till they were confirmed by an Act of Tynwald. But as there was no expense and little difficulty in passing an Act of Tynwald, there would have been no practical hindrance to altering any of the local constitutions of the Church. There was a great deal of parochial discipline still kept in the island.54 The ecclesiastical courts not only regulated those subjects which are brought before them in England, as marriages and wills, but the administration of the property of the deceased belonged to them for a year and a day. In addition to this, as there were no poor-laws, the whole provision for the poor was in the hands of the churchwardens, as it was in England before the Act of Elizabeth.55 A collection was made in church every Sunday, and the proceeds of this were administered by them. When a poor person had relations able to support him, and who neglected to do so, these were brought before the ecclesiastical court as neglecting a Christian duty, and the court settled what allowance they should make. Such cases were of frequent occurrence, and I never knew the right of the poor relation denied, whatever excuse they might plead for themselves. The temporal court used to support the ecclesiastical by allowing persons condemned by it to be sent to gaol ; and if they would not go with the summoner, the governor was asked to lend his assistance, and always did so ; but I believe this practice has now been stopped."56

Changes after Bishop Short's time.

Since then the jurisdiction of the ecclesiastical courts has almost disappeared. The first change was the transference, by the Ecclesiastical Courts Act, of the jurisdiction of the archdeacon’s court to the episcopal court in 1874.57 In 1884, by the Ecciesiastical Judicature Transfer Act,58 probate and other jurisdiction as to the estates of deceadants, and all jurisdiction in matrimonial matters, was transferred from the ecclesiastical to the temporal courts, district probate sessions being substituted for the chapter courts. The jurisdiction that now remains to the only ecclesiastical court, which is presided over by the vicar-general, as representing the bishop, is mainly concerning affiliation questions, the swearing in of churchwardens, and the granting faculties.

Among other changes, we may note that, by the Church Act of 1880, 59 four rural deaneries were established, and commissioners were constituted as trustees of endowments for Church purposes. This Act was further amended in 1895, when a cathedral chapter, with four canons, was constituted under the name of the " Dean and Chapter of Man," the bishop being the dean of the cathedral church.

Convocation still meets on the Thursday after Whit-Sunday, and we may note that its power of making canons, though not exercised since 1704, has never been abrogated, so far affording a token that the Manx Church is a separate National Church 60 governed by its own laws,61 which, however, must be approved by the insular Legislature. 62


1 The Ecclesiastical Records of 1610 mention the " Book of Spiritual Laws late delivered in by the vicars-general, (Sir William Norris and Sir William Crow) " ; and, in 1680, John Harrison, vicar-general, stated to Bishop Bridgnian that Sir W. Norris and Sir W. Crow had received them orally from their immediate predecessor, Sir Henry Gale, and transcribed them " at the request of John Ireland, Lieut.-Governor, on behalf of William, Earl of Derby ; " and that the laws so transeribed were " owned and received as the Spiritual Laws and Customs of the Isle by the said Lieut., 2 Deemsters, and 24 Keys of the Isle under their own hands." He then proceeded to state that they were handed by Bishop Phillips to BishopFoster and by him to Bishop Parre ; Bishop Parre then handed them to Sir John Harrison, his registrar, who handed them to his son and namesake, who gave the above evidence.

2 The laws of 1610 are to be found at pp. 40-7 in the Statute Book (vol i.).

3 See MS. in the Record Office and Knowsley Muniments 1775/21 They were, in 1667, " revised, examined and rectified by the Legislature, i.e., the Governor, Deemsters, and 24 Keys, with the assistance of the Bishop and Vicars Generall," but they are not in the Statute Book.

4 Prior to the Reformation, the barons, all of whom, except the bishop, were heads of religious houses, are supposed to have been members of the Council, and they certainly formed part of a properly constituted Tynwald Court, " sitting beside the king, according to the law given in 1418 (Statutes, vol. p.3).

5 The bishop’s oath, as Baron of the Isle, was as follows:

" Ffirst before God and your Honor I doe swear and avow that from this day forward, I shall be unto you faithfull and obeydient, and faith to you bear, for the Lands, Tenements and heriditaments which I dame and hold of you within this Isle:

Alsoe that I shall truly yield unto you all the Customs, Rents, and Seruices which of right I ought to pay for the same, and that at the dayes and hours thereof due and usuall. Soe God me help," &c. (Lib. Placit., 1577).

6 For these see Sodor and Man, p. 102.

7 See pp. 861-3.

8 During a vacancy in the see they are appointed by the governor, but his appointment expires on the see being filled up.

9 The bishop, as a rule, does not preside in person.

10 His salary is charged on the Civil List, which is a unique arrangement.

11 See p. 866.

12 None have been enacted since 1704.

13 This is still the case.

14 In the Lib. Scacc., 1610, there is a decision that they were also to have the tithe of all new boats to the following Easter.

15 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 29 31.

16 They were revised in 1643 (Statutes,vol. i. p. 95), see pp. 857-8.

17 A similar form of oath is found in the time of Lord Fairfax, but the exact form of the above was not written down till Bishop Wilson’s time, though something like it was doubtless in full operation soon after the Reformation. (From a MS. in Ecclesiastical Records.)

18 He seems to have formerly been recognized as capable of being summoned to the Executive Council, but he was not a member of the Legislative Council.

19 See under sumners.

20 See p. 501.

21 They were paid by getting sundry dues in kind.

22 He is appointed by the clergy.

23 Churchwardens’ oath.

24 Formerly their appointment had to receive the approval of the bishop, but this has not been the case of late years.

25 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 44-5.

26 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 44-5. The clerk’s fees are now is. 6d. for each burial. Some of them have small glebes.

27 From their oath. For further details see Sodor and Man, p. 115.

28 According to an order issued by Convocation (in the Ecclesiastical Records, dated 1623), a malicious slanderer was " to remain a Lyer of Record, and do open penance . . putting his finger on his mouth, and confessing a Lye . in saying ‘ Tongue, thou Lyed,’ and so publickly to ask the party offended forgiveness.".

29 Waldron says, " If any person be convicted of uttering a scandalous report, and cannot make good the assertion, instead of being fined or imprisoned, they are sentenced to stand in the market-place on a sort of scaffold erected for that purpose, with their tongue in a noose made of leather, which they call a bridle, and having been thus exposed to the view of the people for some time, on the taking off this nmehine they are obliged to say three times, Tongue, thou hast lyed" (Manx Soc., vol. xi. p. 41).

30 This punishment has often been quoted as showing the great cruelty of Manx Church discipline, but it may be doubted if it was more cruel than the punishment of whipping at a cart’s tail as practised in England, and it was certainly not so indecent.

31 I.e., they must be married at once.

32 Bishop Wilson writes, " People are never excommunicated but for crimes that will shut them out of heaven’ ‘ (Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 112).

33 Ibid.

34 All this jurisdiction was abolished in 1884. (See p. 866.)

35 Somewhat, perhaps, like that exercised by the Court of Chancery for the benefit of infants in England.

36 The English rule, under similar circumstances, favours the Crown, but makes no mention of orphans.

37 Keble, p. 202.

38 Statutes, vol. i. p. 72.

39 Statutes, vol. i. pp. 92-99.

40 These were not confirmed by the Tynwald Court, and were, therefore, not binding on the laity.

41 For " Constitutions " in full see Statutes, vol. i. pp. 155-9.

42 Education had already been made compulsory by order of the 8th earl, in 1672. (See p. 472.)

43 Not in Statute Book. (See p. 472.)

44 Statutes, vol. i. p. 159.

45 Statutes, vol. i. p. 222.

46 The following information is taken partly from Keble’s Life of Bishop Wilson, partly from " The Constitution of the Isle of Man " (Manx Soc., vol. xxxi.), and partly from a minute of Sir James Gell’s in 1876. (Ibid. vol. xxix. pp. 25-50).

47 Suits for the recovery of debts and moneys seem to have been its chief business. It is very difficult to draw an exact line between the jurisdictions of these courts.

48 By the Exchequer Court Act in 1777, the " determining the right of tithes " was declared to be properly cognizable in the Court of Exchequer, the jurisdiction of the Ecclesiastical Court being then confined to enforcing the payment of them (Statutes, vol. i. p. 322).

49 Sodor and Man, p. 102,

50 The bishop and the other barons held courts for their baronies. As their constitution is similar to that of the civil courts, they are discussed in Ch. I. pp. 755-6.

51 Manx Soc., vol. xviii. p. 117.

52 "The ecclesiastical law of the island is in many respects different from that of England ; and the ecclesiastical courts of the island have a jurisdiction in temporal matters much more extensive than that which was exercised by the English ecclesiastical courts, at any rate since the Reformation " (Sir James Gell, in " Church Notes " (Manx Soc., vol. xxix. p. 36). This was written before the changes in 1884.

53 And within three years for foreign debts.

54 See note f p. 659.

55 This still continues to be so as regards most of the country districts and the town of Peel (see 690-1).

56 Short’s History of the Charch of England, Introduction, pp. lxiv-lxv.

57 Authority is left to the archdeacon " with reference to visitations, or," what is judiciously styled " the performance of other duties pertaining by the laws ecclesiastical to the office of Archdeacon " (Statutes, vol. iv. p. 329).

58 Ibid., vol. v. pp. 352-73.

59 Ibid., pp. 58-76.

60 As proofs of this see Bishop Wilson’s special prayers(Sodor and Man, pp. 226-7), and note that special prayers for the insular Legislature in 1889, and with reference to the war in South Africa, in 1900, were put forth by Bishops Bardsley and Straton respectively.

61 It should be noted, however, that canons passed by the Convocation at York are binding on the Manx clergy.

62 Sir James Gell has shown in " Church Notes " (Manx Soc., vol. xxix. pp. 40-1) " that the Insular Legislature has hitherto exercised full control over the temporalities of the Bishop and Clergy within the Isle, and jurisdiction as to the regulation of . . . the external affairs of the Church in the Isle of Man."


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