[from History of IoM, 1900]
The ancient mode of conveying customary lands was by a verbal
agreement and a symbolical surrender by delivery of a straw by the
grantor to the grantee. This was done at the half-yearly manorial, or
baron, courts, and the transaction was recorded on the rolls of the
court in the way stated below. After a time, as dealings in land
became more frequent, the inconvenience of delaying the completion of
the transaction till the date of the manorial courts was more felt,
and so conveyance by deed gradually became the custom, but this did
not supersede the practice of being entered on the rolls,* which was
necessary in order to furnish the moors with a list of the tenants'
names to enable thereto collect the lord's rent. These rolls consist
of the following books, called the Manorial Books: 1
(1) Libri Assedationis, or Setting Books, being the rent rolls containing the names of all landowners and the rent which they pay to the Lord2
(2) Libri Vastarum, or Wast Books, containing the admissions, entries, and titles of landowners and the alienation fines and rents paid by them.
(3) Composition Books, describing each particular tenement and recording the fines paid at the Act of Settlement and at other times.
(4) Libri Monasteriorurm, or Abbey Books, containing the rentals of the abbeys and of the various baronies.3
The method of being entered on the rolls has continued to be much
the same since 1511, or, probably, even earlier. It takes place at
the baron or manorial (formerly shedding) courts, held twice yearly
by the seneschal of the lord proprietor, who is now the English
Sovereign, in the following manner: The names of the sellers, or
deceased proprietors, are drawn out of the Liber Assedationis,
and the names of the purchasers, or heirs, are entered in the
Liber Vastarum, as well as their respective titles, by which
they are entered, ascertained, and specified. Then from the Librer
Vastarum a new Liber Assedationis is made. In making these
entries the governor, deemsters, seneschal, or other officers, before
the Revestment (after it the seneschal was the sole officer), were,
and are, assisted by a jury of four men in every parish, called a "
Setting Quest." These men, according to Hoper's report (Lab. Scacc.,
1608), were sworn " to aid and assist the Court in entering the said
tenants' names; and that none be put upon the said rentals or Court
Rolls, but such as have a good title to the same, either by
tenant-right, purchase, will, or otherwise; and such entries, so made
by the Court and Setting Quest, to be reputed and taken of such force
and validity, as that, in case any tenant's bill of sale should
happen to be lost or miscarry, the record being fairly and fully
expressed, the same is sufficient to make good the sale as well as
the title." By the 19th (MS.) customary law " No traverse can be
granted upon the verdicts or returns of the setting quests, as upon
other juries at common law." To ensure their knowledge of the
properties being up to date, it was formerly the custom that " the
moor of the present year was to be of the setting quest of the year
following " (Parr's MS.), and, as a safeguard for securing the lord's
rent, they were compelled, if unfortunate enough to enter an
insolvent tenant, to make good the rent themselves. But these two
provisions are not now enforced. The oath administered to the setting
quest was as follows: " By the true Contents of that Book, and all
the miraculous Works that God performed in Six Days and Seven Nights,
you shall do Justice, you shall do no Falsehood, for Fear or Love,
Friendship, Affinity, Hatred or Malice, or for the Sake of any
worldly Gain. You are not to draw any Person's Name out of the
Setting Books or Rentals, but upon the Death of a Tenant, and you are
then to enter the Heir at Law, or other Person to whom any Title may
accrue by Deed, Gift, Will, Decree, Settlement, or other Conveyance,
and that you will do all Things appertaining to the office of Setting
Quest justly, truly and conscientiously, according to the Law and
Practice of this Isle. So help you God, and the Contents of this
Book" (Lib. Irrot.). The following will serve as a specimen of these
Grenaby-Thomas Moore-Christopher Shimmin. Thomas Moore by delivereye of the Strawe in Court, acknowledgeth it sould be Xpher Shimmin's for ever " (from Seneschal's Office).
The difference between the ancient Manx and English copyholds was
that, in the Manx, the symbolical delivery by the straw was from the
old to the new tenant, and the bargain and sale was made directly to
the latter, the lord merely recognizing his new tenant by enrolment
on his rental books. In the case of the English copyholds, the land
was surrendered by the accustomed symbol, the verge or rod; there was
no deed, but the title of the new tenant depended upon a copy of the
surrender and admittance. At the present day there is, speaking
generally, scarcely any resemblance between them, though it must be
remembered that English copyholds vary considerably in the different
We will add a few words on the law relating to land and to the modern method of transferring it. Before 1869 quarterland estates were only liable for the debts of their owners if they had been purchased by them; but, by the " Real Property " Act, in that year, they were made liable, equally with intacks, to be taken in the execution of the payment of debts.4 By the " Wills " Act, in the same year, power was given to devise all real property of whatsoever description by will. There is no law of entail in the Isle of Man5
The transfer of land can be effected at a very moderate cost. The general Revolution of the title is speedily ascertained by reference to the manorial books, supplemented by the excellent system of registration, which has been greatly improved from time to time, especially in 1847.6 No charge on a property is valid unless it is recorded in the Record office, and the charges take precedence in accordance with the date of regilt "ration. The purchaser of a property is only liable for the charges recorded on it at the time of the purchase, and these are easily ascertained from indices which are open for examination without the payment of any fee. Copies of documents are furnished on the payment of a small fee, and the originals, also, are allowed to be examined under rules and regulations pro" viding for their security.
1: Manx Law Tenures, pp. 37-8. The non-entry of a
grantee, however, does not now affect the validity of his title,
though the Duke of Atholl contended, in 1781, that " the constant
evidence of inheritance in the Isle of Man is an entry in the Lord's
Court" (Pamphlet, 1783).
2: These books were kept with the others referred to in Book VI. ch. i. till 1765, when they were separated and placed in the seneschal's office. The first of these books left on record, dated from the Castle of Rushen, is the setting of the lands and tenements of Thomas, Earl of Derby, before certain Commissioners, in May, 1511. It contains the particulars of the rents in the parishes of Malew, Arbory, Rushen, Santon, Maughold, Lonan, Conchan, Braddan, Marown (Knowsley Muniments 1715/2 and Seneschal's Office). The first survey we have of the other parishes is dated 1515.
3: The first survey of the abbey rents on record is dated October, 1607. It was taken by Philip Leighe and Edward Ellis (Knowsley Muniments 1743 and Seneshal's Office).
4: Statutes, vol. iii. pa. 471-3.
5: Ibid., pp. 46~70.
6: Prior to the 14th of December, 1847, there was no statutory regulation requiring the recording or registration of deeds affecting real estate in the island. The custom of doing so nevertheless prevailed (Ibid., vol. ii. p. 183).