[from Manorial Roll, 1511/1515]
FOR this able translation all those who cherish the records of our country's past are deeply indebted to the Rev. Theophilus Talbot, who, though not a Manxman, devoted the greater part of his life to the study of our Island's history and antiquities, and to his daughter, by whom the publication of this volume, as some memorial of her father's literary work, has been made possible.
While it would not be possible, within the limits of a Preface, to give, at any length, an historical account of the ancient land tenure in the Isle of Man, it would appear to be essential, for the proper appreciation of this work, briefly to outline the origin, purpose, and present-day interest of the Manorial Rolls, of which this is the earliest extant.
In the Isle of Man, as in other Celtic countries, the early social organisation was tribal, part of the land being periodically divided among individual members of the community, probably subject to dues, of different kinds, to the chief, while other parts were held in common; and this system does not appear to have been altered, in any essentials, for the period (798 to 1266) during which the Island was under Scandinavian domination.
From that period until the Island was, in 1406, granted to the Stanley family, it was under the Scottish and English rule, and the land became the demesne of the king, who granted portions of it to his barons, while retaining portions in his own possession, occupied by tenants, who paid rent, either in money or in kind.
The grant of the Island to Sir John Stanley placed him in the same position as the king had been, e. g. that of the superior lord over the Island, with the exception of those lands which were held by the bishop of the diocese or by other ecclesiastical authorities.
The Manorial Rolls are the record of the lord's tenants, of the land held by them, and of the amount of rent (commonly known as 'Lord's Rent') payable by each of them. Though this tenure was, primarily, in law, at the will of the lord, it developed into what was known as 'the tenure of the straw', so called because, when a tenant had alienated his lands to another, he came into the Manorial Court and resigned the lands by the delivery of a straw, which delivery was duly entered on the Manorial Roll, and such entry was sufficient evidence of the title of the succeeding tenant. The Manorial Rolls in this volume are the earliest which now survive, being dated 1511 for the southern portion and 1515 for the northern portion of the Island.
The subsequent conveyance of land by deed did not, until the passing of the Lord's Rents Purchase Act 1913, by which the Lord's rents were sold to the Insular authorities, dispense with the entries on the Manorial Roll, but on the passing of that Act and the consequent redemption of the Lord's rents, the only remaining reason for the keeping up of the Manorial Roll disappeared, and they are now only of antiquarian and genealogical interest.
The antiquarian and philological value of the volume is much enhanced by the addition of eleven Appendixes. Of these, Appendixes A, B. C, D, E, and G are the work of Mr. Talbot. With a view to making the list of landholders complete, Appendixes F. H. I, J. and K have been added by Mr. William Cubbon, Librarian of the Manx Museum, without whose assistance the publication of the volume could hardly have been undertaken. Mr. Cubbon has also compiled the exhaustive Indexes which will be found at the end of the volume.
G. FRED. CLUCAS.
CRONKBOURNE, ISLE OF MAN, May 15, 1923.