[From T.Quayle Agriculture of IoM, 1812]

AGRICULTURAL SURVEY OF THE ISLE OF MAN.

CHAP. I.
GEOGRAPHICAL STATE AND CIRCUMSTANCES.

SECTION I.—SITUATION AND EXTENT.

THE Isle of Man lies in the midway course be-tween Great Britain and Ireland, but most nearly approaching, at its north-east extremity, to the Scottish coast. From the Burrow Head, in Galloway, to the nearest point in the Isle of Man, the distance is about six leagues. The centre of the island is in 54 46' north lat. Its length from N. E. to S. W. 33 miles; but in width, in the widest part, it falls short of 12 miles, narrowing considerably at the two extremities.

On its west coast is situate a small island, near the town of Peel, attached to the main by a causeway, and containing the ruins of an ancient castle, and of the cathedral. Another island lies on the east coast, near the southern extremity ; and at the extreme S. W. are two other islands ; one of them of several hundred acres extent. Each of these islands is fenced round by a rocky cliff: the first is the property of the Crown, the others of individuals.

The number of statute-acres in the Isle of Man and its appendages, amounts to about 180,000 ; but as the island never yet has been surveyed, and as its outline is indented by bays and by the mouths of several small streams issuing to sea, its dimensions cannot at present be stated with any approach to precision:

SECTION II.—DIVISIONS.

For civil purposes the island is divided into six districts, called sheadings. Each has its officer, named a coroner, annually chosen, and exercising the functions of a sheriff. For ecclesiastical purposes, the division is into seventeen parishes : of these, three are rectories, and fourteen vicarages.

SECTION III.—CLIMATE.

THE narrow form of the island, and the prevalence of westerly winds, constantly wafting clouds from the Atlantic, render the climate temperate, indeed; but humid. Frosts are not severe ; snow rarely falls of any depth, or remains long: but fogs and rain ate frequent. In April the wind varies to the eastward, impeding, the progress of spring, by nipping the buds and early shoots which the moisture had previously encouraged. These winds sometimes continue six or seven weeks, with little variation., till interrupted again by showers. After these, vegetation takes a new spring, and advances with rapidity.

No observations have been made with the rain-gauge nor have any been preserved for any considerable length 'of time, on the barometer or thermomoter by a resident in the island.

The difference of temperature between day and night is observabl.: even after a warm day, the nights seem cold, and in calm weather the dews are heavy. Although the winter is more mild, and particularly at its, commencement, than on the eastern coast of England, yet to the feelings, the climate is here more chilling and ungenial. Humidity and cold acting together on the human skin, draw off the caloric more rapidly than is the effect of dry frosty winds, even at times when the barometer would indicate a degree of cold more piercing. The climate is however healthy, and longevity frequent: epidemics are rare ; the ague unknown.

SECTION IV.—COAST, SOIL, AND SURFACE.

To the voyages arriving in almost any direction, the general aspect of the island is bold and mountainous; yet it contains within its limits several plains of considerable extent and fertility.

At the extreme northern part of the island, appears a sandy flat beach, covered towards full sea-mark by a bed of gravel and rounded pebbles. Proceeding coast-wise, in a southerly direction, the frontier to the sea, on the eastern side, impending over the beach, is a sand and clay cliff, from sixty to eighty feet high, which continues nearly to the town of Ramsey. The high tides, during the winter months, undermining this cliff, large fragments of it occasionally fall down, and are washed to sea. The annual encroachments of the ocean are here the more to be regretted, as the quality of the land thus irrecoverably lost is among the best in the island ; and no mode of preventing the evil appears to have been ever in contemplation. Southward of Ramsey, about a mile, the coast begins to be guarded by an impregnable stone cliff, which continues, with little intermission, for about fifteen miles, till it reaches a semi-circular sandy bay, at the southern extremity of which is built Douglas, the most considerable town and sea-port in the island. The stone cliff, and deep water, recommence southward of the town ; and, with the intervention of a few other sandy bays and creeks, the cliff continues to give protection to the coast, occasionally towering to an enormous height, both at the eastern and western sides, till about three miles northward of the port of Peel. It there meets a sandy and clay cliff, similar to that on the north-eastern coast, and receiving in several parts, from the impression of the tides, equal or greater injury. The cliff continues till it again meets the flat sand-beach near the north-western extremity.

Small as is the extent of the island, it comprehends almost every variety of soil. The attempt to define on a map the boundaries of each, would be attended with difficulty ; and as they shift within short spaces, it would be subject to much error. A short and imperfect sketch will be attempted of the leading changes. A fringe of white sand forms the northern and north-western extremity. This ground is evidently alluvial, formed, perhaps, by the collision of the two tides, which meet at this point. Clay and marl are found underneath, but as the surface is in part composed of gravel, and has but scanty herbage, as it is without fence or tree, and swept by every wintry stone, no attempt has ever been made towards cultivating it; nor indeed is the property in it well ascertained. At present a few sheep run through the fern and stunted furze, which in the inland part are its principal production.Proceeding southward and eastward, the quality of the soil soon improves. The whole northern division of the Island forms an irregular quadrangular vale of about forty six square miles, bounded on the east, north, and west by the ocean ; on the south by a chain of mountains, which run in a direction nearly east and west, leaving an interval, at their western termination, between their base and the sea. The plain between the mountain and the sea is again intersected by sand-hills, all capable of cultivation, and containing in their bosom the seeds of fertility. The surface of this plain is in parts a sandy loam ; in its south-west angle it approaches to pure sand ; but in every part, and generally near the surface, it contains abundant beds of marl of excellent quality. In a line nearly parallel to the mountain runs, from west to east, the largest stream on the island, on which the effect of spring tides is perceptible at the distance of two miles from the sea. The vale, through which this stream pursues its course, is in part bottomed Kith peat, approaching within two feet of the surface, and incumbent on clay; in part, a good loam appears: in other part it is sandy, with marl rising near the surface, and in part clay. The narrow slip of land running between this river and the mountain is, throughout, of superior quality ; and altogether, this vale would in any country be reckoned among those most favoured by nature.

The mountains forming the boundary of this vale, rising abruptly, present to the north a continuous face, except where pierced by three or four glens, which close as they rise into the interior. There are two stages of mountains immediately contiguous, of which the southward is much the most elevated, and alone produces peat. Where the surface of the mountain has not been laid bare by the hand of man in a few quarries, or deformed by the effect of water impeded ini is course downward, it is covered with herbage, valuable as sheep pasture. Though at present but a few trees grow in its sheltered glens, yet it appears in general fit for planting. Here the mountainous tract commencing, occupies the central part of the island. The general structure is argillaceous schistus, in steep and irregular strata, frequent quarries breaking out to day, This is interspersed with veins and bloc]cs of quarts; some times, but less frequently, of granite. In some parts the reduced fragments of schistus appear to form nearly-the whole of the soil. Peat abounds. The higher point of the interior ridge is called Snaefell; attaining the height of 672 yards above the level of the sea. It is verdant to the summit, and bears. the snowy tufts of cotton grass; Eriophorum waginatum, and Eriophortam polystachion. If the weather be clear, the adjacent coasts of Scotland, England, Wales and Ireland, are discernible by the naked eye at the same- time, from this mountain. Another, impending over the town of Ramsey, called North Barool, reaches the same height within thirty or forty feet.1 Each of these is forted of argillaceous slate, covering mica slate. Nearly in the centre of the island, the mountains are separated by a narrow valley, which. pierces in an east and west direction from sea to sea. To the eastward it widens into a plaint through which a small river runs, formed by the junction of two streams above the town of Douglas. The land surrounding this town, though generally inferior in fertility to the northern district, is the most carefully cultivated, and most productive part of the island. To the west also, this valley expands, and gives exit to another small stream collecting the water which falls on the western side. On this stream are situate the town and port of Peel, the most convenient for intercourse with Ireland and the western coast of Scotland. This vale contains an epitome of all soils: on the north it is sand, containing particles of freestone, and of a reddish colour; towards the mountain it is gravel and stone brash ; in other parts, clay. Pits of good marl are to be found, but they lie deep, and are little used. On the low grounds, through which the rivulet runs, are found patches of peat-moss. From Peel to Castletown, the south-west coast becomes a lofty precipice to the sea. The mountains which range inland with this, approach within four miles of Castletown, the metropolis, though not the largest town in the island. The termination of the ridge towards the plain, is called South Barool: on its surface are found numerous blocks of granite, containing mica, reddish feld-spar, and grey quartz. Fragments of mica-slate also appear; but the argillaceous is most frequent. The summit of this mountain attains the height of 514 yards from the sea, and affords a view nearly as extensive as that from Snaefell, in the northern division of the island. From the foot of this mountain to the sea, extends a fertile vale, in part seated on limestone lying in regular and nearly horizontal strata. This vale is studded with eminences, and appears altogether well adapted to the turnip husbandry. In general, the soil is a warm friable loam ; though on the eastern side is found a stiff clay in other parts, sand prevails.

In various parts of the island, are found beneath the surface, bands of an indurated substance of a dusky colour, here called black-rock, or black-sole, formed of rounded gravel and sand, closely cohering together, apparently by the effect of some mineral impregnation. It often rises within six inches of the surface, and is of irregular depth, from six inches to fifteen inches and upwards, incumbent generally on gravel, which it often tinges of a dirty yellow or rust colour. The surface water is repelled by this substance, and no root can enter it.

In other places, rise near the surface beds of a hungry white clay, of extraordinary tenacity ; resisting the im-pression of the tool, and impervious to water, or to the root of vegetables. The depth of this bed of clay, where pierced, has not been found to exceed eighteen inches. Where this clay, or the black-rock is found, the effects on vegetation are most injurious.

The island to the south-west, called the Calf of Man, rises in one point to a considerable elevation above the sea, and is environed by huge masses of rock. On these, in the season, sea-birds incubate in prodigious numbers. The strata of this island seem to consist altogether of bluish grey argillaceous schistus, with veins of quartz its sail is light. A few head of deer were formerly introduced into this island, but were drowned in at tempting to escape. It has been applied principally to sheep pasture, or as a rabbit warren, but at present part is under the plough.

A sea-bird, here called a puffin, formerly hatched its young in the rabbit-burrows. When fully fledged, these were taken from the nests by means of an iron instrument : being extremely fat and of a peculiar flavour, they were held in great esteem by some persons, as a delicacy. The rats escaping from a vessel which happened to be wrecked on the coast, have exterminated these birds, of which not an individual is now bred in the island.

SECTION V.—MINERALS AND QUARRIES.

On a promontory of the south-western coast called Breda, traces remain of mining operations carried on in ancient days to a considerable extent. One level, about four feet wide, and between four and five feet high, opens just above high-water-mark into the north-west front of the mountain, and reaches about 200 yards. By means of a shaft sunk from a point of the rock, and inclining inwards about twelve yards from the perpendicular of the entrance into the level, and from a few other sumps or shafts, sunk below the level, a considerable quantity of ore appears to have been obtained. The level was wrought through the rein, which was very irregular: in some parts 40 feet high by 6 feet broad ; in intervening spaces little or no ore appeared. Its quality seems to have been but indifferent. Some wedges of a description in use before the introduction of gunpowder into mining, called feather-wedges, have been found in the mine ; and the appearance of the work bespeaks remote antiquity: history and even tradition are silent by whom, and at what period, these operations were commenced.

In the course of the 17th century the noble family of Stanley, to whom the seignory then belonged, appear to have sought for copper in the same neighbourhood. Traces of their labours remain. The ore discovered seems not to have been abundant, but rich in quality, producing, as it is said, six pennyweights of copper, from an ounce of ore. In some instances, the water appears tainted with cupreous impregnations ; but the search after this useful mineral seems to have had no renewal. Some attempts at lead ore, as well near the same spot, as in other parts of the island, on its western side, have been made at various periods, and at one time wore a promising appearance. The Bishop of Llandaff* states the produce in silver on some Manks ore to have amounted to 20 oz. in a ton of lead. By some of the workmen it is asserted that the quantity of silver has occasionally amounted to 35 oz, in the ton.

Since the publication of his Lordship's valuable researches, attempts to raise lead ore have been made on the eastern coast of the island, near a village called Laxey: the specimens were both of compact and brittle galena ; the former rich in silver, and well worth cupellation. It was found both in veins and nodules ; some of them very large, accompanied by a few trifling specimens of copper ore, and more abundant of zinc, in the state both of carbonet and sulphuret, with a gangue of chrystallized quartz and sulphat of barytes.

The subscription, by means of which this work was carried on, was too slender in amount, and the ignorance, as it is said, of the workmen employed, too great to afford much prospect of success.

Northward of this spot, and in other districts of the island, iron-stone is found, but no attempt at smelting it has been made.

Of coal, there is little indication ; it has been sought for, but not perhaps in the most likely spot.

Half a mile north-east of Peel, on the sea coast, a quarry of sand-stone rises: its colour is a dull brown red ; the surface stone is hard, and breaks into lamina of considerable breadth and length, from three to six inches thick. This stone contains fragments of quartz, and is charged with iron : if more deeply wrought, it might perhaps prove more friable. Many centuries ago, the quarry has evidently been wrought to the margin of the sea ; but valuable as the stone appears, it is at present neglected.

At the same distance, south-west of the town, is situated, also on the shore, a quarry of slate. Its situation is on the side of a precipice, with no road of safe access, or convenient means of shipping the slate raised. The resources of the poor people employed in raising and fashioning the slate, do not enable them to over-come these difficulties ; and this quarry also is in a state of neglect. Three miles southward, another slate quarry is occasionally wrought on the sea shore. Its produce is equally good ; but the same obstacles- arising from the poverty of the few persons employed in quarry-ing, have hitherto prevented the extension of this wont, though much more easy of access. Fn the mountain, outer slate quarries are wrought, all of them for domestic consumption, which they are insufficient to supply.; many cargoes being imported from Wales annually.

The south-eastern and southern extremity of the island rests on a solid limestone rock, extending into the country above three miles, and forming a sea coast of about four miles. A vein of coarse black marble, of a few hundred yards in length, intersects it near high-water-matk, at its south-western extremity. The latter stone is not convertible into lime, or capable of receiving a high polish: it is principally employed in tomb-stones. The steps and part of the flagging to St. Paul's is from this quarry. On the surface of this vein appears a layer of a deep brown, hard and ponderous stone, which does not burn, and is used in lining the lime-kilns. The quarry also contains a small greyish marble vein, which bears a good polish, but it is not wrought at present.

The limestone dips generally in a northern direction, but sometimes to the south-west, and west. The extreme points of the quarry, as far as has yet been as certained, are about four miles distant. The depth of soil covering the rock, varies from six inches to nine feet ; the depth of the rock itself is as yet unexplored. Two or three layers of limestone on the surface, of the depth of from one to four feet each, are of inferior quality ; the remaining bed is all of equal value to convert into lime, and has not been found to improve as it deepens. Impressions of sea shells are frequently observable.

Three considerable lime works are carried on for the supply of the public ; one situate on the margin of the sea at a mile south-west from Castletown ; another a mile east from that town, near a port called Derby Haven : and others, two miles north in the interior. An account is subjoined of the quantities sold at the two latter works during the three last years.* At each place are three kilns : the largest is situated in the interior. It is a perpetual or draw kiln, 24 feet deep, 8 feet wide, containing four eyes, each sixteen inches wide in the run of the shovel, eighteen inches high, and sixteen feet long. After being heated about a week, it burns about 540 bushel each day ; and delivers its lime at the kiln, at two shillings and two-pence a barrel, each containing six Winchester bushel.

From the latter end of March to the beginning of July, quarriers are also constantly employed in raising limestone from quarries near the sea, which is conveyed in boats of from 15 to 30 ton burden, for burning in other parts of the island. The quantity of limestone exported to England is at present very inconsiderable ; of that carried coastwise there are no means of ascertaining the quantity ; it is raised wholly by day-work ; the quarriers receiving wages from 2s. 6d. to 3s. a day.

When burnt into lime, the stone is stated to lose about three fifths in weight.

A regular quarry of tough argillaceous slate is found at a place called Spanish Head, four miles south-west from Castletown. The stone is raised in blocks of from six to ten feet long, nine inches to 15 broad, and from four inches to eight inches deep. These are employed forlintels to doors and windows, for gate posts, and other purposes to which wood is applied in other countries.

The slate raised at another quarry in the interior is found to answer the purpose of whetstones.

SECTION VI.—STREAMS AND SPRINGS.

Tats summits of the central mountains, intercepting the fleets of vapor in their transit, furnish a perennial supply of rills and streams. For all the purposes of agriculture, water of an excellent quality is no where deficient; though in uncommonly dry summers, per-baps for a few weeks, some mills may suffer inconvenience. In some part of the sandy plain in the northern division of the island, springs are not abundant but no pains have yet been taken to pierce in search of water to a sufficient depth. In the southern low lands also, where the limestone rock forms the substratum, springs of soft water are not found. No injurious consequences to the health, or domestic convenience of the inhabitants, have been found to result.

There are no lakes or ponds of any extent in the island.

Footnotes

1: The prospect from this hill seems to have excited a whimsical reflection in the mind of a former proprietor of this s6gnory (James, Earl of Derby, in the middle of the 17th century) after observing to his son, that there is no doubt but that by due management of the insular trade he may grow rich, he goes on to say, " When I go to the Mount called Barool, and on turning me round see England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales, I think shame, so fruitlessly to see so many kingdoms at once, .t which no place I think in any nation that we know of under as heaven can afford such a prospect of, and to have such little profit by them" Peck's DESID. CURIOSA.

2: There are several smelting houses at Holywell in Flintshire, where silver is extracted from lead; they usually work off three ton of lead at one operation : the quantity of silver is variable, according to the richness of the lead. A few years age, they were refining lead from an ore found in the Isle of Man, and it gave them about 60 ounces at every operation, or ao ounces is a ton of lead.—Watson's Chemical Essays, v. iii, p. 328. 7th ed.

3: Quantity of lime seld from the three kilns at Derby Haven, between the years 1807 and 1810 inclusive.

Year Barrels Bushels
1807
14351
86zo6
1808
15008
90048
1809
15151
90906
1810
13145
78870
Total sold in four years
57655
345930

Quantity of lime sold in 1809 and 1810 from two kilns at Slaughfield ;and from the three kilns, up to the 3rd of August 1811, there having been a new kiln set to work in this season.

Year Barrels Bushels
1809
5846
35076
1810
12491
74,946
1811
9000
94000
Total sold in three years.
27337
164022

 

4: As well at Slaughfield as at Derby Haven, one of the three kilns considerably exceeds in size the other two. The latter are all neatly of he same size.

 


 

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