[From T.Quayle Agriculture of IoM, 1812]
STONE being in plenty in almost every quarter of the island, and good slate within reach, the houses of the gentry are exclusively constructed of these materials generally rough-cast and white-washed. With the exception of one house recently erected by his Grace the Duke of Atholl, close to the town of Douglas, there is no large or very elegant mansion in the island, nor is it likely that any such should in future arise, The residence ought to be in proportion to the wants and the expenditure of its owner : and it is not within probability that a family whose style of living requires a numerous establishment or a magnificent structure, should continue to make this secluded spot their abode. Some few of the houses contain rooms, well pitched, and of handsome dimensions ; but the country residences are usually below par. Brick houses are very infrequent : none are constructed of timber, lathe, and plaistered, nor are tiles in use. In very exposed situations the walls are often faced from the roof to the ground with slate. In this humid climate, this made may perhaps be useful to exclude damps ; but the workmanship, in general, is not neatly finished: the mortar used in this vertical slating is not tinged, as it ought to be, of the colour of the slate itself ; and, on the whole, the effect to the eye is unpleasing.
AGRICULTURE is here yet a recent art; the attention it receives from the numerous yeomanry, among whom the soil is principally divided, is still deficient. The materials of which their residences and farm buildings are constructed are solid, and the workmanship substantial. But their own dwellings contain rooms gene-rally low and ill ventilated ; the admission of light is imperfect, and the internal distribution of space inconvenient, compared with the dwellings of persons in the same class of life in longer cultivate:! countries. Farm offices are still worse constructed and arranged ; the stabling is cramped ; their carts stand abroad unsheltered. The system of soiling being unknown or unpractised, no regular yards for cattle are constructed, and consequently the muck is ill preserved. The dairies are usually within the house ; sufficient attention to cleanliness not being paid, the milk suffers in quality, and its odour pervades the dwelling.
The dearth of timber, and the great expense of build-ing with stone and lime, in some degree impede the removal of these evils. Several of the gentry have, however, erected on their farms excellent quadrangles of offices, constructed of stone and slated, sheltering in their centre their live stock.
The benefit received by their farms and their cattle from these improvements is so striking, that in time these must have imitations, perhaps improvements. The threshing-floors were formerly too often placed on an upper story. Since the general introduction of threshing. machines, the evils of this injudicious arrangement will be avoided.
THE solid materials of which farming offices are constructed, and the recency of their erection, preclude much observation on this head. Repairs are usually incumbent on the tenant.
WITHIN a few years, the wages of artizans have received a material increase. Masons, carpenters, and quarriers require from 2s. 6d. to 3s. 6d. per day. Dry rough-walling costs about is. per yard. House-walling. Is. bd. to 2s. The price of materials depends on the vicinity of the quarry ; carriage and labour being the only expense. By the insular laws, every person standing in need of lime-stone, or building-stone, may enter on his neighbour's land, and dig and carry away what is requisite for his own use, paying the occupier a reasonable satisfaction, which appears to be interpreted merely surface-damage. The labourers employed receive from is. 8d. to 3s- per day in the towns; in the country from is. 1. to 2s. sometimes with an allowance of beer.
The emission of paper-money, which in this island descends to shillings, and even lower, and the general displacing of coin from the circulation, have disturbed the present prices paid for labour so considerably, that the registering them can be of little other use than as furnishing data for comparison.
THE dwellings of the farmers and peasantry in this island are not commonly arranged in villages, but scattered over the area of the country On viewing the hovel in which a Manks peasant shelters himself, the first impression on the mind of a stranger arriving from a more opulent country must be, that this is the abode of misery. The walls are about seven feet high, constructed of sods of earth : at each side the door, appears a square hole, containing a leaded window. Chimney there is none, but a perforation of the roof, a little elevated at one end, emits great part of the smoke from the fire underneath. The timber forming the roof is slender, coarse, and crooked. It is thatched with straw, crossed chequerwise, at intervals of twelve or eighteen inches, by ropes of the same material, secured either by being tied to the wall by means of coarse slates fixed and projecting, or by stones hanging from the ends of the ropes.
From that end of the roof whence the smoke issues, to the other end, the roof gently declines in height. If the means of its inhabitant enable him to keep a cow, a continuation of the roof covers another hovel of similar materials, accommodating this valuable inmate. On entering that end which is destined to the lord of the creation, the appearance of wretchedness unfortunately continues. The floor is hardened clay : the embers burn on a stone placed on a hearth, without range or chimney ; the turf-smoke, wandering at random, darkens every article of furniture, till it finds exit at the aperture in the roof, or elsewhere. A partition separates the cottage into two rooms: over the chamber-end is sometimes a loft, to which the ascent is by a ladder from the keeping-room. The aspect of the inhabitants is is unison with their abode. The mother and children are bare legged and bare footed ; their dark-coloured woollen garments squalid and unseemly.
Yet perhaps this wretchedness is but in externals. This homely abode is warm and evidently not unhealthy. Its inhabitant has stored within its walls his winter's food ; he is therefore more free from heart-ache than the peasant of other regions more favoured by nature and by climate ; living indeed in a neater habitation, but paying treble the rent ; on more costly food, but at the mercy of the baker or the miller.
In the northern district, where quarries of stone are less accessible, and lime more distant, the cottages continue to be built in the primitive manner. In the southern, where building materials are comparatively more plentiful, stone and lime are used in the new cottages, more frequently. The ancient mode of thatching and roping is still general. Every second year, the thatch requires to be thickened, and the chequer-work straw netting to be renewed.
An earth cottage may be completed from the ground for about twelve or fifteen pounds. The rent is about a guinea, usually paid by the labour of its inhabitant and his family to the owner. The increase of threshing machines, rendering the straw unfit for thatching will in time necessitate the use of slates for roofing. In the end, this material will be found more economical. The durable roofs, constructed of heath, which appear to be in use in the north-west highlands, have been rarely used in this island.
The streams of this island being, of course, diminutive, it is not necessary on this head to say any thing apart from what will come under consideration with the high roads.