[From T.Quayle Agriculture of IoM, 1812]



THE peculiarly necessary operation of draining is certainly too often neglected, as well as imperfectly understood. From the vertical position of the strata in the elevated part of the island, it must be allowed that draining is there attended with difficulty, as it becomes necessary to cut the spot where the springs arise. In the low lands, hollow draining has been long practised, and still goes on. The depth is usually from two feet and a half to three feet: the breadth about twelve inches. The drains are sometimes left hollow, and have their sides and top lined with flat stones ; more frequently are filled with small stones to a foot or ten inches of the surface, and covered with straw or pared sward. Those of the latter description, in a course of years, sometimes are choked by sand. In order to obtain a fall, greater depth is occasionally requisite ; Drains are then constructed of the width of two-spade grafts, and are then usually provided with side walls, and covered with flat stones.


THIS is an operation in which the Manks husband-man has no skill. He imports from the north of England adventurers, with their tools. On these men he places confidence, and that confidence is generally abused. This operation costs about 21. 2s. or 21. 4s. per acre is never practised but on bringing in coarse rough land. The paring-spade generally cuts from one inch and a half, to two inches and a half deep ; the plough, two inches and a half at least, and can pare full an acre a day. The work is done from April to August ; and if the quality of the soil admit wheat, it is sown early. The inferiority of the soil usually induces the improver to turn in the ashes, and await a spring crop. These lands are usually laid down to grass as soon as the firr-rows can be reduced to proper tilth, with an application of lime alone, or dung, or both. Where too many white crops have not been extracted, the improver always has reason to be satisfied with the result.

Part of the fertile vale in the northern district, approaching the stream at the mountain foot, is bottomed by peat of considerable depth. The meadow on its surface is sometimes broken up and tilled by cottagers in the following manner. The field is divided into butts of about twelve feet wide, as if for potatoes, intervals of about three feet being left in grass ; the butts are first ploughed up. In the spring, two-thirds of the part left in grass is turned up by the spade, burnt in heaps, and the ashes spread over the butts as equally as may be. The butts are then again ploughed, and immediately sown with oats. In the succeeding spring, the remaining third part of the sward is in its turn raised, burnt, and the ashes spread. The whole is then leveled by the aid of the spade ; a second crop of oats is taken and laid down with grass seeds.

This mode of culture, the cottager has probably been induced to adopt, in consequence of the necessary appropriation of all his muck to the culture of potatoes.

The arable which he requires is thus made to furnish the means of its own improvement. It is not admitted that the staple of the soil suffers from this treatment, though it is to be feared that there are instances of three, instead of two successive white crops, being taken in this mode of culture.


Marl.— In the northern division of the island, this excellent manure is found in great abundance, at the distance of a few feet from the surface. At the time of Sacheverel's publication, in 1703, the Manks farmers are said, "not to have had the skill, or purses, to lay it out on their grounds." Experience has now convinced them of its value. The preference is given to that of a dusky reddish colour, with blue veins, over that of a white cast. From the month of June to September, two-horse carts, containing from 15 to 25 bushels each, are employed in transporting from the pit to the field the marl, which is laid on at about the quantity of 3300 bushels per acre, on light land ; and 2800 per acre on those of stronger staple. The heaps lie 'till winter commences, when the marl is spread and ploughed in. The first crop taken by the Manks farmer is generally pease ; barley succeeds ; and so alternately pease and barley are taken for about nine crops, when the land is laid down with oats and grass seeds. On land, where it appears that the pease produced are not good boilers, oats are substituted ; and in like manner, alternate with barley, 'till the land becomes exhausted. It is then laid down with grass-seeds, and pastured 'till thought fit again to undergo the same treatment.

An instance is recollected of eighteen crops being thus taken without cessation. It is to the native farmers alone, that these practices are imputed ; not to the few from other countries settled in this fertile vale. The lands occupied by the latter do not receive this castigation, but evidently appear to be treated in a husband-like manner. Turnips, with other fallow-crops, with manure and due hoeing, intervene ; when laid down to grass they are in heart, and are not ungrateful for this merciful treatment.

Proprietors of estates occasionally let out fields for the purpose of cropping in the former method ; and divide the spoil with the occupier. Marl is also sold by some owners at the price of 3d, or 4d. per double horse cart-load.

A bushel of marl, unneaped, weighs about 112lb. The lapse of three years is here thought necessary, after marl is laid on the land, before it is sufficiently incorporated to favor the production of wheat. When this crop is taken, it is in the following succession :-

1st, peas ; 2d, barley ; 3d, oats ; 4th, potatoes ; 5th, wheat ; 6th, barley, with grasses ; 7th, clover and ray grass hay ; 8th, hay, or pasture ; 9th, wheat ; 10th, potatoes. Or, 1st, oats or peas ; 2d, barley or oats ;3d, wheat. Or thus, ist, peas ; 2d, barley with grasses; 3d, hay or pasture ; 4th, wheat.

The barley produced on light land marled is of superior quality, and much coveted by the brewer.

Deep on the clay-cliff, which forms the edge of this coast, is found a layer of marl ; as the cliff is under-mines and precipitated into the sea, some clods of marl are found to adhere for a time, and resist the action of the sea ; by its agitation they become rounded; and some persons are of opinion that during the immersion of these clods, they become hardened by degrees, and converted into limestone. On the same coast, rounded fragments of stone are certainly found, resembling, as certainly, in their external appearance rounded lumps of marl. Other stones are found with small quartzose, and other pebbles imbedded on their surface, the adhesion of which was evidently effected whilst the stone remained in a soft state; but no person has yet dis-covered a lump of marl in the intermediate state, whilst its core, or any part of the lump, remained soft, and other part was hard, or hardening. It is also to be observed, that in the cliff, on the sea-shore, single lime-stones of considerable weight are occasionally found ; and that in the marl-pits themselves, fragments of lime-stone appear of sizes from that of a human head, to that of a walnut. Sea-shells also are occasionally found, but not large in size, or in considerable quantities.

Lime.—The use of this powerful stimulant has been long known to the Manks farmer ; having been taught by a Mr. Greenhalgh, who was governor of the island under the Derby family, from 1640 to 1651. The southern end of the island produces lime-stone as abundantly as the northern does marl. From the beginning of April, 'till the fall of autumnal rains impedes the carriage of the lime, the kilns draw daily. Carts are in constant employ in leading it away, even to the distance of eighteen miles, for the purposes of agriculture. At the kilns which adjoin the sea, boats are also constantly in requisition during the summer months, conveying cargoes to the different creeks and ports of the island. Limestone is also conveyed in carts to the central parts of the island, where it is burnt by means of peat, in earthen kilns, near the spots to which it is destined.

The usual application of lime is in the quantity of from twenty to fifty barrels of quick lime, each con-taining six Winchester bushels, laid on sward. This the native farmer ploughs in, and takes grain crops as long as the produce will repay seed, labour, and charges usually seven crops of oats and barley. The land then remains from four to six years, 'till it is so far recovered as to afford a hope of carrying again grain crops ; and then, da capo. Some of the small farmers have bean to sow two or three bushels of hayseed, and four pounds of red or white clover, before the land becomes quite exhausted : after taking one crop of hay, it is dedicated to pasture. The effect of lime is deemed to endure twelve crops, if in the intermediate time a few slight dressings of manure be given.

Though the quantity of lime applied does not usually exceed 300 bushels by the acre, yet occasionally it is employed in a much larger proportion. A gentleman residing near the south-west angle of the island, where the limestone appears on the shore, and who was in a situation to enable him to burn his lime, at an easy expense, in the field to be improved, calculates having covered one particular field with above 800 bushels an acre. The soil before visible was principally sand. Since the field has been limed, it has acquired on its surface mould of a dark hue ; and has ever since this extraordinary application borne excellent crops.

Considerable quantities of lime are also carted away in the summer as an ingredient in compost dung-hills. This does not seem an economical application, but it is frequent.

On grass-land, lime is applied in the month of August, in quantities of from 150 to 200 bushels per acre ; also on clover after the first cutting ; in each case with great advantage. The quality, as well as the quantity, of succeeding hay-crops receives considerable improve-ment. The effect of lime applied to pasture appears to be more permanent than on arable. The application of fragments of limestone, or of its gravel, has not yet been tried. Chalk-beds do not exist in the island. No banks of shells, or of shell-sand, have yet been discovered ; nor have gypsum or rape-dust been imported.

In the creeks and in the curvatures of bays, sea-sand is lodged in considerable quantities. In the southern part of the island, in particular, this must be composed, in some degree, of pulverized limestone, with the remains of testaceous fish, and some portion of the different species of marine vegetables reduced to putrefaction. Of late years the farmer has resorted to this store, seeking it in preference, as near low water-mark as possible, where the putrid sea-weed has communicated a blackish colour. Its weight-prevents its being carted to any distance in the interior ; but the farmers within two miles of the shore employ it as an ingredient in composts. This is properly applied in generall to heavy land; and its effects appear in the luxuriance of the succeeding crops of grass. No application of this sea-sand alone is known to have been made either on arable or pasture.

In the same quarter of the island, and also in some creeks on the western coast, after heavy autumnal gales, sea-weed or wreck is driven up in large quantities. This is carted off with great avidity, and applied to stubbles, or lays, at the rate of about 20 or 30 ton per acre, and immediately ploughed in to rot for seed-time. Without any outer dressing, spring corn is sown, and good crops are produced. Of this manure, the same abuse is made, as of marl and lime, by forcing the land with successive crops of white corn. In the present year; the ninth crop of barley, without intermission, grew on a sandy field, apparently of poor quality, dressed with sea-weed alone, which had been applied indeed each year. Its effect is admitted not to be durable.

One advantage it has, convenient to Manks farming: it introduces no weed ; and when employed, as it often is, in composts, it may aid in dissolving and hastening the putrefaction of the other ingredients.

Laver of a good quality is found on the southern and mid western coasts. Some other of the marine plants are edible raw ; but are not, in any degree, used as an article of sustenance.

Soaper's waste is annually imported in considerable quantities from Dublin, and sold at prices from 10s. 6d. to 12s. per ton, of 4.8 bushels. It is most generally used in composts of sea-sand, earth, &c. for top-dressings; and particularly as a preparation for wheat : The good effects are found for several successive crops.

Refuse fish and salt are spread on the land in the neighbourhood of red-herring houses, but no particular remark on their effect has been made, except that it is of short duration. In the town of Douglas, manure is collected, and 2s. 6d. paid for the double horse cart-load, though when delivered, one half the quantity, at least, proves to be but sea sand, with which it has previously been adulterated.

No attention has yet been paid to the comparative effects of dung applied in a fresh and in a rotten state. When led out from the yard, it is often suffered to remain eight or ten days on the field, before it is spread and covered.

The purchaser of a small farm at the mountain foot, distant from lime about twelve miles, was induced to try the effect of a mixture of oil and potash. In 1806, he purchased, at Liverpool, the dregs of whale oil, called foot-oil, at 1s. 6d. per gallon, and pot-ash at 3d. per pound. These ingredients had, at least, the merit of being portable, and their application was attended with little trouble. With the saponaceous compound effected by their mixture, in the proportion of 8 gallons of oil to 28lb. of ash, he impregnated mould. Having in early spring ploughed three small closes, of three acres each, in March he gave them a cross ploughing, and dressed them with the compost, in the quantity above stated, to the acre. When harvest came, he was informed by his neighbours, that the crop exceeded in value any which they recollected to have grown there; yet it could not be called abundant; nor has the succeeding pasture been remarkable. The same compost he tried to three acres of potatoes ; applying muck to a fourth acre in the same field. No difference whatever was discernible in the crop, which was uniformly good,. The gentleman, by whom this trial was made, is satisfied that the quantity of compost was insufficient ; and that had it been applied in a triple quantity, the result would have been more satisfactory. In the spot where the mixture had been made, some of the ingredients had been accidentally spilled; the effect has to this day endured in a greater luxuriance of vegetation. He has not repeated the application of this manure. The price of its ingredients has since been much enhanced; and he calculates that were triple the quantity applied, the expense would at present exceed 61. per acre, which would equal that of a dressing by lime, and probably produce less effect.

An experiment is now in its progress, of which it is hoped that the result will be as successful, as the design is ingenious. Carbonat of soda; of which the value is well known in several manufactures, particularly those of soap and glass, has also the merit of being a powerful manure ; sea-salt results from a combination of soda with the muriatic acid: it has long been a desideratum in chemistry to find an easy method of disengaging this acid from the basis of soda. Under certain circumstances, lime, both in a caustic state and in that of a carbonat, has been found to produce that effect. Berthollet* observed, that on the borders of Lake Natron, in Egypt, the sea-water flowing into the lake, and, during the summer, there stagnating, was in part decomposed by the limestone rock on which it rests ; that the carbonat of lime gradually decomposed the muriat of soda; and that the carbonat of soda resulting from the double decomposition effloresced, and shot up the reeds growing on the sides of the lake, extricating itself from the other salts held in solution. When the waters subsided, these reeds are gathered and burned. From their ashes considerable quantities of soda are procured.

It seemed probable, that if any fit porous substance were introduced, forming a substratum on which the efflorescence of the carbonat of soda might take place, on bringing into contact the lime and salt in a moist state, that the purpose of the reed might be answered. It was thought that bog-earth might prove a good medium. A preparation was therefore made, in the proportion of one bushel of salt to six of lime, and intimately mixed with about 60 of bog earth. The whole was left in a mass, exposed to the weather, to facilitate the decomposition, and also for the purpose of carrying off the muriat of lime which might be produced ; the latter salt being of an extremely soluble nature.

After the mass had remained about a month from the time of its first mixture, although too little rain had fallen to effect a complete solution of the salt, yet as it was wanted for a wheat-field, for which no other manure remained, and which had been left is an exhausted state, the first experiment was made on this field.

Twenty-five acres, in part a strong loam, and the remainder a light loam, were dressed with the compost, at the rate of 30 single-horse carts, each containing 18 bushels to the acre. It was indeed feared, that if a mutual decomposition were effected, after the compost was spread, that the muriat of lime might be nearly as injurious as the carbonat of soda would be beneficial. But the former salt being carried off more speedily by the winter rains, it was hoped that the succeeding crops, at least, would reap that benefit from the compost which the present might not.

During the winter 1810-11, (which was a very wet season), the wheat went mostly off, probably in consequence of the deleterious effects of the muriat of lime. The wheat, however, recovered in the spring beyond what could have been possibly expected, and carried an uncommonly heavy car; while the ray-grass and clover sown among it in the spring appeared to flourish greatly beyond that sown with barley in adjoining fields which had been under green crops the year preceding. On this day (3d September, 1811) it wears probably the most promising appearance of any crop in the island.

The remainder of the compost will not be applied to the ground, 'till after a full twelvemonth has elapsed from the time of its mixture. The salt is indeed dissolved, but no efflorescence is detected on the bog earth: Some of this compost is intended to be applied as a dressing for cole ; on another part of the same field, lime will be applied in order to compare the relative results. The remainder of the compost will be applied as a manure for wheat ; other part of the field being dunged, and the remainder limed, in order to form a further estimate of its effects.

One attempt has been made to fertilize a small farm, left much out of condition, by means of peat-ashes. Two acres of peat-land, within a convenient distance of the farm, being part of a mountain-intack, were taken on a ten years lease. The plough raises the peat, which is gathered in heaps, and immediately burned on the spot: The ashes carted home, and spread on the land at the rate per acre of 60 double-horse cart loads, each containing about 20 bushels. The labour in ploughing, gathering, and burning. is computed to cost 1l. 11s. 6d. for each improved acre ; cartage to the farm 21. 5s. The first crop is barley, with clover : the second year the clover, which is indeed uncommonly luxuriant., is twice mown, and in the following year fed off. The land is then ploughed, and sown with wheat. Potatoes mucked, succeed. To these, barley or oats, again seeded. The land is then to receive a second sprinkling of ashes of half the former quantity.

This practice has been introduced by a native of the canton of Berne, who found this small farm in a state the most foul and exhausted. Though his crops are abundant, his success has hitherto had no other consequences amongst his neighbours, than to awaken their attention to the value of the peat-land, for which larger prices are now demanded.

After the peat is completely exhausted, no better purpose can probably be pointed out, to which the spot which once produced it, can be dedicated, than that recommended by Dr. Richardson, the ingenious and worthy rector of Clonfeckle, near Moy, in Ireland. This spot of land, and others in similar circumstances, seem peculiarly adapted to the growth of his favourite grass, the agrostis stelenifera, termed by him fiorin. After levelling the spot, it is recommended simply to lay in and cover the stolones, which never fail, even in elevated regions, to produce most weighty crops of grass, both in a green and dry state, highly relished by cattle.

On a similar spot the Doctor has himself succeeded in raising, in the present year (1811), weighty crops of fiorin.

By furnishing the proof of the facility with which soil, apparently as sterile in its nature as it is unsightly in its aspect, may be converted to a valuable purpose ; by effecting the change at once, at a comparatively trifling expense, and by one operation, a considerable benefit is conferred on agriculture. This is apart from all consideration of the singularly prolific nature of the crop produced, though that fact seems also to be esta blished by incontrovertible evidence.


MANY situations in the island are favorably situated for water-meadows; and in every direction rills in abundance descend from the higher lands. The minute and narrow division of property will often be found to stand in the way of irrigation, if ever attempts to form these meadows should become frequent. Hitherto not one has been made ; but it is probable that the experiment will not much longer be delayed.


* Statique Chimique I. 406, Annales de Chimie.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2003