The background to this atlas lies in the "An Act to provide an Asylum for Lunatics and insane Persons" passed by Tynwald in 1860. Funding for the asylum, built at Ballamona (and designed by J.H.Christian) , was to be based on a property rate (tax) which needed a survey and valuation of land holdings and determination of the owners. This survey was to use the 1841 tithe plans as a base.
James Woods was appointed as surveyor to the valuers; it is not clear where he received his surveying education though, as Alan Franklin states his family believed that he had attended a naval school. He was born in 1840 and christened at Andreas, the son of James and Esther Woods (nee Teare), his father was reputed to be English from Plymouth. James attended the small school run by his uncle Caesar Teare at Ballacross.
The valuation was probably completed by May 1864 (copies of the published valuations are available on microfilm in the Manx Museum), rate collection (in which Woods was also involved) started in November 1864. Woods advertised for subscribers to the Atlas from December 1864 to January 1866. In 1865 Tynwald created the new Town Commissioners for Ramsey and Woods was appointed clerk at a salary of £50pa starting September 1865 - one of his duties was the collection of town rates. However in July 1869 the IoM Times carried a report on the mysterious disappearance of the Clerk to the Commissioners and later in the month the Town Commissioners suspended him stating that his books and accounts were in disarray. It emerged that James Woods had left the Island owing some £365.
Woods apparently emigrated to the United States - he appears in the 1890's in Tiffin, Seneca County, Ohio where in the 1890's he is listed as a civil engineer and surveyor. He died in 1897 and his obituaries state that he had been a resident of Seneca County for over 20 years - the census records for 1870-90 have not survived so this cannot be verified. He married Miss Alice Emery in March 1887, on his death he left a widow and two children.
A Franklin James Woods. Victorian Surveyor and Civil Engineer 1840-1897 Journal IoM Family History Society XIX no
3 pp 79/84 + no. 4 pp 113/117
N.G.Crowe A New Atlas and Gazetteer: an Appreciation of James Woods's Atlas and its Origins Proc IoMNH&ASocX #4 pp373/379