[Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 3 pp435/444]


From an old manuscript by Thomas Denton, dated 1681

Mr. G. W. WOOD.

The following account is transcribed from a manuscript compiled in the year above named by Thomas Denton, Esq. , of Gray’s Inn, London, and Warnell Hall, Cumberland. The manuscript was formerly in the collection of Dr. Percy, and afterwards belonged to the late Thomas Noble, Senior Warden of the Ironmongers’ Company, London. It was purchased by me at the sale of the latter gentleman’s library in London a few years ago.

It is in book form with vellum covers and ties. In addition to the "Description of the Isle of Man " the volume contains the following :— " The names of the Hundreds and Parishes within the citys of London and Westminster, and the counties of Middlesex, Surrey, Sussex, Kent, Suffolk, and Norfolk."

A transcript of "John Denton’s M.S. History of Cumberland," which a note states is in the Dean and Chapter’s Library at Carlisle, "An account of the Percy, Vipont and Clifford Families," and "An account of the Kingdom of Ireland." None of them appear ever to have been published.

The " Description of the Isle of Man " commences with an introductory sketch of the nomenclature and geography of the Island, the leading characteristics of the people and the natural history and agricultural productions of the country. For this portion of his narrative the author appears to have drawn largely upon Camden. Then follows a description of the principal towns, castles, and other places of interest in the Island, and the chief officers of its then Lord, William 9th Earl of Derby.

The ecclesiastical, military, and civil governments are next dealt with, and then the forms of the legal procedure in vogue at the time. Finally a short account is given of the Kings of Man from Harold, son of Godwin, A.D. 1065, to Sir John Stanley.

This chronicle I have not thought it necessary to transcribe.

There are not many accounts of the Island older than the present, and its very antiquity renders it, I think, worthy of publication. It contains, as will be seen, several very quaint passages as well as some unfortunate and curious blunders.

Although on the whole well written, some words are difficult to decipher, and may possibly be incorrect.

G. W. WOOD, Streatham, S.W.


The Isle of Man, called (by Cesar) Mona, lyes (as he saith) in the midst of the Gulf between Brittain and Ireland. Ptolomee termeth it Monoeda, or Mon-eithea, vizt., the more remote Island—putting a difference between it and Anglesey, which is also called Mona, and by Orosius Menavia prior. Pliny calls it Monabia, Bede Menavia, Nenius Eubania and Manan. The Brittains Mon or Menon, ye inhabitants Maning, and ye English ye Isle of Man. Being stretched out in the mid levell (says Girald Cambrensis) between the Northerne Coasts of Ireland and Brittain, so as there was at first great strife to wch country it should belong, wch Camden tells you was determined to lye to Brittain by a common censure by fostering of venemous worms, and this was Henlin’s ascertion in his 4th book of Geography, but they are both under a great mistake, for there never was known to bee any venemous or poysonous creature in this Island, except Spiders and Wasps, wch have neither any poysonous nor venemous matter in them save that the wasps in the heat of the Summer are apt to sting cattle [!]

The people here hate theft and rapine, as the same authors observe, but yet they are very poor and lazy, as does evidently appear by ye meaness of their habits and nakedness of their lands as well as of their habitations, all wch are badges of ill Husbandry. And also these Inhabitants do more assimulate the Irish then Brittish in Languages, yet in qualities come nearer the Norwegians, and, notwithstanding the poverty here, you shall never see any [begging] nor going from door to door ; the Welthie sort for Hospitallity and good maners do imitate ye people in Lancashire, and, albeit the women did (in Cambdens time) gird ymselves about with the Winding sheet (the purpose to be buried as mindfull of their mortality) whithersoever they went out of doors,1 and of ym as were condemned to dye were sowed wth in a sack and flung from a rock into the sea, yet these customes are now quite abrogated, and their methods more regular, as hereafter shall be observed.

This Island stands like a man in triumph, upon the Sea, Exalting its head on high, wch by its Rocky banks on all sides bids deflyance to the turbulent waves of all these Boysterous seas, and it is situate about the centure of the Irish Sea, being almost equi distant from England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales. All which Kingdomes and principalities and divers counties within each of ym may be seen in a clear day from the top of Snaefell, which in Camb[den’s] time was called Sceafull, the highest mountain in this Island, being placed about ye middle thereof and being attended with divers other lesser hills standing thick about it, and extending thence north-east and south-west from ye Poynt of Ayre to the Calfe of Man, being in length about 30 Italian miles and about fifteen in the widest and 8 in ye narrowist places ; from Piely head to Clay head is the widest pt of ye Isle, and from Ramsey to Ayre ye narrowest.

It lyeth in ye same latitude with the counties of Cumbid and Down in Ireland ; it lyes almost in an ovall ffigure or rather oblong, the middle Pt being hilly and those parts nearer the sea having enclosures, but they are most of ym of Stone or Earth—have little or noe wood in any pt of ye countrey. In Bede’s time it contained 300 families and Anglesey 96[0]. But now there are 18 Parishes,(sic) and 17 Parish Churches, each of wch Parishes comprehends at least an 100 ffamilies—many more.

The Soyl is in most pts light and sandy, especially near the shore, but much more rich as you look further into the Country under the hills. Its product in the Arable lands is Wheat and Barley, which are exceedingly good in their kind, where ye lands are well manured, as evident both by their bread and Manx bear, wch exceeds any that I have drunk in 3 Kingdomes for strength and tast. There growe white Oats here in great plenty, in so much yt most of ye inhabitants eat only oat bread, their Beans and Peases are likewise very good in their kind, and it beareth abundance of ifiax and hemp ; their barley is of 2 sorts, with four rows in ye ear, or with 2, the latter is the better, whereof they make their best mault, and of it strongest ale not inferior to Milford ale. Bigg is a soit of grain wch doth not like in this soyl ; their meadows are either benty or full of Rushes some by ye sides of rivers much better. They have store of Cattle every where, and mighty flocks of sheep, being both smaller-bodied than in England and less headed, more like unto the Irish Cattle ; by ye statute of ye 15th of Kg Charles

2nd these Islanders may import to the number of 500 Cattle yearly into England, and no more.

Their sheep bear a yellow tawney ffieece, which makes very good cloath without dying, being like to trew blew, for it never stainse.

They have great plenty of hares, Foxes and some Red deer upon the mountains and store of moor game both gor, and gray besides Partridges, Plover, Wild Ducks and all sorts ot sea foul, especially Puffins, wch breed most plentiful in ye Calfe of Man. And those Ducks and Drakes, wch breeding of Rotten wood, ye English call ym Barnacles ye Scots Clakes, or Soland geese, with all which various sorts of plenty it doth not only supply ye Continente but ye defects of ye Westerne Isles of Scotland, and so it did in Queen Elizabeth’s time, as appears by a Letter written to Mr. Campden by John Merick, ye Lord Bishop of ye Isle, as follows, viz. :—" This Island for Cattle, for fish yea and for Come rather through men’s industry yn by any goodness of ye ground hath not only sufficient for itself, but also good store to send into other Countreys, yet happier it was for the Governmnt thereof as being defended from neighbourg enemies by Souldiers prest and ready at ye expense of ye Earl of Derby, upon wch he employed the grant of pt of his revenue in this Isle. All controversies are decided without writing or any charge by certain Judges, whom they chose from among ymselves and call Deemsters, for the magistrates taketh up a stone and when he hath given it his marke delivereth it unto ye Plaintiffe, who by virtue of it citeth his adversary and witnesses. If there fall out any doubtful case and of greater importance, it is refered to twelve men, whom they call ye Keys of ye Island.2

The people are generally tall, strong-bodied, and of healthy constitutions, who live to a great age at ease in ignorance. They had a peculiar language of their own, so also their peculiar Lawes, wch are signs of a peculiar Seigniory. Their Ecclesiasticall Lawes next after the Canon Law come nearest to the Civil. The people did never bestow upon any Judge, or Clerks of the Court for making of pcess or drawing of Instruments so much as a peny. Tho the Englishwriters (before Camb[den’s] time) might report gt mischiefs were done there by Witchcraft and Sorcery, yet he tells ym it was meerly false. However in my return fro Ireland, when we were cruising along that coast one evening late, between Douglas and Ramsey Bays, the master of the ship showed me a rock where an infernall Spirit used to anoy passengers, and would so aifright passengrs with hydeous noyses and cause such disturbance in ye waters in ye night time, yt many ships were thereby wrackt, and many more in hazard when he was a cabin boy, yt ifiend is now layd to sleep and ye coast is clear. And this and ye Irish Coasts are the safest and boldest Shores in Europe.

This isle is divided into 2 pts South and North, this in ye conion speech resembleth ye Scottish, ye former the Irish. They do detest the disorders as well civill as Ecclesiasticall of their neighbour nations, they are very religious and ready to entertain ye forme of ye English faith there being no room for any persons popishly affected Quakers or other Sectaries. They are no way cloged nor bothered with Taxes Customes or other grevious impositions, insomuch as you may have good Spanish wine for iod a quart, and french wine for a groat a quart. I remembr I was treated by a ffellow Collegiate at Duglas, who is visiting there, for 8d charge) and we had a quart of good white wine, 2 Quarts of Strong ale and bread and butter and other juncates into ye bargain.

In this Island besides the 18 Parishes (sic) there are four mercate towns, four forts or fortresses, 2 castles, one Cathedral Chh, and an old ruind Abbey.

Russin is the first and cheife mercate Towne situated on ye South side of ye Isle, which has a Castle wherein their constantly lyes a Garrison : is commonly called castle Towne, where wth in a litle Island Pope Gregory ye 4th instituted an Episcopal sees

The Bop whereof named Sodorensis had formerly jurisdiction over all ye west Irish Isles or Hebrides but doth exercise it now only over yt Isle and is under the Archbishop of York. His palace is now at Balacuri now called Bishop’s Court, 7 miles north-east from Russin, and his Cathedrall Chh wthin Peil Castle, as hereafter is said Castle towne stands a mile from ye shore called Darby road or Bay, on ye South end of wch Bay upon an Istmus or neck of land stands a round fort or Battery wth a double Tier of great guns to anoy any Enimy that shall dare to land there, for tho there be safe riding for a whole ffleet of ships of any burthen, yet it is very troublesome landing in regard of rough uneven Limestones wch spreads all over the shore for two miles in length and almost halfe a mile in breadth wthin the high water marke, wch being most of it covered with slippery Tangle that is scarce possible to hold ffoot there ; between this fort and the Town stands the Gallows and the Gibbet for ye execution of malifactors. The town stands upon another creek near the sea, where there is an old castle wch was heretofore the Bops Palace, until it came to ye crown of Engld as was before observed But it is now the Earl of Darbie’s palace as King in Man who keeps a garrison of souldiers there in constant pay for defence thereof wthin wch he hath a small armory of Pikes, Musquets, Halberds &c.; The walls are very thick, and ye castle is well fortified with an out Rampier and Trench wthin wch there is an outer wall round the castle with many oblick angles. The Castle gates are secured by a drawbridge Percullas, and a double great gate guarded with barrs of Iron, and there are severall Turretts and Platforms wthin ye castle planted with Drakes, feild pieces and Canons of severall syzes. The ledges of ye batteries are laden with loose coble stones to pour upon the Enimy in case of any attempt to storm ye place. But the habitall of the Castle is not only unfurnished, but much out of repair being never inhabited by any but 2 files of musqueteers who (under ye imediate comand of Capt Coldcoat ye constable thereof) constantly keep guard there, and this constable receives orders from John* Haywood, of Haywood, , a Lancashire gentleman who is Vice Roy there and cheife Governour of ye Castle and Isle, for wch he hath ye yearly Stipend of £200 a year paid him by ye Earl of Derby for his management in yt Government. He dwells in an ordinary house in ye Town near the Castle the Town and mercate is somewhat like to Egremt, but scarce so large or well built : some gentry do frequently retire hither from Ireland for privacy and parcimony if they have before lived too fast.

The young lady Donogall lately married to Capt. Luthe and Mr Thomas Dalston, grandson of Sir Thomas Dalston, who came of ye house of Acornbanke (and was an Irish judge) dwell now in Castle Town. The Psh Church stands a mile north-east from the Town, but there is a large Chappell in ye Town and a school at the west end thereof. The School-master hath £60 a year Sallery allowed by ye Earl of Darby for reading prayers every morning at 11 of ye Clock and teaching a Grammar School, and for reading Logick and phylosophy to four Accademick Scollars, who are habited in black wide sleeved goons and square caps and have lodging in the Castle and a sallery of £10 a year a piece by a new foundation of ye present Earl and Lord of Man. Two miles north from this town appears ye Shell of an old Abbey or monastery called Ballasally, and there is yet to be seen the remains of an old Nunery near Douglas, and from ye top of this Castle (before described) you may view a plain Countrey well enclosed, wherein are divers Parishes and Town and a very pleasant pt of a countrey.

There lyes a petty Iland before ye very South-point of this Island, which is severed from thence by a strate Chanell of ye sea in ye nature of a gulf ; this is a dangerous Road and hereon many have been wrackd, here is a large warren and very good pasturage, and only one ffamily habits there.

Douglas is the next mercate Town upon the same side of ye Iland, 6 miles east from Castle Town, which lyes lurking cuningly under a great hill which shelters it from the sea, and it is refreshed with a pleasant clear cristall streame wch pouring down apace from ye east side of Snaefell, divides ye Town into 2 pts with a deep but narrow chanell wch is navigable into the middle thereof. At ye enterance to ye town there stands a little small ffort like a little Pinfold or large lime kilne, where there are a few guns, and a fewer person to gaurd ym ; this Town is worse built yn Castle Town, but larger and much more populous, being a place of ye greatest resort in ye whole Island because the haven is comodious and hath a most easy enterance and safe road for ships, into wch ye Ffrenchmen and other fforrainers use to repair with their bay salt, having traffic again with ye Islanders, and buying of ym leather, course wool and powdered beefe. Sr. Robt. Kenady, son to an Irish Judge, dwells here being ye only Knt. in this Isle.

Ramsey is the next mercate Towne lying almost in ye same maner as Douglas does upon a little river wch falls from the north side of ye same mountains, where is a safe bay and road for ships to ride at anchor, and a little fort like a Lime Kilne, planted with guns at ye mouth of ye river ; this place lies oposite to Combld, wthin 10 leagues thereof, but it is a mile from ye sea.

Ayre is the next Parish and Town of consideration, stands at ye north point of this Isle, in a pleasant plaine country, tho the land be sand, there ships may lye at anchor, this place is within 8 leagues of Whitehaven in a maner opposite thereunto.

Peil, or as Cambden calls it, the Pyle or Blockhouse stands in a little lsland on ye northwest side of ye Isle of Man, where there are also Souldiers in Garrison—2 ffiles at least.

This is ye 4th and last mercate Towne, 6 miles west from Castle Town, being opposite to Ayre in ye west of Scotland (sic.) The Cathedrall Chh is in ye body of ye Castle, wch stands in this Island, but here are neither organs nor queristers. Here are Bernacles bread in or near this Island, but [not] haveing been at ye place I canot give any further description of it, only that it is accounted a place of ye greatest strength in ye whole Ile.

Bishop’s Court lyes 7 miles east from Peil in ye most fruitfull and pleasant pt of ye whole Isle ; here stands the Bishop’s Palace, who hath lands lying about it worth £200 a year and a yearly sallery from the Earl of Darby, worth £250 a year.

This Island was taken from the Brittains by ye Scots, and was regained from ym by Edwin King of Northbld, but ye Norweigians seised afterwards from whom Alexdr ye 3rd wrested it about ye year 1340. Willm. Morntacute, Earl of Salisbury (descended from ye Norweigian Kgs of Man) won it from the Scots and sold to the Lord Scroop, who being condemned of treason, Kg H. IVth gave it to Hen[ry] Earl of Northumbld, who proveing false to ye Kg, it was given to the Stanleys, Earles of Derby, in whose familie it still remains, who by grant from the Kg, was made King in Man, and (as ye story goes) was crowned with a Leaden Crown, but yt Pt of ye story appears fabulous since the Governr himselfe told me that he never saw such a crown, nor ever heard of ye Enauguration or Coronation of any of’ ye Earls of Derby as King there. Thus far only is true that the Earls of Derby by yt original grant were invested wth all the regalities and profits and advantages, wch ye former Kings of Man (hereafter enumerated) did exercise, and have enjoyed ym ever since, incontrollably untill this King has threatened ye present Earl with a Quo warranto and hath sent Custome-house officers out of Dublin to inspect their importation of merchandises.

As to the Ecclesiasticall Governmt of this Isle, the Bishop is supream, who hath under him as substitute, an Archdeacon and 2 Vicars-Generall, ye one for ye north and ye other for ye south Pt of this Island, they have a Register and Sumoners in ye nature of apparators, and they hold their Ecclesiasticall Courts quarterly at the 4 mercate Towns above named vicissjin for probate of will, selling the right of Tythes and Chh dues, and regulating offences contra bonas mores, according to ye Ecclesiasticall Lawes and Canons of ye Chh, and, in case of non-conformity to ye decrees and sentences of ye Court, they have power to imprison delinquents in ye Bop’s Prison at Peil Castle above named, standing as a Pen Insula within the sea, wch Castle is fortified with 26 canons mounted upon ye Batteries.

The military Governmt here is managed by ye Governor of the Isle, who is in the nature of a Generall or Colonell ; the militia of ye whole Island consisting of but one Regimt of 20 company whereof there are 18 captains, one for every Psh one company for ye Town of Castle Town wch is the collonel company, and one for ye Towne of Douglas wch is major Coldcoats company, there being no Lieutenant-Collonell besides the companies set out by each of ye last named Pshes. They have a general! randezvous yearly about midsummer at the St. John’s Chappell near Peil, where they encamp and stay together a fortnight or so dayes, in ye fieldes in little Tents, and ye Earl keeps 3 files of musqueteers in constant pay all ye year long in very ffort in the Isle who er paid quarterly 25s a man after ye rate of £5 a year, out of his revenues issuing forth of ye lands in this Island wch is computed worth £500 p ann.

In point of Criminal and Capitall offences there are two Gaol deliveries holden every year at Castle Towne where ye Governr sits in Court, but ye 2 deemsters are ye only pper Judges, tho the controwler and his Clerk, the Attorney Generall, water Bayliff and Stewd do sit in Court as Council to ye Earl and as assistants to ye deemsters. ‘The Court is holden in ye Castle where ye prison is kept. The prisoners are indicted by a petty jury of six men upon their taking or stealing of any goods or for Homicide or other ffelony so soon as ye fact is committed in any part of ye Isle, and upon that indictmt they give Bail to appear at ye next gaol delivery at Castle Russen, where they are tried by a jury of 12 men or by ye Ld of ye Isle at ye prisoners election, if by ye Lord he may give ym upon to ye gallows or release ym in his discretion ; if by ye jury they are sentenced by ye deemsters they are sentenced to be hanged presently upon the gallows or jibbit (wch stand between the town and the ffort) or to be transported. In all the felonies wch are only Homicides or great Larceny the malifactors have no clergy.

As to the civill Governmt of this place the Earl or his governor in his absence may in all matters of emergency call together the 2 Deemsters, Controwler, Water-Bayliffe, Attorney-General, 24 of ye principall persons of ye Isle to consult and make orders and Rules for the good Governmt thereof, and in case of any tryall of any title of land or Actions of Debt and detinue, Trespass Trover upon the case, wch may be tryed for 2d charge. the Governr, Deemsters, Controller and Water-Bayliffs sitt in Court in equal commission wth ye Deemsters, the governr sits like a maior of a Corporation wth a long white staff as a check upon the rest to observe that good rule and order be kept by ye other Judges, the Controller is in the nature of a sherife to seiz prisoners and to see pcess executed and execution done. The Deemsters try all causes and pronounce judgment. The Earl’s attorney general records them in the nature of a register, and the water bayliffe seiseth all wrecks, examines all Strangers landing here and collects all fishing rents, and other Dueties arising out of ye pfitt of yea sea Ports and Creeks in or about the Isle.

Their Process in civill Causes (either reall or psonall) is only a leaden token under the Deemsters seale served upon the Defendent by the Controllers man or one of ye Soidjers then in pay of any of the forts, who requires ye defendt to appear before them or one of ym by a certain day, where (if the plaintiff prove his Debt) or Damage and the Defendt canot disprove or evade it ; the Governt orders half a ffiile of Soldiers forth-with to levie the Debt or Damages of such Defdt and to keep ym a month in their Custody, and, if he do not in that time pay ye money, adjudges his goods are to be sold, to satisfie the plaintiffe or his body to be in Prison in Castle Town untill he hath fully satisfied his Creditor, and, if the matter be doubtfull either in a reall or personal Action, there the Cause is to be tryed by a jury of six men of ye Parish where the cause of action rose, and, if they canot determine the thing in controversy upon their oaths, it is then to be tryed by a jury of 12 men of severall Parishes : And if it be upon any Title ye Controlers Sumons a jury of 24 out of every pt of the Island, who with the other officers above named do determine the matter

There are no Courts of Equity within this Island, but only by way of Petition before ye Governr. Every widow by ye custome of this Isle is intituled to a moiety of her husband’s goods and Chattels—according to ye Custom used in ye Province of York but by the Custome of this island ye wife may by her will dispose of ye moiety of her husbands in his lifetime to whom she will and he must be forced to render yt moity to her Exrs tho he consented not to her will being bound by ye custome there held so to do.

All writers own that the Brittains were ye first inhabitants here as of all Brittain but when the nations from the North (like violent tempests) overflowed the South pts it became tributorie to the Scots as Orosius writeth under the Emperours Honorius and Arcadius and Ninius sth that one Binle a Scot was Lord of it. But the Scots were driven out of it, and all the British Isles Cuneda a Grandfather of one Maylocunus whom Guildas called the Dragon of the Isles for his great Barbarizms. Afterwards Edwin King of Northumld brought this under the English Subjection untill the Normans Danes Norwegians after many robberies haunted this Isle and ye Hebrides ; and herein erected Lords and petty Kgs whose brief History written by ye monks of ye Abby of Russin intituled ye Cronicle of Man followeth.


[ Here follows " The Chronicles of Kings of Man."]


1 This error probably arose from the habit of Manx women wearing long shawls similar to those of the Irish Peasantry, and was corrected in Bishop Gibson in his Edition of Cambden’s Britannia

2 * Chaucel, who wrote " A New journey over Europe from France through Savoy &c. , " in 1714, also speaks of only twelve men as Keys.

3 Corrected by Bp. Gibson in his edition of Camden’s Brittania.

4 A mistake for Robert.

5 The mouth of the river was then at the North end of the present promenade, and on the brooghs above the remains of the "little fort," may still be traced. Ray, the celebrated naturalist, also mentions having landed here [1668], when he found the yellow rocket—Brassica Monensis—" going from the lamding-place at Ramsey to the town."—" Lioar Manninagh," Vol. I. , p. 14,—ED.



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