[Yn Lioar Manninagh Vol 4 pp53/58]
(By MR. A. W. MOORE.)
Thinking that some account of the famous estate of Ronaldsway, near Derbyhaven, would be of interest, I have collected such mention of it from the earliest times as I could find. its name, Ragnvalds-vagr, " Reginalds bay " or, possibly " Reginalds ford," since it is found in the Chronicle of the Monks of Rushen Abbey in the forms Ragnaldswath, Rognalswath, and Ronaldwath, which indicate vath, " ford " rather than vagr, " bay," as its origin, was probably derived from that of some Viking chief. It is first recorded in the form " Rognalswath in the year 1228, when we learn from the Chronicle that King Reginald who had been expelled from Man by his brother, King Olaf, landed there. After Reginald had spent nearly 40 days in Ronaldsway, they met in battle at Tynwald, and Reginald was defeated and slain. In 1238, Harald, Olafs son, landed at Ronaldsway, and, in 1250, it was the scene of a battle between the Manx and Norwegians, in which the latter were defeated. Twenty-five years later the Manx were in their turn defeated there by Alexander III., King of Scotland, whose rule was thereafter undisputed. The last mention of it in the Chronicle is in 1316, when a body of Irish freebooters, who afterwards defeated the Manx on the slopes of South Barrule, landed there. Since that time the records of Ronaldsway are of peaceful possession by a variety of owners. in 1506, we find that William Sammesbury, or Sammlesbury as the name was originally spelled, was its owner. His grand-daughter married William McChristen, of Milntown, about 1540, and, after the death of Jane Christian, of Milntown) who had married the last owner of that name, Deemster Thomas Samsbury (he having pre-deceased her) without issue, in 1629, her brother, Deemster Ewan Christian, claimed and took possession of the property on the ground of his being his sisters executor. In 1630 he took a lease of it from the Commissioners of Lord Strange for 21 years. It would appear that his claim was disputed on behalf of one Corrin, an infant, and that the Commissioners had suggested that the Deemster should pay him a sum of money as compensation, which, however, he declined to do.1 The.infants case was brought before the Governor, Charles Gerard, and the Tynwald Court, in 1636, when it was decided that Ewan Christian was the lawful possessor of Ronaldsway, on the following grounds :
" Ffor the corbes, the law is this, that a mans corbes cant descend unto a woman, nor a womans corbes to a man, for that if there be not any of the kindred within nine degrees of the male kindred of a man, or female for a woman, then the corbes are due to the executor and dividable as other goods."2
It would seem from this decision that the infant claimant did not come within the prescribed degrees of relationship. But, nevertheless, on Earl James arrival in the Island he was presented with a petition on behalf of this infant, in which " a fair trial3 was requested, and a promise made that, if the decision was in the petitioners favour, he would take a lease instead of the straw tenure4. The Earl confirmed Deemster Christian in the possession of Ronaldsway, but, at the same time, he tried to get him to take a lease for his other properties, instead of continuing to hold them on the straw tenure. This was a crafty move, as he knew that if the Deemster yielded, others would do the same. The Deemster, however, declined, and handed over the Ronaldsway property to his son William (Iliam Dhone), who took a lease of it and of certain other properties on the following terms : "In consideration of the surrender of a teanure and interest which we the sayd William Christian now hath and houldeth in certayne of the lands mills and hereditaments hereafter mentioned by the late composition5 thereof made with his Honourable Commissioners in the yeare 1630, which is for the tearme of eight years yett in beinge, or thereabouts, and also for and in consideration of the sum of £63 55 8d, lawful English money, to him the sayd Earl in hand payd by the sayd William Christian. . . hath demised, granted, sett and to farme lett . . unto the sayd William Christian and his assigns all that messuages and tenements with the appurtances in the parish of Kk. Malew aforesaid called Raynoldsway of the rent of £4 8s 4d ; one parcell of quarter land in Langness . . . of the rent of 13/- and the water-course milnes in the parish of Kk. Maughold called and knowne by the name of Cornez milnes of the annual rent of 28/- To have and to hould all and singular the premises before granted and demised and every parte and parcell thereof unto the sayd William Christian and his assigns for and during the tearme of the naturall life and lyves of George Christian, Ewan Christian, and of John Christian his sons and of the life and lyves of the longest lyver or survyver. . . And alsoe that water come milne with the appurtenances called the Nunery Milne in Kirk Braddan parish upon Douglas towne. . . . And alsoe one croft and a parcell of land and freshwater fishinge with the appurtenances thereto belonging." It was at Ronaldsway that, in October 1651, some 800 of the Manx Militia, under the leadership of William Christian, met in arms, and decided to rebel against the Countess of Derby. After the execution of William Christian in 1663, Ronaldsway, with his other properties, was confiscated and was given to the bishopric by Charles, Earl of Derby. 6 It was, however, ordered by the Privy Council that " intire restitution " should be " made of all the said estate as well real as personal," and Christians eldest son, George, then took possession. Somewhat more than two years later, in January, 1666, Henry Nowell, Deputy-Governor, who had condemned his (Christians) father, and Richard Tyldesley, Comptroller, came "with above twenty persons. Some of them had guns, some swords, and others staves, and then and there endeavouringe to take possession of the said lands," but they were resisted by George, who said " he would not parte with his possession untill he were ejected by course of law." He and his wife were thereupon dragged off to prison, and though he petitioned " for justice and the benefitt of the law," it was denied to him. He then employed Ewan Curghie, probably of Ballakillingan, to go to London, to petition the King, and he obtained an order for restitution of the estate, which the Governor and officers " sleighted and rejected," so that George and his wife " were forced to give securitie that they would not molest or disturb the said possession so violently taken."7 They were then released from prison. In 1673, Charles, Earl of Derby, was evidently in possession of the estate, which he let out in grass and for cutting hay, the following valuation of its annual value having been taken on his behalf in that year. On the credit side we find:
Grazing 260 beasts at 22d £24 0 0
Grazing of Langlash (Langness) 30 0
34 daymaths at 5d 8 10 0
£35 10 0
And on the debit side
Charges, labour, Lords rent, etc. 8 £26 13 6
Leaving a balance to credit of £8 16 6
In 1677, George Christian was in possesion of half of the estate. On the 20th of October in that year the Deputy-Governor, Richard Stevenson issued an order "impowringe and requiringe Mr. William Qualtrough attorney . . to ceize upon the estate of Rannoldsway accordinge to Law," because Christian had declared that he was not able to give security " for the reparacon of any part of the houses thereon." It was, therefore, arranged that George and Ellinor Christian " should surrender and deliver over " all their "right, title, and interest " 9 in their half of estate, unless they were able to put the houses in sufficient repair before the following Midsummer Day. They evidently did so, since George died in possession in 1694. His only son, William, succeeded him. In 1700 we find William, Earl of Derby, issuing the following notice:
" Whereas there are debates and controversys depending concerning the Tenant right of the Tenement of Rannoldsway (now out of Lease). . . . And forasmuch as I have occasion and necessary use for the pasture land and meadow ground. And that this said Tenement of Rannoldsway lying so comodious being neare Castletowne my present aboade you are therefore to take or cause to be taken this said tenement into my hands. And I do herebye declare this said Tenement shall be rendered or full compensation shall be made to such person as hereafter shall be adjudged to have the Tenant right of the said Tenement." The result of the suit, probably then initiated, was that William Christian was ejected in 1706 by an order of James, Earl of Derby, and John Corrin, a descendant of the claimant of 70 years before, entered. Christian appealed against this order, and his case was finally heard (*Knowsley Muninients, 1777/2),
At the Court of St. James on the 17th of December, 1716, when there were present:His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Guardian of the Kingdom, etc. ; Archbishop of Canterbury, Lord President, Lord Stewart, Lord Chamberlaine, Duke of Roxburghe, Earl of Lincoln, Earl of Dorsett, Earl of Oxford, Earl of Tankerville, Lord Coningsby, Mr Speaker, Mr. Comptroller, Mr. Vice Chamberlaine, Mr. Secretary Methuen, Mr. Chancellor of ye Exchequer, Mr. Aislabie.
Then follows an account of the proceedings :
Upon reading this day at the Board a report from the Right Honourable the Lords of the Committee for hearing appeals from the Plantations, dated the 12th inst., in the words following, viz. " In pursuance of his Majesties Order in Council of the 17th June, 1715, refferring this Committee the petition and appeale of William Christain, gent, complaining of his being dispossest of an estate in the Isle of Man that he and his ancestors had been possest of for many years by a decree and order made by the Right Honble. James Earl of Derby, the 6th July, 1706, in favour of one John Corrin : Their Lord President having thereupon heard the partys on both sides, by their councill learned, do agree to offer ther opinion, that the said Earl of Derbys decree and order of the 6th J uly, 1706, be reverst and sett aside, and that possession of Ronaldsway and Coma mills, in the said Isle of Man, mentioned in the said decree and order, with the appurtenances (being the estate in dispute between the said Christian and Corrin), be forthwith given to the appellant Christian, and that the defendant do repay to the said appellant the profits received from him upon the sequestration mentioned in the said decree and order : and that the said Corrin do account with and pay the said Christian for the profit of the said estate or estates since the said Corrin entered and took possession of the same ; and the said Corrin is to be allowed for all lasting improvements made by him upon the premises, and all other just allowances." His Royal Highness, taking the said report into consideration, is pleased to approve thereof, and to order, as it is hereby ordered, that the said decree and order, made by the Rt. Hon. James, Earl of Derby, the 6th July 1706, he reverst and sett aside, and that possession of Ronaldsway and Corna Mills, in the said Isle of Man, mentioned in the said decree and order, with the appurtenances thereto belonging, be forthwith delivered to the appellant William Christian, and that the defendant Corrin do account with and pay the said Christian for the profits of the said estates since the said Corrin entered and took possession of the same, but the said Corrin be allowed for all lasting improvements made upon the premises, and all other just allowances:Whereof the Rt. Hon. James, Earl of Derby, proprietor of the Isle of Man, or the Governor or Commander-in-Chief there, and all others whom it may concern, are to take notice, and yield due obedience to his Royal Highnesses pleasure being signified.*
We accordingly find in the Insular Court Roll that Christian was again entered " by virtue of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales his Order in Council." He was, however, only to hold it for four years, as, " having contracted very considerable debts by reason of a long and expensive law-suit," (the case just referred to) he sold it for £1,850 9. The purchaser was Sir Jas. Somerville, of Dublin, Alderman, who, in 1742, conveyed it to William Murray, of Douglas, his son-in-law. William Murray and Ann Somerville had two sons, John James and Somerville. John James died in his fathers life-time, but his son John Somerville, succeeded to the property. On his dying at Martinique, without issue, in 1794, his uncle, Somerville, claimed the property, subject to a jointure to John Somervilles sister, Eunice Ann. But, at a Common Law Court held in 1796 a verdict was given in favour of Eunice, and this was confirmed by the Keys. She had just married her second husband, Capt. Thomas Christian, of Ballachurry, and their eldest son, Thomas, sold the property in 1817 to General Goldie, who married Isabella Taubman, heiress of the Nunnery. It remained in the possession of the Goldie-Taubman family till recently, when it was bought by a syndicate ; and so in this respect at least, Ronaldsway is thoroughly up to date.
[note FPC: Ronaldsway was demolished in 1940 to make way for a larger runway at the then Military airfield of Ronaldsway (now of course the civil Isle of Man airport)]
1 Manx Society. Vol. III. , P 50.
2 Lib Scacc.
3 Manx Society, Vol. III , p. 47.
4 The Earl remarked that Deemster Christian's influence was so great that only one man could be got to write this petition.
5 It is said that this "composition " did not abrogate the straw tenure.
6 Unpublished document at Knowsley. ,
7 Lib. Scacc.
8 Loose papers, Rolls Office.
9 William Christian went to Ireland and purchased the property of "old Grange" near Waterford, and his descendants are still living in Ireland. One of them, Mr Lloyd Christian, who called upon the writer recently, bears a most striking likeness to "Illiam Dhone".