[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #4 1926]




Read at Dhoon, 22nd May, 1924.

Plan of Christian's barony, Maughold
Plan of Christian's Barony, Maughold

The possession of the free hold of this property entitled the holder in mediaeval times to be denominated a Baron of the Isle, and to have the privilege of holding a periodical Court of his tenants.

The Abbot of Rushen and the Bishop were Barons. There were the Baronies of St. Trinian's in Marown, and of Bangor and Sabal in Patrick; the Abbot of Furness, the Prior of St. Bees, and the Prioress of the Nunnery were also Barons of the Isle.

There are no doubts whatever concerning the title of the Barons I have mentioned, but the nature of the title of the Maughold Barony is a matter of doubt.

Christian's Barony consisted of all the high land from Kione ny Hennyn on the south to the glen of Cornaa, and Rhenab on the north side.

It also includes the estate of Ballellin, consisting of half a quarterland to the west.

We know from certain documents that in the 12th century Christian's Barony was in the possession of St. Bees Priory; and we find that in the 13th century the Bishop of Sodor grants this Church and that of St. Maughold to the Abbot of Furness.

Early in the 14th century it was again vested in St. Bees. In the year 1505 we know it became a part of the Bishop's Barony.

In 1523 it is on record as again belonging to Furness; and on the dissolution of the religious houses in 1540 it became vested in the Kings of England, who farmed the leases to certain persons.

Some time in the 16th or early in the 17th century, by some unrecorded means, it came into the possession of the Christian's of Milntown, to whom a small customary quit rent was payable by the tenants of Ballellin, who claimed to hold in fee under the Christians.

It is not certain whether the Christians derived their title from the former priors or whether it was the mere customary holding of the ancient tenants. The Christians claimed the seigniory of these lands, and the receipt of the customary rent from the tenants seem to favour their claim.


The Staff Lands to the north consist of a few small parcels containing about 200 acres.

It is believed that no record exists to show whether the holders of these Staff Lands have the freehold or are mere customary tenants.

A tradition says that they have been originally tenants of the Maughold Barony, but it does not appear that any rent was payable.

Deemster Sherwood, a recognised authority, says that a strong argument in favour of the tradition is that if these lands had been held by freeholders, distinct from the Barony held by the Priors of St. Bees, they would have been enumerated amongst those bound to do fealty to the Lord in the Act of Tynwald which recites all the freeholders.

However, supposing these lands to have originally formed part of St. Bees Barony, it by no means follows that they are not freeholders, as they may have derived their title from St. Bees or from Furness Abbey.

There is nothing to show whether any of the ancient Barons ever conveyed their seigniorial rights to the Christian family, and in the abence of some proof, the possession for centuries without any manorial rights being claimed would furnish a strong presumption that the freehold had been acquired by the Christians.

All the other customary lands of the Island appear on their respective Rent Rolls, but there does not appear to have been any Roll relating to the Maughold Barony or the Staff Lands, nor have they ever paid any customary rent or burdens except the small rent, before referred to, payable to the Christians.

It is believed, says Deemster Sherwood, that the tenure was originally a holding by the service of having the custody of and bearing at Tynwald Courts, etc., the Staff of Kirk Maughold, one of the ancient and sacred relics of Man.

I have gone to some pains to gather together all the references which I have been able to find regarding this church of St. Michael, and the properties with which its name is associated.

The records show that it had a chequered history, and it is difficult at this period to solve the many problems connected with its ownership.

12th Century.

The first record which mentions this place is a Charter of King Godred II, King of Man and the Isles, who, after reigning 28 years, died in 1187.

Godred's daughter, Affreca, was married to the greatest soldier of fortune in his day, the celebrated John de Courcy, the conqueror of Ulster.

Affreca was buried at Grey Abbey, in County Down, which was founded by her and given to Furness Abbey, Her husband founded the Priory of Nendrum, also on the Strangford Lough, and gave it to St. Bees, which priory had only been founded fifty years before.

De Courcy, whose family was closely associated with Cumberland, in which St. Bees priory lay, probably influenced his father-in-law, our King Godred, to make a grant of this land to St. Bees.

Godred's Charter is probably the earliest document relating to lands in the Isle of Man, and as it has, I believe, never appeared in print* in an English translation, I may read it to you, as it is full of interest. {*Has since appeared in Vol. II, N.S. No. 3, p. 226}.

The document appears in Latin in the Register of the Priory of St. Bees, and has been translated for me by Mr. Ralfe:- Charter of Guthred King, of the Isles concerning Eschedala in wood, plain, pasture and all other things,

Know all men as well present as future that I Guthred by the grace of God, King of the Isles, as well for the salvation of myself as for the souls of my fattier and mother and also for the well being of my kingdom and people, have conceded and given to God and Saint Bega and the monks there serving God, in pure and perpetual alms the land which is called Eschedala in wood and plain, water and pasture, and all other things pertaining to the same free, discharged and at rest from every earthly service as well of money as of suits, and from every burden as well from me as from all mine with the same laws and liberties which they have over their land and men around the church of St. Bega in Coupaland. The land also which is called Asmundertoftes of them in addition to the aforesaid land as far as I shall be able to guarantee it to them from the calumny of any of my upright men. If which should happen, namely, that 1 am not able to guarantee these to them in peace, I will give an equivalent exchange to them from the lands nearer and more necessary to them, which may happen to be free in my hand with the same laws and liberties which we have before said to be conceded with the aforesaid land. This donation we have truly made to them in exchange for the church of St. Olave and the little estate which is called Euastad, which was too short and narrow for them as well for culture as for feeding of animals. To those preserving and maintaining these alms be continual peace and eternal salvation and victory over enemies, These being witnesses the lord G. Bishop, Thomas my chaplain, Gillochrist my brother and cofoster.

There is no more important document to us than this one. It contains so many curious and fascinating points for consideration.

The land of Eskadale mentioned in the Charter we know was the Dhoon Glen to the South, anciently called Keroodhoon, and now part of the Abbey Lands of Rushen.

The land of Asmundertoftes was the round hill we see to the north, now called Ballellin.

The Church of 'St. Olave ' and the little estate which is called 'Euastad ' we do not now know.

13th Century.

We find from other Charters in the Register of St. Bees (Harleian MS. Brit. Museum 434) that King Godred's son Reginald, early in the 13th century, granted to St. Bees 'all the half of the land which is called Ormeshan, that half, namely, which adjoins towards the sea at the port of Corna, and also the land Asmundertoftes, in wood and plain, etc,, . . . . with the same laws and liberties which the monks of St. Mary of Russin have.'

Ormeshan was the early title of this land, and later it became known as The Haugh, or Christian's Haugh.

We must presume that St. Bees owned the northern half of Ormeshaw nearest the port of Corna and Rushen Abbey the half near their land at Kerroo Dhoon to the south.

There are, besides the Charters of Godred and Reginald, a number of other documents relating to this Keeill and the lands connected with it, and I will give a few extracts from each.


In the year 1299, Marc, Bishop of Sodor, confirmed to the Abbot of Furness the Churches of St. Michael and St. Michaldus, with. the consent of the clergy..

In the year 1302 there is a most interesting record of a great law suit, between the Abbot of Rushen and the Prior of St. Bees, as to which religious house was entitled to the ownership of Eskadale and Asmundertoft.

The case was heard in Malew Parish Church, before Walter de Huntercomb and Friar William de Malton, justiciaries, and Lord Nicholas de Moriceby, Knight, and before Gilbert Maschaskel and Reginald Macstephan, coroners of the Island. Ultimately an agreement was come to whereby Asmunder- toft (Ballellin), was held by St. Bees, and Eskadale (Dhoon Glen) was retained by the Abbey of Rushen.

Later, in accordance with that judgment, the Abbot and Chapter of the Monastery of Rushen conceded to St. Bees Priory 'all right and claim which we have . . . . in all the lands and tenements in Asmundertoft . . . . with messuages, tofts, mills, meadows, pastures, services of free-men and villens,' etc.


During the period of the Scottish domination, 1313-1333, Ranulf,.Earl of Moray, conceded to St. Bees Priory 'half the port of Corna, with toll and wreck of the sea.'


In the Charter of the Bishopric of Man, dated 1505, Thomas, Earl of Derby confirmed the grant to the Bishop of Man, of cretain Churches and Lands, in which this Church and its Lands were included.

The Charter confirmed the grant to the Bishop of the Lands of St. Maughold and St. Michael adjoining. St. Maughold was, of course, the Church which is now the Parish Church, and the St. Michael mentioned was the Keeill Vael on the Barony land.


There is a record dated 1523, in the Court of Augmentations of England, stating that John Mac Corkyll, Vicar of the Church of St. Michells, and John MacCrysten, Deemster, claimed to have a lease of the premises from the Abbot of Furness, with all the glebe lands and other commodities and profits belonging to the said parsonage.

MacCrysten was probably one of the Milntown Christians whose family afterwards claimed the baronial rights.


Another record of the Court of Augmentations, dated 1534, states that Roger Abbot of Furness 'did demise and to ferm did lett to John Make Corkell, Priest, and Gilbert Make Corkell, his brother, all the commodities and profits belonging or annexed to the Churches of St. Michaell and Saint Maholde, who agreed to pay to the Abbot and Convent of Furness the customary rent of £6 13s. 4d.


Four years after that date, namely, in 1539, one Richard Wodeward, who described himself as a Yeoman of the King's Chamber, claimed to have the grant of the 'Parsonage of Saint Maholde and Saynt Michell.'

He complained that `Richard Parr, Priest, John Stephenson, Priest, and Gebon Mac Corkell ' had 'wrongfully entered into the premises ' and 'expulsed ' him.

Mac Corkell in his reply denies that Wodeward had any right to the property. He claimed that he (Mac Corkell) had a lease of the properties, not from the King, but from the Abbot of Furness.


The next mention of the Church of St. Michael is in the year 1585 soon after the Monasteries had been dispossessed of their lands. Queen Elizabeth, as the sovereign lady, granted a lease to Thomas Preston, of the Rectories of St. Maughold and St. Michael. for the customary sum of £6 13s. 4d. per annum, the lease to run for 31 years.

Queen Elizabeth, in her lease of 1585, expressly states that the property had belonged to the Monastery of Furness. How property that had been part of our Bishop's Barony had come into the hands of Furness Abbey for the second time is a mystery.


Then, again, in the year 1603, King James I gives a lease of the Rectories of St. Maughold and St. Michael to Francis Phillips and Richard Moore for ever.

You will see from the records which have been collected from various sources that this Church and adjacent lands have suffered many vicissitudes, and if we knew all the story of this remote place, it would prove to be still more interesting.

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