WILLIAM CUBBON, M.A.
Knight (First Class) o f the Order o f St. Olav
THE Monastery of Rushen was founded in 1134 by our King Olaf the First, who reigned from 1113 to 1153.
Almost one hundred years after, in 1231, a Bull of Pope Gregory the Ninth gave to our Bishop Simon and his successors a certain yearly revenue. It was based upon a grant by the Pope of a Third of the Tithe on certain estates and other properties then belonging to the Manx Church.
That was in the reign of our King Olaf II (1226-1237)
We know more about Bishop Simon than about most of our early Prelates. The Manx Chronicle says he had come from Argyll, which in the thirteenth century was closely connected with the Kingdom of Man and the Isles. The Chronicle adds that he was a man of great prudence and learned in the Holy Scriptures.
He may have been elected by the Clergy of the Sodor Diocese, as was the custom at that time.'
It was Simon who built our St. German's Cathedral; he established a Chapter, and presided over an important Synod held at Kirk Braddan in the year 1229.
Our Chronicon Mannię under date 1247 says:
' Simon of blessed memory, Bishop of the Isles, died at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel. He was buried in the island of St. Patrick, in the Church of St. German which he had himself begun.'3
During the period of his episcopate3 he was a great and inspiring leader, and so organised the affairs of the Church that it became very powerful.
It was probably Simon who first created the necessary regulations for the smooth working of the Barony Courts.
Simon had been consecrated by the Archbishop of Nidaros (Drontheim) in Norway about 1229 and died about the year 1247. Quite recently there has been discovered in Paris an actual seal of Bishop Simon, and Mr. Megaw has been able to secure a cast of it for the Museum. I understand the date of the document to which the seal is affixed is 1246.
Only a partial translation into English of .the Bull of Pope Gregory IX has been published.'I will quote the brief portion which relates to our subject. The translation from the Latin is by the late Mr. P. G. Ralfe : -
'We take under our protection and that of the Blessed Peter the Cathedral Church of Saint German of Sodor in the Isle called Eubonia now Mannię, which by the authority of God, Thou hast been chosen to rule . . granting the Third part of all Tithes of all Churches established in the Isle . . of Holmetown, of Glenfaba, of Fotysdeyn, of Ballymore, of Brottby, of the Staff of St. Patrick, of Knockcroker, of Ballicure, of Ballibrushe, of Jourbye, of Ballicane, of Ramsey : the Lands also of the Church of the Holy Trinity in Leay(re), of St. Mary of Ballaughe, of St. Maughold and St. Michaell adjoyning; and the Lands of St. Bradan and of Kyrkeby, of Kyrkemarona, of Colusshill, and the Land of St. Columba called Here.'
Although there may be a doubt as to the identification of some of the place-names in this 700 years old document, most of the farms and other properties can be identified.
They are to be found in the parishes of Jourby, Kirks German, Patrick, Marown and Braddan, with some 'Cottage ' properties in other parishes, far removed from each other.
You will have noted that the Pope granted the Bishop 'one-third of all Tithes.'
Rushen Abbey had already acquired large properties of land, and received one-third of the tithe of Man.
The tithe was divided into three equal portions, one of which went to the Bishop, another to the Abbey for the education and relief of the poor, and the third to the parochial clergy.
I think we may assume that the Baronial Court was in working order in some primitive form, from the time of the Pope's Charter in 1231; and that it was continued from century to century, up to the date of our earliest surviving record of 1580.
The tenants of the Bishop's Barony held their estates by virtue of ancient custom, under the Baron and not under the Lord of the Isle.
The lands of the Barony, unlike those of the Abbey of Rushen, were not affected by the Act of Settlement of 1704. And the compromise then made of giving double rent to the Lord, did not apply to the Bishop. He retained his rights in the mines and minerals. The tenants enjoyed the right of alienation without any manorial restraint.
In the Library of the Manx Museum there is a transcript of the Books of the Bishop's Barony - the Libri Episcopi - for two hundred years; from 1580 to 1780. The originals are in the Record Office.
The transcript was made by Mr. W. Walter Gill, for the earlier books, and myself, about twenty-five years ago. It is from these transcripts that the information contained in this paper is taken.
There are ten books, covering 200 years. Throughout there are at least a dozen different scribes. The first four books are chiefly in Latin. The prefix ' Mac ' frequently occurs in personal names such as Mac Vaundy, Mac Teare and Mac Curghie. There are many original documents inserted as separate sheets, and pinned together by big headed pins which must be between two and three hundred years old. There are several autograph letters of Bishops, Phillips and Wilson, and others of note.
There are mentioned from time to time names of objects and place names which are not familiar to us now. For instance in 1583 there is a reference to Manske Kere cloth. Manske was the Norwegian form, like Norske for Norwegian, and Danske for Danish.
In the records we have details of no fewer than 330 Courts. Ordinarily there were two Courts in the year, in May and October. The earliest recorded Court - that held in 1580 - was at Bishop's Court, presided over by Bishop Merick; but most of the Courts were held at what was called Villa de Holmetown, later called Peeltown, in the house of the Cosnahan family. A few early Courts were held at Kirk Braddan, most probably in the old Kirby house. On two occasions they took place at ' St. Columba,' Kirk Arbory, a dozen times at ' Duglasse,' once at the Nunnery; and on three or four important occasions as far away as Castle Rushen.
It was the rule for ' a Court Dinner ' to be prepared by the Steward for the tenants who had come long distances, and for the officials. Peeltown was the half-way house for the Jurby and Braddan men; and provision seems to have been made there and at Bishop's Court for baiting the ponies and feeding the officers, the farmers and their hungry attendants. Altogether there would be of interested folk about a hundred.
The Bishop always had a Deputy called the Steward, who was in charge in his absence. There were also one of the Deemsters, the Clerk of the Rolls and other civil officers, who had each a fee of six shillings and eightpence.
There was a Sargeant for the North and a Sargeant for the South, and he was the most important Barony official. Not only had he to collect the annual rents, but he had to see that every tenant delivered his ' customs.' Most of them had to convey in their own sledges - for there were no wheel cars - a firlet of barley and one of rye,7 a mutton, a lamb, a goose, a hen, and 24 car-loads of turf; also to give three 'Boon Days,' which meant personal labour at Bishop's Court; and ' four carriages,' meaning the service there of four ponies in harvest time.
The Sergeant's reward for all this trouble and anxiety was that he himself would be relieved of the duty of giving ' customs ' in respect of his own farm. It would appear that the duties of Sergeant became so trying that he was in the latter end of the nineteenth century also allowed the year's rent of his holding.
There was one farm which did not pay ' custom,' that was Balla fletcher, in Braddan. An ancient record says:
' Hee paves noe Custome : for this only: to Intertaine ye Bopp at his landinge or goeinge away: or els to paye xs. per arm.'
So that in the years when the Bishop was not entertained at the old Kirby home, the rent of the two quarterlands rose from 16s. 6d. to 26s. 6d.
In the whole of the Barony there were only eighteen quarterlands, or farms. There were in Jurby: Bretney, Loughan y Voadey, Ballagaraghan, Ballagaye, Kerroo Creij, Cooildhoo, Reindhoo, Ballalig, Balla-Christory.
In Kirk Braddan there were six quarterlands composed of the following: Ballaoates with Ballastoale, Ballacregga, Ballaquirk, Upper and Lower Ballaghton, Ballafletcher and Ballameanagh, with the Bishop's Mill near by, where the Southside tenants of the Bishop were obliged to have their corn ground.
In Kirk Marown there were two farms. Ballakilley, like Balla fletcher, was two quarterlands. Old Kirk Marown Church sat right in the centre of it. Ballakilley meant 'the Church farm.' Now, unfortunately, that name has been changed to Ellerslie.
The other Marown farm is Cooilingil, the home of the Quilliams for many generations.
In Kirk Patrick there were two quarterlands : Ballabrooie, and Ballaspict, meaning the Bishop's estate.
There was only one quarterland in Kirk German, Ballakilmoirrey, meaning the farm of the Keeill or Church of St. Mary.
There were also some small properties called 'Cotages ' in Peeltown, Kirk Michael, Kirk Maughold and Lezayre, and one in Kirk Arbory. Strange to say, the total rent of all the properties mentioned was only £11. 15s. 8d. per annum, the Customs being additional.
Of course these low rents were originally fixed probably in the thirteenth century when money was of great value. That these original rents were not increased during the following six centuries seems astounding. But we know that from 1580 to the first decade of the twentieth century (when the rents were redeemed by the tenants), no change was ever made or even suggested. Bishop Merick (1576-99) stated that his income seldom exceeded £100 per year.
When a holder died, his heir was presented to the Court by the Sargeant, and he was duly entered. When a farm changed hands other than by heirship, the old tenant, in the presence of the Court, formally handed to the Bishop, if present, a straw, indicating that the whole of his interest was transferred. The Bishop, if he approved, handed the straw to his new tenant. On at least one occasion, the straw was taken from the thatch of the tenant's house. In one notable case a sod of earth from the farm took the place of the straw.
Having given a brief description of the Bishop's temporal possessions, I will endeavour to glean something of interest about what was called the lands of Kirk Bradan and the 'Villa de Kirkby.' Let us take for instance, the two Ballaghtons : Corkill's Ballaughton and Corleod's.
Thomas Corkill came into his portion in 1583 by arrangement with Henry Crye, who had not been able to pay his rent of 5s. 6d. and his 'customs.'
Let us try and imagine what Thomas Corkill saw in his first Court in 1585. It was held in the Kirkby old house, long since demolished. But the present farmhouse of Kirkby, occupied by Mr. Christian, stands on its site: probably a long one-storied building thatched with straw, with barns, stables, and cowhouses alongside.
Bishop Meyrick, who had been in office ten years, presided, and John Quayle of the neighbouring farm of Ballamenagh was the Bishop's Deputy. The Deemster was John Lucas of Scarlett.
There was a jury called the Great Enquest, six from the north, and six from the south. Thomas Corkill was one, and so also were his neighbours John Oates of Ballaoates, John Quirk of Ballaquirk, Thomas Corleod of Lower Ballaghton and John Quilliam of Cooilingil.
The Court was fenced by the Bishop's Sargeant, Nicholas Moore of Ballakilley, who I find was a member of the Keys. Nothing but Manx Gaelic was spoken in the business. The Clerk of the Rolls entered the records in Latin.
Three of the Jurby tenants were fined 12d for not giving their 'boon days,' namely helping the Bishop in his corn harvest. Nicholas Moore presented some of his own neighbours for disobeying his 'rodd.' He had commanded John Quirk, John Oates, and Wm. Cretney of Cooiilngil to do their 'boon days,' and they were, like the Jurby men, fined 12d.
At this Court John Aghton who had been tenant of the Lower Ballaghton, but had not paid his rent of 5s. 6d. for seven years, gave up his place to Thomas Corleod, who was entered for what was after wards known as Corleod's Ballaghton. It will be apparent that the name of the farm was taken from that of the original tenant Aghton. An exacting Pilgrimage to Bishopscourt
The next Court was held on 21st January, 1589, at Bishopscourt, Bishop Meyrick being present.
It is difficult for use to realise the hardships that the men from Braddan had to face in travelling to and from Bishopscourt at such a time of the year.
An important clerical figure at the time was entered at this Court. He was ' Sir ' John Quosnahan, the Vicar of Kirk German. He was tenant of one of the Barony houses of the rent of 16d. It is said that it was one of the finest old houses in Peeltown, and was situated near the bottom of Castle Street.
The coming of a new Bishop was always an exciting occasion to the tenants of the Barony. The heads of the Church did not change quite so frequently as they now do. That was a good thing; for, according to ancient custom, the tenants had to furnish Bishops court, at every change, an ox out of every quarterland. They had to do this in 1600 when Bishop Lloyd came; and, five years later, they were expected to do the same on the coming of Bishop John Phillips.
His first Court was on 18th October, 1605, at Bishopscourt. There was a great gathering. Bishop Phillips presided; and all the names of the tenants were called ' by poale,' by Edward Moore, Clerk of the Rolls. The Deemsters were Thomas Samsburie of Ronaldsway and Ewan Christian of Milntown.
In the year 1609, on the first of June, Bishop Phillips and his Court met for the first time in the house of Nicholas Moore at Ballakilley, Kirk Marown. Nicholas was a member of the Keys. The Problem of the Turf
All the tenants excepting Ballafletcher had, by ancient custom, to provide Bishopscourt with twenty-four car-loads of turf. Constant quarrels took place between the Bishop's Steward and the farmers as to the quality and size of the turves delivered, and as to the time of delivery, which was Hollantide.
Before Bishop Foster left, in 1635, another dispute occurred, and it was referred to a Great Enquest Jury. They gave an interesting verdict to the effect that: -
' There is due to the Lord Bishop thirtie of the sodd Turves from the Bishop's Turbary, and Fiftie of the Black Turves in the mountaynes.
' The Sodd Turves are to be a cubitt longe, and the Blacke Turves are to be halfe a Cubitt longe and Four Inches broade. ' These Customes are thus due withoute eyther Meate or Drinke in extremetie.' But the jury adds that ' for fyve Bishop's Tymes ' they have ' seen the Tenants have one meale; but whether of right due or noe they know not.'
The reference to the meals is cleverly set down.
Bishop Wilson was unusually caustic in his comment on his Jurby tenants:
' They have of late neglected to cutt my turff and begin to think themselves obliged only to carry it for me . . . I have often complained of the evil practice of paying their customes in ye very worst grain and goods thy can get, see that I am forced to return it or hinge it away.'
But later on he had occasion to be more severe on the Kirk Braddan men: -
' The Sargeant of the Southside [Christopher Stoale] declares to me that some of the Tenants having not given bad enough, but have borrowed worse than their own to pay in.'
After the time of Bishop Parr, who died in 1643, and was buried in St. German's, the See was vacant for seventeen years during the time of the Commonwealth, 1644-1661. It would appear that the rents and Customs in a portion of this period were paid to Castle Rushen. The tenants were warned that all should ' bring their customes to Castle Rushen with all possible speede ' instead of to Bishopscourt.
The Court held in 1654 was in the house of the Moores at Balla killey - Villa de Kirkemarona it was called.
This was in the time of the Commonwealth and of Lord Fairfax. The great patriot William Christian - ' Illiam Dhone ' - presided. William Qualtrough of Kentraugh was the Deemster; the Clerk of the Rolls being Richard Tyldesley, Illiam Dhone's enemy and one of the judges at his trial. Christian also presided in the Courts held up to 1658.
The Clerk of the Rolls wrote in his Book for 1659 the brief but cutting words: ' Note: Wm. Xptin Receiver and Steward is outed.' He was shot to death at Hango in 1662, after the Stanleys were restored.
Feeling must have run high in these times. Thomas Tyldesley, a brother of the Clerk of the Rolls, had been criticising the Twenty four Keys of the time, although his father William had been a member for fifty-two years:
' Whereas Thomas Tyldesley hath . . . used intollerable speeches and defamacon concerning ye xxiiii Keys, that is to say they never did good to the Isle and that they were buostin belly churles.'
The law allowed of his being fined £20 and both of his ears cut off. What was done to him is not recorded.
The year 1660 was an important one for the Manx nation. The Commonwealth had ceased. Fairfax had ended his Lordship. The Stanleys were restored as the Rulers of Man.
There had been no Bishop for seventeen years, and Earl Charles gave the office to Samuel Rutter, who had been Chaplain to his father at Castle Rushen.
Rutter's first Court was at the Cosnahan house at Peeltown. John Quilliam of Cooilingil was the Sargeant.
John Stoale is recorded as having bought a portion of Ballaoates quarterland, which afterwards became known as Ballastole. The amount paid was £9. 15s.
Ballastole was sold in 1890 to the present family of Shimmin for £1,060. This is the first appearance of the Stoale family in the Barony. They were in the coming years remarkable in many ways, not only in the Church, but in literature. John Stoale had a bitter feud with the Oates family, his neighbours. There were cross suits for trespass. But worse than trespass was the charge by Oates that Stoale had 'drawn a naked knife to his wife, and had chased her with his doggs whereby she was affrighted to the prejudice of her health.' He asked for 5/- damages and got 2/
One of the most notable of the seventeenth-century Bishops, Isaac Barrow, was consecrated 0n Tynwald Day, 1663. He was an enthusiastic promoter of learning, and founded the Academic School at Castletown. This in time developed into King William's College.
Barrow's first Baronial Court was held in the Cosnahan house at Peeltown in 1663.
John Stoale had got into more trouble. William Corkill of Ballaghton was charged with having 'uttered a scandall against John Stoale, that he had given " a sweete " to Sargeant Quilliam in the shape of a young goate.' Stoale denied 'the sweet,' and Corkill was found guilty and fined 12d. by a jury of his neighbours.
Peter Quirk of Ballaquirk sued John Stoale for 'the milke of seven sheep and six goates ' and got damages.
Mark Litham sued Christopher Stoale for '5s. due for shooes and for beatinge and abuseinge him.'
William Corres sued John Shymin 'for rydinge his horse to Kirk Arborie without his leave.'
William Kewne of Bretney for 'effrontery in upbraiding ye Courte publiquely yt all were for ye Bopp and none for ye Tenants, without any cause ' was fined 12d.
Edmund Kewne of Bretney charged Isabella Clarke with calling him a 'scald fellow ' and asked for 10/- damages.
The greatest source of trouble between the Baron and his tenants was the continuation of the custom of giving a 'benevolence ' of an 0x to every new Bishop upon his consecration. Although Bishops were then very powerful, it was with difficulty that new Bishops could enforce the custom.
Commencing with Foster in 1633 up to Barrow in 1663 there had been four Bishops in thirty years. No wonder that the tenants felt they had a real grievance.
At Barrow's second Court at Peeltown all the tenants were sum moned and got a stern lecture 0n the subject of the 'benevolence,' and they were ordered by the Court to deliver the beast within a month.. Neither the Jurby nor the south side tenants responded and all were fined.
In 1683, twenty years after, the vexed question again arose. The Deemster Edward Christian was appealed to. Before giving a judgment he wanted to get the opinion of the Keys as to the law. This was given 0n 11th June, 1684, at Castle Rushen. The Keys stated that, based 0n ancient usage:
'The Bishop ought to have an ox out of every quarter of land . . . unlesse the Tenant please to pay fourty shillings; it beinge in their choice which to give;' adding a note that it was understood that it would be 'a choice ox.'
Bishop Lake was consecrated in 1682 and Bishop Levinz in 1684. Clearly there was a grievance, and Levinz offered to take half an ox. This was accepted and the 'benevolence ' was paid in cash.
There was always the question of what the tenant would d0. In one case the Bishop demanded the 0x, and the tenant gave forty shillings. Another Bishop demanded the money and got the 0x. The tenant, it would seem, always liked to exercise his privilege. In later times the 0x was valued as low as thirty shillings.
In a paper recently contributed by Canon Stenning we were told of the high-handed action of Bishop Isaac Barrow when in 1668 he ejected the Lace family from their estates of Ballagilley and Hango, in order to give the rents towards founding the Academic School at Castletown which later developed into King William's College.
A very similar incident happened in the Bishop's Barony two years before, in 1666, when the same Prelate gave a parcel of Corkills Ballaghton to the Vicar as an addition to his Glebe, and without the knowledge of the holder. The place was called 'The Doway.' The exact spot can easily be identified. It is on the Castletown road not far from the railway crossing at the Quarterbridge; right opposite to Mr. Richard Cain's 'St. Helena.'
On getting the Bishop's grant, Vicar Thompson attempted to take possession, but Corkill resisted.
At the Vicar's instigation Corkill was put under arrest for trespassing and he was fined.
Corkill appealed to the Baron Court, and a Great Inquest jury sat on 1st July, 1668.
John Kewley, 'one of ye Ancients ' aged 8o, said 'the ground lay as a waist or made noe use of, but as an ease to ye highway in ye time of victuallinge of Castle Rushen.'
Katren Quirke said that 'fiftie years afore she was a sheep heard, and did heard sheepe on ye ground, tho not fenced.'
All the witnesses said it belonged to Ballaghton.
The verdict was that the ground belonged to Corkills Ballaghton. The Vicar was dissatisfied and secured another sitting of the jury, in 1679, with the same result. He then made an appeal to the Chancery Court, which was held at Castle Rushen on 8th March, 1687. The Deemster was Robert Heywood of the Nunnery. Strange to say he reversed the verdict of both juries. He said: 'The land lay always common and as a waist unfenced until Sir Patrick inclosed the same, upon the grant made thereof as an Addition to ye Church Glebe. I doe therefore see Doe reason why the same should be taken from the Church.'8 That was in 1687, nearly twenty years after the struggle had commenced. Bishop Barrow had gone in 1671 and a new Bishop had come. How the Doway has since been taken from the Church Glebe does not appear from the Barony Books. Any how, it has again come into private hands and is part of the Kirby estate.
Bishop Wilson's first appearance as Baron was in the Cosnahan House at Peeltown. He had been installed in St. German's Cathedral in 1697, and was to be the head of the Church for the following fifty-seven years.
[NOTE: For tenants, holdings and rents of the Bishop's Barony, 1580-1598, see Talbot's Manorial Roll of the Isle of Man, pp. 93. 94.]
1: Chron. Mann., Manx Soc., XXII, p. 117.
2: Oliver, Manx Soc., IX, pp. x76-x82.
3: Manx Soc., XXII, p. 101. The chronology of Simon's episcopate is complicated. (See Cradock: Ant. Soc. Proceedings, III, p. 330).
4: A. W. Moore, Diocese of Sodor and Man, pp. 45-47.
5: It should be explained that after 1580, there are details, more or less full, of the Barony records, down to the end of the nineteenth century.
6: Sherwood's Law Tenures, pp. 5, 10, 14.
7: A firlet of barley and of oats consisted of three bushels.
8: From Liber Episcopi, Book viii.