THE following collection of documents relating to the Isle of Man was undertaken at the request of the Manx Society, with the view of giving to the public such monuments as are extant of its early history. This little spot, for a long period, has played no insignificant part in-the destinies of the United Kingdom; and from its connection with foreign States, and the changes undergone, must always prove a source of attraction to the archaeologist, the historian, and the statesman. Hitherto no effort has been made to form a series of muniments illustrative of its early state, and such few excerpts as we already possess have, in the majority of instances, been taken from defective and uncertain sources. In arranging the materials of the Monumenta, the author has endeavoured to follow the originals as closely as circumstances would allow, both as respects their literary as well as historic order; and in every case where these have not been accessible, recourse has been had to the most approved standard works, as Rymer's Foedera, the publications of the Record Commission, the Patent and Parliamentary Rolls, and these, with the Harleian, Cottonian, and Additional Manuscripts in the British Museum, form the basis of the present collection.
The difficulties to be surmounted in works of this sort will be readily understood, when it is mentioned that the materials out of which they are formed lie scattered throughout the numerous record offices of the kingdom, frequently unarranged, and often without indices. The consequence is, they are necessarily incomplete, require more than the labour of a lifetime to perfect, and exceed the capabilities of any individual effort to accomplish, however well directed. Recently steps have been taken by the British Government to remedy the evils arising out of the existence of so many disjointed repositories, and by the centralisation of the whole of the archives of the kingdom under one roof, afford to the public, a ready means of access to the records of the nation.
The loss sustained by their neglect may be seen in the report of the Record Commission, issued a few years since. Many valuable documents were found to have wholly disappeared, others to be entirely destroyed, and the majority were more or less injured. The oldest document extant was the Rotuli Annales or Great Pipe Roll of Revenue, of the reign of Henry I. Of the Assay Rolls of the Mint, but one remained, of uncertain date, of the time of :Edward I.
The most ancient Statute Roll was the statute of Gloucester, passed in the sixth year of the reign of the same monarch. Of the Rolls of the Curia Regis, 1 Rich. I.; Charter Rolls, 1 John; Rolls of the Bank or Common Pleas, 1 John; Chartae Antiquae or Transcripts of Charters, before John's time; Liberate and Norman Rolls, 2 John; Patent Rolls, 3 John Close and Fine Rolls, 6 John; Placita Forests or Perambulations and Proceedings relation to Forests, 10 John; Memoranda et Originalia of the Court of Exchequer; 1 Henry III.; Escheat Bundles, 1 Henry III.; Inquisitiores post mortem, 1 Henry III.; and the Rolls or Registers of Writs, about the middle of his reign; Placita Coronae, 15 Henry III.; Plea Rolls of the Court of Exchequer, 1 Edward I.; Placita de Warranto, Edward I.
The Registry of the Great Seal of Scotland was in a still more deplorable condition. " The imperfect state of which," says the report, " is a fact well known, though the extent of the deficiency is not." From the inventories and indentures relative to the public muniments and records of Scotland, preserved in the Chapter House of Westminster Abbey, it is evident that the Registers were of great extent and importance, comprehending probably a record of grants under the Great Seal, from the time of the First to the death of the Third Alexander. Of these not a vestige now remains.
From the accession of Robert Bruce, in 1306, to the return of James I., in 1424, a part of the Record of Royal Charters, or as it is technically called the Register of the Great Seal, has been preserved. Of fifteen rolls, containing nearly seven hundred charters of Robert I., which were extant at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and of which official calendars are preserved, there is now only one roll to be found, containing ninety-four charters, or less than one-seventh part of what were probably lost in the removal of the public records to England in 1651.
During the reign of David II., of twenty-eight rolls of various magnitudes, containing nearly six hundred charters of that monarch, not one has been saved.
In the reigns of Robert II. and III., and the regency of the Dukes of Albany there is also great loss; as likewise in the reigns of the first three James. It is only at the commencement of the sixteenth century that the series of Registers of the Great Seal begins to be tolerably complete.
In the Isle of Man similar loss has been sustained by the abstraction of its ancient archives towards the close of the thirteenth century. The oldest document now extant in Castle Rushen goes no farther back than the year 1417, so that any indenture, charter, or muniment anterior to this date must be sought for elsewhere. Of those to be found in England the greater part are in the Record Office, Fetter Lane, British Museum, and the Office of the Duchy of Lancaster.
Those enrolments which we find to have been most in use as respects this Island, are the Patent and Close Rolls, Charts Antiqua,, and Monastic Records. The first of these comprises documents of a very interesting and diversified nature relating principally to the royal prerogative, revenue judicature, truces, letters of protection, safe conduct, and credence. The earlier series of these chancery records, denominated Letters Patentes or Patent Rolls, extend from the year 1200 to 1483. They are written upon open sheets of parchment with the seal of the sovereign by whom they were issued pendant at the bottom. This distinguishes them from the Close Rolls which are folded up and sealed on the outside like modern letters. These latter or Rotali bitterar?~r~b Cla?~sarum are so called from the custom of enrolling Brevia Clara upon them. They contain important documents relating to the prerogatives of the Crown, civil and ecclesiastical judicature, naval and military affairs, subsidies, imposts, treaties, and mandates for regulating every part of the royal household. On the back are writs of summons to parliament, writs of prorogation, proclamations, liveries, and seizins of land, together with entries of births, marriages, and deaths of the royal family. In these rolls is to be found a greater variety of information than in any other class of records.
Charts Into, or ancient charters, is a term applied to all deeds and writings from the Saxon period to the reign of Henry VIII. They consist principally of charters to abbeys and religious houses, grants to individuals, releases, quit claims, manumissions, feoffments, and all sorts of contracts. These documents form the most important and valuable genealogical records we possess, for in them will be found some recital relating to parents, children, or collateral branches of a family either from the seal of arms, or the witnesses description. They are the most ancient of all the documents belonging to the Tower records, and extend from the time of Ethelbert king of Kent, at the close of the sixth century, to Henry III. inclusive. In the British Museum alone are 20,771 separate instruments, independent of those scattered throughout the various libraries of the kingdom.
The last of the series with which we have to do, namely, Monastic Records, form our oldest and most valuable historic documents, and comprise the following works:-Chronicles, chartularies, ledger-books, registers, calendars, and necrologies. Every religious house kept one or more of these, and if of any extent or importance, the whole. Before the introduction of Christianity into Ordain, it is evident no historic records of any kind existed, and that to the industry, skill, and perseverance of the monkish chroniclers of Britain, we owe all that is valuable of the early history of our nation. The chronicle, in short, was a concise record of the times; in it was entered all passings events' such as invasions, battles, grants, titles, knights fees, coronations, regnal years of sovereigns, forfeitures, pardons, and every other event affecting the welfare of the community. It was generally kept by the heads of religious houses, and is now one of the scarcest of monastic records. The chronicle usually opens with the words "at orbe condito," or "at initio mundi," and other unsatisfactory periods. After the suppression of monasteries throughout England, great numbers of these invaluable works were destroyed. John Bale, who wrote about the middle of the sixteenth century, says, " that a noble library might be had for twenty shillings, and that the books of monasteries were bought by purchasers to scour their candlesticks and clean their boots with, the owners only reserving the ledger-books to find such stray acres as might belong to them.''*
The Chronicon Manniae is among the few that have come down to us. Unfortunately it has not escaped uninjured, as it shows signs of much rough usage, and what is of greater consequence, bears evidence of having been at one period in the possession of some person who had erased and falsified many of the earlier dates. The Rev. James Johnstone, who first published a complete edition of the chronicle from the original manuscript, supposes from the use of the words Jerewos and Herergaidel, that the work itself is a mere version from the Norse; but if upon such slender grounds we accept this hypothesis, then for similar reasons we may assume the English nation to be of classic descent, as our country's most cherished designations, Albion and Britain, are of Greek origin. The ancient manuscript from which the version given in the following pages has been taken, is preserved in the British Museum amongst the Cottonian collection. At the request of the Manx Society its orthographical and literary peculiarities have been retained. The chronicle was formerly in the possession of Roger Dodsworth, of York, by whom it was given to Sir Robert Cotton, in 1620. The greater part of the handwriting belongs to the thirteenth century, and one portion at least was written by a person cotemporaneous with the events described, as he states he recorded them from the lips of the chief actor himself, namely, Donald, king Harald's friend, after his escape from Mirescoge lake. Professor' Munch, in a recent edition of the manuscript, published at Christiana, supposes from certain resemblances in the chronicles of Melrose and Rushen that the former supplied the frame-work of the latter. But we may with more reason conclude if any model were used, the works of the parent monastery, and not those of Melrose were had recourse to. Unfortunately, nothing in the shape of a chronicle has reached us from Furness, and very few out of the numerous houses that once existed in Britain; but such as have, are all based upon the Anglo-Saxon original. The opening entry in the Chronicon Manniae and the subsequent ones to the year MXV. (1032) are derived from that source, some extracted 'iteration et verbatim' and others abridged to suit the fancy of the compiler; whilst the strictly local or insular part does not commence till the year of the Conquest and comes to a premature conclusion in 131~3. It is difficult to assign a reason for this, seeing that Rushen continued in being for nearly two centuries and a half later, a period during which we naturally expect to meet with some continuation of its history. Nothing of the sort, however, is to be found, and it can only be ascribed to the unsettled times succeeding the close of the Norwegian dynasty, in which life and property were wholly insecure-the Island misgoverned and oppressed; and its institutions and inhabitants rapidly on the decline. The abbey shared the fate of the people, and its inmates impoverished and insecure, had little inclination and less heart to record events which daily threatened to engulf them in ruin, but lingered out a precarious existence till their final dissolution.
It may be necessary here to state that the second volume of this work will consist of a series of state papers and other documents extending from 1134 to the close of the eighteenth century. The editor regrets that, in spite of the best efforts to the contrary, many valuable muniments remain which he has been unable to obtain, either from want of indices, or proper arrangement. They embrace very interesting and obscure portions of the Island's history, comprising the period from Alexander III. to the reign of Edward I., and from Ayloffe's calendar of charters were of considerable extent. The following list from two schedules in the treasury of the king of Scotland found at Edinburgh, in 1282, is likewise of importance:-
"Item, confirmatio et donatio Beg' Norwag' monasterio de Russy in Mannia."
" Item, procuratorium Magni, Regis Norwag'."
" Item, carte Regis Norwag' super insula de Not' et quibusdam allis concessis Rege Mannite."
" Item, donationes facts abbati et conventui de Russy per Magnum, dictum, regem Manniae."
" Item, carte Regis Magni, super receptions Tannin ad formal."
" Item, carte de Glenhelk qui fun' reg' de Man."
Whether any of the above muniments are still extant it is impossible to say, but if so, at some future period they may yet see the light. The last entry on the list is remarkable, as no ruler of the name of Glenhelk is known, by tradition or otherwise, as having possessed the Isle of Man-its production might open up a new phase in Manx history.
Before concluding I have to express the obligation I am under to Richard Sims, Esq., of the British Museum, for his assistance and advice in forming the present collection, and more especially for his invaluable skill in the deciphering and reading of ancient manuscripts, in which department he is second to none in the kingdom. My thanks are also due to William Hardy, Esq., keeper of the Records of the Duchy of Lancaster, for many important documents and his polite attentions to myself when searching for the ancient arms of this Island.
To John James Moore, Esq.; Mr. Robert Fargher, of the Mona's Herald; the Rev. Messrs. Duggan, B. Harrison, Simpson, Kermode, Airey, and many other friends, too numerous to mention, I am indebted for much local information. To these and to all others who have so freely contributed their assistance, I beg to return my sincere thanks.
J. R. OLIVER.
Douglas, Oct., 1860.