[From Feltham's Tour, 1798]
To the same:
I PROPOSE in this letter to notice some particulars respecting the Abbeys, Clergy, and the establishment, &c. of the Free School at Castletown.
During the prevalence of popish superstition, and long before the grant to the Stanley family, several detachments of the monastic orders found their way into the island, and erected an abbey, and some smaller religious houses and cells there, each of which had a tract of land annexed to it, forming a manor or barony distinct from the lord, but held of him as paramount by homage and fealty. In like manner the demesne, and other customary estates of inheritance, appropriated to the bishopric appear to have been always a separate barony. In all these the ecclesiastical proprietors had the same manorial rights as the lord. Formerly there were places of refuge from the lord's authority; an abuse that was prohibited in 1417. On their dissolution, the King of England possessed them; they were afterwards held by private subjects, on grants or leases from the crown, who were stiled barons, and they still remain distinct baronies.
In the beginning of the statute-book is briefly mentioned how successively the noble family of Derby have exercised a jus regale in the island, and that certain barons held respective baronies of them, viz. the Lord Bishop of Man, the Abbot of Rushen; the Priors of Douglas and Whitehorn in Galway; the Abbots of Furness, Bangor, and Sabal; and the Prior of.St. Bede in Copeland; all which were, in respect to their holdings, to do faith and fealty unto the lord of the said island, at the general assembly of the whole island, called the Tynwald court, in their proper persons, under the penalty of having their temporalities seized for nonappearance and homage.
But to proceed to a more modern era.
The clergy of the island are a respectable body, they are natives, and have a good classical education. There are only two rectories, worth about 100l. per annum; the vicarages are under 50l. and the vicarage-houses in general are but small, inconvenient buildings; in some parishes much out of repair and in others there are none; for instance, in Malew and Bride.
It is singular that the former is so destitute, as in this parish is situated Castletown, the seat of government.
They perform the service of the Church of England, in Manks wholly, or alternately in Manks and English, as the situation and the circumstances demand; and in some churches English is always read.
In 1696 an act was made against "non-residence", which obliges the clergy to reside in their respective parishes, under certain penalties.
In the year 1739 the clergy were thrown into great trouble and perplexity by the death of the Earl of Derby, who dying without issue, the lordship of Man (as a barony in fee) became the property of the Duke of Athol, who had married the heiress of the late Earl of Derby. This had nearly deprived the clergy of their subsistence; for the livings of the Isle of Man consist of a third of the impropriations, which had been originally purchased of a former Earl of Derby, by a collection made in the episcopate of Dr. Barrow,*1 in the reign of Charles II. An estate of the Earl's in England was bound for payment.
On the alienation of the island from the Derby family, the Duke of Athol claimed the impropriations as an inseparable appendage of his state and royalty, of which it could not divested by any right that had or could be shown. The deeds were not to be found, and the clergy, in danger of losing am their property, and unable to contest, would have taken a bide; in consideration for their claim. Bishop Wilson, in a letter to his son, says, " What we can do with regard to the impropriations, I cannot possibly tell; we would be content to take any reasonable consideration, rather than lose all.*2 Lord Derby offered 1000l., a sum very inadequate. The ill effects this had, may be learned from another letter of the bishop's, wherein he observes, "We are sadly put to it for proper persons to serve the churches. The fear of losing the impropriations for ever, discouraging parents from educating their children for the ministry "*3
The duke, however, allowed the clergy to take the impropriations, giving bonds of indemnification, but this was no permanent security; the happiness of several families was involved in the recovery of their rights. The duke's claim was incontestible-the deeds were lost; nor could Bishop Barrow's will, or heirs, be found.
The assiduity of Bishop Wilson and his son was at length crowned with success, the deeds having been found in the Rolls chapel. This ended the dispute-the deeds were exemplified under the great seal of England, and every precaution was taken for the future payment of the money; and a good understanding was established between the Earl of Derby and the clergy.
In 1774 the clergy were made happy by the payment of the royal bounty, which had been withheld for some years.
The following statement will give you an idea of the ground of the law-suit that took place in consequence of these claims of the clergy.
Bishop Barrow and Archdeacon Fletcher, in 1666, purchased, of Charles Earl of Derby, the impropriations, rectories, and tithes, for the sum of one thousand pounds, for the use of the ministers of the Isle of Man, the erection of a free-school, and the maintenance of a schoolmaster.
And the earl granted, by way of collateral security, his manor and lands of Bisphem in Lancashire, and Methop farm, in trust for the performance of the indentures.
In 1735, a claim to the rectories and tithes was started by James Duke of Athol, as right heir of James Lord Stanley, under the limitations of 7 James I.; and, in 1736, he took possession of the island, and of the rectories, &c. the subject of the indenture in 1666.
The then bishop and archdeacon, after in vain endeavouring to get possession, or to obtain indemnity on the foot of the collateral security, filed a bill in Chancery in 1736, in behalf of the poor clergy and masters of the free-schools, against Edward Earl of Derby, the said James Duke of Athot and Isaac Clapton, Esq.; the personal representatives of the said deed of security, praying to take possession of the lands in Lancashire, and allot a sufficient part to recompense for past losses, and indemnify them for the future, to be annually paid.
The several defendants put in their answers; the Earl filed his cross bill against the Duke, &c.; the scope of which was, that the Duke might be decreed to deliver up possession of the Isle, &c. In 1751, the Chancellor decreed in favour of the Clergy; and the average value annually of 219l.17s. 10d. was ordered to be paid out of the lands in Lancashire, and full compensation made during the years they had been deprived. The trustees of this impropriate fund are, the Governor, Receiver General, Bishop, and Archdeacon, ex-officio; the former is appointed by the Duke of Athol.
In the year 1730, Dr. Wilson, son of the Bishop, proposed to establish a fund for the support of clergymen's widows and children in the Isle of Man, which was the more necessary, as from the smallness of the livings, few were able to make a provision for their families. To this the bishop readily agreed; and by the assistance of Mrs. Crow, Mrs. Levintz (the late bishop's widow), Lady Elizabeth Hastings, and others, a sum of money was raised and placed in the English funds; the interest of which, amounting to 12l. per annum, was appropriated to that purpose. Some years after, Dr. Wilson, assisted by some of his friends, very considerably enlarged it, by purchasing of the late Duke of Athol the thirds of the living of Kirk-Michael, which he made over to trustees for the use of that charity for ever.
Among the benefactors the following ought to be noticed: Madam Levintz, 50l. Sir J. Phillips, 30l. Bishop Crow's widow 100l Lady Betty Hastings, (besides 20l. per annum to the schools for ever) 25 guineas. Bishop Wilson, 100l. Sir John Cheshire, 20l. Mrs. Williams, 16l. Lady Harold, 100l. Mr Tollet, 51.
Speaking of benefactors to the Isle of Man, may be mentioned Mrs. G. Butler, who, in the time of Bishop Wilson, sent large quantities of Bibles and pious books for general use.
I shall now advert to the law-suit respecting the free school at Castletown.
Among the objects which were to be effected by the purchase of the tithes, &c. of the Derby family, in 1666, were the establishment of a free-school and provision for the masters. The tithes of Kirk C. Rushen were part of the tithes conveyed by the indenture.
Dr. Barrow then assured the tithes to eight persons during his life, on their undertaking to pay 301. per annum, in lieu of the tithes to the schoolmaster appointed by him and his successor in case of the death of either of these eight persons, the survivors to elect another in his place.
This disposition of the bishop was quietly acquiesced in, and paid, until 1736, except in case of unlicensed masters, who were paid only 151. per annum.
In 1695, it appears there was an annual order, by one of the trust, Governor Sacheverel, on the proctors of the rectory of Kirk C. Rushen, to pay this 301. quarterly to the master of the freeschool at Castletown, and so to continue till further order.
On the present schoolmaster, in 1757, arriving from the commencement of the regular year, he received 601. per annum until 1779, when the trust reduced his salary to 301. and also for the ensuing year, when he filed a bill in Chancery to be paid the usual salary; alleging that the tithes of Kirk C. Rushen had been settled upon the master, and which were estimated at 601. per annum, and that was his condition of agreement with the trust on his acceptance.
The then trust put in their answer, that Bishop Barrow had, in the first instance, no power to endow the school with the perpetuity of the said tithes, &c.; and that the trust had a power to proportion them among the several objects of distribution, as they might yearly think proper. The cause was heard in the Chancery Court of the island, in 1782, when Governor Dawson decreed in favour of the master's having 601. a year, in lieu of the tithes of Kirk C. Rushen.
On this the trust appealed to the King and Council to reverse this decree, which was allowed, upon their entering into a bond to prosecute; the appeal with effect, and pay the costs if the decree was affirmed, which was the case; and the present master has the stipulated salary of 601. per annum.
The Rev. Mr. Castley, the present master, was educated in Jesus College, Cambridge, and took his degree of Bachelor of Arts in 1755, and M.A. in 1758, and was Fellow of the college *3
*1 Bishop Barrow obtained a grant from Charles II. of one hundred pounds a year, payable out of the excise for ever, for the better maintenance of the vicars and schoolmasters of the island; and he collected 600l. for the same purpose among the nobility; and, by his own private charity, he also purchased two estates in land, worth twenty pounds a year in Bishop Wilson's time, for the support of such young persons as should be designed for the ministry-Wilson's History of Man.
*2 See the Bishop's Life. Ibid.
*3 The Rev. Mr. Ross was academical professor in 1772, but to whom the present succeeded, I know not.