[From ManxSoc vol 18]




This reprint is from the Edition of his Works published by R. Cruttwell, at Bath 1797.

Dr. THOMAS WILSON was born at Burton, a village in the county palatine of Chester, on the 20th December 1663, and died at Bishop's Court, Isle of Man, March 7th, 1755, in the 58th year of his consecration. From his long connection with the Isle of Man he was well acquainted with its history, which he wrote, and at the earnest request of Bishop Gibson inserted in his second edition of Camden's Britannia. I believe there has been no separate edition of this History of the island published.

THE Isle of Man, very probably, had the name it goes by now from the Saxon word mang (among), as lying almost at an equal distance between the kingdoms of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales; hence it is, that the neighbouring nations use the expressions Mancks-men, Mancks-language, etc.



The extent and situation of this island is from north to south rather more than thirty miles in length; not above fifteen broad in the widest, nor above eight in the narrowest part. Bishop's-Court, which is near the middle of the island, lies in the 54th degree 16 minutes of northern latitude. It lies so exactly in the chops of the channel that runs between Scotland and Ireland, that if this island did not very much break the force of the tides and westerly winds, it might be much worse for that part of England which lies opposite to it.



The soil in this, as in most other places, is very different. The limestone ground to the south is as good as can be desired. The mountains are cold, and consequently less fruitful, here as well as elsewhere. The vallies betwixt them afford as good pasture, hay, and corn, as in most other places. Toward the north, indeed, there is a dry, barren, sandy earth, but then this might, and no doubt in time will be helped, when once the husbandman comes to know the value of marle (of which there is good store in the northern parishes), and can be persuaded to make use of it, which yet he is not willing to do, finding the improvements made by liming the ground to yield a present great advantage, with less charge than that of marling.



A large tract of land, called the Curragh, runs the breadth of the isle betwixt Ballaugh and Ramsea. It was formerly a bog, but, since it has been drained, it is one of the richest parts of the island; and though the peat is six, eight, or ten feet deep, yet by husbandry and burning they have got a surface which will bear the plough. And the same place supplies the neighbourhood both with bread and fuel In this place have been found very large trees of oak and fir, some two feet and a half in diameter, and forty feet long, supposed by the inhabitants to have lain here since the deluge. The oaks and firs do not lie promiscuously, but where there is plenty of one sort, there are generally few or none of the other.

In some places of this tract there is a remarkable layer of peat for some miles together, of two or three feet thick, under a layer of gravel, clay, or earth, two, three, and even four feet thick.



A high ridge of mountains runs almost the length of the island, which supply the inhabitants quite round with water and fire. Abundance of little rivulets and springs of excellent water (by the sides of which the inhabitants for the most part build their houses) run hence to the sea, and the sides of the mountains are stored with heath, and an excellent peat for fuel. The highest of these mountains is called Snafield; its height, as taken by an exact barometer, being about five hundred and eighty yards; the mercury subsiding two inches and one tenth. From the top of this mountain they have a fair prospect of England, Scotland, Ireland, and Wales.



The air is sharp and cold in winter; but then this must be understood of such places only as are exposed to the winds, which, considering the situation, must needs be very boisterous. But in all such places as have a natural shelter, or an artificial one from trees, the air is as mild as in Lancashire; the frosts being short, and the snow not lying long on the ground, especially near the sea.

This is plain from the improvements that have been made in such places; where their orchards and gardens produce as good fruit, and necessaries for the kitchen, as in any of the neighbouring countries. :But if the winds be frequent and sometimes troublesome, they are also wholesome, and drive away noxious vapours; so that it has been truly observed, that the plague was never remembered to be here, and the inhabitants, for the most part, live to a good old age.



The black cattle and horses are generally less than those of England; but as the land improves so do these, and of late there have been some bred here as large as in other places. They have indeed a small hardy breed of horses in the mountains, very much coveted by gentlemen abroad for their children; but besides these, they breed horses of a size fit either for the plough or the saddle.

In the mountains they have also a small breed of swine, called purrs, or wild swine; not that they are ferce rats, or wild (for every man knows his own), but because they are bred and live continually in the mountains, without coming to their houses; and both these and the wild sheep are counted incomparable meat. Amongst the sheep they have some called Loughtan, of a buff colour: the wool is fine, and makes a pretty cloth without any dye.



There are several noxious animals, such as badgers, foxes, otters, filmerts, moles, hedge-hogs, snakes, toads, etc., which the inhabitants know no more of than their names; as also several birds, such as the wood-packer, the jay, the maup, etc. And it is not long since a person, more fanciful than prudent or kind to his country, brought in a breed of magpies, which have increased incredibly, so as to become a nuisance; and only a few years since somebody brought in frogs, which, they say, increase very fast.

There is one airy of eagles, and at least two of hawks of a mottled kind; for which reason it was that Henry the Fourth of England, in his letters patent of the grant of this isle to Sir John Stanley, first king and lord of Man of that name and family, did oblige him, in lieu of all other services, to present him and his successors, upon the day of their coronation, with a cast of falcons.



There are not many quarries of good stone; but one there is near Castletown, which yields a tolerable good black marble, fit for tombstones, and for flagging of churches; of which some quantities have of late been sent to London for those uses.

Here are also good rocks of limestone; which, being burnt with peat or coal, is become a great improvement of barren lands. These stones, especially about Ballydool, are full of petrified shells of different kinds, and such as are not now to be found on these coasts.

There are some few rocks about Peel of a red freestone, capable of being formed into regular shapes; but the greatest part of the quarries are a broken rag-stone, sometimes rising in coarse uneven flags, or in irregular lumps, fit only for coarse walls, with which, nevertheless, they make a shift to build good substantial houses; though an English mason would not know how to handle them, or would call their walls, as one merrily did, " a causeway reared up upon an edge."

Here are also a good many quarries of a blue, thin, light slate, one of the best coverings for houses, of which good quantities are exported. And at a place called the Spanish Head, there is a rock, out of which are wrought long beams (if one may use that expression) of tough stone, fit for mantletrees, of twelve or fifteen feet long, and strong enough to bear the weight of the highest stack of chimnies.



Mines of coal there are none, though several attempts have been made to find them. But of lead, copper, and iron, there are several, and some of them have been wrought to good advantage, particularly the lead; of which ore many hundred tons have of late been smelted and exported. As for the copper and iron ores, they are certainly better than at present they are thought to be, having been often tried and approved of by men skilled in those matters. However, either through the ignorance of the undertakers, or by the unfaithfulness of the workmen, or some other cause, no great matter has as yet been made of them.



This island has had many masters. They have an old tradition, and it has got a place in the records, that one Mananan Mac-Lir, a necromancer, was the first proprietor, and that for a long time he kept the island under mists, that no stranger could find it, till St. Patrick broke his charms. But a late Irish antiquary * gives a particular account of this Mananan, namely, that his true name was Orbsenius, the son of Alladius, a prince in Ireland; that he was a famous merchant, and, from his trading betwixt Ireland and the Isle of Man, had the name of Mananan; and Mac-Lir, that is, the Son of the Sea, from his great skill in navigation; and that he was at last slain at Moycullin, in the county of Galway, in Ireland. And it is not improbable that the story of his keeping the island under a mist might arise from this, that he was the only person in those days that had a commerce with them.
* Flaharti, p. 172.

The Norwegians conquered this when they made themselves masters of the Western Isles, which they set kings to govern, who generally chose the Isle of Man for their place of residence. This continued till 1266, when there was a very solemn agreement made between Magnus the Fourth of Norway and Alexander the Third of Scotland, by which this isle among the rest was surrendered to the Scots for four thousand marks, to be paid in four years, and one hundred marks yearly; and, pursuant to this, Alexander drives out the king of Man, A.D.1270, and unites it to Scotland.

In 1312, there is a second agreement betwixt Hacquin the Fifth and Robert the First of Scotland; and in 1426 a third agreement (all which are set down at large in Torfeus's History of the Orcades*). But before this last agreement the island was in the possession of John Lord Stanley and of Man, who had it given him by Henry the Fourth, A.D. 1405. However, forasmuch as by the last agreement between the kings of Norway and Scotland, the latter claimed a right to this island, the lords of Man were obliged to keep a constant standing army and garrisons for the defence of it, till the reign of lying James the First of England. And in this honourable house it continued to the year 1739, except for twelve years during the civil wars, when it was given by the Parliament to the Lord Fairfax; but it returned to its ancient lords at the Restoration. * HafniPe, 1697.

Though this island (as the Lord (Joke says) be no parcel of the realm of England, yet it is a part of the dominions of the kings of England, to whom therefore allegiance is reserved in all publick oaths administered here.

The lords of it have for a long time waved the title of kings, and are now only stiled Lords of Man and the Isles; though they still have most of the regalia, as the giving the final assent to all new laws, and the power of pardoning offenders, of changing the sentence of death into banishment, of appointing and displacing the governors and officers, with a right to all forfeitures for treason, felony, felo de se, etc.



The manner of the Lord of Man's investiture, and receiving the homage of his people at his first accession was this:

He was to sit on the Tinwald-Hill, in the open air, in a chair of state, with a royal cloth or canopy over his head; his face to the east (towards a chapel eastward of the hill, where there are public prayers and a sermon on these occasions), and his sword before him, holden with the point upwards. His barons (the Bishop and Abbot), with the rest in their degrees, sat beside him, his beneficed men, council, and deemsters, sat before him; his gentry and yeomanry in the third degree, and the twenty-four keys in their order; and the commons stood without the circle, with three clerks in their surplices.



The lord sends a Governor, Lieutenant, or Captain, who constantly resides at Castle-town, where he has a handsome house, salary, and other conveniences befitting his station. He is to take care that all officers, civil and military, discharge their trusts and duty. He is (chancellor, and to him there is an appeal in matters of right and wrong, and from him to the lord, and finally (if occasion be) to the King of England in council

The Governor's oath is something peculiar. He is sworn to do right between the lord and his people, as uprightly as the staff (the ensign of his authority, then in his hand) now standeth, that it may be a constant monitor to him of the obligations he lies under.



The inhabitants are an orderly, civilised people, and courteous enough to strangers; and if they have been otherwise represented, it has been by those that knew them not, or perhaps it is because they have sense enough to see when strangers (who are too apt to have a mean opinion of them) would go about to impose upon them, which they are not willing to suffer if they can help it.

They have ever had a profound respect for their lords, especially for those of the house of Derby, who have always treated them with great regard and tenderness; but, at the same time, they are jealous of their ancient laws, tenures and liberties. They have a great many good qualities: they are generally very charitable to the poor, and hospitable to strangers, especially in the country, where the people, if a stranger come to their houses, would think it an unpardonable crime not to give him a share of the best they have themselves to eat or drink. They have a significant proverb (which generally shows the genius of a people) to this purport, Tra ta yn derry Voql,ght cooney leek Ought elley, ta Bee hone garaghtee; i. e. " When one poor man relieves another, God himself rejoices at it ;" or, as it is in Manks, " laughs outright."

They have generally hated sacrilege to such a degree, that they do not think a man can wish a greater curse to a family than in these words-Clogh ny killagh ayes Corneil dly die Roar; i.e. " May a stone of the church be found in the corner of thy dwelling-house." And though the covetousness of some have taken advantage of the former great poverty of the clergy, and of the little power they had to defend themselves in the Bishop's absence from his diocese, to introduce prescriptions (which yet, if the observations of the people are just, they have no great reason to boast of), yet the piety of some others has led them to fling up such prescriptions, which are so very injurious to the rights of the church, and of so evil an example, and an handle for others to attempt the same





* Obtained 1703 by Bishop Wilson. See his Life, p. 15.

The inhabitants are laborious enough, and those who think them otherwise, because improvements go so slowly on, do not see the difficulties that too many of them have to struggle with. Indeed, the present Lord of Man (Lord Derby) has, to his great honour, removed one of the heaviest discouragemcnts to industry and future improvements. His lordship, at his accession, found his people complaining, as their ancestors had been for more than one hundred years, of the uncertainty of their holdings; they claiming an ancient tenure which they called " the tenure of the straw," by which they might leave their estates to posterity under certain rents, fines, and services, which his officers could not allow of, because of the many breaks that had been made by leases, etc., in that manner of holding. He therefore appointed commissioners to treat with his people in his presence, and at last came to a resolution to restore them, by a public act of Tinwald, to a tenure of inheritance, under certain fines, etc. And the very great improvements which have since been made show plainly that there wanted such a settlement to encourage industry; and the present and future ages will have reason to remember it with the greatest sense of gratitude.



But to return to the inhabitants, whose language is the Erse, or a dialect of that spoken in the Highlands of Scotland, with a mixture of some words of Greek, Latin, and Welsh, and many of English original to express the names of things which were not formerly known to the people of this island, whose ancient simplicity of living and speaking appears in many instances. Thus, for example, they do not generally reckon the time in Manks by the hours of the day, but by the tra shirveish, that is, the service-time; namely, nine in the morning, or three in the evening; an hour, two hours, before or after service-time, etc.

In this language, the substantive is generally put before the adjective, and many things which, in the English language, are derived from the Latin and Greek, and little understood by those that know nothing of those languages, in Manks are expressed by a periphrasis easily understood by the common people.

It has been often said that the Holy Bible was, by Bishop Phillips's care, translated into the Manks language; but, upon the best enquiry that can be made, there was no more attempted by him than a translation of the Common Prayer, which is still extant, but of no use to the present generation.* * The translation of the Scriptures was first begun by Bishop Wilson, and finished by his successor Bishop Hildesley, who had the honour of perfecting the work, so valuable to this country.


In their habit and manner of living they imitate the English, only the middle and poorer sort, amongst the men, usually wear a kind of sandal, which they call kerranes, made of untanned leather, and which, being cross-laced from the toe to the upper part of the instep, and gathered about the ancle, makes a very cheap, convenient, and not unhandsome shoe.

The island is certainly more populous now than ever it was, there being at present about 20,000 natives, besides strangers, which obliges them everywhere to enlarge their churches, so that there are ten times as many inhabitants as in Bede's time, when they were but about three or four hundred families.



The division of the island, as to its civil concerns, is into six sheadings. Every sheading has its proper coroner, who, in the nature of a sheriff, is intrusted with the peace of his district, secures criminals, brings them to justice, etc.

The south division contains,

Subdivided into the parishes of

The Sheading of Kirk Christ Rushen

Kirk Christ Rushen,


Kirk Arbory,


Kirk Malew.


Kirk St. Ann,


the Middle Sheading,

Kirk Marown,


Kirk Braddan -


Kirk Maughold,


The Garff Sheading,

Kirk Lonan,


Kirk Conchan.


The north division contains,

subdivided into

The Sheading of Glanfaba

Kirk Patrick,


Kirk German.

Michael Sheading,

Kirk Michael,


Kirk St. Mary Ballaugh,


Kirk Patrick of Jurby.

Ayre Sheading,

Kirk Christ Lezaire,


Kirk Andrew's (the archdeaconry)


Kirk Bride.

There are in every sheading as many moors and captains as there are parishes. These moors are the lord's bailiffs for one year, and are answerable for all the rents in their respective parishes; and the captains are intrusted with the care of the militia or trainbands.

The island, as to ecclesiastical concerns, is divided into seventeen parishes, every church bearing the name of the saint to which it is dedicated, as Malew to St. Lupus, etc.



The principal towns are only four, which are all situated near the sea. Each of them has its harbour, and a castle or fort to defend it.

Castle-Town, to the south (called also Castle-Rushen, from a very ancient but yet entire beautiful castle, in the centre of the town, built of a coarse but very durable marble), is the first town of the island. Here the Governor resides, as do most of the lord's officers; here the Chancery Court is kept every first Thursday of the month; and here also is held the head court, or gaol-delivery, twice a year. This castle is said to have been built by Guttred, king of Man, about the year 960; and it is very probable, for about that time the Norwegians began to be troublesome to all places by their piracies.

Peel, to the west, was called by the Norwegians Holmtown, from a small island close by it, in which stands the cathedral dedicated to St. German, the first bishop of this isle. This little isle, naturally very strong, was made much more so by art; Thomas, Earl of Derby, encompassing it with a wall, towers, and other fortifications, and making it in those days impregnable. At present there is a small garrison kept there, and it is the prison for all offenders against the ecclesiastical laws, whether for incest, adultery, etc., or disobedience, and it is called St. German's prison.

Douglas, to the east, is much the richest town, the best market, and most populous of any in the whole island; and as it has of late years increased in its trade, it has done so in its buildings. There are a neat chapel, a public school, several good houses, and excellent vaults and cellars for merchants' goods; but anybody that sees it would wish that authority had interposed to have made the buildings and streets more regular. The harbour for vessels of a tolerable burthen, is the safest in the island, the ships lying in it as quiet as in a dock or basin. Near to Douglas formerly stood a nunnery, now a good house, pleasantly seated and sheltered with trees.

Ramsey, to the north, is the most noted for a spacious bay, in which the greatest fleet may ride at anchor with safety enough from all winds but the north-east, and in that case they need not be embayed. This town, standing upon a beach of loose sand or shingle, is in danger, if not timely prevented, of being washed away by the sea.

Bally-Sally, though not usually reckoned among the towns, is yet a considerable inland village, where formerly stood the abbey of Rushin, founded A.D. 1134, upon lands given by Olavus King of Man, the ruins of which still remain. This was the latest dissolved monastery in these kingdoms.

The rest of the inhabitants have their houses built in the most convenient part of their estates for water and shelter; the better sort have good substantial houses of stone, and covered with slate; others with thatch, which they have found a way to secure against the winds (which in winter are boisterous enough) by ropes of straw, very readily made, and neatly crossed like a net over one another, which no storms can injure.



The way of improving their lands is either by lime, by seawreck, or by folding their sheep and cattle in the night, and during the heat of the day, in little inclosures raised every year to keep them within a certain compass; which, in about fourteen days' time, is so enriched with the urine and dung of the cattle, as to yield a plentiful crop. These little hedges are very easily raised by a spade peculiar to the country; and, being burnt by the heat of the sun, and flung down before seed-time, yield very good corn, either wheat, barley, rye, or oats.

Oats is the common bread of the country, made into thin cakes, as in the fell-country in Lancashire.



Many of the rivers (or rather rivulets) not having water sufficient to drive a mill the greatest part of the year, necessity has put them upon an invention of a cheap sort of mill, which, as it costs very little, is no great loss, though it stands six months in the year; the water-wheel, about six feet in diameter, lies horizontal consisting of a great many hollow ladles, against which the water, brought down in a trough, strikes forcibly, and gives motion to the upper stone, which, by a beam and iron, is joined to the centre of the water-wheel; not but that they have other mills both for corn and fulling of cloth, where they have water in summer more plentiful.



The commodities of this island are, black cattle (of which six hundred, by the Act of Navigation, may be imported yearly into England), lambs' wool, fine and coarse linen, and coarse woollen-cloth, hides, skins, honey, and tallow, and heretofore some corn and beer; which now, since the great resort of strangers, are little enough for their own use.



But formerly herrings were the great staple commodity of this isle, of which (within the memory of some now living) near twenty thousand barrels have been exported in one year to France and other places.

The time of herring-fishing is between July and Allhallow's tide.

The whole fleet of boats (every boat being about the burden of two tons) are under the government of the waterbailiff on shore, and under one called a vice-admiral at sea, who, by the signal of a flag, directs them when to shoot their nets, etc. There are due to the lord of the isle, as a royalty, ten shillings out of every boat that takes above ten mease (every mease being five hundred herrings), and one shilling to the water-bailiff.

In acknowledgment of this great blessing, and that God may be prevailed with to continue it (this being the great support of the place), the whole fleet duly attend divine service on the shore, at the several ports, every evening before they go to sea; the respective incumbents, on that occasion, making use of a form of prayer, lessons, etc., lately composed for that purpose.. Besides this, there is a petition inserted in the Litany, and used in the public service throughout the year, for the blessings of the sea, on which the comfortable subsistence of so many depends; and the law provideth that every boat pay tithe-fish, without any pretence to prescription. * This Form of Prayer; composed by Bishop Wilson, is printed in his Works, vol. iv. p. 331, etc.



The trade of this island is very much improved of late years, foreign merchants having found it their interest to touch here, and leave part of their cargoes, either to bring the remainder under the custom of butlerage, or because the duties of the whole would be too great a sum to be paid at once in England; or, lastly, to lie here for a market, the duties and cellarage being so small.

The ancient method of commerce (which was to have four sworn merchants, who were to agree with the foreign merchant for the price of the goods imported, as also for the price of the commodities the island had to spare, which both sides were bound to stand to) is entirely laid aside.



The religion and worship is exactly the same with that of the Church of England. The Isle of Man was converted to the Christian Faith by St. Patrick about the year 440, at which time the Bishoprick of Man was erected; St. German, to whose name and memory the cathedral is dedicated, being the first bishop of Man, who, with his successors, had this island only for their diocese, till the Norwegians had conquered the Western Isles, and soon after Man, which was about the beginning of the eleventh century. It was about that time, that the Ins?blce Sodorenses, being thirty-two (so called from the Bishoprick of Sodor erected in one of them, namely, the Isle of Ely), were united to Man, and from that time, the Bishops of the United Sees were stiled Sodor and Mian, and sometimes Mant and Insqtlar~trrt; and they had the Archbishop of Dronthem (stiled Nidorer~s) for their Metropolitan. And this continued till the island was finally annexed to the Crown of England, when Man had its own bishops again, who styled themselves variously, sometimes Bishops of Man only, sometimes Sodor and ~an, and sometimes Sodor de Macro; giving the name Sodor to a little isle, before mentioned, lying within a musket-shot of the mainland, called by the Norwegians Holm, and by the inhabitants Peel, in which stands the cathedral. For, in these express words, in an instrument yet extant, Thomas Earl of Derby and Lord of Man, A.D. 1505, confirms to Huan Hesketh Bishop of Sodor, all the lands &c., anciently belonging to the Bishops of Man, namely, Ecclesiam cathedralem Sancti Glermani in Holm, Sodor vel Pele vocatum, ecclesiamque Sancti Patricii ibidem, et locum prcefatum in quo prfefatce ecclesice site aunt. This cathedral was built by Simon, Bishop of Sodor, who died A.D. 1245, and was there buried. * [Bishop Wilson's Works, p 346].

The Reformation was begun something later here than in England, but so happily carried on, that there has not for many years been one Papist a native in the island; nor indeed are there dissenters of any denomination, except a family or two of Quakers, and even some of these have of late been baptised into the Church.



The Bishop has his residence in the parish of KirkMichael, where he has a good house and chapel (if not stately, yet convenient enough), large gardens and pleasant walks, sheltered with groves of fruit and forest trees (which show what may be done in that sort of improvement), and so well situated, that from thence it is easy to visit any part of his diocese, and return the same day.



The Bishops of Man are barons of the isle. They have their own courts for their temporalities, where one of the deemsters of the isle sits as judge.

This peculiar privilege the bishop has at this day, that if any of his tenants be guilty of a capital crime, and is to be tried for his life, the bishop's steward may demand him from the lord's bar, and try him in the bishop's court by a jury of his own tenants; and, in case of conviction, his lands are forfeited to the bishop, but his goods and person are at the lord's disposal.

The Abbot of Rushen had the same privilege, and so has the steward of those lands to this day.

When the bishoprick falls void, the lord of the isle names a person, and presents him to the King of England for his royal assent, and then to the Archbishop of York to be consecrated. After which, he becomes subject to him as his Metropolitan, and both he and the proctors for the clergy are constantly summoned with the rest of the bishops and clergy of that province to convocation; the diocese of Man, together with the diocese of Chester, being by an Act of Parliament of the thirty-third of Henry VIII. (confirmed by another of the eighth of James I.) annexed unto the metropolitical see of York.

+ An Act dissevering the Bishoprick of Chester and of the Ile of Man from the Jurisdiction of Canterbury, to the Jurisdiction, of York. 8 Jac. II. cap. xxxi.

" WHEREAS, the King's Highness, of his most gracious goodness, as well for the advancement of Christ's religion, as for the better instruction of his subjects in the laws of God, hath, by his Letters Patent, bearing date the Sixteenth day of July, in the thirty third year of his noble reign, erected, founded, and established, in the late monastery of St. Werberge, in his city of Chester, a Cathedral Church or Bishop's See; willing the same to be named and called the bishoprick or bishop's see of Chester; and to the same hath appointed limits and bonuds of one perfect and entire diocese, ordained, and willing the same to be named and called the Diocese of Chester. And amongst other things, hath appropriated, united, and annexed, to the said diocese of Chester, that Archdeaconry of Richmond, and All the jurisdictions thereof, which archdeaconry was late parcel of the diocese of York; and, moreover, hath the same whole and entire diocese of Chester, with all the limits and bounds, and all things annexed, appropried, and united, to the same; decreed, ordained, and established, to be of the province of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and under the jurisdiction metropolitical of the same, as in the same letters patent doth more largely appear. Forasmuch as his said Highness graciously considereth, that the said Archbishop of Canterbury hath a sufficient number of dioceses and suffragans under him, and in his province; and that the Archbishop of York hath, within the realm of England, only two suffragans: and moreover, that if the said diocese should remain under the said Archbishop of Canterbury, that then all his Highness's subjects of all that diocese of Chester, and so of the archdeaconry of Richmond, should be constrained for appeals to resort to the audience of Canterbury; which thing, to many of the said diocese, and specially to them of the archdeaconry of Richmond, should be, by reason of long journey of almost three hundred miles from some places thereof, intolerable fatiguation, and insupportable charges. And therefore tenderly, like a most gracious prince, studying and caring for his said subjects' most commodity, quietness, and ease, and upon further deliberation, hath, with the advice of his most honourable council, determined and ordained to remove and dissever the said bishoprick and diocese of Chester from the said province and archbishoprick of Canterbury, and to unite and annex the same to the province and archbishoprick of York, as a diocese, member, and bishoprick of the same.

" Be it therefore ordained, enacted, and established, by the King's Highness, and by the consent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that the said whole and entire diocese or bishoprick of Chester, and every parcel and member thereof, be from henceforth united and annexed to the province and archbishoprick of York, as a diocese and bishoprick of the same; and that from henceforth the said diocese of Chester, and every parcel thereof, exempt as well as not exempt, be, and be taken, named, and reputed to be, of the province and archbishoprick of York, and of the metropolitical jurisdiction of the same, to every effect and purpose, according to the ecclesiastical laws in this realm; and that the bishop of the same that now is, and all other his successors, shall be suffragans to the Archbishop of York that now is, and his successors, and to the same shall owe their obedience, and be under the jurisdiction metropolitical of the same, as well they as the Dean and Chapter of Chester; and all the archdeacons, and the whole clergy, and all other the King's subjects, being within the limits and bounds of the said diocese; anything comprised in the said letters patent of the erection of the said diocese and bishopric of Chester notwithstanding. And from henceforward neither the said Bishop of Chester, neither the clergy, nor any other the King's subjects being of the said diocese of Chester, shall recognise the Archbishop of Canterbury as their metropolitan, but only the Archbishop of York and his successors, and to the same shall obey in all things, according to the laws, as well temporal as ecclesiastical, in this realm.

" Be it also further enacted and established, by the King's Highness, with the assent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commone in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that the bishoprick and diocese of Man, in the Isle of Man, be also annexed, adjoined, and united to the said province, and metropolitical jurisdiction of York, in all points, and to all purposes and effects, as the said bishoprick of Chester is annexed, adjoined, and united to the came.

" Provided always, and be it enacted by our Sovereign Lord the King, with the assent of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, that this Act be not prejudicial to the Archbishop of Canterbury now being, nor to his successors, nor to the Dean and Chapter of the came, nor to any other Bishop or Chapter of this realm; but that all places, lands, promotions, possessions, as well spiritual as temporal, being and lying without the bounds and limits of the archdeaconries of Richmond and Chester, and without the boumds and limits of the city of Chester, and the county of the same, and the counties of Lancaster and Chester, or any of them, shall be still of the province of Canterbury, and of such diocese and dioceses as they were of before the erection of the bishopric of Chester, and of the jurisdiction of the same, and not of the province of York, nor shall be accounted to be any parcel of the said diocese of Chester; anything in this present Act, or in the book of erection of the said bishoprick of Chester, notwithstanding.

" Saving to the Bishop of Chester, and his successors, that his house at Weston, being within the diocese of Coventry and Litchfield, shall be accounted and taken to be of his diocese; and that he being resident In shall be taken and accounted as resident in his own diocese; and for the time of his abode there shall have jurisdiction in the same, likewise as all other bishops have in the houses belonging to their sees, wheresoever they lie, in any other bishoprick within this realm, for the time of their abode in the same. Anything in this present Act, and provision to the contrary thereof, in anywise notwithstanding."

[" Vera copia cum Actu impresso, collate per H. P."]

How the bishops of Man were chosen before, we find in a bull of Pope Celestine to Fumes Abbey :*-" In eligendo episcopum insularum, libertatem quam regis earum bone memoriae Olavus et Godedus, filius ejus, monasterio vestro contulerunt, sicut in authenticis eorum continetur, autoritate vobis apostolica confirmamus. Hat. Romce, 10 cat Julia pontificatus nostri 4" That is, " In choosing a Bishop of the Isles we do, by our apostolical authority, confirm the liberty, which the livings of the Isles, Olavus and Goded his son, vested in your monastery, as it is expressed in their original grants. Dated at Rome the 10th of the calends of July, and the 4th year of our pontificate "

+ Ex. Chart. MS. Mon. Fumes, in Offic. Cane. Duc. Lane.


The archdeacon, in all inferior causes, has alternate jurisdiction with the bishop; he holds his courts, either in person or by his official, as the bishop does by himself and vicarsgeneral, which are two, for the north and south divisions of the isle.



The clergy are generally natives; and indeed it cannot well be otherwise, none else being qualified to preach and administer the sacraments in the Manks language; for the English is not understood by two-thirds at least of the island, though there is an English school in every parish, so hard is it to change the language of a whole country !

The livings are generally small. The two parsonages are indeed worth near sixty pounds a year, but the vicarages, the royal bounty included, are not worth above twenty-five pounds; with which, notwithstanding, the frugal clergy have maintained themselves, and sometimes pretty numerous families, very decently; of late, indeed, the great resort of strangers has made provisions of all sorts as dear again as formerly.



That, through the poverty of the place, the church might never want fit persons to perform divine offices, and to instruct the people in necessary truths and duties, the pious and worthy Dr. Isaac Barrow, soon after the Restoration, being then Bishop of Man, did so effectually make use of his interest with his majesty lying Charles the Second, and other noble benefactors, that he obtained a grant of one hundred pounds a year, payable out of the excise for ever, for the better maintenance of the poor vicars and schoolmasters of his diocese. And the Right Hon. Charles Earl of Derby, being pleased to make a long lease of the impropriations of the isle in his hands, which, either as lord or abbot, were one-third of the whole tithes, the good bishop found means to pay for the said lease, which (besides an old rent and fine, still payable to the lord of the isle) may be worth to the clergy and schools about one hundred pounds more. Besides this he collected, amongst the English nobility and gentry (whose names and benefactions are registered and preserved in public tables in every parish), six hundred pounds, the interest of which maintains an academic master; and, by his own private charity, he purchased two estates in land worth twenty pounds a year, for the support of such young persons as should be designed for the ministry; so that the name and good deeds of that excellent prelate will be remembered with gratitude as long as any sense of piety remains amongst them



There is nothing more commendable than the discipline of this church.

Public baptism is never administered but in the church, and private as the rubric directs.

Good care is taken to fit young persons for confirmation, which all are pretty careful to prepare themselves for, lest the want of being confirmed should hinder their future marriage; confirmation, receiving the Lord's Supper, etc., being a necessary qualification for that state.

Offenders of all conditions, without distinction, are obliged to submit to the censures appointed by the church, whether for correction or example (commutation of penances being abolished by a late law), and they generally do it patiently. Such as do not submit (which hitherto have been but few) are either imprisoned or excommunicated; 1mder which sentence if they continue more than forty days, they are delivered over to the lord of the isle, both body and goods. In the meantime all Christians are frequently warned not to have any unnecessary conversation with them; which the more thoughtful people are careful to observe.

The bishop and his vicars-general having a power to commit such to prison as refuse to appear before them, there is seldom occasion of passing this sentence for contumacy only; so that people are never excommunicated but for crimes that will shut them out of heaven, which makes this sentence more dreaded.

Before the beginning of Lent (which is observed here with great strictness) there is held a court of correction, where offenders, and such as have neglected to perform their censures, are presented; and if there are many, or their crimes of a heinous nature, they are called together on Ash-Wednesday, and after a sermon explaining the design of church censures, and the duty of such as are so unhappy as to fall under them, their several censures are appointed, which they are to perform during Lent, that they may be received into the church before Easter.



The manner of doing penance is primitive and edifying. The penitent, clothed in a sheet, etc. is brought into the church immediately before the Litany, and there continues till the sermon be ended; after which, and a proper exhortation, the congregation are desired to pray for him in a form provided for that purpose; and thus he is dealt with, till by his behaviour he has given some satisfaction that all this is not feigned, which being certified to the bishop, he orders him to be received by a very solemn form for receiving penitents into the peace of the church.

But if offenders, after having once done public penance, relapse into the same or other scandalous vices, they are not presently permitted to do penance again, though they should desire it ever so earnestly, till they shall have given better proofs of their resolution to amend their lives; during which time they are not permitted to go into any church in time of divine service, but stand at the church door, until their pastor and other grave persons are convinced by their conversation that there are hopes of a lasting reformation, and certify the same to the bishop.

There is here one very wholsome branch of church discipline, the want of which, in many other places, is the occasion that infinite disorders go unpunished; namely, the injoining offenders purgation by their own oaths, and the oaths of compurgators (if need be) of known reputation, where the fame is common, the crime scandalous, and yet not proof enough to convict them; and this is far from being complained of as a grievance: for if common fame has injured any person, he has an opportunity of being restored to his good name (unless upon trial the court find just cause to refuse it), and a severe penalty is laid upon any that shall after this revive the scandal. On the other hand, if a man will not swear to his own innocency, or cannot prevail with others to believe him, it is fit he should be treated as guilty, and the scandal removed by a proper censure.



In order to secure the discipline of the church, the bishop is to call a convocation of his clergy at least once a year; the day appointed by law is Thursday in Whitsun-week (if the bishop be in the isle), where he has an opportunity of inquiring how the discipline of the church has been observed, and, by the advice of his clergy, of making such constitutions as are necessary for its better government.



The laws of the island are excellently well suited to the circumstances of the place and the condition of the people. Anciently, the Deemsters (that is, the temporal judges) determined most causes (which were then of no great moment, the inhabitants being mostly fishermen), either as they could remember the like to have been judged before, or according as they deemed most just in their own consciences; from whence came the name of " breast-laws."

But as the island every day improved under Sir John Stanley and his successors, so they, from time to time, observing the many inconveniences of giving judgment from breast-laws, ordered that all cases of moment or intricacy decided in their courts should be written down for precedents, to be a guide when the same or the like cases should happen for the future.

And that these precedents might be made with greater caution and justice, the law has expressly provided that, in all great matters and high points that shall be in doubt, the lieutenant, or " any of the council for the time being," shall take the Deemsters to them, with the advice of the elders of the land (namely, the twenty-four Keys, as it is elsewhere more fully explained), to deem the law truly, as they shall answer it.

Now, if to this we add, that once every year, namely, on St. John Baptist's day, there is a meeting of the governor, officers spiritual and temporal, deemsters, and twenty-four keys, where any person has a right to present any uncommon grievance, and to have his complaint heard in the face of the whole country, there cannot be imagined a better constitution, where the injured may have relief, and those that are in authority may, if they please, have their sentences and actions, if righteous, justified to all the world.



This court is called the Tinwald, from the Danish word "ting," that is, Forum judiciale, "a court of justice," and wald, that is, " fenced; " it is held on a hill near the middle of the island, and in the open air. At this great meeting, where all persons are supposed to be present, all new laws are to be published, after they have been agreed to by the governor, council, deemsters, and twenty-four keys, and have received the approbation of the lord of the isle.



The Council consists of the Governor, Bishop, Archdeacon, two Vicars-general, the Receiver-general, the Comptroller, the Water-bailiff, and the Attorney-general.



The twenty-four keys, so called (it is said) from unlocking, as it were, or solving the difficulties of the law, represent the commons of the land, and join with the council in making all new laws, and with the deemsters in settling and determining the meaning of the ancient laws and customs in all difficult cases.

The manner of choosing them at present is this: When a member dies, or is discharged, either on account of age, or for any great crime, which, upon a trial by his brethren, he is found guilty of; the rest of the body present two persons to the governor, out of whom he makes choice of one, who is immediately sworn to fill up the body. A majority determines any case of common law that comes before them; for, besides that they are a part of the legislature, they frequently determine causes touching titles of inheritance, where inferior juries have given their verdicts before.



The two deemsters are the temporal judges, both in cases of common law and of life and death; but most of the controversies, especially such as are too trivial to be brought before a court, are dispatched at their houses.

The deemster's oath, which he takes when he enters upon his office, is pretty singular, namely, " You shall do justice between man and man, as equally as the herring-bone lies between the two sides ;" that his daily food (for in former days no doubt it was so) might put him in mind of the obligation he lay under to give impartial judgment.



The ecclesiastical courts are either held by the bishop in person, or his archdeacon (especially where the cause is purely spiritual), or by his vicars-general, and the archdeacon's official, who are the proper judges of all controversies which happen between executors, etc., within a year and a day after probate of the will, or administration granted.

In matters spiritual, it is easy to observe very many footsteps of primitive discipline and integrity; offenders are neither overlooked nor treated with imperiousness; if they suffer for their crimes, it is rarely in their purses, unless where they are very obstinate, and relapse into their former, or other great offences.

As for civil causes that come before these courts, they are soon dispatched, and almost without any charge (attornies and proctors being generally discountenanced), unless where litigious persons are concerned, who can find ways to prolong law-suits even against the will of the judge, whose interest it is to shorten them as much as may be, as getting nothing by their length, but more trouble; but besides what is transacted in open court, the vicars-general compose an infinite number of differences at their own houses, which makes that office very laborious and troublesome.



In all the courts of this island, ecclesiastical and civil, both men and women usually plead their own causes, except where strangers are concerned, who, being unacquainted with the laws and language, are forced to employ others to speak for them. It is but of late years that attornies, and such as gain by strife, have even forced themselves into business; and, except what these get out of the people, law-suits are determined without much charges.



There are a great many laws and customs which are peculiar to this place, and singular.

The eldest daughter (if there be no son) inherits, though there be more children.

The wives, through the whole island, have a power to make their wills (though the husbands be living) of one half of all the goods, movable and immovable; except in the six northern parishes, where the wife, if she has had children, can only dispose of a third part of the living goods; and this favour, tradition saith, the south-side women obtained above those of the north, for their assisting their husbands in a day of battle.

A widow has one half of her husband's real estate, if she be his first wife; and one quarter, if she be the second or third; but if any widow marries, or miscarries, she loses her widow-right in her husband's estate.

When any of the tenants fell into poverty, and were not able to pay their rents and services, the sitting quest, consisting of four old moars or bailiffs in every parish, were obliged to find such a tenant for the estates as would secure the lord's rent, etc., who, after his name was entered into the Court-rolls, had an unquestionable title to the same.

A child got before marriage shall inherit, provided the marriage follows within a year or two, and the woman was never defamed before, with regard to any other man.

Executors of spiritual men have a right to the year's profits, if they live till after twelve of the clock on Easterday.

They still retain an usage (observed by the Saxons before the Conquest) that the bishop, or some priest appointed by him, do always sit in their great court along with the governor, till sentence of death (if any) be to be pronounced: the deemster asking the jury (instead of guilty or not guilty), Trod f rcharree sole ~ which, literally translated, is, " May the man of the chancel, or he that ministers at the altar, continue to sit ? " If the foreman answers in the negative, the bishop, or his substitute, withdraws, and sentence is then pronounced on the criminal.

When any laws which concern the church are to be enacted, the bishop and the whole clergy shall be made privy "hereunto, and join with the temporal officers, and have their consents with them till the same shall be established.

If a single woman prosecutes a single man for a rape, the ecclesiastical judges impannel a jury; and if this jury find him guilty, he is so returned to the temporal courts, where, if he be found guilty, the deemster delivers to the woman a rope, a sword, and a ring, and she has it in her choice to have him hanged or beheaded, or to marry him.

If a man get a farmer's daughter with child, he shall be compelled to marry her, or endow her with such a portion as her father would have given her.

No man heretofore could dispose of his estate, unless he fell into poverty; and, at this day, a man must have the approbation of the governor and officers, before he can alienate.



The manner of calling any person before a magistrate, spiritual or temporal, is pretty singular: the magistrate, upon a piece of thin slate, or stone, makes a mark; generally the first letters of his Christian and sirname. This is given to a proper officer, the summoner, if it be before an ecclesiastical magistrate; or the lockman, if before a temporal, with twopence; who shows it to the person to be charged, with the time when he is to appear, and at whose suit; which if he refuses to obey, he is fined or committed to prison, until he give bonds to appear and pay costs.


Here are more Runic inscriptions to be met with in this island than perhaps in any other nation, most of them upon funeral monuments. They are generally on a long, flat ragstone, with crosses on one or both sides, and little embellishments of men on horseback or in arms, stags, dogs, birds, or other devices, probably the achievements of some notable person. The inscriptions are generally on one edge, to be read from the bottom upwards; most of them after so many ages, are very entire, and written in the old Norwegian language, now understood in the Isle of Tero only; and one of the largest of these stands in the highway near the church of St. Michael, erected in memory of Thurulf, or Thrulf, as the name is now pronounced in Norway.

Very many sepulchral tumuli or burying-places, are yet remaining in several parts of the island, especially in the neighbourhood of the bishop's seat. The urns which have been taken out of them are so ill burnt, and of so bad a clay, that it is scarce possible to take them out without breaking them. They are full of burnt bones, white and fresh as when first interred.

As for medals, coins, or weapons, none have hitherto been found in these places; though it is probable that such tumuli were cast up after some great engagement, being for the most part in a champaign country, and within the compass of a pitched battle.

There are some heaps of small stones (one especially in the parish of Kirk-Michael, called Karn Viael), as also some very large white stones brought together; but on what occasion is not known.

Some few brass daggers, and other instruments of brass, were found not many years ago, buried under ground; they were well made and poised, and as fit for doing execution as any that are made of steel. And very lately, were found some nails of gold without alloy, with rivets of the same metal on the small end: their make shows plainly that they were the nails of a royal target, such as are at this day to be found amongst the Highlanders of Scotland.



There is a small island called The Calf, about three miles in circumference, and separated from the south end of Man by a channel of about two furlongs.

This little island is well stored with rabbits, and at one time of the year with puffins, which breed in the rabbit holes, the rabbits leaving their holes for that time to these strangers. About the 15th of August, the young puffins are ready to fly; and it is then they hunt them, as they call it, and take great numbers of them, few years less than four or five thousand. The old ones leave their young all the day, and fly out to the main sea, where, having got their prey, and digested it in their own stomachs, they return late at night, and disgorge it into those of their young; for at no time is there anything found in the stomachs of the young but a digested oil and leaves of sorrel. This makes them one lump, almost, of fat. They who will be at the expense of wine, spice, and other ingredients, to pickle them, make them very grateful to many palates, and send them abroad; but the greatest part are consumed at home, coming at a very proper time for the husbandman in harvest.

About the rocks of this little island an incredible number of all sorts of sea-fowl breed, shelter, and bask themselves in summer, and make a sight so agreeable, that Governor Chaloner was at the pains to have a sketch of one of these shelving rocks, with a vast variety of birds sitting upon it, taken and printed with his account of the isle.




AYR AIN, t'ayns Niau; Casherick dy row dt'ennym, Dy jigg dty Reeriaght: Dt'aigney dy row jeant er y Thalloo myr ta ayns Niau. Cur dooin nyn Arran jiu as gagh laa. As leih dooin nyn Loghtyn myr ta shin leih dauesyn ta jannoo loghtyn nyn 'oi shin. As ny leeid shin ayns Miolagh. Agh livrey shin veih olk: Son lhiats y Reeriaght y Phooar as y Ghloyr son dy bragh as dy bragh. Amen.



TA mee credjal ayns Jee'n Ayr coilley niartal chroo Hean as Thalloo.

As ayna Yeesey Crest e ynrycan vac nyn Jiarn v'er ny yentyn liorish y Spyrryd Noo, rug jeh'n voidyn Dorrey, ren surrance fo Pontius Pilate, v'er ny chrossey, marroo as oanluckiey. Hie e shees gys Nivrin, yn Tras lea jirre e reesht veih ny merriu. Hie e seose gys Niau as te ny hoi e er laueyesh yee nu Ayr Ooilley-Niartal. Deih shen trig eh dy vriwnys ny bio as ny merriu.

Ta mee credjal ayns y Spyrrid Noo, yn Slane-Aglish Casherick, Sheshaght ny Noogbyn, Leigh Peccaghyn, Irrae seose reesht ny Mirrieu, as y Dea ta dy bragh farraghtyn. Amen.



All authors have mentioned three bishops after St. Patrick's leaving the island-viz., St. Germanus, St. Maughold, and Conanus; but they do not seem to have fixed either the date of their consecration, or even the exact time of their existence: and we are left as much in the dark in regard to their successors, till

Hamundus, who was consecrated by Turston archbishop of York. He died about the year 1151, and was then succeeded by
GLamaliel, who was consecrated by Roger archbishop of York. He lies buried at Peterborough, and was succeeded by
Reginald, a Norwegian, to whom the thirds of the livings were first granted by the clergy.
Christian, buried in Ireland.
Michael, a Manksman, who died about the year 1203.
Nicholas de Melsa, abbot of Furness.
Reginald, consecrated 1216.
John, who was succeeded by
Simon, a man of great piety and learning. He held a synod of the clergy in the year 1239, in which thirteen canons were enacted. lIe died in a good old age, at his palace at Kirk-Michael, in the year 1249. After him
Laurence, the archdeacon, was elected bishop in 1242.
Richard, an Englishman, died in 1274.
Marcus Gtalvadiensis, consecrated in the year 1275
Mauritius, who was carried to prison by Edward the First, and in his room was placed
Allen or Onanus, who was succeeded by
Glilbert, a Scot. After him
Bernard, a Scot, held the bishoprick three years, and was succeeded by
Thomas, a Scot, who sat as bishop fourteen years, and died September 20, 1348, in which year
William Russel, abbot of Rushin, was elected bishop by the whole clergy of Man, in St. German's. He added five more canons; and, at his death, which happened April 2], 1374, was succeeded by
John Duncan, installed 1376.
Robert Welby, consecrated 1396, sat twenty-two years, and was succeeded by
John Sprotton, 1452 ; succeeded by
Thomas Burton, who died 1458.
Evan, or Huan, elected bishop by Sir Thomas Stanley in 1503.
Hugh Hesketh, if not the same person as the foregoing.
Robert Ferrier, 1554; succeeded by
Henry Man, 1555; died 1573
John Salisbury; who was succeeded by
James Stanley, illegitimate son of Sir Edward Stanley, first Lord Monteagle.
John Merrick, 1577. He wrote the History of the Isle of Man, which Mr. Camden first published in his Britannia.

George Lloyd, 1599; translated to Chester Jan. 14, 1604.

William Foster.

Dr. John Philips, consecrated in the year 1605; a man much esteemed for his piety and hospitality. Died 1633.

Dr. Richard Parr,1635; the last bishop that sat before the unhappy civil wars.

Samuel Rutter was sworn bishop in the year 1661. He had been archdeacon, and was the friend and companion of the great Earl of Derby when confined in prison; and wrote some pieces of poetry for the Earl's amusement, which are in great esteem among the people of the Isle of Man to this day. He sat as bishop till the year 1663, and was then succeeded by

Dr. Isaac Barrow, to whom the clergy are obliged for the royal bounty, for the impropriations, and many other charities; his translation to the see of St. Asaph was a very great loss to the island. He was succeeded by

Dr. Henry Bridgman. 1671.

Dr. John Lake was consecrated in 1682,and being afterwards removed to Bristol, was succeeded by

Dr. Baptist Levine in the year 1684, who died in 1693.

Dr. Thomas Wilson was consecrated the 16th of January 1697-8

A Runic inscription on a Stone Cross in Kirk Michael

(decyphered and Translated by John Prestwich, Esq)

Runic inscription from Kk Michael, in Bishop Wilson's History




Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001