[From Manx Soc vols 25+28 - Blundell's History]


Arms–Sable, 10 billets, 4, 3, 2, and 1, argent.
Crest–A demi Lion, sable–A cross tan-fitchy, argent.

THE Blundells of Crosby have been seated there prior to the time of Edward I.

The father of the historian of the Isle of Man was Nicholas Blundell, who married Jane, daughter of Sir Roger Bradshaigh of Haigh, Co. Lancaster. He died 18th June 1631, leaving two sons and six daughters. His eldest son, William of Crosby, born 15th July 1620, married Anne, second daughter of Sir Thomas Haggerston, Co. Northumberland, first Baronet of Haggerston, by Alice, his wife, only daughter of Henry Banaster of Bank, by whom he had four sons and ten daughters. This William Blundell, the historian, had his thigh broken at the siege of Lathom House, fighting on the Royal side. His name does not appear in the Journal of the Siege of Lathom House, 1644: London, 1823. The editor is unable to give the date of Mr. Blundell's decease or place of sepulture, having written to the present possessor of Crosby Hall for that purpose, but has not received any reply to his application.

From the foregoing statement it will be seen that the author of this MS. History of the Isle of Man, which we are about to print for the first time, and which subsequent writers have so frequently made use of, was descended from an honourable and long standing Lancashire family, whose descendants are still residing on their old paternal estate.

It appears Mr. Blundell came to the Island in 1648, as he informs us in his preface, "wearied with being so often wakened at midnight to fly from the King's and Parliament's troops, both equally feared, because equally plundering;" and in the eleventh chapter of the first book he informs us he retired out of it the same year. During his residence here he employed his leisure time in collecting the materials for his future History, which he embodied in the folio manuscripts that have come down to us. It may be regarded as the oldest general History of the Island, made from personal observation on the spot, for Camden and other writers had never visited the Island, and Chaloner had. not at that time been appointed one of Lord Fairfax's Commissioners.

In December 1651, Thomas, Lord Fairfax, having been, by Act of Parliament of the 29th September 1649, invested with the government of the Island, appointed, August 17th, 1652, James Chaloner, with two others, Commissioners to enquire into his estate in the Island, with the yearly value thereof. Chaloner was Governor from 1658 to 1660. In 1653 he wrote his Short Treatise of the Isle of Man, first published in King's Vale Royal, 1656, being the first published connected account of the Island, from materials obtained on the spot. This has been reprinted in the tenth volume of the Manx Society's series. Mr. Blundell subsequently made use of some of Chaloner's statements in writing out his History; and Sacheverell, in his Account, in 1703, as well as later writers, have made use of both.

Seacome,1 in the introduction to his Account of the Isle of Man, appended to his History of the House of Stanley, the first edition of which was printed in Liverpool, 1736, thus alludes to Mr. Blundell's MSS.:

"This Island appears but little or hardly known to the ancients, and amongst all our modern historians and geographers there is not one has given any tolerable account of it before Mr. James Chaloner, Governor for the Lord Fairfax, and the great and learned Mr. Blundell of Crosby, who prudently retired thither during the usurpation, whereby he preserved his person in peace and security, and his estate from all manner of depredation.2 This gentleman, being a person of polite learning, employed his leisure hours in collecting the History and Antiquities of the Isle of Man, and by his manuscripts, which I have seen, gave posterity the clearest and most correct account of it."

Seacome, in compiling his History, had access to the manuscripts in the Knowsley Library, amongst which was that of Mr. Blundell of Crosby, whom, as we have before observed, he styles "the great and learned." An extract from this MS. is given in the Appendix of the Stanley Papers, part iii. p. ccclxxiv., Chetham Society, vol. lxvii., 1867. This is most probably Mr. Blundell's original manuscript, from which various transcripts have been taken. One is in the possession of G. E. Wicksted, Esq., of Shakenhurst, Bewdley, in the County of Worcester, but wanting the title. This is the copy mentioned by Townley in his Journal, 1789-90, vol. ii. p. 226. Another transcript is in the possession of M. H. Quayle, Esq., of Castletown, Isle of Man, which the Rev. Mr. Cumming considered as the original, and the one made use of both by Sacheverell and Seacome; but there is little doubt the latter gentleman took his extracts from the Knowsley MS. Another copy, now belonging to the Manx Society, but in an imperfect state, formerly belonged to Mr. Edmund Moore, of Douglas, 1760. In making up this copy from that of Mr. Quayle, for the purpose of rendering it complete for the press, it was found to agree so minutely in each page, that they appear to have been transcribed by the same person from one copy; probably from that at Knowsley.

Mr. Townley, in his Journal, gives a wrong title to this MS., which he supposes was written by a Welsh justice. He has given copious extracts from it in his second volume. The MS., he states, then belonged to Mr. James Oates of Douglas. Feltham, in 1798, mentions the one in the possession of Mr. Moore of Douglas, being the one from which the present edition is for the first time printed.

From the manner in which the MS. has been prepared, it was evidently the intention of the author to have it printed, and it is to be regretted this was not done in his lifetime, while it could have had the benefit of his revising pen. Probably the unsettled state of the times when he wrote the account may be one reason, and on the Restoration, society being so unhinged that it behoved every one to look after the remnant of property that had been left to him.

There is little doubt Mr. Blundell suffered in his estate like the rest of the Lancashire gentry who supported the cause of their king; and the mere fact of professing the Roman Catholic religion subjected "the delinquent" to forfeit two parts out of three of his whole estate, and two parts of his goods. What was the extent of Mr. Blundell's contributions I have not been able to learn. That his suffering in the Royal cause, and the exactions from his estate for the use of the Commonwealth, must have been very great, and left him in comparative indigence, with a large family to provide for, will be seen from the following interesting extract from a letter (when he was about sixty-seven years of age), addressed to Mr. John Warmer, dated Crosby Hall, 22d of May 1687

"The importunity of friends, and my own slendre fortune, wth ye great number of children dependent on my family, do incline me to petition ye king for som small advantagious employment upon a civil account. And tho' I cannot pretend to any great degree of merit, yet it is my opinion y' there are few alive at ye pre sent of thos that served ye king at ye beginning of our civil warrs in 1642 that suffer'd so much for the crown, and acted so little for it, as I have don. I designed to have acted more; I set up my rest upon it, and ventured my all. My equipage then for the warre was far above my fortune. But in ye first day of my services, before I had mustered ye 100 dragoons wch I was, by commission, raising, I lost the use of my limbs by a shot, and could never recover them since to make them sufficiently able for ye fatigue of war. Upon this there followed ye plunder of almost all my goods, and the sequestration of my lands, wch was continued for ten years. My lands were then sold by an Act of Parliament I yet were they happily bought by my friends wth money provided by me, for my behouf. After I was lamed in ye war, tho' I could not use a sword, I was 4 times made a prisoner, and payd my ransom twice: and my estate being bought as abovesaid, I paid ye 10th part of ye revenue by an arbitrary law of Cromwell's for sundry years."' (Signed) "W. B."

Mr. Blundell had studied the law at Lincoln's Inn, but did not prosecute it in after life, preferring literary pursuits, as may be inferred from the learning and research displayed in the compilation of the History now before us. Being severely wounded early in the Rebellion, having espoused the royal cause, we are most probably indebted to that for turning his attention to the Isle of Man (the then residence of so many Lancashire gentry, and under the governorship of John Greenhalgh, also a Lancashire man), and writing its History. Its compilation was almost complete when the publication of that of Chaloner appeared in 1656, from which Mr. Blundell thought it advisable to make several extracts, in order to render his own account more perfect; these he has noted in their several places.

In the various notes appended, as to the authorities quoted, Mr. Blundell has omitted to give the dates of the various editions; but of course these would be prior to the time of his writing.

The Council of the Manx Society, considering this History of sufficient interest to form one of their series, have placed their copy of Mr. Blundell's papers in the Editor's hands, for the purpose of passing them through the press. It has been considered advisable to adhere to the diction as well as the mode of spelling proper names as there given, and the literary peculiarities of Mr. Blundell have been retained, which, quaint as they may appear at the present day, add an interest to his account of the manners and customs of the people at the time he wrote, which, as time rolled on, have fallen into disuse, or been blended into other customs and laws; yet these statements will be found highly instructive as to what were the customs of the Island more than two hundred years ago.

It has been considered unnecessary to add to the text notes which have so amply been heretofore given in the Society's Series by the Rev. Mr. Cumming, in his reprints of Chaloner and Sacheverell, embracing the same period of time as the present History, and to which the reader is referred.

This edition of the work in its entirety, as left by the author, will, it is hoped, be acceptable to the Members of the Manx Society, as well as a valuable contribution to the History of the Isle of Man.


ROCKMOUNT, 12th August 1876.


1 A pedigree of this house is given in Baines's Lancashire, 1836, vol. iv. p. 218.

2 Baines's Lancashire, 1836, vol. iv. pp. 213-17.

3 John Seacome was house-steward to William, ninth Earl of Derby.

4 This does not appear to have been the case from the statement made by Mr. Blundell in his preface, as well as in his letter to Mr. Warmer, under date 2d May 1687, hereafter given.

5 Application was made to Mr. Wicksted in 1871 from the Manx Society for permission to take a copy of the portion defective in their MS., which Mr. Wicksted declined to allow.

  index next  

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