[from Quiggin's Guide, 1841]


THE commerce of the island, previously to the act of revestment, consisted principally in the importing and exporting of contraband goods, the average returns of which exceeded £350,000, and by some are stated to have amounted to half a million sterling per annum. During that period the Island was the grand shelter and storehouse for smugglers, who, as occasion offered, shipped their goods to England, Scotland, and Ireland, to the great detriment of the British revenue. On the act of revestment, the customs of the ports became vested in the British crown, and were placed under the control of a Receiver-General, and subsequently, by an Act passed in the 50th GEO. III., the regulation and management of them were transferred to the board in England, and have since remained under the superintendence of the commissioners of customs.


The herring trade is the staple commodity of the Island, it commences about July, and continues until the end of October. There are not less than from three to four hundred boats employed in the trade, which is a source of considerable profit, and furnishes a large supply of food for the inhabitants. The boats employed in the fishery are generally from fifteen to thirty tons burthen, and mostly without decks. This little fleet leaves the harbour in the evening, and returns with its cargo the following morning. It is a long established custom for the fishermen never to go out on the Saturday or Sunday evenings. Their religious prejudices are so strong against the practice of employing the Sabbath in fishing, that it would not be in the power of any logic or rhetoric, any gain or necessity, to induce them to desecrate any part of God’s day of rest by their sea-faring occupations. In Catholic countries it is otherwise, for the herring being a fish of passage, the Church of Rome has pronounced it lawful to fish for them on the Sabbath and on holydays. It is the custom of the Manks fishermen to use a short prayer on going to their occupation, on leaving the shore, upon a sign from the master of the boat, every man upon his knees, or with his face in his hat, implores for a minute the protection and blessing of the Almighty in the way he thinks best. It is a gratifying spectacle, and although some may call these observances superstition, they are full, nevertheless, of a religious feeling and of a sense of dependence upon the giver of life, which systems of national education may long labour to produce.

"Oft as the fleet from Mona’s shore, nears to the deep its changeful sail, Let each his prayer devoutly pour, And consecrate the welcome gale.’

The nets, for the throwing of which certain regulations are enforced, are buoyed up with bags of clog skin inflated with air; the produce of each boat is divided into shares, the owner of the boat receiving two and a half. The nets are always cast after sunset and taken up before sunrise; and on the return of the fleet to the harbour, great numbers of women and children are employed in carrying the fish to the different curing houses, which are extensive buildings, where they are immediately salted; those that are to be preserved white are regularly packed in barrels, with a layer of salt between each row; such as are intended for red herrings are first "rovied," or rubbed with salt, in which they remain for two or three days, and are then washed, and hung op on rods, under which fires of oak wood are kept burning until the fish are sufficiently dried and smoked, when they are packed in barrels for exportation. The number of herrings generally cured, though subject to great fluctuation, may be averaged at from eight to ten millions, and this is but a mere trifle in comparison with the numbers taken.


By an Act passed in the 3d and 4th Wm. IV., a new code of revenue laws was framed, the principal feature of which is the system of licensing the importation of certain goods charged with high duties, by this means confining them to an extent Proportionate to the consumption of the inhabitants, and presenting the Island from again becoming a depot for smugglers; but the increase of population, and the number of visitors who favour us with their company in the summer, and who generally furnish themselves with a bottle on their return, render the quantity allowed, particularly brandy, very insufficient. The following is a list and amount of the principal articles for which the commissioners of customs are authorised to grant licences for importation into the island :-





10,000 gallons

0 4s. 6d. per gallon.



0 4s. 6d.



0 30. 0d.

Wines.. (French)

110 tuns of 252 gals..

16 0s. 0d. per tun. 

Wines,. (other sort)


12 0s. 0d.

Bohea Tea

70,000 lbs

0 0s. 6d. per lb.

Green Tea

5,000 lbs

0 ls. 0d.


8,000 lbs

0 0s. 4d.

Muscovado Sugar ..

10,000 cwt

0 1s. 06. per cwt,

Refined Sugar

800 cwt



60,000 lbs

0 1s. 6d. per lb.

playing Cards

4,000 packs


The exportation of any of which is absolutely prohibited. Distilleries of all kinds are disallowed, under a penalty of £200, with forfeiture of all implements employed in the process.

On the importation of other merchandise the following duties are payable; but the duty of £2 lOs. per £100 is universally complained of by those in trade, as the articles are in general English manufacture, and have paid the English duties.

Coals, from the United Kingdom


Hemp, the cwt

£0 0s. 4d.

Flops, from the United Kingdom, the lb

0 0s. 1½d.

Iron, from Foreign Parts, for the value of every £100

10 0s. 0d.

Wood, from Foreign Parts:


Deal Boards, for the value of every £100
Timber, for the value of every £100

 10 0s. 0d
10 0s. 0d.

Goods, Wares, and Merchandize imported from the United Kingdom, and entitled to any Bounty or Drawback of Excise on Exportation from thence, and not hereinbefore enumerated or charged with Duty, for every £100 of the value thereof

 5 0s. 0d

Goods, Wares, and Merchandize imported from the United Kingdom, and not hereinbefore charged with Duty, for every £100 of the value thereof....

2 10s 0d

Goods, Wares, or Merchandize imported from any Place from whence such Goods may be lawfully imported in the Isle of Man, and not hereinbefore charged with duty, for every £100 of the value thereof

 15 0s. 0d.

Except the several goods, wares, and merchandize following, and which are to be imported into the Isle of Man duty-free; (that is to say,)

Flax, Flax Seed, Raw or Brown Linen Yarn, Wood Ashes, Weed Ashes, Flesh of all sorts, Corn, Grain, or Meal of all sorts, when importable; any of which may be imported from any place in any ship. Any sort of white or brown Linen Cloth, Hemp, Hemp Seed, Horses, Black Cattle, Sheep, all Utensils and Instruments fit and necessary to be employed in manufactures, fisheries, or agriculture, Bricks, Tiles, all sorts of young Trees, Sea Shells, Lime, Soapers’ Waste, Pack..thread, small Cordage for Nets, Salt, Boards, Timber, Wood Hoops, being the growth, production, or manufacture of the United Kingdom, and imported from thence in British ships. And all Articles from any British Colony or Plantation in America or West Indies, if imported from the United Kingdom in British ships.

With very trifling exceptions the exportation is confined to goods that are the produce or manufacture of the Island, on which no duty is paid; they consist chiefly of herrings, corn, cattle, lead ore, paper, linen, butter, poultry and eggs. The English Corn-laws extend to this Island.

In the year 1792 the whole revenue of the Island was placed under the management of the Collector of Customs at Douglas, and the business is conducted with the strictest integrity and moderation; and this little Island, instead of being a burthen to the mother country, remits about £15,000 annually to the British revenue, after all expenses are paid: in fact the Custom-house department is so admirably conducted, that the revenue is quite as well protected as at any of the ports in Great Britain.

The local taxes arise from a duty upon all wholesale and retail venders of wine, spirits, and ale, on carriages and dogs, hawkers and pedlars, game certificates, and brewers’ and bankers’ licences,—and the amount so raised is expended in keeping in repair, altering and improving the high roads and bridges, and is under the regulation and superintendence of a committee of the insular legislature, who, having for some time past pursued the Macadamizing system, the public roads in every part of the Island will be found equal to the finest turnpike roads in England, and the improvements yearly progressing reflect the greatest credit upon those who have been appointed to the arduous situation.

Banker’s Licence

£20 0 0

Four wheeled Vehicle.

 £l 0 0

Brewer’s do.

5 0 0

Two do. do

0 10 0

Hawker’s do.

2 0 0

Pointer or Hound

1 1 0

Ale and Spirit do.

3 0 0

Bull-dog or Spaniel

1 1 0

Wines do.

2 0 0

Terrier or Quester.. - -

0 6 0

Do. do. in Country

0 10 0


0 2 6

Wine, and Spirit do.


For Every House

0 4 0


4 0 0

License to kill Game

2 0 0


 of the Island are woollen cloths, linen, ropes, sail cloth, &c. There are also breweries, paper mills, tanneries, and soap manufacturies; an iron foundry, a steam packet company, a gas, and a water company. The manufacture of cotton yarn, or twist was once established in the Island, and goods of its fabric were exported to England, and wrought up in Manchester. After existing twelve years, the officers of the Liverpool Custom-house discovered that the importation was illegal; and a stop was put to the manufacture. A manufactory for printing cotton was also once tried and abandoned.


consists chiefly of one pound local notes, issued from three banks in the town of Douglas, the proprietors having lodged, at the Rolls Office, security in landed property for the amount of two-thirds of the notes they circulate, thus exonerating the holders from all risk. The notes are confined to the Island, not being payable at any other place. There is but little gold to be seen except in the summer season, by the influx of visitors; silver is plentiful.

The legal Interest of money is six per cent. The local notes are taken up by Bills on London at 21 days.


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