[Appendix C(1) 1792 Report of Commissioners of Inquiry]


N° 1.

CONSTITUTION of the ISLE of MAN, delivered in by the Deemster the 8th of October 1791.

THE ISLE of MAN hath been, from time immemorial, governed by its own laws, made and enacted by the three estates of the said isle, viz.

The King or Lord, The Governor and Council, The Twenty-four Keys, as the representatives of the inhabitants of the said isle.

These estates, when assembled, were called a Tynwald Court, and their triple concurrence established the law.

The Lord of the said isle sent thither his Lieutenant or Governor,(who represented him,) and was the chief ministerial officer in the said isle ; sworn to maintain and execute its laws justly and impartially between the Lord and the inhabitants of the said isle, according to the laws, customs, and usages thereof.

The Council consisted of the Treasurer or Receiver-general, the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, the Water Bailiff, the Attorney-general, the two Deemsters, the Bishop, the Abbot of Rushen, the Archdeacon, his Official, and the two Vicars-general.

The Treasurer or Receiver-general.

He received the Lord’s rents and revenues.

The Comptroller.

He was the examiner of all public accounts, such as Lord’s rents, revenues, &c. previous to their being audited by the Governor and Council. He was also keeper of the rolls. and records, entered all pleas and proceedings in the Lord’s courts, as also in the courts of the Bishop, Abbot, Barons, &c. for which he was entitled to certain fees in each court. He also regulated weights and measures.

The Water Bailiff.

He was judge of the Court of Admiralty and keeper of the seal, whereon were engraved the arms of the said island ; he also collected the duties and revenues arising from the exports and imports into the said island, and paid the same to the Receiver-general.

The Attorney-general.

He prosecuted all offences against the Lord and the community, and sat in the several courts in the said island, in order to fee that the rights and prerogatives of the Lord were maintained and preserved. The several officers before-mentioned were sworn to act justly and uprightly in their respective stations, according to the laws and customs of the said isle.

The Bishop was of the Lord’s council, as was also the Abbot of Rushen formerly. .

The Archdeacon and his Official, with the two Vicars-general, were of the Lord’s council. Two Deemsters or Judges, appointed by commission from the Lord, were of his council Their office was more immediately between the Lord and the inhabitants of the said isle, and they have a particular oath administered to them in that respect.

The Governor with the before-mentioned persons constituting the council, formed the second degree in the slate or legislature of the said island.

The Twenty-four Keys, as the representatives of the inhabitants of the said isle, were chosen in the manner following ; when a vacancy happened, the Keys returned the names of two persons to the Governor, who made choice of one of the said persons, who was thereupon sworn a member.

Laws, how made.

When new laws were to be made, the Governor, Council, Deemsters and Keys assembled, cone suited, resolved, and agreed thereon ; and having obtained the Lord’s assent, by his sign manual thereto, they assembled at a Tynwald Court, when the said laws were published, proclaimed, and certified. At such Tynwald Courts many other matters of great importance were transacted ; namely, ordinances made public, accounts of harbours, bridges, and roads passed, coroners or sheriffs annually sworn, &c.

The Governor’s Duty and Office.

He was chief both in civil and military power, and had, by law, authority to call a Tynwald Court as often as he found necessary, at which the Council and Keys were bound to attend. He generally held a Chancery Court eight times in the year, or oftener, if occasion demanded, in which he sat as Chancellor, and received the advice and assistance of his Officers and Deemsters when lie required the same ; and he generally held an Exchequer Court the day following the said Chancery Court, where the Officers and Deemsters also sat. He also held an Audit Court once in each year, wherein all public accounts, such as Lord’s rents, revenues, fines, and amercements, were examined, ascertained, and audited. In this Court the Officers and Deemsters in like manner assisted. He presided in the Common Law or Sheading Courts, which were called by his order, and were holden twice in each year for the respective Sheadings in the said island. He also presided in the Head Courts, or courts of General Gaol Delivery, which were holden the day following the Sheading Courts.

Shedding or Common Law Courts.

These courts were generally holden in the months of May and October, in each and every year, at Peeltown for the Sheadings of Glanfaba, Michael, and Ayre ; at Douglas for Garf Sheading, and at Castletown for the Sheadings of Middle and Rushen. The business transacted In these Courts was the presentment of all nuisances by the great inquest, (which consisted of twelve men taken out of each Sheading, who were sworn to determine all such matters as came legally before them), trial by jury for title of lands, personal actions, and of actions for the recovery of debts, &c.

The Deemsters swore the juries in the language of the inhabitants of the said island, gave the charge, and received their verdicts. Previous to the holding of these courts, public notice was directed by the Governor to be given by the Moars or Lord’s bailiffs, at the several parish churches, for all persons within the said parishes to attend the laid courts, where all deeds and conveyances respecting lands were generally brought in, and published and confirmed by the Governor, Officers, and Deemsters, or any three of them, whereof the Governor was always to be one ; and such deeds, upon receiving such confirmation, were for the most part inrolled or deposited in the office of the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls. At these Courts a jury of four men from each parish, called the Setting Quest, attended ; whose duty it was to return and report the names of all such persons as had come to any title of lands and premises, by death, alienation, or mortgage; and such persons were, by law, obliged to give to the laid Setting Quest notice, previous to the holding of the said courts, of their having become entitled to such lands and premises, in order that the said Setting Quest might be enabled to return or present the names of the said several persons at the said counts, for the purpose of having them entered as tenants in the Lord’s books, for the rents payable by them respectively ; and in case such persons should refuse, or fail to have their names so entered, they were subject to pay a fine of three pounds to the Lord of the laid island, agreeably to the law in that behalf provided. Copies of the several deeds and instruments whatever, inrolled or deposited in the office of the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, were admitted as evidence in the several courts of the said island. All deeds of mortgage were by law required to be entered amongst the records within six months after the passing of the same, otherwise to be of no effect in the law. From the variety of proceedings in this court, it is evident it must have possessed a mixed jurisdiction, and was as well a Court of Law as a Manorial Court.

Courts of General Gaol Delivery.

The Head Counts, or Court of General Gaol Delivery, was held in the open air, within the outer gate of Castle Rushen, and the Governor, Council, and Deemsters sat therein, with the twenty-four Keys ; and if any criminal had been indicted for felony, four men out of each parish ( viz. out of the seventeen parishes, sixty-eight persons,) were Summoned to attend at the said court, for the purpose of trying the said matter of felony ; and if the person so indicted, when put upon his trial, pleaded not guilty, four men out of a parish were brought before him, in order that he might select such of them as he might think proper ; and in case he did not chuse the laid four men, or any of them, then four men out of the next parish were in like manner brought to him, and so on until he had chosen twelve men out of the number returned, as aforesaid, to the said court, for the said purpose, who were accordingly sworn to try the said matter of felony; and the Attorney-General, on the behalf of the Lord of the said island, proceeded to examine witnesses touching the same; and the person accused, either by himself or council on his behalf, to make his defence and after the several proceedings had been gone through, and the jury agreed upon a verdict, the Deemsters, or one of them, demanded of the foreman of the jury, (in the Manks language,) whether such of the council, as were ecclesiastics, could remain in court or not ? and if the foreman of the jury gave for answer, they could not, then the said ecclesiastics withdrew; whereupon the laid Deemsters, or one of them, asked said jury, Guilty or not guilty ? and upon the said jury declaring the said person Guilty, the said Deemsters, or one of them, thereupon pronounced sentence of death. But it was in the power of the Governor of the said isle to grant a reprieve to the said criminal ; and of the Lord to pardon him, or otherwise order the sentence to be executed.

Admiralty Court.

The Water Bailiff was the judge of the Court of Admiralty, in which court all causes of admiralty jurisdiction were heard and determined, and judgment pronounced by him accordingly. From this court an appeal lay to the Governor and from his decree to the Lord of the said island.

Deemsters Court.

The Deemsters, in their respective districts, heard all causes which were brought before them for debt, to any amount whatever; determined differences respecting the possession of lands, disputes touching contracts, agreements, and engagements; from whose judgment, in such cases, an appeal lay to the Governor. The Deemster also took cognizance of matters of assault and battery; issued warrants for the apprehending of felons, and the convening of juries and inquests; received verdicts and granted judgments and execution upon the verdicts of such juries.

KEYS, their Judicial Character.

The Keys, in their judicial capacity, heard and tried all causes brought before them, by appeal, or traverse from the verdicts of juries (except in matters of felony) ; they had also, in some cases, the power and jurisdiction of hearing and determining upon matters of slander and defamation, when and as often as the same were transmitted to them by the Governor.


Appeals or traverses from the verdicts of all juries, (except in cases of felony,) lay to a Traverse Jury ; and from the verdicts of such Traverse Jury to the Keys ; from their judgment to the Lord of the said island ; and from his decree to his Majesty in Council as the dernier resort. Appeals from the judgments of the Deemsters and Water Bailiff’s Courts, lay to the Governor of the said island ; from his decree to the Lord of the said island; and from the decree of the Lord to His Majesty in Council. In all matters which, in the first instance, were heard by the Governor, an appeal from his decree lay to the Lord of the said island, and from him to His Majesty in Council.

Judgments of Courts, &c. how executed.

The decrees, judgments, and executions, which issued from the civil courts in the said island, were put into the hands of the Coroner or his deputy, or into the hands of the serjeants of the several baronies, in whole district the person or persons against whom said judgments, decrees, and executions, were to be executed, resided, in order to execute the same, and enforce payment thereof; and in case of disobedience or refusal in such person to deliver up his effects to satisfy such judgment or decree, in the presence of two witnesses, brought for that purpose, the Coroner, his deputy or serjeant, certified such refusal to the court from whence the judgment issued ; who thereupon granted a contempt, which was sent to the office of the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, for the purpose of having the same recorded, (the recording whereof subjected the party to a fine payable to the Lord,) the purport of which certificate was issued and given to the party in whose favour the judgment was given, who then applied to the Governor and obtained his authority for a soldier to imprison the party standing in contempt, until he complied with such decree, judgment, or execution, or gave in security to discharge the same ; but if the party or person against whom any judgment, decree, or execution, had been obtained, quietly and peaceably delivered up his effects to satisfy such judgment, decree, or execution, his person was not subject to be imprisoned, except for the payment of the rents and fines due to the Lord, and in all cases of contempt whatever.


There were and are four baronys within the said island, for which courts were holden

First, Bishop's Barony.

The Bishop appointed a steward for the purpose of holding his courts, which were usually holden twice in the year, in which the Deemsters, or one of them, sat as judge. The Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls attended in the said court, and entered pleas, registered deeds, &c. and was the custodian of the books and proceedings in the said court, for which attendance the said Deemsters and Clerk of the Rolls were intitled to and received a certain fee. In this court actions were brought for titles of land and other matters, which were tried by jury, agreeably to the mode used in the laid island. If any person, residing within the said barony, not being a tenant to the Lord of the said island, was indicted for felony, such person was accordingly tried for such felony by a jury of twelve men, selected from amongst the tenants of the said barony, in the manner and way practised in the court of General Gaol Delivery, as already described.

Second, Abbots or Abbey Barony.

The courts for this barony were, until the present century, holden by a Deemster or Deemsters, the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, and a Seneschal appointed by the Lord of the said island; and afterwards by the Governor, Officers, and a Deemster or Deemsters, and Seneschal, The power and authority of this court, and the proceedings therein, were in all respects equal with, and similar to the powers, authority, and proceedings in the court in the Bishop’s Barony, as before mentioned.

Third, Bangor and Sabel.

This barony was held under patent, by grant from the Crown of Great Britain, and the grantee appointed a steward to hold a court for the said barony ; and as the barony of St. Trinions was inconsiderable, a court was holden for both baronys at the same time, and in like manner with the courts for the Bishop’s and Abbey Barony.

Office of Receiver-general, &c. under the Lord abated.

By the operation of the act of parliament, made in the year revesting the said island in the Crown of Great Britain, the offices of Treasurer or Receiver-general, Comptroller and Water Bailiff, under the Lord of the said island, have become abated, and the several laws respecting the harbours in the said isle, &c. are rendered nugatory.

In the Year 1766

The public records, kept by the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, were separated, and those appertaining to the manorial rights were delivered to the Steward of the manor, from whence an inconvenience both arileri to the people in respect to their titles, as by the oath of of the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls, he was to register and keep in custody all deeds of conveyance delivered to him, to deliver true copies of them, and when attested under his hand, the same were given in evidence in the several courts in the laid island. The Lord’s Steward of his manors cannot supply the place of the Comptroller and Clerk of the Rolls in this respect, without a law for that purpose.

Court of Common Law.

By an act of Tynwald, made in the said island in the year 1777, the courts of common law are. directed to be holden four stated times or terms in each year; and the mode of proceeding in such courts is, by such act of Tynwald or statute, considerably varied, and the appellate jurisdiction in part altered.

Great Inquest abolished.

The duty and power of the Great Inquest, and all proceedings before them, are by the said act or statute of 1777 abolished and laid aside.

The Bailiffs

By the said statute of 1777, High Bailiffs are appointed in the four different market towns of the said island, with power to hear and determine causes under forty shillings, arising in said town and within certain districts—into four of which, in this respect, the island is divided.

The Serjeants of the several baronies were civil officers in the nature of Moars and Coroners the soldiers acted as constables do now in their civil department


From the decrees and judgments of the Governor, an appeal now lies to His Majesty in Council. From the determination of the House of Keys, an appeal now lies also to His Majesty in Council

8th Oct. 1791 THO MOORE


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