[From Manx Soc Vol 17]


You wish to place before the public of to-day, in a form as correct and as " complete as popsible, the principal historic records of the past, upon which our " forefathers have left so strongly the original impress of their daily lives, " characters, and destinies. You thought, with good reason, that familiarity with " these records would be, in our day, as well as in future, a matter of both curiosity and Instruction."

OF the principal object of this memoir,-in other words, of the coinage in use at various periods of the island's history,-I shall now proceed to speak. These periods will comprise remarks on its coinage as connected with neighbouring powers, as well as the issues of its own authorities.

There appears to be no trace of any independent or separate coinage of this island previous to, or for a considerable portion of the sixteenth century; unless we allow the evidence of Sacheverell, who, in his "Island Survey of the Isle of Man" (in the edition of 1702, page 72), speaks of a coinage issued for the island by Martlioline, then governor; but Train (page 72) fixes the date of Martholine about 1338. Then, again, John Meyrick (a bishop of the island and vicar of Hornehurch in Essex), who wrote the account of the island published, about the year 1577, in Camden's " Britannia," states that the island had its own peculiar laws and money. Train (a later island historian) alludes to other authorities, Waldron, &c., in confirmation of Bishop Meyrick's assertions, states also that leather money was, about the year 1577, in circulation. Much has been said, and traditional report has been very positive as to the circulation of this leather money; but after the strictest search, and most diligent inquiries, I have not been able to gain the slightest evidence that can be relied upon, of its ever occupying the position of coinage, or being used as a substitute for it. And the only reasonable supposition that can be drawn from the tradition is, that a stamp probably with the triune &c., upon it, might have been used for impressing the hides, skins, &c., for exportation; and further, that leather so impressed might have been cut off from the hide, and passed from hand to hand as so much money; similar to the card money that was subsequently circulated, but of a simpler character. This is however, mere conjecture; and most probably, no such issue was.ever in circulation at any tirne; or some clearer evidence might have been obtained, as leather is not a very bad material for preservation. I think these remarks are corroborated by referring to the Statutes of the Island (8vo, Douglas, 1819), p. 143, tenth line from foot of the page.

And yet, in reference to this species of money, Waldron writes (about 1730)-"That every man of substance was, "entitled to make leather money, not exceeding a certain amount directed by law. On one side only it was impressed , with the name of the party issuing it, and the date." I have not yet been able to find the Tynwald Act, authorising this quotation of Waldron, or any other evidence, after the most strict inquiry ; in which I have received most valuable assistance from the Attorney-General (James Gell, Esq.), the Clerk of the Rolls (M. H. Quayle, Esq.), and the present High Bailiff (J. M. Jeffcott, Esq.)

Although not able to find any reliable proofs of leather money having circulated in the Isle of Man, there are many instances of such material being in use for coinage elsewhere.

The following curious extrict is taken from " Maundeville's Voiage" (London, 1737), p. 287, in reference to the great Chan ,of Tartary in the fourteenth century:-" This Emperour may

" dispenden als moche as he wile, withouten estymacioun. For " he dependethe not, ne makethe no money but of lether emprented, or of papyre. And of that money is som of gretter prys, and som of lasse prys, after the dyversitee of his statutes. And whan that money hathe ronne so long that it begynnethe to waste, than men berin it to the Emperoure's tresorye, and than thei taken newe money for the olde. And that money UOthe thorghe out alle the contree, and thorghe out alle his provynces. For there and bezonde hem thei make no money nouther of gold nor of silver. And therefore he may despende y now, and outrageously."

Again, Fabian Philips says that Julius Caesar coined leather money in Britain, but quotes no authority for the strange assertion. (-Vide Archaeologia, vol. xiii., pp. 187, 188.)

Again, Adgar was said to have conquered Dublin about the year 964, and though his conquests did not extend further in Ireland, he imposed a tribute which was enforced by his suecessor Ethelred. At all events, in the comedy of " The Wits," the following lines are to be found:-

Why this was such a firk of piety
I ne'er heard of: bury her gold with her!
'Tis strange her old shoes were not interred too,
For fear the days of Edgar should return,
When they coin'd leather."

Lastly, in 151, the use of private tokens for money, which were stamped by inferior tradesmen, such as grocers, vintners, chandlers, alehouse keepers, &c., was at this time grown to such excess as to be the subject of frequent complaints. They were made of lead (vide " Budelius De Monetis," &c.), tin, latten, and even leather. Of these base materials were forrmed farthings and halfpence, to the great derogation of princely honour and dignity; and at great loss to the poor, since they were only to be repaid to the same shop from whence they were first received,

A correspondent in Notes and Queries (2nd series, vol. vi., p. 460), who signs himself " D. R.," states-" I have in my possession a dollar (of leather silvered on each side), and I have "some faint idea of having read somewhere, that such were issued to a Spanish army (in the dearth of silver) as a species of assignats, but I cannot recall the circumstances." In consequence of this notice another correspondent, "Ache," gives the following.-"In Camden's 'Remains Concerning Britain,' " (or at least attributed to Camden) there is a passage at p. 165, " 4to, London, 1629, which runs thus-'There also hath been stamped money of leather, as appeareth by Seneca, who mentioned that there was in antient time Corium Iorma publica percussum; and also that Frederick the Second, when he " beseiged Millan, stamped leather for currant. And there is a "tradition, that in the confused state of the Barons' warre, the like was used in Englaiid, yet I never saw any of them."'

In the second volume of " Norfolk Archaeology," 1849, is a curious paper by the Rev. J. Gunn, on " Proverbs, Adages, Superstitions, &c., of the Parish of Irstead," from which we extract the following (from page 305).-

" King John cleared the crown of leather money. First he used it when there was not money enough to carry on business with; and then he cried it down when 'he had got a supply of proper money. The people considered him rather silly; but he had sense enough to do that. * A Mrs. Lubbock remembers, when a child, playing with King John's leather money. It was stamped like gingerbread, and of the shape of gun wadding."

From the quotations here given, showing that leather money was frequently resorted to in England, it is not improbable but that some of these pieces, finding their way to the Isle of Man by way of circulation, might have given rise to the popular opiniod, that such also was made in the island.

With respect to the coin mentioned by Martholine, although the piece is said to have had the king's effigy (king of Scotland probably) on one side, and on the reverse a cross with " CRUX EST CHRISTIANORUM GLORIA," there is no evidence of its being struck either in or for the island especially. And with respect to Bishop Meyrick's letter to Camden (vide Sacheverell's account, that " their laws, language, and money were peculiar to themselves, and were signs of distinct sovereignty," it is well known that their language and laws were known elsewhere previously; and lastly, the island was not independent, but dependent on Scotland, at this period.

Previously to the advent of the sixteenth century, there is no doubt but that. the inhabitants of the island had mainly to depend upon the currency that found its way thither by barter with other nations, but most frequently with England, Scotland, Ireland, Holland, Denmark, &c. : hence arose the great variety of moneys often found in use-the more so from the fact of having no coinage of their own. Various discoveries of buried coins have from time to time be.-n announced, amongst which Roman coins (proving the almost universal power and influence of that great people), as well as Saxon (chiefly of the Heptarchy), but none of such a character as to be considered as independent currency of the island, or any more associated with it, than with the rest of the world.

Whilst the negotiations for the sale of the island were pending, the Attorney-General, in defining the rights to be transferred to the crown, in the year 1765, remarks-" What is necessary excepting perhaps treasure trove ; and the trifling privilege of treasure trove mioht, he believed, be resigned without mischief" Before the Act of the year 1765, treasure trove was the privilege of the Derby family. We find it recorded in the statutes, that in the year 1586, a person named Edwardson, a native of the island, found some gold pieces which had been hidden; but they were claimed by Henry the Earl of Derby, which circumstance caused the House of Keys, &c., to reconsider and render more clear the laws respecting treasure trove; as will be seen by subsequent quotations. Since that period it has been claimed by the Crown: as for instance, in 1786 a treasure trove of 237 pieces of silver coin was found near Laxey, in the parish of Lonan, and was, upon information filed by the Attorney- General, adjudged by the court to belong to His Majesty. On a former occasion (but subsequent to 1765) a treasure trove, consisting of ancient coins, was demanded from the Duke's seneschal or head bailiff by the Receiver -General.

The Tynwald Acts respecting treasure trove will be found recorded in the "Lex Scripta," or Statute Laws, page 81, and are as follows:-

(Collected out of the Exchequer Court Book Anno Domini 1586.) " After my verie hearty Commendations; Where one Edward son of that my Isle hath, as I am informed, found certain Gold hidden, which, by the antient Lawes of that my Isle by my Prerogative of Right appertaineth unto me, as within the Compass of a few Yeares liath in Triall upon such a like Accident fallen out; forasmuch as I doubt not but your Care and Circumspection touching such like Causes as these will answer the Trust I repose in you, yet least by any vain Surmise or sinister Suggestion, my Inheritance and Prerogative might be in this Case hindered and lightly regarded, I have therefore thought good to require you fectually, and with all careful Dilligence, to observe the Circumstances here anends, and thereupon to relate and at large impart your Proceedings to the 24 Keyes of that my Isle, to whose Judgment, upon their Oathes, my Pleasure in this Matter be referred; and whatsoever they sett down, I am well pleased withall; herein I pray you use such carefull Regard as is expedient; for as my full Meaning is neither to have. or demand more than by Law and good Conscience is mine own, soe may I not do my self and mine Heires that Wrong, as lightly and through Negligence to see my Prerogative impaired: And soe do bid you heartily farewell. Yr. assured loving Mr.


New Parke, my House, this 28th October, 1585.


To my well-beloved Nephew, Richard Sherbourne, Esquire, Captain of my Isle of Mann;

To my Receiver, Comptroller, Water Bayliffe, -Deemster, and to the rest of my Chief Officers there.

According to the Tenor of which said Letter, we have, the 15th Day of December, in the Yeare aforesaid, called together the two Deemsters, viz., John Lucas and Thomas Samsbury, and the xxiiij Keyes, whose Names hereafter follow; and as well have imparted and related unto them the said Letter, as also our Proceedings therein; which said 24 Keyes are, viz. . Giles Cross, Gilbert Caloe, Thomas Cross, John M'Nele, Thomas Woods, William Gawn, Patrick Clarke, Don. Christian, Wm. Lucas, Wm. Kissage, Ewan Christian, Phill Moore, John Quayle, Don. Kermod, Nich. Moore, William Hutchen, Robert Moor, John Clark, Rancld Lueas, John Stevenson, John Norris, Henry Calcotts, John M'Aloe, William Radcliffe, Jurymen.

BY th' Advise and Consent of the two Deemsters, as well upon Examination of the said Thomas Edwardson, as also upon good and deliberate Consideration, do say, upon their Oathes in these words: John Lueas and Thomas Samsbury, Deemsters, of this Isle, with th' Advise and Consent of xxiiij Keyes for this present Cause assembled, do enact, and give for Law, that any Treasure whatsoever being found and secretly hidden under Ground, either within the House or without in the Field, or in the Thatch of the House or within any covert Place, to the End to defraud the right Heyres, or for any other fraudulent Intent or Purpose, shall be the Lord's, as a Prerogative due unto his Lordship by the Lawes of this Isle.

Nevertheless be it provided, that any Man, for the Safe-guard of his goods from the Enemy, or for Fear of any other Mischance, may, without Danger of this Law, lay up his Treasure in any such Place, making either his Child, or any other Friend, privy to the same; and that any such Child or Friend may lawfully receive such Treasure soe hidden, and deliver it to the right Owner, without any Impeachment to the Lord his Prerogative, provided that the Party thus claiming be able to prove it by the Deposition of one sufficient Witness at the least, though he be Brother, Sister, or any other Kinsman or Friend, not detected of any notorious Crimes. And whereas Thomas Edwardson has confessed before Mr. Captaine and others of my Lord his Council, that he found the Sum of xxxiiijl. and upwards in the Thatch of the House, and is not able to prove it his proper Goodes by any sufficient Witness according to the Law in this Case provided we find the said Sum to be the Lord's by his Prerogative. Likewise the two Deemsters and 24 Keyes doe say, in Manner and Form following; that is to say,

The two Deemsters, with th'Advise and Consent of the 24 Keyes here assembled, do enact, and give for Law, That, it is not lawfull for any Overseere to sett or sell the Cottage or Farme Ground of any Infant, for longer Term than during the Minority of the said Infant, that is to say, till he be xiiij Years old, except in case of Extremetie, that is, when there is no other Goods left either to pay Debts, or bring up the said Children, and that all other Friends do refuse to bring up the same Children : In this case we find it lawfull for the Overseer to sett or sell at his Pleasure, and not otherwise.


Thus, within the Isle of Man, the Crown now claims the same prerogative as regards the treasure trove, as the ancient Lords or Kings of Man. The Treasury now gives the intrinsic value of all found treasure, to ensure its being secured and exmined for historical data, and preserved, if found worthy, instead of being melted down indiscriminately as was formerly the case.

Before enumerating the different " finds," I may, however, remark, that in the "Liber Sacch," 1663, in the Rolls Office, Castle Rushen, it is recorded, in the fourth paragraph of the deposition of Sir Thomas Parr, vicar of Malew (date November 13th, 1662):

The sd Sr Rob' that tyme ye new mores [mores were parochial officers that collected the lord's rents, &c.] were made that yeare, sd that W- Cubbon was made in ye waine of ye moone, ,c and after ye reducement of ye Isle y" sd Sir Robt asked me did not I say to W- Cubbon that he was more in ye waine of ye moone, when ye country was to rise and ye Mansk half-crowns to be put downe."

This evidence was taken at the trial of William Christian, commonly called Illiam Dhoan, who was shot at Hango Hill, near Castletown. Another reference to these half-crowns will be found in the following extract from the evidence of Mr. William Qualtrough, of Kentrough, taken November 26th, 1662 (Liber Sacch, 1663) :

" That beinge on a tyme a coursinge in ye company of John Cesar & Capt Gawne, they had talke amongst them how that the Country found themselves greatly aggrieved touchinge ye half Crowns, ye Troope, & payinge money to y-, and sayth this discourse was after ye buriall of Governor Greenhalgh, as he remembereth, but declareth that on yt day of ye said Governor's buriall there was a mutteringe of ye country's risinge, and of ye takinge of Castle Rushen."

(Governor Greenhalgh was buried on September 19th, 1651.) Now the question arises, What were these half-crowns then in circulation ? And here I venture to state that they must have been either those of Charles I. or of the Commonwealth, but with greater probability the former, as those of the Commonwealth -(first issued 1649 to 1656) were dated so near the period to which the above evidence alludes, that it might reasonably be supposed the new issue had not reached the island by that time. There is another historical fact which supports this view: many of the Royalists fled to the island, taking a considerable amount of specie with them. The lavish spending of this money was said at the time to do little or no good to the natives, as it led them into habits of extravagance. It is singular to observe the prophetic truth of the above evidence of Sir Robert, as the island coinage began soon after. Indeed John Murrey's pence (which was afterwards legalised) was issued immediately subsequent to the date of the above evidence. It may also be added that the Cromwell or Commonwealth party, would not be wanting-in energy to suppress the coins of the previous monarchy, as much and as speedily as possible.

It would be curious to speculate a little further on these half-crowns, by suggesting the probability that Thomas Bushell (who had been connected with the early history of the Isle of Man, and who lived for some years at or near Castletown), might have been resident in the island for a special purpose. Thomas Bushell is known to have been mint-master and warden, to the several English and Welsh mints of Aberystwith, Nottingham, Shrewsbury, and Oxford, and who not only served most loyally, but was highly esteemed by Charles I. ; he also held the office of mint-master under Oliver and Richard Cromwell. Perhaps the special object of his residence was for facilitating the importation of his own coinage into the island, for the use of the Royalists. The half-crowns, shillings, &c.-the former particularly-of his mintage were very beautiful. Those from Aberystwith were known by having stamped upon them a plume of feathers ; those from Oxford had the letter B, as mint marks. It is probable the half-crowns alluded to, might be of Bushell's mintage. I also think, that with so eminent a mint-master so long resident on the island, it is rather strange that an independent coinage for the island was not minted earlier in its history and I can only account for it by supposing that the seventh Earl of Derby was more loyal to Charles I. than ambitious to uphold his own kingly dignity: indeed the accounts of his last days before martyrdom fully confirm this view. Who can tell but that a hidden treasure may yet be discovered which will disclose some of Bushell's silver ? It will not require a great stretch of imagination, knowing that Bushell was on the most intimate terms with the great royalist Derby-indeed, for a time, almost a part of his family establishment; and to this day there still stands, on the Calf of Man, a ruined shed retaining the name of Bushell's House. It might have been used by him as a look-out for vessels arriving from the Welsh coast, freighted with supplies and money for the resident Royalists on the island.

I believe these views far more reconcileable with his residence at the island, than the hints thrown out by the Rev. J. G. Cumining, in his history of " The Great Stanley," as to Bushell being there in fulfilment of a vow of some years penance for a former dissolute life when associated with Lord F. Bacon, both of whom were characters so opposite to this statement, that even fiction fails to make the impression it aims at As to hints of Bushells unsuccessful mining speculations, they must have been on the contrary, very successful ; and, combined as they were with minting, enabled him to do so much for his royal master as well to deserve the epithet bestowed of " Our trusty and well beloved loyal servant Thomas Bushell," &c. Another very probable reason why Thomas Bushell identified himself so long with the Calf of Man, might be the well-known fact of valuable mines of lead (in which was a considerable amount of silver), being worked there by Sir John Comyn, in 1292; hence the Great Earl of Derby stated: " I have it in my mind, when matters are more settled, to open up again those mines of lead ore, which Sir John Comyn worked in old times," &c. No one was better able to appreciate their value than the able mintmaster, who had succeeded so well at other places.

If the reader wishes to know more of this Thomas Bushell, and does not object to a little fiction interspersed, he may consult Mr. Cumming's popular volume above referred to, which will be found extremely interesting; but not more remarkable or strange, than the real history of a man, who by his indefatigable industry, at one time clothed the king's army, at an expense of £35,000, from the proceeds of his mintage; and, on another occasion, lent the king from his own purse, not less than £40,000. Thomas Bushell lived to the close of the seventeenth century.


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