[From ManxSoc vol 18]



From Magna Britannia et Hibernia, antiqua et Nova. By the Rev. Thos. Cox. London, 1720-31.

Magna Britannia et Hibernia, antiqua et Nova ; or a New Survey of Great Britain. Collected and composed by an impartial hand.
The Rev. Thomas Cox. London, 1720-31. 6 vols. 4to.

THE Isle of Man lying nearer to this County of Cumberland than to any other of England, it being but 10 leagues distance in the Irish Sea, it is most proper to speak of it in this place.

This isle hath gone by divers names, for Ptolomy calls it Monceda or Moneitha ; Pliny, Monabia ; Orosius, Menavia; Bede, Menavia Secunda ; Ninius, Eubonia and Menaio ; the Britains, Menaw ; the Inhabitants, Maning ; and the English, The Isle of Man.

The length of the isle from north to south is more than 30 miles, and the breadth between eight and ten. It lies between 25 and 26 degrees of northern latitude, and 15 degrees of longitude, and Castletown seems to be in the same parallel with York.

The most general division of this isle is into north and south, each of which has its Castle, Deemster or Judge, and Vicar-General, and both are subdivided into 17 parts or parishes, distinguished by the name of kirks, and the saints to whom they were in old time dedicated, viz.—

Kirk-Christ of Rushin.
Kirk-Harbery, dedicated to St. Columbus.
Kirk-Melue, dedicated to St. Lapus.
Kirk-Bradon, which signifies a salmon in the Mauls language.
Kirk-Concan, dedicated to St. Concha, mother of St Patrick.
Kirk-Christ of Ayre.
Kirk-Bride or Bridget, a parsonage.
Kirk-Andrew, the archdeaconry.
Jorby, or St. Patrick of Jorby.
Ballough, a parsonage.
Kirk-Patrick of Peel.

These parishes are again divided into sheedings, as the people call them—viz. the sheeding of Kirk-Christ, Rushin, the middle sheeding, the sheedings of Garf and Glanfaba, Michael sheeding, and Ayre sheeding, each of which has its coroner, as the parishes have every oiie a captain and minister, and every fort its constable, having three parishes in every sheeding, but that of Glanfaba, which has but two parishes in it. The island was formerly more populous than now it is. At present there are but four principal towns, viz.—

1. Rushin, the chief town, situate on the S. side of the isle, and from a castle and garrison in it, commonly called by the English, Castletown. It is the usual residence of the governor, and hath a market and fort, but is under no special officers, as a mayor, aldermen, etc., as corporations are, but offenders are apprehended and brought to justice by the officers of the fort or constable, as in all other towns and parishes. The castle is a noble piece of antiquity, said to be built by Gutred, the second of their Orrys’s, grandson of the King of Denmark. At the foot of the castle is a creek, where ships sometimes venture in, not without danger ; but a mile distant is a good harbour, called Derby-Haven, secured by a fort, built by the late Earl of Derby. Pope Gregory IV., or rather St. Patrick, who came into the isle, erected an Episcopal see here by the name of Episcopus Sodorensis, and his jurisdiction was extended to all the Hebrides ; but now it is limited to this island. The bishop was formerly reckon’d a baron, but never sat in the House of Peers, because he holds of a subject, the Earl of Derby, and not of the king, yet hath the highest seat in the lower House of Convocation.

2. Douglas, situate on the east side of the isle, the most populous town, and the most spacious and best haven in the isle, the mouth of which is secured so well by a fort, that there is not any attempting either the town or harbour from the seaward. In times of peace it is much frequented by French and other foreigners, who come thither with bay-salt, and buy up coarse wool, leather, and salt beef, to carry home ; by which means this town has become the richest in the isle, and has a good market.

3. Ramsey hath also a good haven, defended by a block-house, built by the present earl ; and,

4. Peel or Pile, anciently called Holmtown, hath a fort, erected in a small isle, and defended with a strong garrison, which secures the harbour. The castle has a platform round it, well secured with cannon. In it stands the ancient cathedral, dedicated to St. German, the first bishop, and repaired lately by the Earls of Derby, as also a ruinated church dedicated to St. Patrick, their apostle. Within this circuit is the lord’s house, some ruinous lodgings of the bishops, and other noble remains of antiquity.

There are some other towns of lesser note, but are remarkable for some particulars, as,

Balacuri, on the south side of the isle, where the bishop generally resides, and
Laxy, which has the largest haven of any town in the isle.

This isle is compassed with huge rocks round about. The air is sharp and cold in winter, and on the south-west side it lies open to the chops of the chanel, and so is liable to a salt vapour, which sometimes hath bad effects, but generally is very wholesome to live in, having no damps or venomous vapours arising out of the earth. They have some frosts, but short and seldom. The soil in the north parts is healthy, sandy, and gravelly, and the north-east has a large tract of meadow called Curragh, which was formerly under water, but is now drein’d and well improv’d ; but in the south there are good meadows and pastures. All parts of the isle produce store of wheat, barley, rye and oats, of late, since they have learn’d the art of liming their lands, and manuring them with sea-weeds, and some places have plenty of honey, flax and hemp, and export yearly some fish-oil. Towards the middle it is mountainous, and the highest hill, called Sceafell, yields a prospect into England, Scotland, and Ireland, in a clear day.

They have cattle of all sorts, but their neat and horses are small and poor, yet will endure a great deal of labour. Their sheep thrive well, are fat, their flesh well tasted, and their wool is very good, especially that which they call Laughton wool, which, when carefully dressed, makes a cloth near an hair colour, which is one of the greatest natural rarities of the country. They have plenty of goats and hogs of the ordinary size, besides a small kind which live wild in the mountains, called purs, which are admirable meat, and some red deer in the mountains ; but they belong to the Lord of the isle, the Earl of Derby, who has lately stocked the Calf, a pleasant isle adjoining, with fallow deer, and made it a beautiful park. Their hares are fatter here than in any other country, and they want not otters, badgers, and foxes.

Fowl also of several kinds are found here, as hawks, which in King Henry IV.’s time were in such esteem, that Sir John Stanley, the first king of Man, in his patent, was obliged, in lieu of all other services, to present that king and his successors, upon the day of their coronation, with a cast of hawks, geese, hens, ducks, and wild-fowl.

On the south side of the isle is another island, called The Calf of Man, which is stored with a sort of sea-fowl called Puffins, whose flesh is unpleasant ; but being pickled, may vie with anchoves or cavear. They breed in holes like rabbets, and are never to be seen but in the months of June and July, which are their times of sitting. There is also another kind called barnacles, which are a sort of ducks and drakes, said to be bred out of rotten wood, but found upon search to be produced of eggs or other fowl. Partridges and farkers will not live here, nor any venomous creatures propagate their kinds.

Here are many small rifis of fresh water, and springs of a pure pleasant taste. Here is also a pool in the mountainous parts near Kirk-Christ, Rushin, of so vitriolick a quality, that no ducks or geese can live near it, which probably proceeds from the frequent spewings of copper that are discovered on all sides of those mountains. They have sea-fish in abundance, as salmon, hug, cod, haddock, mackarel, ray, thornback, plaise, but especially herrings, crabs, lobsters and cockles, but few or no oysters ; but what they have are very large.

They have no wood in the isle, nor is there a tree to be seen, tho’ in former times there was great plenty, as appears from Goddard Crownan’s hiding 300 men in a wood, and from the church called Kirk-Arbory, which seems to be so called from arbor, a tree, as also from the timber found in their bogs, and especially in the meadows called Curragh; nor have they as yet discover’d any sea-coal for firing in their soil, only they have plenty imported, and the poorer sort make use of gorze, heath, ling and broom, and a coarse sort of turf or peet, in digging which they often find oaks lying under ground. They have some good stone-quarries, especially lime-stone on the sea-shore, and the rocks called Mine-haugh give very probable signs of other minerals. They have also lately found iron, lead, and copper, and there is great probability of finding coal.

This island seems to have been peopled from the Hebrides, or western isles of Scotland, and their language is a kind of Scotch-Irish, mingled with Latin, Greek, and English. We have a specimen of the Manks language, given us in the Lord’s Prayer printed in Bishop Wilson’s Enchiridion, and a collection of the Lord’s Prayer in above 100 languages, printed anno 1703—viz. Ayr Ain, t’ayns Niau, etc. The peasants are tall in stature, of a dull surly temper, and live in poor huts made up of stones and clay, and thatched with broom. Their gentry are courteous and affable, and imitate the English in their carriage, apparel, and house-keeping. The families of gentlemen named Christian and Cannel are of great antiquity, and out of them their deemsters or judges are usually chosen.

‘Tis almost certain, that this isle was never in the possession of the Romans, and so retained their original simplicity longer than the rest of Britain. The original government of this place was a sort of aristocracy ; I had almost said theocracy, under the Druids, admirably adapted to the good of mankind, and so mixed with the prince and priest, that religion and the state had but one united interest. All controversies were ended by an amicable composition, and the integrity of their rulers was such, that their awards were instead of laws. This was the true patriarchal government, to which virtue, not birth, was the best title, and is supposed to have continued here till the end of the 4th century, when, according to Mr. Camden, out of Nennius, this island was conquer’d by one Binley, a Scot, who overturn’d the ancient form of government, and ruled all by his own will, which force, not reason, sway’d, till necessity obliged his successors to agree in some rules and laws, which were the foundation of their present constitution.

The laws and statutes of this island are such, as the Lord C. J. Coke saith, That the like are not to be found any where. They were govern’d of old by a Jus Scriptum, which was committed to the fidelity of their Deemsters, a certain sort of judges chosen every year to decide all controversies, a custom received probably from the Druids. All possible care is taken for the speedy execution of justice.

The government of this isle hath, ever since its conquest by Binley, been reputed monarchical, and was managed by kings of their own, who claimed the whole revenues of the isle, and all the inhabitants were tenants at will to him ; but growing weak in power, were made tributaries to the kings of England, Scotland, or Norway. Their names are,

Mannan-Mac-Lear, son of the King of Ulster, and brother of Fergus King of Scotland. Him the Manks believe their founder and legislator, and have him in great admiration for his wisdom. Towards the end of his reign, St. Patrick in his second voyage to Ireland landed here. The names of his immediate successors are lost, till

Brennus reign’d AD. 594, who was succeeded by

Ferquard, Fiacres, Donald, Gutred, Reginald, Olave,
Olain, Allen, Frigall, Goddard, Macon or Macutus, Syrrick,
Godred, the son of Syrric, who reign’d AC. 1065

Fingul, son of Godred


Godred, son of Harold .

. AC. 1066

Lagman, son of Godred .


Dopnal, son of Tade .


Magnus, King of Norway


Olave, third son of Godred


Godred, son of Olave .


Reginald, natural son of Godred


Olave, the lawful son of Godred


Harald, son of Olave


Reginald II. his brother


Magnu II. his brother .


Alexander King of Scots


William Montacute


Anthony Beck, Bishop of Durham


Pierce Gaveston . 1308
Henry Beaumont.  
Thomas Randolph  
Alexander Duke of Albany  
William Montacute, Earl of Salisbury 1340
Who sold it to William Lord Scroop 1395
Who forfeiting it by treason, it fell into K. Henry IV.’s hands, who gave it Henry Earl of Northumberland 1399

But he was banished four years after, and being deprived of this isle, it was given to William Lord Stanley, in whose family, created Earl of Derby by K. Henry VII., it has continued thro’ many descents ever since, by the style and title of LORDS OF MAN (which James the present earl now enjoys), and is govern’d by their lieutenants.

The Earl of Derby, as Lord of Man, is Admiral of the Isle, and hath an absolute jurisdiction over the people and soil, so that he is immediate landlord of every man’s estate (some few barons only excepted), and reserving his homage to the Crown of England, no prince hath a more full and ample authority. He is sole patron of the bishoprick, and all parsonages and vicaridges except three, which are in the patronage of the bishop. He hath power to make and repeal laws by the advice of his Deemsters and 24 Keys, who must have his approbation, or he will eject them from the assembly. He hath power of holding courts in his own name, may hang and draw, or pardon malefactors, in his own jurisdiction. All wrecks, royal fishing, etc., are his by his regality, with many other prerogatives.

The civil polity of their government is managed by the lieutenant, who is the earl’s immediate representative, and has often been of his family, with other inferior officers. The lieutenant has power to call a tynwald or parliament, or any other court, which can’t sit without his warrant. He swears inquests, is sole chancellor, and hath the sole niilitary power to place or displace officers in garrisons, or otherwise ; and whoever opposes him in any place or thing, wherein he represents his lord, robs him of his horse or arms, beats his servants, or breaks his house, is a traitor. Sometimes there has been a captain-general, but it was only in some extraordinary cases. The other officers for the earl’s service are,

A Receiver-General, or Treasurer of the island, who has the charge of the revenue, and pays all the salaries of the civil list, but is accountable to

The Comptroller, who always sits with him both on receipts and payments, and is the auditor of the general accompts. He sits sole judge in all trials for life in the garrison, keeps the records, and enters the pleas of the several courts, where he is allow’d fees.

The Water-Bailiff who is in the nature of the admiral of the island, and sits judge in all maritime affairs. He has the care of the customs, fishing, wrecks, etc.

The Attorney-General, who sits in all courts to plead for the lord’s profit, as suing for felons goods, forfeitures, deodands, etc., and is to plead the causes of all widows and orphans, they giving him twopence for his fee. These great officers act by the earl’s commission, are lords of his council, and justices of peace by their places. There are other popular magistrates appointed by the lords, viz.—

The Deemsters, who are two for each division of the isle. They are styled in their ancient court-rolls, Justiciarii Domini Regis. They sit judges in all courts either for life or pro-perty, and (with the advice of the 24 Keys) declare what is law in uncommon emergencies. They in some measure keep up the old authority of the Druids.

The 24 Keys are the representatives of the country, and in some cases serve as the Grand Inquest of the nation.

The Coroners of each sheeding or division, who act in the nature of sheriffs, and are subordinate to the 24 Keys.

The Moars, who are the lord’s bailiffs ; every parish hath one, who hath an officer under him.

The religion professed in this isle is exactly the same with the Church of England ; but they have not the Bible in their own language : The ministers turn the English translation into the Manks language in reading the lessons. The Manksmen are very respectful to their clergy, and pay their tithes without the least grudging. Their clergy are generally natives, who have had their education in the isle. They are sober and learned, and are allowed a competent maintenance of 50 or 601. a year. The people are so strictly comformable, that in uniformity they outdo any other branch of the Reformed Church.

There were anciently in this isle three monasteries, viz.

1. The monastery of St. Mary of Russin near Castletown, which was the chief, and the burying-place of the kings of Man. It was a goodly fabrick, as appears by the ruins. It consisted of an abbot and 12 monks, who had good revenues. The chapel was the largest place for God’s worship in the island, except the cathedral. It was a daughter of Furnesse Abbey, as were some other monasteries in this isle. The abbots of it were barons, held cpurts for their temporalities, and try’d their own tenants.

2. Douglas, a priory for nuns. This house is said to be built by St. Bridget, and the prioress was a baroness of the island. It is the most pleasantly situated in the isle.

3. At Brinnaken, an house of the friars minors, a small plantation of the Cistertian order.

The abbots also of St Bees, of Whittern in Galloway, and Banchor in Ireland, were barons of Man, because they held lands in this island upon condition of attending upon the kings and lords of it when requir’d.



Amphibalus, made .

AC. 360

Machilla or St. Maughold


Michael, a person of great merit, and an exemplary life.


Keirnundus or Weimundus


Hamundus seenis to be his proper name. He was a native of this isle, and probably was the first who was styled Bishop of Sodor, a little village adjoining to the abbey of Hye in the village of Jona, where the bishop had his residence. He is said to have been deposed, and expelled the island for his cruelty.




Nicholas de Melsa, Abbot of Furnesse .


He was buried in the abbey of Bangor.


Reginald, sister’s son to K. Olave, a prudent governor


Simon, a learned and discreet man


He held a synod anno 1239.




He was drown’d with Harold King of Man, his queen, and most of his nobility.






Mauritius, made .

. Ac. 1296

He was made a prisoner by King Edward I. and sent to London.


Marcus, Lord Chancellor .


William Russel, Abbot of Rushen, who was consecrated by Pope Clement VI. at Avignon .


Robert Walby .


John Sprotton


Huamus .
He was the first bishop elected by Sir Thomas Stanley.


Robert Ferrar
He was removed to St. Davids


Henry Man .


John Merick .


Thomas Stanley, son of Sir Edward Stanley, first Lord Monteagle.


Henry Lloyd .


Removed to Chester.


Andrew Knox.


John Knox.


John Philips, a native of North-Wales.


He translated the liturgy and bible into the Manks language.




John Lesly


Richard Parry, a Lancashire man, and eminent preacher .
He was the last that sat before our unhappy civil wars.


Samuel Rutter, who had been archdeacon, and govern’d this church with great prudence during the civil wars, was made bishop upon K. Charles II .‘s restoration.


Isaac Barrow


He was also made governor of the isle by Charles Earl of Derby, and was a person of that prudence and charity, such a promoter of learning, and the good of the clergy, that his removal to St. Asaph was a great loss to this isle.


Henry Bridgman .


Dr. John Lake .


Removed to Bristol.


Dr. Baptist Levinz
He died in 1693, and


Dr. Thomas Wilson, the present bishop, succeeded him.



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