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




THE towns of the Island of Man are 4 in number as I said before, wherof the first and principal in former times was called Rushin, as seated by a russy bog, wherein is the Lord of the Island's castle seated, and is there at this day called Castletown. It hath a better prospect as you come from Douglas thither then any of the rest, the town standing upon the brow of a little rising assent, at the foot whereof is a clear water brook under the castle running into the haven. It hath 1 formal street, which containeth more in length than in breadth. Over against the castle is a handsome piazza, which is ye market place, with a cross in the middle. At the upper end of this street is a little chapel for div. service, dedicated to the Bd VII Mary. In this chapel were buried Ragnold, son of Olave, King of Man, anno 1249, and his brother Magnus also, who succeeded him, and was interred there anno 1265, and some others.

Castletown is seated in the south-east part of the Island, almost against Liverpool in Lancashire. It is accounted the principal and court town, for the Lord of the Island, when he pleaseth to be there, hath his constant residence in his castle. There is also the Governor of the Island in a house over against the castle, and most of the Lord's principal officers in other houses of the town. Here are some of the sheeding courts kept in the months of May and September. On the Wednesday and Thursday is kept the court for the middle sheeding, which consists of 3 parishes–namely, of Kirk Bradan, St. Ann, and St. Marown. Upon Friday and Saturday in the same week are kept the Rushin court, which consist of the parishes of Kirk Malew, Kirk Arbery, and Kirk Christ of Rushin. Their assizes, or head court as they call it, is there kept also, as I may further inform you in ye 2d book of this history. In this town are all matters concerning the bonum publicum consulted upon, and from hence all posts are sent and dispatches made up upon any sudden and emergent occasion. If any of the towns cou'd deserve the title, this town above ye rest might merit to be called the metropolis of the Island.

The next town in repute is Douglas, which in antient time was called Dufglas,' and by all is acknowledged for the second town of ye Island. It is seated in the east side of ye Island, and is accounted for ye middle part of ye Island,2 for here they draw an imaginary line from Douglas to Peel cross ye Island, to distinguish ye jurisdiction of ye 2 Deemsters, ye one from Douglas northward the other from thence south ward, yet Douglas, as it seemeth by the maps, inclines a little towards the south, and is opposite almost to the midst of Lancashire, against ye mouth of ye river of Ribble.

Cambden, and Mercator in his Atlas, hold Douglas to be best peopled of any in the Island, but I hold Castletown to have more inhabitants, but both say true yt Douglas is more (yea most) frequented by reason it hath a haven far more commodious, safer, and easier to ride in than any other in the whole Island. In Douglas they have the same custom of building their houses as we have in Cumberland, but no where else yt I know, for tho' the houses in both are 2 stories high, yet do they not go up out of the lower room into the loft above, for there are no stairs within whereby you might mount up thither, or whereby, from above, to descend into the lower room or cellar as they call it, but if you desire to' go up into the loft above you must ascend up thither by stony steps or stairs placed to the outside of the house, so at your going in or coming out you pass not thro' any other room nor any part of ye house, but out of this room above, call it a chamber or any other name you please, you descend into the open court or highways, whether it rains or snows or in what weather soever. Twice in the year, in May or September, at Douglas is kept a kind of court but for the Garf sheeding, which containeth the 3 parishes of Kirk Maghald, Kirk Lonan, and Kirk Conchan. In anno 1192, the Abbey of Russin was translated to Douglas, for so then was the now Douglas called, where it continues for four years only, and then returned to Rushin again.2 I find not any religious to have been built in the town of Douglas itself. There is a house wherein a gentleman of an ancient family of the Calcots lives, which corruptly is called the Nunnery, but was indeed yt place which divers writers mention and call it the Priory of Douglas, altho' ye greatest want the townsmen of Douglas are sensible of is the want of a church for divine service, so as they are now forced to go to Kirk Conchan to serve God every Sunday. Conceriiing ye haven and fort of Douglas, I shall at large discourse in the 11th ch. following.

The town of Ramsey hath always heretofore been accounted the 3d town of ye Island, but it is at this day the least and poorest of them all, and scarce bearing the resemblance of a good village, for it is held no greater than Bala Sally, where the ruined abbey of Rushin standeth. This town putteth me in mind of an old city in Greece which had been great, but being decayed, the antient writers called it IIo)~z~ ~ floXi~, a city and no city. So this may be called a town and no town; but it hath been much greater about 24 or years ago, ye sea overflowing its banks, carried away most of its houses, with a great part of ye land whereupon the town was built. Ramsey lieth over against the south part of Cumberland, on the north-east side of the Island. In the old records it was called Ragnels Wath and Ragnol Wath, and it is still a market town. Concerning the haven of Ramsey, I shall have a more fit place to speak more in ye 11th ch. following.

The 4tli and last town of this Island is Peeltown, which Mr. Chaloner calleth Holm, Town, but the old name I find to have been, and by some of the natives is still called Holm' Sodor, wherein is a church built by Simon, Bishop of Sodor, anno 1247, dedicated to St. German, first bishop of the Island.2 Peel Town is situated on the west side of the island, opposite to the province of Ulster, in Ireland, in the same parallel by Speed's3 description with Strangford haven in Ireland. At this town the Governors, Deemsters, and the Lords' officers do meet twice in the year, always beginning at Peel Town, to keep the court of the sheeding of Glanfaba, which containeth the 2 parishes of Kirk Patrick and Kirk German. Of late some other courts are kept also, and from thence they go to Douglas, etc.

Concerning ye Haven of Peel (of the Isle of Peel I have said some thing before), and of the castle there, I have more to say when I shall come to discourse of the castles and forts of the Islands, in the 18th chap. following.

Concerning the government of these towns in the Isle of Man, you may think it strange yt here are no major, bailifs, aldermen, no not so much as a recorder, town-clerk, or any serjeants with maces, etc., or any such formalities; neither indeed have they any use or need of these, for their towns, as they assimulate ye villages in England for magnitude and bulk, so do they resemble them in their form of govern ment, for as in England in our villages, if any misdemeanour be committed, the constable apprehends him and brings him before a justice of peace, who if he find him a delinquent, makes a mittimus, and sends him to the next goal, etc. ; so here if any riots be committed, or other abuses offered in any of these towns, if any of the Lord's officers be but then there, they all have every one of them power of a justice of peace; or in their absence or neglect the constable of the next castle or fort may apprehend the delinquent and send him with a soldier, who are ever ready prest, and have an annual pension from the Lord of the Island to be here attendant for the guard of that place, and such like purposes as these, so he is presently conveyed to Castle Town to the Governor, before whom, and by him, he is instantly examined and sentenced. As for private injuries and injustices done to his neighbour which require a suit in law, they have redress by their customary laws in their sheeding courts twice in ye year.

Now, concerning their manner of trading and commerce which they use with foreigners, which import any com modity which those in the Island do want, they have an excel lent form and custom herein which is not only good but beneficial both to the strangers and to the natives of the Island, my patron,' with whom I was entertained; being one of the most wealthy in the town of Douglas, he was chosen ever to be one of the 4 merchants yt did manage yt business, tho' I had taken certain notes from him, yet finding them not so well couched and digested as Mr. Chaloner hath set down,2 I had rather use his words than my own.

"Concerning the islanders trading and commerce with other nations, yet finding this is the manner, there are 4 merchants which are ever chosen by the country, which choice is usually made at ye Tinwald Court, and sworn by the Deemsters to deal truly and for ye country's profit, when any ship laden with salt, wines, pitch, iron, or other commodities good for the use of the country comes to the Island, the Governor, having first consulted with the merchant stranger about rates and prices of the commoditie, he sends then for these 4 merchants of the country to appear before him and the merchant stranger, and drives a bargain if he can betwixt them. If he cannot agree, he coi'hands the 4 merchants to spend another day with the merchant stranger, if they can, to deal with him, and whatsoever bargain is made by the 4 merchants, the country is to stand to it, and take the commdities of the merchant stranger, and pay for 'em ; and, according to the rates agreed upon, which most commonly is, yt the country are to bring in their commodities of wool, hides, tallow, and such like, and for the same have their equal pro portion of salt, wine, iron, pitch, etc., so brought in and com pounded for as aforesaid; and if the coffiodities brought in by the country will not extend to the value of the stranger's commodities, then the 4 merchants are to assess the rest of the coihodities upon the country every one his equal propor tion, for which they are to pay ready money as the 4 mer chants had agreed upon for them, so by this means ye mer chant stranger is much encouraged to bring in necessary things for the Island, and ye people have, by the faithfulness of their 4 merchants, the full benefit of the commodities brought in, which otherwise some private man of the country might and wou'd have taken for his own profit, and this is an especial benefit for enriching of the people and for the general good."

Now because these towns are so meanly manned, having so few inhabitants, their strength consisting in their forts, to prevent future inconveniences, and to supply this defect, as soon as any foreign ships of great burden, with many soldiers or passengers in them (being by tempest forced, or upon any cause whatsoever), cast anchor in any of the havens of the islands, and enter into any of those towns, who may be suspected tc demean themselves disorderly or to offer any abuses to the inhabitants, the country next adjoining to yt town, as soon as their approach is perceived, are by their customary law as bound upon price of life and limb to haste thither armed, and to stay therein or thereabouts during the abode of yt ship, and to keep watch and ward not only to prevent but also to deter those strangers from offering any injury and affronts. As concerning the inhabitants of these towns, they are of 2 sorts, natives and foreigners. I call all those foreigners wch are not born in the Isle of Man, as the English, who are here in the greatest number, Scots, Irish, and Welch. The English come over hither, some to serve the Lord of ye Island, to have office or place under him, or to be of his household, as shall be shewed hereafter, and these for the major part are Lancashire or Cheshire men, ye Scots, Irish, and Welch, as the first most come to dwell there, some few to be shopkeepers, the others marry with the Manks women, so their children become natives. These foreigners, as I conceive, do make up ye 4th, the natives born 3 parts, of the inhabitants of every town.

If any one who is a subject to the Crown of England desire to dwell in the Island upon any occasion whatsoever, he must have the leave of the Lord of the Island or of the Governor in the Lord's absence, and so are they received and entertained as if they had been natives born; but I observed, and to me seemed strange, yt seeing no nation whatsoever. are by any law or custom of the Island debarred or banished thence in old time by that law, hath since been obsoleted and out of use, yt there is not so much as one Frenchman, Spaniard, or Dutchman yt doth profess or exercise any manual trade either in of the towns or of the country, or hath any habitation there. These foreigners for their diet and apparel every one pleaseth himself according to their own country, manner, and custom. These are civil, sociable, very industrious, but subtle, crafty, and envious one of another.

The natives in these towns are for the major part mariners and fishermen. Notwithstanding there are not to this day above 2 or 3 in a town yt have little small boats or barks of their own wherewith they trade, transporting or importing of petty commodities. These do live well, but I observed yt not one of them was reputed for to be rich above others in the town. Whereas it seems this Island was better stored in former times with shipping men with such as were called men of war, for Godred, son of Olive, king of Man, equipp'd' a naval fleet of SO sail, and fought with Dungal, his sister's son, etc. Reynald2 came out of Galloway with 5 ships and burnt all ye shipping of his brother Olave and of the lords of Man. At St Patrick's Island, John Cursy, with his brother Reynold, king of Man and the Isles, arrived in Ulster3 with a hundred ships in the haven of Stanford, but it may be presum'd yt the greatest part of yt number was taken out of the north-west islands, for Reynald was both king of Man and king of the islands also. When Alexander, king of Scots, had by the valour of Alexander Stuard conquered the Isle of Man, he made up petty kings, saith Cambden, or princes therein, with this condition, yt they should be always ready at his command to serve with 10 ships in his wars at sea; but Holingshead, out of the annals of Richard Southwell,4 saith they were bound to serve him with 13 ships and 500 mariners to succour the Scots when required. M~. Daniel 5tli the little or no shipping of Wales, the hereditary defect of their ancestors, but this defect is much greater in Man, being an island which an ingenious observer5 truly noted, saying, the best walls for an island are made of wood, meaning ships; but were this defect supplied it would advantage much the supplying of many more defects there, but at this day there is neither man nor ship yt may be called a man of war, which is belonging to the Island, nor any bark above 30 or 40 tuns at most.

The fishermen are there of 2 sorts; the first are such as have boats and nets of their own; these live and thrive with their fishing, especially of herrings. ye 2d sort are such as assist the former, and are hired by them during yt time of fishing, as shall be shewed in the subsequent chapter, these last being meer mariners yt live most by the conducting of ships in yt come to take harbour in the havens, and in carrying of passengers and merchants with their goods, in and out of the harbours; these are miserably poor, subtile, servile of nature, without any conscience, exactors if you contract not with them beforehand, for these kind of men have oculalus Afanus, and are guided, as Solomon saith, Conselio Mannum, as if their religion and reason con sisted in the sence of feeling, their eyes and ears they employ how best to improve their touch. It was such mari ners yt the Egyptian priests so much abhorred as yt they wou'd not only not vouchsafe to speak unto them, but not so much as to look upon them, as being a people cut off and separated from the society of men, by an element so boisterous, merciless, and contagious as the sea, and verily those harpies here seem very desirous to live by other men's losses, taking advantage of every shipwrack, stealing, and concealing, and purloining whatsoever they can lay hold off~, altho' they know assuredly yt they shall not only be punished, but compelled to make restitution also if discovered. The best trade or pro fession as you call it there is the shopkeepers who wth us are called mercers, haberdashers of small wares (because none as yet keep any shop there to sell any commodities but they); these there thrive most, they are the only merchants in the Island, transporting beefe, sheep, corn, skins, hides, wool, flax, hemp, honey, wax, etc., besides barrelled cod, herring, powdered beef, thoruback, hug, etc. They import whatsoever those of the Island do want, which is almost all manufactories, and especially woolen cloth, hats, stuffs for suits, besides bay salt to barrel up their herrings and powdered beef, herrings, and other fish, wool, coal, iron, pitch, tar, soap, starch, rosen, with many others, and therefore because they fetch them from England, they sell 'em again at double the rate that they are sold with us. Of manual trades in these townes there are but few, and those yt are, very poor, and do but live, and no wonder, for they have none but the poorest trades, and such as are meerly for necessity, as an ordinary taylor, shoemaker, a weaver, and a smith, and of every one of these there is but one in every of the said towns. Now to demonstrate their poverty I will give you an instance in the smith. If a Manksman in the country have his plow share to be mended, or any man's horse wanteth a shoe, or but a nail being loose, and either of these do come to make use of the smith, they must both bring coals to make the fire, and iron to make the shoe or nail, for the smith is not provided with either, yet will he exact extreamly for his labour, because he is assured you must make use of him, no other of that trade being there but himself.

But were there one Themistocles1 yt governed here who could of a little town make a great state, or yt they here had the industry of the hollander, who, having no native commodities, art and diligence excepted, yet abound with all things, but especially if Robert Hitchcock's plot for fishing, which he calleth his new year's gift to England, printed 1588, about ye 22d year of the reign of Queen Elizabeth, which plot, tho' approved in parliement in the 18th year of her reign, succeeded not because it concerned the state of the united provinces who have enriched themselves thereby, the queen having taken their protection upon her, and her princely counsellors being gained by pensions, it vanished, but might be revived again at any time. If God's time concurred, not only this Island of Man, but England also, might more abound with riches, honour, traffick, and shipping, etc.


'Monast. Ang., p. U. 2 Camb. Brit. Isles, p. 204.
'Anno 1156. 2 Chron. of Man, c. 3, 1. 2. Anno 1228.

~ Anno 1266. ~ Cron. of Scots, p. 392. 1 Mr. Js. Howel.

1 Mr. John Murry. 2 Descr. of Man, c. 3, pp. 30, 31.

1 Plutarch in the Life of Themistocles.

1 Camb. Brit. Isles, p. 209. 2 cron. of Man Monast. Angli~, p. 411.

1 See Monasticon Anglicanum, p. 718. 2 James Usser, de primor. Ecci. Brit.

3 Speed, Map of Man, in his Abridgment. -


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