[From Manx Soc vol 29]



THE ecclesiastical history of a country has ever been held of the greatest importance in developing the rise and progress of Christianity, and however small the contributions of that nature may be, they will be found useful to the historian. It was for that reason the editor of these "Church Notes of the Diocese of Sodor and Man" was induced to examine the papers left by the honorary secretary of the Manx Society, the late Mr. Paul Bridson, relative to the rectors and vicars of the various parishes in the Island, but on investigation they were found to be in so defective a condition as to require a thorough revision and correction before they were in a fit state to be sent to the printer. This has been done from the best authorities at the disposal of the editor, to which has been added numerous statements connected with the clergy mentioned in the list, also an account of the various parish churches and chapels in the Island, with other details relating thereto.

A complete list of the Bishops of the See of Sodor and Man is also given from the time of St. German, the first Bishop, appointed by St. Patrick in A.D. 447. Of some of the early ones we have only a record of the name; the year of their appointment has not been ascertained. "The Chronicle of Man and the Sudreys," is the chief authority from the year 1050 until 1374, when John Dunkan, a Manxman, was elected to the See.

From his time the list has been continued from various authorities to the present day, thus showing that the direct succession of Bishops of Man is the oldest in the British Isles, having existed from A.D. 447, a period of 1432 years. It is also remarkable that the See did not lose its regular succession of Bishops at the time of the Reformation, and that no Bishop was ejected at the time of the Rebellion, the See being kept vacant until the Restoration of Charles II., when Rutter was appointed; and thus the regular succession was continued down to the present time.

The provision made for the maintenance of the Bishop and Clergy of the Island was arranged in the year 1839, when the Crown, the Bishop, and the Clergy, agreed to commute the several tithes payable to them for the annual payment of £5575, since which time the payments have been regulated according to the average price of corn, ascertained according to the prices of barley, wheat, and oats, during the seven years preceding each and every payment, and thereby the annual payments are liable to be increased or diminished accordingly. The proportions were regulated by Act of Tynwald promulgated 21st March 1839.

The sum of £5575, for which the tithes were commuted, arises from two sums of £5489 : 5 : 10k, the value of the tithe, and £85 : 14 : 1~ arising from prescriptive payments, and is disposed of as follows

Sum paid to the Incumbents of Parishes . £3292 12 0

The Lord Bishop . . . 1515 0 0

The Crown . . . . 525 0 0

Chaplain of St. Jude’s, Andreas . . 101 0 0

Trustees of Clergy Widows’ Fund . 141 8 0

£5575 0 0

Under authority of an Order in Council dated December 10, 1842, of which the original is deposited in the Episcopal Registry, it is "Ordered that the several payments now made to the several livings from the Royal Bounty, shall, upon the vacancy of each living, cease, and the sum or sums thence arising be distributed to such poor clergymen officiating under his license in the said island, as shall seem good to the said Bishop." In the same order in Council schoolmasters were continued recipients of the Royal Bounty.

Many details connected with the ecclesiastical history of the Diocese of Sodor and Man are to be found in the publications of the Manx Society, more particularly in Dr. Oliver’s Monumenta, and Dr. Goss’s edition of the Chronicle of Man and the Sudreys, to which the reader is referred. Dr. Goss, at the time of his decease, was collecting materials on this subject, and would probably have extended them for the use of the Society had he been spared, and it is to be hoped that these documents may, at some future date, be made available. To these, as also to other sources reposing in the archives of the Stanley family, the Advocates’ Library of Edinburgh, the Royal Library at Copenhagen, where a large portion of the Norwegian documents have been transferred, and particularly to Ireland, we may look for interesting materials, as from the latter quarter the See of Man was in its early days supplied with a succession of Bishops.

These Church Notes will no doubt form one small link in the greater chain of documents already published in the Manx Society’s Series, and may be considered as forming the fourth volume on this subject, its predecessors being :—

1st. "Memorials of ‘God’s Acre,’ being Monumental Inscriptions in the Isle of Man, taken in 1797, by John Feltham." In this was given representations of the old churches in the time of Bishop Wilson.

2d. "Records of the Tynwald and St. John’s Chapels in the Isle of Man."

3d. "Records of St. Mark’s Chapel, Malew, from its foundation in 1772."

In former days it was the custom to call vicars of parishes "Sir." Rectors or parsons were named "Mr." Blackstone says: "A parson (persona ecclesiae) is one that hath full possession of all the rights of a parochial church. He is called parson, because by his person the church, which is an invisible body, is represented; and he is himself a body corporate, in order to protect and defend the rights of the church which he represents by a perpetual succession." Corn. b. 1, c. 11.

The editor is quite aware that the succession of vicars to the various livings is defective in many instances, an omission he has been unable to supply. Having made an appeal to the clergy for this purpose, in several instances a second time, he received information from comparatively few. There is no doubt much valuable matter connected with this subject could be brought to light if the rectors and vicars of parishes could be induced to examine their registers, make extracts therefrom, and communicate the same to the Secretary of the Manx Society for publication; it being quite impossible for any private individual to have access to all these documents dispersed over the Island, and make the necessary extracts, which could so much easier be done at any leisure moment by the various incumbents. The Archdeacon’s Visitation Book could also have given much information respecting the parish churches and chapels.

With respect to the value of the livings in the Isle of Man, it will be seen that they bear a favourable comparison with the general average of those in England, while the extent of their parishes and cure are less. To each of the livings in the Island, almost without exception, there is a comfortable dwellinghouse, with suitable offices and garden.

With these and other advantages in their favour, it is surprising the clergy should lately have been led away by any one to seek by some chimerical change for that which they have a better enjoyment of at home, and thereby abandoning one of the oldest Sees in Her Majesty’s dominions, which claims all the reverence due to great antiquity, with an uninterrupted course of separate and independent jurisdiction, maintained through a great variety of changing circumstances in the government of the Island, and which are more particularly detailed in the following statements connected with the Diocese of Sodor and Man.

Since the account of the parish church at Patrick was printed, the foundation-stone of a new chapel was laid on the 30th of April 1879, by Mrs. Hill, wife of the Right Rev. Rowley Hill, Bishop of the Diocese, near the site of the old parish church, to he used as a parish church and as a mortuary chapel until such time as a new parish church should be built on the land purchased at Glenmaye. The old decayed church is to be taken down, and its site used as a portion of the parish burial-ground. Also, by orders in Council, new parochial districts have been assigned to St. Paul’s, Ramsey; and St. Matthew’s and St. George’s, Douglas.

The Index of Names of the Bishops and Clergy will, it is hoped, be found useful as a means of easy reference.


ROCK MOUNT, May 1879.


index next

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001