Money: rents, fines and duties

Manx currency


Throughout the timespan of all the records discussed here, the Isle of Man used the currency denominations of pre-decimalisation England (although the value of the Manx currency was at times less than the English counterparts). The smallest unit of currency was one quarter of one penny. Twelve pennies made up one shillings and twenty shillings one pound. Pounds shillings and pence were respectively abbreviated to l,s and d. In the records sums of money are often written in Roman Numerals and in the older documents the letters l,s and d are written in secretary hand. More information about how to read such old script is given in the reference section.


The period 1500 to 1704


During this period the large majority of land on the island was rented from the Lord of the Isle of Man. The rents as published in the manorial rolls were unchanged throughout, although certain tenants did pay double rents as part of temporary lease agreements which exempted them from certain customary duties. Fines (despite the name) were simply occasional required payments which were imposed the tenants, most commonly when taking out a lease for their land. A general fining occurred in 1643 when all tenants were compelled to have a lease. A benevolence or gratuity was a one-off customary payment (equal to the rent) which was paid to a new Lord of Man. In 1660 the records show the receipts for what appears to be such a payment to the incoming Lord Charles Stanley following the Restoration.


Changes after 1704


The system of land holding in the Isle of Man changed in 1703/4 with the passing and enactment of the Act of Settlement. One consequence of this Act was to recognise the tenant's permenant leasehold of their land. This right could be sold by them but would otherwise be passed on to their heirs. At the same time the rents on quarterland was permenantly doubled, a one off fine was paid to the Lord and a new alienation fine (effectively a land transfer tax) was introduced which was payable whenever the land subsequently changed hands.


The one off fine payable in 1704 was based on the fine payable on the same land in 1643. At that time leases were either for the period of three lives or less commonly for a fixed period of 21 years. If the lease had expired (eg all of the three lives named in 1643 were dead in 1703) then the fine payable was exactly the fine paid in 1643. Otherwise it was reduced by one third. The payable fine is prominent in the 1703 composition book.


Regardless of the status of the original lease the alienation fine was set to be one third of the fine payable in 1643. After 1704 the alienation fine payable is specified in the Libri Vastarum (which record land transfers). It appears that this had to be calculated anew for each transfer. From 1869 onwards the alienation fine is explicitly listed in the Libri Assedationis.


Some land (primarily intacks) was not fined or compounded for in 1643 and wasn't immediately affected by the changes described above. The Libri Vastarum indicate when land involved in a transfer is not compounded and that the transfer therefore did not attract an alienation fine. Many such properties were compounded for after 1704 with the fines being recorded in the composition book.


Calculating the fine and alienation fine


Over time land holdings were broken up in differently sized pieces. The fine payable on such a piece of land was based on the fine of the whole, scaled according to the proportion of the rent it accounted for. This was further complicated in those instances in which a tenant had composed for multiple quarterlands, types of land and/or land from different parishes.


An example


In 1643 Robt Cannell compounded for the duration of three lives for the quarterland of Ballacrink in the treen of Dromrewaigh in Kirk Michael. This land was then of annual rent 17 shillings and was fined 30 shillings. In 1704 the annual rent for doubled (since the land was quarterland) to thirty four shillings and the land was divided between Jon Cannell (paying 31 shillings rent) Thomas Croaghen (paying 2 shillings 4 pence) and Jon Quayle (paying 8 pence). One of the three lives of which the lease was taken out was still alive in 1703.


The fine payable in 1704 was 20 shillings (reduced from 30 shillings) because the lives were not expired. Jon Cannell paid 31s of the 34s annual rent and was therefore liable for a fine of (31/34) x 20 shillings = 18.235 shillings or 18 shillings 2.82 pence. Of course this needs to be rounded to a multiple of the smallest unit of currency which was then a quarter of a penny. In the margin of the 1703 composition book we can see a figure of 18s 2 3/4d against the initials of J.C. Similarly the figures against the initials of T.C (1s 4 1/2d) and J.Q. (4 3/4d) correspond to the proportionate fines payable by Thomas Croaghen and Jon Quayle


In 1705 the Liber Vastarum indicates that the above Tho Croaghen was dead and that his land had passed to his son, who was also called Tho. Since land of rent 2 shillings 4 pence had been transferred the alienation fine was the proportion of ((2x12)+4)/(34*12) of a third of the original 1643 fine of 30 shillings. This comes out as 0.686 shillings or 8.235 pence. The 1705 Liber Vastarum duly records that a fine of 8 1/4 pence is due.


Interestingly the records often show the results of calculations about the fines payable by individuals, but never (at least in those I've consulted) the workings of those calculations.