Libri Cancellarii

This class of records documents the business of the Chancery Court, which was the high Manx Court for the resolution of civil disputes. They also contain many copies of contracts of land sale, often at the explicit request of the parties involved. The Libri Cancellarii which I have consulted also often contain details of Commissions of officers and soldiers by the Lord of Man. The Libri Cancellarii series begins in 1578 and appears to be complete.




The documents would appear to have originally consisted of yearly bundles. Each such bundle has a coverpage which identifies the record (Liber Cur[ia] Cancelar[ii]) and the period of it (the year ending on the feast of St Michael the Archangel in the named year). These yearly bundles have been bound together into large red volumes, the first such bundle covering the period 1578-1599. Within a bundle the pages are numbered. Some important documents (such as commissions) appear to have been bound together with the court records are given their own page number. Documents associated with court cases are also sometimes included, but these may not be numbered.


Civil Cases


Most of the records which I have examined (in the period 1578-1633) largely consist of summaries of individual civil cases. Each such summary typically takes up one paragaph and consists of a brief outline of the parties and the complaint, to which is later appended the judgement. Often one or other parties did not attend the court and this is commonly given as a reason for a judgement against them. Otherwise the judgement is spelt out or the case is referred to another court (most commonly to a jury of the Keys). A date or fine is sometimes recorded in the margin.


One such example (from 1629) reads Henry gill compld against Thoms kissage for wtholding from him the some of xvii s due debt being the prce of a Cowe, and prayeth procs and procs etc.. Added to this in a different hand is the comment The pl hath not psented. My interpretation of this is that Henry Gill has complained that Thomas Kissage owes him 17 shillings for a cow and requests that legal process be carried out. Henry failed to attend the court however (perhaps because Thomas paid up) and the case was dismissed.


Occasionally petitions or other documents associated with a civil case are included. These typically contain far more detail about the dispute. Even without these, useful information can be included in the summaries however - for example genealogical details and often given when the dispute is over an inheritance or will.




The Libri Cancellarii contain some documents from Lord of the Man instructing that named individuals should be allocated certain roles in his administration. This included important jobs (such as the Lord's officers) as well as common soldiers. At least some of these individuals came from England. A simple example (from the 1630 Liber Cancellarii) reads I have given and granted and by these psents I doe give & grant unto my servant Richard Croft a Souldiers place at Castle Rushen wth the usuall pay & fees hereunto belonging. And this to continue during my pleasure wch shall you sufficient warrant and discharge in that behalf. Given under my hand at Lathome this 27th of February 1629 [signed L. Strange and addressed to Ed Christian and his other officers]. Some added comments show that Ed: Christian (then Captain and Governor of the Isle of Man) sent Richard Croft to be sworn as a soldier at the Castle. The names and salaries of such comissioned men can be found in the allowance books.


An Index dated 1724


There is detailed manuscript index to certain aspects of the Libri Cancellarii for the entire period 1578-1711. It is held at reference MS509C in the Manx National Heritage library. The first inside page is annotated John Quayle Anno 1724, John Quayle presumably being the author. The index is over 150 pages long and typically summarises a dozen or so entries per page in an easily readable manner. The stated intention is to extract from the Court records "Precedents .. of the most remarkable cases extant, with an acc[oun]t of Bills of Sailes, Contracts and other conveyances of Lands as also the proceedings of Great Enquests & Setting Quests incerted & recorded in the said Books". By a comparison with the original Libri Cancellarii we can observe that civil cases between ordinary people and the commissions of ordinary soldiers (as opposed to those of Lord's officers) are typically not included in the index.


An Example: A Synoposis of the 1630 Liber Cancellarii


The list below is an index which I produced of the entire contents of the 1630 Liber Cancellarii. It illustrates the type of record which appears.

p1 Silvester Stevenson v Peter dickonson for 60s worth of salt (did not present and case dismissed)
p1 Sr John Corkill v hugh kissage for 6l he was suretie for (did not present and case dismissed)
p1 david Callister v Mungo dalton for 14l debt (defendent did not attend and case awarded against him)
p2 Edward fletcher v Murtough mc Quiggin and patricke mc Curghie for 30s of ale (did not present and case dismissed)
p2 donold xpin v Richard Twe[] for 3s (did not present and case dismissed)
p3 Jo: Stanley v Ewan Christin and Edmund Clucas for a broken bargain (did not present and case dismissed)
p3 Robt Neales of Lancaster v John kerrin for 15l debt (did not present and case dismissed)
p3 Richard Qulatrogh v Martingh mc Caighertier and son for 4l 11s 4d debt (did not present and case dismissed)
p3 Thoms Qualtrogh v John Qualtrogh for a mill and parcel of land (did not present and case dismissed)
p4 Richard Skadling v Thomas [] for 16l 5s 9d (did not present and case dismissed)
p4 Richard Skadling v Thoms [Salleck] for slandering his wife (did not present and case dismissed)
p5 henry Calcotte on behalf of his wife v executors  (refered to a trial by jury of 12 keys) 
p5 John Woods v Jane Woods als Carrett for 6l 12s rent (found for the plaintiff, payment to be made in installments)
p6 Robt Moore v Willm Moore for half a mill (judgement)
p6 Various v John mc Brew and Willm mc Brew for land in Andreas (referred to trial by 6 of the 24 keys)
p6 Robt Calcott v John mc knell for 1 quarter of land (also referred)

Insert: A letter from the Lord of Man to Deemster Christian in which he refers to the case between 
       "Calcott & ye poore people" and expresses sympathy for the latter. 

A statement of the keyes (their names appended) in which the case of Robt Calcott is dismissed based on the 
comment of James Lord Strange.

p7 Robt Calcott v Willm Clarke for land (referred to a Jury of the Keys)
p7 Robt Calcott v John mc kel for land [no verdict explicitly stated]
p7 Appeal by Willm Carrett v donald mcylrea for land (appeal jury's verdict is given)
p8 John veal of Londonerry in Ireland v a merchant of douglas for damages (award for plaintiff by a jury of 6 keys)
p8 comment re the comptroller reserving a particular rent. Presumably associated with one of the surrounding cases.

p9 Willm Watison v Willm Quay for 13s 8d debt (did not present and case dismissed)
p9 Thoms kewley v John knell and his overseer Edmund Crowe for land (did not present and case dismissed)
p9 Adam Callister for Jony Callister v John Caleod minister for 10s 4d debt (did not present and case dismissed)
p9 Thoms Cal and siblings v Robt Clarke and other supervisors for houses (did not present and case dismissed)
p10 Anne Samsbury v Jane and Thoms Samsbury for 20 pound bequest (did not present and case dismissed)
p10 Willm Coughertie v Thom mcSayle for a quarterland (referred to a Sheading Jury)
p11 Henry Taylor v John Woods for 31s 6d debt (did not present and case dismissed)
p11 Thoms Norres v John Corleod minister for 5 pounds for half a house (Accon dismissed by the capten and officers)
p11 david murrey v henry harrison for 66s sterling (defendant to pay the debt and court costs)
p11 [] v henry harrison (defendant did not appear and case awarded against him)
p12 Phillip Carrett for Jane Woods widow v John Woods (father of her deceased husband) for profits of land 
    (did not present and case dismissed)
p12 Ewan Christian demster v Willm [?] - [judgement of the jury hard to read in my image]

Insert: One and a half pages describing the Court & Jury's analysis of the above case involving Deemster Christian

p13 A document by Lord Strange commissioning his servants Alex Rigby and Peter Wynne to handle his income from
    rents and fines. It is dated 1629 and was for the attention of his Receivers and other Officers.

p14 Blank

p15 A warrant from Lord Strange for the bearer (William Griffith) to serve as a soldier on the Isle of Man 
p15 A warrant from Lord Strange for the bearer (Richard Croft) to serve as a soldier on the Isle of Man
    Both of the above contain endorsements by Deemster Christian directing them to specific castles.

p16 Blank

p17 A commission from Lord Strange for farmer Cootes to serve in the office of Waterbaliff in the Isle of Man.

p18 Blank

p19 An order by Lord Stanley's Comissioners (as named on page 13 above) referring a petition Robt Quay 
    against Elinor Quayle widow to Edward Fletcher Receiver and Hugh Cannell vicar for judgement.

p20 Blank

p21 Resolution of a dispute over land between John and William Standish the sons and joint executors of John
    Standish by the Lord's commissioners. They declare that "the father cold not bequeath any pte of the said
    Intacks .. for any longer tyme than the tenure of his lease".

p22 Loose document being a petition to the Governor from imprisoned tenants of the Monastery of Rushen complaining
    about the excessive rent demands and subsequent actions of the Steward.

p23 Unsigned and possibly incomplete document relating to the conflict arising from Abbey Tenants refusing 
    to compound for leases. (As also referred to on p22). 

p24 Blank

p25 A [copy of a] bill of sale of land in KK Patrick by Thomas Callin to Silvester Ratcliffe. 
    Entered as record "at the request of both parties" by John Sharples.

p26 Richard Cayne v John [] for [] four shillings of English money. (The verdict is crossed through)
p26 henrie knich v Edward [] for 10s (did not present and case dismissed)
p26 henrie Ratcliffe Deemster v [] Crosse for 7s (the plaintiff dead so this now in the Spiritual Court)
p26 Rchard hughes v [] for 20l (judgement for plaintiff)

p27/8 Copy of 1603 bill of sale from William Kellie to William Gyllyen of land in KK Braddan

p29 Untitled and unsigned document apparently outlining the tenancy of above land since 1585.