Leases for Church Offices and Entitlements

Around the time of the Reformation (circa 1540) the various religious houses of the Isle of Man were also seized by the English Crown. I'm unclear on the precise details, but it would appear that the tithes payable to the Church by each parish were divided three ways between the Bishop, religious House and Rector. The ownership of/patronage for many of these tithes seems to have passed also to the Crown and subsequently to the Lord of Man. He might then lease them out into private hands. The leasee of a Rectory could (I understand) appoint an individual to be vicar/parson of the parish, but keep the "parson's third" of the tithe for themself. In addition the Lord leased out certain other Church offices such as the Parish Clerks (one per parish) and the General Sumner of the Island (who appointed a sumner for each parish). These offices had associated perks which clearly made them desirable.


A statute of 1643 is directly relevant to the appointment of parish clerks. It reads Whereas it is a Complaint of the Country, that the Lord of the Island makes Clearkes of the Parishes by his speciall Grants, whereas the Parishioners pays the Cleark his Dues, his Lordship is gratiously pleased that the Parishioners and the Parson or Vicar of the Parish shall have the Nomination of the Clearke, and the Bishop or Ordinary to have the Allowance or Approbation of him for his Sufficiency and Ability to perform the Place; and this Order to take effect after the Time of the Grants in being be expired, which have been heretofore made by his Lordship or his Ancestors.


The records of spiritualities in lease collections are described below. These are also the source used by Harrison's in his19th century Account of the Diocese of Sodor and Man (Manx Soc Pub XXIX) for the names of parish clerks.




New leases for most clerkships were agreed in 1610. These were each for the period of 19 years and are recorded on folio 18 of the third composition book (in a section adjacent to other leases agreed in 1610). The only information recorded is the name of the leaseholder, the parish of the clerkship and the fine. The leases were effective from Michaelmas 1610. The parishes concerned are Andreas, Rushen, Patrick, German, Malew, Arbory, Michael, Ballaugh, Santon, Lonan, Bradan and Jurby. A similar lease for the office of General Sumner is also recorded.


Existing leases were still in being in 1610 for three other parishes (Maughold, Bride and Lezayre) for the duration of the life of the current occupant. These are recorded together with existing land leases on folio 17 of the third composition book.




The twelve leases for clerkships agreed in 1610 would have expired in 1630. As part of the 1630 compositions (as recorded in the Knowsley Lease Book) new leases (for the period of 21 years) were agreed for all of the parishes except for Patrick as well as for all of the remaining parishes except Maughold and Bride.




During the English Civil War Lord Fairfax became the Lord of Man. In 1654 and 1655 agreed fines with various leaseholders to reconfirm the leases which they had previously made with the former administration. These agreements particularly relate to church offices (rectories, tythes and clerkships). The records of these are grouped together within Composition Book four. They are divided into four sections: firstly the North Side rectories and tythes (starting at folio 39), secondly the North Side clerkships (starting at folio 41), thirdly the South Side rectories and tythes (starting at folio 43) and finally the South Side Clerkships (starting at folio 46).


Between folios 49 and 54 appears another set of entries relating to the same agreements described above. These entries appear only to be ordered by the date of the agreement and use much messier handwriting. They contain more background detail than the neater records mentioned above. The obvious conclusion is that those were prepared from these.


The typical information provided within these records are leaseholder's name, the details of the previously agreed lease (date agreed, tenure and consideration paid) and the new fine to be paid. In most cases the existing lease was for a period of 21 years from circa 1650. Occasionally the lease was for lives or had passed from one holder to another and in such cases associated details are given. The clerkship of Kirk Michael was acquired by Robert Cannell at this time due to the "scandalous" behaviour of the previous holder Henry Woods.


The records do not cover all combinations of parishes and offices. Those mentioned for the North Side are: German (Clerkship and rectory), Patrick (Clerkship), Michael (Clerkship, bishop's third and parson's third), Ballaugh (Clerkship and bishop's third), Jurby (Clerkship and rectory), Bride (Clerkship and bishop's third), Lezayre (Clerkship and bishop's third) and Andreas (Clerkship). For the South Side there are entries for: Rushen (clerkship, bishop's third), Arbory (clerkship, bishop's third and parson's third), Malew (clerkship), Santan (clerkship, bishop's third and parson's third), Lonan (bishop's third and parson's third), Marown (clerkship and bishop's third), Concan (bishop's third and parson's third) and Braddan (Rectory and parson's third). There is also a lease for the post of General Sumner.