Records relating to Compositions from 1643


In 1643 few of the Lord's tenants held leases for their land and were considered "tenants at will". Between 1643 and 1645 all quarterland tenants as well as those tenants with other significant holdings were compelled to agree to longer term leases. These leases were either for the duration of three lives (until all of three named individuals had died) or (much less commonly) for the fixed period of 21 years. The composition books contain summaries of all the leases agreed at that time and in most cases were the only contemporary record made of them. The information contained about the lives is of particular value to the genealogist. Periodic updated summaries were produced on several more occasions up to 1704 when (subject to certain conditions) the Act of Settlement confirmed the leases in perpetuity.


A summary of the records detailing the leases and associated information is given below. Most of these are contained within the five composition books (labelled C1 to C5 below with the associated folios following) although a few records exist elsewhere. The references for these are also given.


1643    C4/060.0-105.5      1643 composition book (north side)
1643    C3/068.0-145.0      1643 composition book (south side)
1643    C1/147.0-187.5      receipts/debts of 1643 fines
1644    C2/099.0-105.0      presentments of tenants still to compound for leases c1644
1655    C4/054.0-059.0      1655 survey/reconfirmation of existing leases for land
1657    C3/147.0-284.5      surveys of compositions circa 1657
1660    C4/153.0-211.5      1660 gratuities (about 10 parishes)
1660    MS06253 1715/07-13  fines and benevolences in 1660 for most parishes
1660    MS10192             Receipts of 1660 benevolences
1666    C3/285.0-368.5      1666 compositions (all parishes)
1666    C1/002.0-021.5      surviving lives in 1666
1673    C1/001.0-001.5      Tenants desiring to make new compositions 1673-1674
1679    C4/212.0-308.5      1679 lives (all parishes)
1691    C3/369.0-423.5      1691 lives (all parishes)
1703    MS06523 1715/14     fines due on North Side compositions as of 1703
1704    C1/039.0-146.0      1704 compositions (5 parishes)
1704    C1/188.0-227.5      1704 fines and compositions for abbey lands
1704    C3/021.0-064.5      1704 fines and receipts (north side)
1704    C4/106.0-146.5      1704 fines and receipts (south side)
1704    C1/022.0-037.0      1704 fines and receipts (abbey lands)
1704    C5                  1704 composition book
1735    C1/078.0-087.0      Compositions for enclosures made between 1704 and 1735

1654    C4/037.0-045.5      1654 leases for rectories (north side)
1654    C4/046.0-047.0      1654 leases for thirds (south side)
1655    C4/048.0-054.0      1655 clerkships (possibly more info on above)


Leases in 1643-1646


The original 1643 leases are given in the composition books at the reference given above. They are grouped by parish, but unordered beyond that. The typical format is to give the name of the tenant, the size and type of his holding (for example half a quarterland or a cottage), the annual rent payable and the nature of the lease (whether for lives or 21 years). When the lease is for lives then the names of each of the three lives is given together with either their relationship to the tenant or else (presumably when there was no close relationship) the name of their father. (In such cases the father is sometimes further identified as coming from a named place.) The entry fine payable at the commencement of the lease is given in the right hand column against the bracketed information above. The left column records the dates of payments towards this entry fine by the tenant or his representatives. Sometimes notes about other individuals with interests (reserved rights) to the property appear below the entry. Unfortunately these entries are difficult to read due to using old script, being messy, sometimes being faded and also being full of abbreviations. The transcription section contains the entries for Kirk Michael.


The lives given did not need to be heirs or relations of the tenant, although this was the common practice. It was clearly in the tenant's interest to select names with the maximum life expectancy. Most seem to have chosen their children and often themselves. Sometimes other relatives with the potential to inherit the tenancy (such as siblings) are given. The children of neighbours are also sometimes chosen as lives.


A later summary of the 1643 composition book appears in the Atholl Papers (MS9707 Bundle 65). The neater Atholl Papers summary gives the name of the composer, a breakdown of the land and its rent, the total fine and the type of composition (whether for lives or years). No names or relationships of the lives are given however. It appears to have been an 18th century extract from the original composition book in response to a request made to Mr Quayle (MS9707 34A/21). This summary doesn't provide as much information as the original book, but is much easier to read and may be a useful starting point.


Fines and Receipts for 1643 compositions


A list of the fines, receipts and outstanding debts relating to leases taken out in 1643 is given in Book 1 between folios 147 and 188. The accounts are ordered by parish and within a parish the order is the same as the original 1643 entries. Each line contains the name of the tenant, the fine due, the amount paid to date and the amount outstanding (which should be the difference between the former two sums). Judging from the payment dates noted in them these accounts would appear to be been prepared circa January 1646 and that tenants with outstanding debts were able to pay this off within a year or two.


Presentments of tenants still to compound for leases c1644


This short record is ordered by parish with nearly all parishes containing an entry. For each parish the names of a jury of four men is given. These men were "sworn by the governor's direction to inquire of, and present the names of such in their parish as had not already compounded with the Lord's commisions for their holdings [as quarterland, Intacks, Cottages etc] as others of the parish had done". The rest of the parish entry consists simply of a list of tenants still to compound, together with the type of their holding (ie quarterland, intack, cottage, mill or wast) and the annual rent payable on it. Typically these tenants soon afterwards took out compositions for their land as can be judged from the 1643 composition book within which their names and lands typically appear towards the end with receipts dated 1645 or 1646.


Survey of compositions circa 1655


During the English civil war the Isle of Man obtained a new Lord (Lord Fairfax). In 1654/1655 his Commision agreed fines with many holders of church offices or tythes to reconfirm the leases which they had made with the previous administration. These records appear to relate to the corresponding attempt to do something similar with landowners. A couple of early entries indicate that the named tenants were offered the option to renew their current leases or to return to the tenure of the straw, but appear to have opted to do neither. This short section (C4/054.0-058.0) appears to relate only to Ballaugh. Most of the entries just update the state of leases from 1643 (giving the number of lives in being). Typically a page number is given in the left hand column. I have not been able to determine what this relates to.


Survey of compositions circa 1657


This record lacks the exploratory paragraph of introduction which is typical to other documents. (There is however a doodle on folio 152 which suggests an association with gratuities for Lord Fairfax.) It appears however to be a partial survey of the state of compositions made around 1657-9. It is broken up into about 40 sections, each of which is headed with the name of one of the Isle of Man's name. A section consists entirely of a succession of paragraphs, each of which describes a current composition. The typical information provided is the name of the tenant, the date of the grant of composition, the size and nature of their land holding, the annual rent and the composition fine paid, whether the lease was for 21 years or 3 lives (including the names of the orginial lives in the later case) and the current status of these (the years remaining or number of lives surviving). When the lease was for 21 years, the records consistently show 7 years remaining and I have used this fact to date it. (It falls within the Interregnum when the overthrow of King Charles I resulted in a temporary change to Lordship of the Man.)


I have only looked closely at one section. This lies between folios 248 and 255 of Book 4 and relates to Kirk Michael. When compared to other records these entries can be seen not to be complete, nor are they ordered in the same way and nor are they entirely consistent. In some sections the handwriting and ink used for different entries varies frequently. This suggests that they were additions were made over a period of time.


1655-1660 composition records


This short section includes a number of new compositions made between 1655 and 1660 as well as a few instances of compositions be re-established to replace one or more dead lives. Folios 148 lists a handful of claims to the particular pieces of land which were made in 1655 and 1656.


Gratuities payable in 1660


In the fourth composition book there are the records of gratuities due from the tenants to the newly installed Lord.(Charles Stanley who was established in 1660 following the restoration of the monarchy in England.) This gratuity was a customary payment equal to the tenant's annual rent. The information given (in an abbreviated form) is the name of the original composer and current tenant, the original fine paid, the annual rent and whether or not there are lives in being. (Occasionally information about a dead life is given.) The left hand margin notes the year of the original composition (1643 is often shortened to just 43) and typically an added comment to the effect that they have paid. The right column records the amount received (which should be equal to the stated rent). Some of these payments are marked with an X and these appear to exact correspond to late payers (typically made in 1672). There are obvious headings for nine parishes namely Malew, Rushen, Arbory, Santan, Michel, Andreas, Jurby, Bride and Lezayre. I have only looked closely at the records for Kirk Michael. Whilst the details of the compositions closely match those recorded in the selected records above (from 1643,1679,1691,1704) they aren't precisely the same and also use a completely unrelated ordering.


The acquisition MS10192 (Accounts of the Commissioners of the Revenue) contains a matching set of records. The headings given here are for the other eight parishes namely German, Patrick, Ballaugh, Conchan, Bradan, Marown, Lonan, Maughold.


A corresponding set of records appears in the Derby Papers (reference MS06253 1715/07-13). The records are arranged by parish, and (at least for Kirk Michael) use the same ordering as appears for the corresponding (1660) entries in the composition book. They give the name of the original composer and (where different) the current tenant in the left hand column. The middle column records the fine, rent and (presumably) the gratuity in that order. (The second and third values should always match.) The right hand column records the surviving lives. Sometimes their relationship to the original composer is also recorded. Such relationships seem to be given exclusively in Latin, for example by appending fil, fila or uxor to a name to indicate a son, daughter or wife respectively. All but three parishes (Ballaugh, Patrick and Maughold) are included. These are presumably contained in MS06253 1715/6 which is missing.


New compositions in 1666


Book 3 contains a large number of new compositions made in 1666. The format of these is very similar to the 1643 entries. The main difference is that the compositions occured for a variety of reasons and an explanation for this is additionally given. The most common are: the land was owned by the church (abbey land) and had not previously been compounded; the previous composition had expired (particularly true of leases for 21 years taken out in 1643); the land was a new enclosure taken out since 1643; the tenant was re-establishing an existing lease to replace one or more lives which had died.


Like the 1643 compositions a later summary of these 1666 compositions appears in the Athol Papers (MS9707 Bundle 65). I have not examined these in detail, but would anticipate that (as for the 1643 summary) it is easier to read but lacking some of the important details of the original.


Status of lives for existing compositions in 1666


In book 2 between folios 2 and 22 is recorded a review of the number of surviving lives associated with leases. These are ordered by parish. The information given is minimal, simply the name of the original composer, the fine then paid and the number and identity of any lives which had died. I have only examined the Kirk Michael entries, but these are far from complete (only about half of the compositions are included) and are also not ordered as I can tell in a manner consistent with any other records.


Tenants desiring to make new compositions 1673-4


At the beginning of book 1 there is a handful of entries detailing tenants who for one reason or another had omitted to previously compose for their land and desired to do so at the next opportunity.


Status of lives for existing compositions in 1679


In 1679 a review of the number of surviving lives was conducted for each of the above leases which was conditioned upon them. These records appear in Book 3 from folio 212 onwards. They are organised by parish and within a parish the leases are given in the same order as appeared in the 1643 records above. (There are a few changes due to new leases being taken out in the interim and leases not held subject to a tenure for lives being omitted.) The format of the entry is to give the name of the current tenant, the original composer, the size and type of holding and the rent. All of this is bracketted against the fine paid in 1643 which appears in the right hand column. Below the above are listed the names and relationships of the surviving lives. The left hand column is used to note renegotiated terms for any expired leases. The tenant's name was (possibly later) marked with either a nought or a cross. I am not clear as to the significance of this.


These records are similar in content to those from 1643 and are rather easier to read. They do not however contain any details of lives which expired between 1643 and 1679.


Status of lives for leases in 1691


In 1691 a further review of the number of surviving lives was taken. This is given in Book 4 from folio 369 onwards. Again the leases are arranged by parish and within a parish they appear in the same order as given in 1643. The centre column gives the name of the current tenant and the original composer. The names and ages of all surviving lives appear in the right hand column. The names of certain lives are marked, apparently to indicate those which died between 1691 and 1703. Certain names are also flagged for further investigation, usually because they are living off island. In such cases the country in which they are (claimed to be) living is also given. The occasional note appears in the left hand column.


The 1691 records clearly contain far less information than was given in either 1643 or 1679. They do however provide the approximate ages of the (surviving) lives which neither of other record sets do. Also these entries are neater and easier to read.


Composition book for 1704


The 1703/4 composition book was produced as a result of the Act of Settlement which established the temporary leases described above on a permenant basis. It takes up the whole of Book 5 and is ordered in a very similar way to the Liber Assed and lists property under the same headings (such as treen name). A consequence of this is that the entries are grouped by unit of property rather than tenant and that a single entry may therefore refer to multiple tenants and/or compositions. Also the same composition can bear on multiple entries.


Each entry gives the name of the current tenant(s), the size nature and sometimes name of their land holding and the new rent payable on it. If the land had been previously composed (as was the case for all but recently enclosed intacks) then the name and year of the original composition(s) is given together with the fine then paid and the number of surviving lives where appropriate. The rents given for quarterlands are doubled compared to earlier records as a consequence of the Act. The right hand column gives the total fine payable by the tenants in 1704 which can be computed as described elsewhere on this site. The left hand column records receipts from them towards this fine. Where the fine needs to be divided up between multiple tenants, the left hand column often gives calculations which show the liability of each.


In itself the 1704 composition book provides little information which isn't available from other records. What it does do however is to allow us to tie information about tenants' families (as given in 1643) with the precise land they occupied. This in turn makes it easier to track the family via other property records (such as Liber Vast and Liber Assed) which are ordered by property. The 1704 composition book is also the first property record to consistently give the names of quarterlands (as opposed to just the treen which they were part of).


The 1704 composition book is fairly easy to read and certain later copies of them were also made. One copy made in 1760 has been microfilmed. Another copy from 1912 (a clear transcription by W Cubbon in 2 volumes) is available at the Manx National Heritage Library under reference MS1070C. As far as I can tell these copies appear to be accurate, although they omit some details such as the receipts of fines and the calculations mentioned above


Fines and Receipts from circa 1704


A list of the fines due for North Side leases in 1704 (as a consequence of the Act of Settlement) is given in Book 4 between folios 21 and 65. The accounts are ordered by parish and within a parish the order is the same as the original 1643 entries. Each line contains the name of the current tenant, the year of last composition, the original fine paid, the number of surviving lives and the consequent fine due in 1704. Occasionally an additional explanatory comment is added at the end of the line.


1735 Compositions for enclosures made between 1704 and 1735


This record is a simple list of the (uncompounded) intacks which had been created since the 1704 Act of Settlement together with the required fine. It is ordered firstly by parish. Each parish section consists a list of entries, each of which takes up a single line. One line contains the name of the tenant, the type of property, a brief description of its location. In the right margin the rent is given whilst the composition fine was added later above the tenants name. In all the entries I examined the fine was treble the annual rent.