Early Leases


The Knowsley Lease Book and the Composition Books contain three major lists of leases (dated 1609,1610,1630), together with a smattering of other records relating to the status of leases held before 1643. Additionally some documents are held elsewhere. These are all summarised these below.


1506    C4/ 1.0 -  6.5      1506 Liber Assed or survey for Castletown Cottages 
1506    C4/ 7.0 - 10.5      As above for Malew
1506    C4/11.0 - 13.0      As above for Arbory
1506    MS06523 1715/2      South Side Liber Assed (of which the above forms part)
1609    Lease Book          A survey of old and existing leases 
1610    Lease Book          New leases granted in 1610
1610    C3/ 2.0 - 13.0      New leases granted in 1610
1610    C3/15.0 - 17.0      Potential fines for renewing leases not compounded in 1610  
1613    C4/15.0 - 16.0      Leases in existence prior to 1610 and expired by 1613 
1613    C4/17.0 - 18.0      Leases in existence prior to 1610 and not expired in 1613
1613    C4/19.0 - 22.5      Tenants who had only partial leases prior to 1613
1611-19 C4/23.0 - 29.0      Leases agreed in the period
1611-27 C4/30.0 - 35.5      Leases agreed in the period
1611-19 Lease Book          Leases agreed in the period
1630    Lease Book          Leases agreed in 1630


Leases existing circa 1506


The Derby Papers contain a South Side survey (effectively a Liber Assed) for 1506 which is believed to be the earliest such intact record still surviving. Part of this appears to exactly correspond to a set of entries given at the start of Composition Book four. Both documents are written entirely in Latin. A transcription of the Cottages of Castletown section of the Derby Papers has been produced by Jim Roscow (see 'Excavations in Castletown, Isle of Man, 1989-1992). Some of the properties are referred to as being held under lease (either for leases of 1 year, or for 7 years of which this is the first). The 1511 South Side Liber Assed has been separately transcribed by Talbot (The Manorial Roll of the Isle of Man 1923) and the early entries indicate that typically properties were then in the sixth year of a seven year lease. This all suggests that a new set of leases (compositions) was established in 1505/6 and would explain the reason for the record being held in the composition book.


1609 Survey of old and existing leases (1542-1609)


The Knowsley Lease Book contains this survey which was conducted in 1609, and which claimed to be a complete record of all former leases. It purpose was evidentally to determine which lands had previously been leased and were therefore liable for new leases. It was conducted by 24 Manx men who presumably relied on local knowledge and word of mouth to assemble it. If so it is hardly surprisingly that the account doesn't include any of leases from the start of the 16th century.


It is loosely grouped by parish and is formatted into four columns. These give respectively: the leasor; the name of the tenant(s) and the regnal date of the lease; a brief description of land together with its acreage, annual rent and the lease fine made; the status of the lease (whether it had expired or still had years or lives outstanding).


In some cases a comment is made implying that the original lease contract has been lost, but that the tenant "confessed" to one existing. There are about 130 leases in total which only would have comprised a small proportion of the Lord's tenants. It would appear that (broadly speaking) it was the most prominent tenants who took leases. At the end of the account is given the names of the local men (twelve each for the north and south side of the Island) which performed the survey.


Leases agreed in 1610


A substantial number of leases were agreed with the commissioners in 1610. These are recorded both in the Knowsley Lease Book and at the start of the third Composition Book. At first glance the two accounts are virtually identical. The latter is somewhat untidier however (with more comments squeezed into the margin and occasional crossings out) and was presumably the original. The description below applies to both sources unless otherwise stated. The records are dated July and August 1610.


About 200 new leases were agreed and a neat list of these is given. There is no apparent ordering and the entries are not even grouped by parish. Each entry takes up three columns. The parish name is given in the left column. The central column contains a paragraph stating the tenant's name, the nature of the land or lands being leased amd the yearly rent. The fine payable is given in the right hand column. In a few cases the central paragraph provides additional information about the land (such as a name, a location which it adjoins, and/or the estimated number of acres it contains). Occasionally an explanation of how the land has changed ownership since the last lease is provided and details of genealogical relationships can be included. The leases were to commence from Michelmas next and to last for 19 years. The fine was payable at Hallowtide next.


A few entries have added comments which are written into the margin (composition book) or below the entry (Knowsley Lease Book).


Following the list of land leases, a new section records leases for clerkships, using the same format. These are described further in the Spiritualaties section, which is also under Lease Records.


Next comes a breviat of the benevolences collected in 1610. It is clear that at this time most tenants did not hold leases for their lands, but were instead "tenants at will". (Separately they are referred in these records as holding their lands subject to the tenure of the straw which arguably recognises some hereditary right of tenure.) This set of tenants were subject to certain customary obligations, including the payment of a benevolence to a new Lord of Man. The total receipts for each parish are given but the individual tenant's names and properties do not appear here.


Following the above three sections there is a summary of the total income (from leases of land, lease of clerkships and benevolences) which amounted to just over one thousand pounds. This summary is signed by John Ireland and Richard Hoper (the commissioners) in the Composition Book account. It is not signed in the Knowsley Lease Book version.


Status of Leases not renewed in 1610


The Composition Book contains a number of short summaries describing the status of pre 1610 leases which were yet to be renewed. These appear to be part of an ongoing attempt to ensure that all tenants paid for a new lease when their current one expired.


The first such summary (dated 1610) consists of 41 leases conteyned in the Roll of Survey which were not renewed in that year. (The Roll of Survey is clearly the summary of old leases recorded in the Knowsley Lease Book and the few entries I checked matched up perfectly.) In each case the right hand column records the fine which would be needed to re-establish the lease for a period of 21 years. The central column records the tenant, their land and rent together with an additional comment about the state of the old lease.


A review of those leases which hadn't been renewed in 1610 was conducted circa 1613. The records correponding to this are contained near the start of the fourth composition book. There are 25 entries for leases which were still in existence in 1613. These are listed in the same order as they appear in the (longer) list of uncompounded leases recorded in 1610. The information provided is typically the same, save that no future fine is recorded in the right hand column. Occasionally some additional information is given. In the composition of John Moore the surviving life (given as his son Robt) was said to be living in Bristow and the tenant was required to produce a certificate (presumably as evidence to prove this). The parish in which the land was held appears in the left margin.


Another short section relates to the dozen or so tenants whose leases were now expired. These also appear in the same order as in the 1610 list of uncompounded leases. Each entry is accompanied by an explanation as to what they chose to do. One tenant (John Lawson of German) refused to compound for a new lease and went further in desiring to give up the rental right completely. A subsequent comment indicates that no other could be found to take it on. Another tenant (Gilbt Moore of Malew) had documentary evidence of a 1608 lease, but the legality of this lease was now in dispute.


Between folios 19 and 23 of the fourth composition book there are entries relating to about 55 additional compositions or potential comnpositions in 1613. According to the introductory note these relate only to tenants who held part of their lands by lease and part not. The format is broadly the same as the preceding sections. The entries include several instances of lands which had formerly been leased but for which these leases had not been renewed in 1610 (apparently due to the ignorance of the tenant). It appears to have been the tenant's choice as to whether they chose to take out a new lease or not in 1613.


Folios 36 to 38 of the fourth composition book contain some rough notes headed by the comment "note to inquire for the fines of". A typical note gives a parish and name and often but not always) the associated land type and rent. Several entries are marked 1618 or 1619 and a couple of others have been annotated "fine 1624". I have not attempted to relate these names to any particular set of leases.


Leases agreed 1611-1627


Around 75 further leases were agreed (usually Lord's officers) between 1611 and 1619. The details are recorded both in the Knowlsley Lease Book, and each of two sections (folios 23 to 29 and 29 to 35) of the fourth composition book. The Lease Book and first Composition Book section are near identical records and are ordered by parish (however the latter contains at least one entry missing from the former). The second Composition Book section contains almost exactly the same entries, but this time ordered by date. The one exception to this is the last page which describes compositions agreed with my Lady in England. The few entries which I checked contained identical wording in all three accounts. I presume the second section to have been the original record, the first section to have been transcribed from it circa 1619 and the Lease Book account to have been copied from the first section.


The minimum of information is given (year, parish, tenants name, type of land, rent and fine) formatted as before. In most cases the nature of the lease is not mentioned although one tenant is described as taking out a lease for 15 years and another as exchanging a lease in being for lives to one for years to come.


As mentioned above Folio 35 (the last page of the second Composition Book section) records half a dozen fines "paid to my Lady in England". These appear to be for unusually large holdings and two of the tenants are specifically identified as Deemsters. The entries are formatted as before but date more widely between 1611 and 1627. Other than these, all of the entries are dated 1613, 1614, 1618 or 1619.


Leases agreed in 1630


The leases granted in 1610 were for the period of 19 years and it would therefore be natural for new leases to be agreed in 1630. A list of such leases was agreed with commissioners Alexander Tigbie, Peter Wynn and Gabriell Houghton as appears in the Knowsley Lease Book. The format is not dissimilar to that used for the 1610 leases. Around 340 leases (including clerkships) are recorded. It would appear however that few of these agreements led to money being paid to the Lord.


Some context here is provided in a letter written by the Lord of Man (who had been based in England) to his son in 1643. [A copy of this letter been published in Manx Society Pub III and is also referred to in the Knowsley Papers section.] Some extracts read:


Chapter XIV


1. Of some commissioners whom the Earl formerly sent over to the Isle of Man


IN the year 16.. I sent over some commissioners ill chosen. But that was want of experience and good instruction in my youth. For I cannot brag of good breeding, as (God be thanked!) you may; and that is to you more worth than half of all I leave you.


Chapter XV


1. The vanity and prodigality of the Earl's comimissioners


THEY came in state, as I was told; which was much more for my honour than for my profit or credit; and to them of no little use, considering their merry times and bad reckonings. And, questionless, those who so willingly would be lavish to spend my moneys, would as readily sometimes husband a part of it for themselves. Nor am I mistaken in this, that (without offence unto the rest) Peter Winn did so; and I am happy to know it. For ill servants are like some diseases, which easily be cured when known, and as dangerous if undiscovered.