Enclosure Records

Prior to 1700 much of the land in the Isle of Man was considered waste-land in that it was unused. Any person might apply to enclose a parcel of wasteland and effectively take ownership for it. The first stage in this process was to petition the Governor (who acted as the Lord's representative on the island) for permission. Once the Governor provided his licence, the applicant then needed to summon the Great Enquest (a jury of men from the Sheading). This Enquest would view the land and ensure that public access to roads, watercourses and the like were not infringed. If they approved the enclosure then they would provide a return authorising it. The applicant would then need to attend a Sheading Court with both the Governor's licence and Enquest's return. A Lord's Officer would now set a suitable rent upon the property and it would be entered as a new Intack in the Liber Assedationis.


Very occasionally the Governor's licence and/or Enquest's return appears in the Libri Vastarum. I have not examined the Enquest Files themselves, however these only begin in 1688.


The description of the process given above is based on an account by a 19th century Deemster (Sherwood's Manx Law Tenure) and I am unclear exactly when this began. Certainly intacks were created throughout the sixteenth and seventeenth century, but it is possible that the precise mechanism by which this was done changed over the centuries. The customary law was set down in 1417 that "whosever occupieth any Parcell of land within your Isle of Man, with cattle or with manure .. he ought to pay the value of that he occupyeth"


A closely related scenario is described in the ancient customary laws [MS09864 GR 1/20 paragraph 30] as follows: If there bee a wast unrented place yt doth adjoyne to ye gable of a mans house, that hath therein neither doore nor window, any man whosoever havinge before procured ye governrs license, and and proved ye same to bee unrented by ye Grandjurie may build in or uppon ye same place, and adjoyne his house to ye same gable and lay flace or sett his rafters uppon ye same payinge halfe ye charges of ye sd gable unto ye owner thereof, upon ye judgmt of two or 4 mazons indifferently choosen to price and esteeme ye same.