Introduction to Records

This section discusses the nature of format of the major record types in more detail. Specific examples of them appear in the images section. The context for the documents is outlined in the Introductory section with some more detail being given under References.


The descriptions given here may not in themselves be sufficient to read the records. Many of the earlier documents (pre 1650) use a form of handwriting (commonly known as secretary hand) in which some letters look very different from their modern day equivalents. Such handwriting is covered in more detail in the references section. Most of the records (even as far back as the early sixteenth century) are written in English. They do however include some Latin words and phrases. Common terms are also given in the references section.


Record Types


The Lord's Court Records cover many aspects of his administration, but the main contents of each series are as follows. The Libri Placitorum which begin in 1496 document the business of the Court of Common Pleas. The Libri Scaccarii begin in 1580 and document the presentments of suspected criminals, inquests and also the statutes and judgements of the Tynwald Court. The Libri Cancellarii begin in 1578 and describe civil disputes and also contain many copies of enrolled deeds of land bargains. The Libri Vastarumn record transfers of land between the Lord's tenants which were confirmed before the Sheading Court. The Libri Rotulorum are the Court Rolls which incorporate many of these record types prior to 1580.


The Lord's income is summarised in the Receiver's Accounts or Charge Books. The main sources of this income were the rents of tenants (recorded in the Libri Assedationis), the customary rents in lieu of provisioning the castles (recorded in the Pension Books), the custom duties imposed on imports and exports (recorded in Ingates and Outgates) and the fines and amercements paid by minor offenders (recorded up to 1704 in the aforesaid Libri Assedationis and after 1709 in Fines and Amercements). The Books of Allowance summarise the Lord's expenditure on salaries, supplies etc. Some weekly accounts of Castle expenditure are held in the Castle Rushen Papers under the Collections heading.


A minority of the Isle of Man was held by barons. These had similar manorial rights to the Lord of Man, but held their land from him by homage and fealty. The manorial court records of the Bishop's Barony, the Abbey Lands (formerly those of the Monastery of Rushen and Priory of Douglas) and those of (certain) other baronies are held respectively in the Libri Episcopalis, Libri Monasteriorium and Libri Bangor and Saball. Each of these series contains details of tenancy changes, presentments etc. The later Abbey Rents was the Abbey Lands' equivalent of the Libri Assedationis.


The main sources of information about Leases are the Knowsley Lease Book and the Composition Books. These sources (particularly the latter) can be somewhat confusing, but between them they provide summaries of virtually all of leases agreed between the Lord of Man and his tenants from the mid sixteenth century. The records of 1643, 1679, 1691 and 1704 covered all of the Lord's tenants, whilst those of 1666 and 1704 likewise cover tenants of the Abbey Lands. The early (c1506) Libri Assedationis also provide some mentions of leases.


Some individual contracts have survived from the seventeenth century and earlier. These include deeds of sale , deeds of gift , deeds of mortgage and marriage contracts (all of which were between private individuals) and some leases (each between the Lord and an individual tenant).


The records of the Church were kept quite separately from those of the Lord's Administration. The chief sources include the Spiritual Court records which contain the early records of the Circuit or Chapter Court (comprising both the Bishop's Constitutory Court and the Archdeacon's Archdiaconal Court). Later the business of these courts was separated out into Presentments (which record the disciplining of offenders against the spiritual laws), Wills (probate was administered by the church) and other matters (including petitions to the Bishop). From the late seventeenth century the Libri Causarum contains many detailed documents relating to the Consistory Court. The Parish Records were kept quite separately and were maintained by the individual parishes. They documented baptisms, marriages and burials. The earliest date only from the start of the seventeenth century, and typically provided only very limited information during this period.


There are a few self contained collections of documents which are worthy of note. The Manx part of the archive of the Stanley family (which provided for Lords of Man for over three centuries) is split between the Derby Papers (held at the Manx National Heritage Library) and a smaller set of papers which are still retained at their current seat of Knowsley Hall. The Atholl Papers come from the family which governed the Isle between 1736 and 1765. The Castle Rushen Papers hold a miscellany of official documents (particularly accounts and correspondence) which were not stored as part of an administrative series. The Bridge House Papers form a large and interesting archive created by the Manx Quayles of Bridge House. The Pennant papers were assembled by an 18th century English antiquarian.


Enclosure Records are the paperwork associated with the creation of new tenanted land (chiefly Intacks) from the Lord. Customs records despite the name, actually refers to the customary duties of the tenants addition to their payment of rents. The Libri Juramentorum or Oaths and Libri Irrotulamentorum or Commissions relate to the Lord's administrative officers. The important posts were appointed directly by the Lord and all officials were required to swear oaths. The Written Laws section discusses the surviving records of Statutes, Customary Laws and Spiritual Laws. Some of these were later published (for example in nineteenth century references such as Mills's Statutes) but others (such as certain of the ancient customary laws) were never included.