Ancient Customary Laws

Some of the ancient customary laws of the Isle of Man are recorded with the statutes and have been incorporated in published records (such as Mills' Statutes). Some (perhaps those which were considered less important to the administration of the island) of these customary laws appear to have been excluded however. They are of interest in part because of what they reveal about the Manx way of life at the time.


Reference MS9864 GR 1/20 in the Manx National Heritage Library holds a manuscript which appears to record (at least some of) the additional customary laws. A typed transcript of this manuscript is held at the same reference. The following is based on that typed transcript (rather than the original manuscript) and may possibly contain some mistakes. Line and page breaks have been preserved.


When I wrote this page I was unaware that Peter Edge had already transcribed both this document and Deemster Parr's Abstract (of the Laws, Customs and Ordinances) which references it. A link to his (rather tidier) versions of both documents is given under Manx Links (from the sidebar in the Introduction section).


Since Deemster Parr's Abstract was written circa 1690 we can be sure the list of customary laws written below were then considered an authority.



Att the first when the noble & worthy Sir John
Stanley did possess the Island of Man, the
Tenants then havinge noe certaine tenures
but taking their Farmes from ye lords officers
or those that they did substitute to deal & [?]
in that service, somtymes for three or five years
& sometymes for more years, the rents then
risinge or fallinge & at noe certayntie (as
now they are) but as the said officers or yr
substitutes could compound and agree with ye tenants
The inhabitants, of the Island
did build noe houses, nor bestowe any charges
for ye betteringe of yr tenenms or Farmes
but such as of necessity, they must use, and
therefore they provided noe windows nor doors
for their said houses, but made bundells of
bryers, gorse or heath as some poore people
use yet at this tyme, and therewith made upp a
doore to defend them from the injuries of the
weather & invasion of theeves. And in regard
their strength, fences and fortificacons of the
houses were such & soe weak, it was pro
-vided by a law that whosoever did presume
or attempt to open any of yr said doores
soe made upp, or enter into any of their
said houses, without the knowledge of ye owner
thereof, & did not first speak unto and
salute, and after aske leave for cominge
& enteringe in, the man or woman yt did
soe offend in yt case, should be taken to
prison & executed as a felon. and that this lawe
doth continue & is in use at this present
tyme, being ye antientest customary lawe
of this Island

2. It is an antient custome that if a man
marry a wife who hath or was borne to a
farms & begett by her a sone or daughter
although ye sd man shall after be convicted
of felony or any other capital cryme

[page 2]

and condemned for ye same, yet shall his sd
sons and daughter continue & hold ye said
Farme because ye same descended unto them
from the mother, who was free and not
guilty of ye said capitall cryme, & ye lord is
only interested in those & soe much goods
as was propy & belongings unto him yt
is convicted, but if ye Farme & goods
belongs & are appropriated unto ye lord
although they have children who only
have a propriety in ye goods of ye father
or mother who is free & not guilty of ye
said capitall cryme.

3. After an orphan is come to lawfull yeares
and possession of his goodes, he is to goe to ye
spirituall judges, who are to give a command &
direccon unto the Register to deliver unto him
a coppie of ye Inventorie of those goods &
in whose hands & custodie they remayne, wch
permission hee hath gotten under the hand of ye
said Regtr hee is first to goe unto those yt
have his said goods & demand a restitucon
thereof and if they shall deny ye same hee is
againe to goe to ye said Spirituall Judges and
acquaint them therewith, procure their letters &
certificate to the Deemster of their disobedience
and for his assistance which when hee hath seene
hee thereupon without any accon is to give &
grant his authoritie unto the Corr to seize
restrain & take sufficient pawne from those
in whose hands ye goods remayne or to
whose custodie they were committed, & if hee therein
shall bee dissobeyed, he is to make presentment
of their disobedience yt ye assistance of soldiers
& further authoritie may be used

4. Also it is an ancient law yt if a men or his
wife dye, his or her creditors after their death
are to prove & make to appears to bee due
their debt before ye spirituall judges & from
them receive authoritie to obtayne soe much thereof

[page 3]

thereof as is due unto them from ye
deceased whereof when the said Creditor has
brought a coppie or certificate under ye
hands of ye sd spirituall judges unto ye Deemster
(hee without any further proofs or evidence
is to grant authority to ye creditors to take
pawne, or distreyne upon ye goods of ye ptie
lyvinge (or soe much as from ye sd pty lyvinge
is due, or belongs unto him, because the
pty lyvinge is subject to ye Tempall & not
to ye Spirituall jurisdiction

5. If a man make sayle of a horse yt hath ye
scabb, a lamenesse, or any other noysome
disease, without ye knowledge of ye buyer
ye sd buyer makinge proofe before ye deemster
yt ye sd horse was such & soe diseased upon
his receipt thereof, may returns ye sd horse
to ye seller, and the deemsters authority
to obtayne ye price or consideracon yt hee
gave for ye same

6. Likewise if a man make sayle of a swyne
wch after ye killinge thereof is found infected
with ye leaprosie or measles ye buyer may
returns it to ye seller, and by ye deemsters
authorety receyve ye price or consideracon
yt was given for ye same

7. Also if any sell mault yt (after ye brewinge
thereof) is found to bee redd, to cause or provoke
vomittinge or otherwise hurtfull or noysome
to man by means of ye badnes of ye mault
and not ye fault of ye ayle wife who brewed
ye same, shee is to send word to ye seller to
take & carry ye same away to his best use &
if hee shall refuse so to doe, hee loseth
both ye ayle or ye beer & ye price of ye mault

8. The like course & proceedings is used & obteyned
in any other things that is diseased & found
corrupt & not marchantable for ye buyer
makinga it appears before ye deemster yt
upon delivery & of receipt thereof ye same without
his knowledge was either diseased or unsound

[page 4]

or corrupt or not merchantable is to have ye
deemsters authoritie to returne ye sd thinge to
ye seller, & to receyve ye price or considerecon
yt hee gave for ye same without any further
suite, And if it may hee made to appears yt
ye seller fraudulently & deceiptfully knowinge
ye thing to bee such before his sayle, & not
—withstandinge made sayle thereof as a thinge
good, sound end marchantable to ye losse & herme
of ye buyer, hee is withall to give satisfaccon
to ye buyer upon ye discrecon & conscience of
ye deemster for ye chardges & losse yt thereby
hee hath sustayned

9. If a man make sayle of a thinge first to one
man, to whome hee gave noe possession thereof
And after the same thinge to another to whome
he hath given possession of ye said thinge;
hee who hath possession thereof is to continue
ye same, and hee who had first sayle; hath
onlie ye benefitt of an accon of coussenage
against ye seller

10. If there bee a contract of buyinge & sellinge
betwixt 2 pties, and a covenant or agree
ment made for ye certayne price of ye thing
bought & sould, & pte of ye sd price paid,
although ye same bee but vi d & ye whole 20s
or more pounds, both pties are tyed to ye
performance thereof And therefore ye buyer hath
an accon agt ye seller yt ye thing sold bee
delivered unto him, and ye seller agt ye buyer
yt ye price thereof be paid unto him

11. If a man (sellinge a hosse, oxe, or cowe or
any other things) deliver for or as possession
thereof to ye buyer, an handfull of hay or
straw, (wch is ye usuall maner or customs of
ye countrey), and ye sd thinge after possession
soe given miscarry or perish ye losse thereof
falls or belonges to ye buyer, but if ye
buyer not satisfied with yt manor of possession
shall desire a present & reels possession of

[page 5]

of ye thinge bought, & ye seller neglect or re
fuse to doe ye same, if ye thinge then bought
shall after miscarry or perish any maner or
way ye losse thereof falls to ye seller because
he neglected & refused to give ye reale pos
session thereof when ye buyer willed & demanded
ye same

12. By an antient use & customs of ye Countrey
yet continued noe man killinge a sheepe or
weather may sell ye skin thereof before ye
flesh be eaten That ye Coronr or lockman
haveinge occassion to search it may appears
unto him who was the owner thereof, and
if any shall otherwise doe, hee giveth an
occasion of a stronge presumption yt ye sd
goods hath beene feloniously stolne & con
-veyed away And thereuppon ye Coronr or
lockman ought to impannell a Jury for
ye lord, to present ye same, yt ye Court hear
-inge & examinge itt, may as they shall
find just cause, either order ye sd ptie to bee
indited as a felon, or to bee thoroughly fined

13. When ye Coronr shall goe to make search
for stolne goods, wch by his oath & offise hee
is tyed & bound to doe 4 tymes in ye yeare
or upon ye suite or motion of any other
who hath his goods feloniously conveyed away
hee hath full authoritie to goe unto ye
houses or chambers of any And there make
search in their coffers or what is contayned
within ye sd house or chamber, and if in yt
service hee shall bee opposed or resisted, he
or shee yt shall therein oppose or resist
him are taken holden & reputed ( by an an
-cient custome of ye countrey) guilty of felon
-ie & ought thereof to be indited And
if any inhabitant in this service shall deny
or refuse to assist him, hee charginge &
commandinge them in ye lords name &
behalf to assist & joyne with him they

[page 6]

they are both to bee punished & fined

14. If a man suspected of felonie & questioned
for ye same lyve in one psh & ye ptie yt
doth suspect & question ye said msn
in another, ye jury of inquisition must
bee equally chosen & appointed in both
ye sd pshes.

15. By an antient custome all those Tenants
yt doth adioyne to ye fell, mountaynes or
ye lords comons, are to make, mahtayne &
repare ye hedges & fences thereof, they are to
be presented by ye grand jury & fined
for ye same, And by ye same Customs it
hath always been provided yt all ye gorse
whins or heath yt doth grow & joyne to
ye sd hedge soe farr as a man from ye
same can throw or cast his heath or gorse
hooke, shall bee reserved for ye mainteynance
of ye sd hedge, And if any therefore shall
presume or attempt to cutt, pull or carry
away any of ye sd gorse, whinns or heath
yt groweth within ye sd lymitt or compass
unless it bee for ye use of ye sd hedge, hee
is to bee presented & fined

16 It is alsoe an antient custome yt all those yt send
or dryves any goods, to ye lords commons or
mountaynes or kaepeth any goods in ye sumer
or carries or draweth any turfes linge heath
or any other comodetie from it, shall
give to ye tenant yt mantayneth ye lydgate
through wch they passe & repasse, one
halfe penny every seaventh yeare for ye
mantaynance of ye sd lydgate

17 It is alsoe an antient custome yt ye lords
wast rent shall bee sett upon such as paying
noe rent have beene borne on his owne
land, or ye Barons, if they have served on ye
lords land one yeare, and for this and yt if

[page 7]

that if they (after being tenants
shall bee convicted Of any capit
-all offence or otherwise transgresses ye law
they by ye sd wast rent may be knowne to be
longs to ye lords jurisdicon and ye benifitt of
their goods or fines accordinge to ye qualety
of their offence to bee taken & seized on for
ye lord

18. By ye like antient custome the Barons tenants are
to repaire & mantayne ye meare hedge deviding
the lords land from ye Barrons & betwixt him
& ye lords tenant provided yt for ye manteynance
and repaccon thereof hee shall bee permitted &
authorised to cut sodds or earth on ye lords
side, soe farr as (joyninge his hele to ye said
hedge) hee can reach with his spade holding
his foote thereon

19. The moare of the present yeare is to bee of ye settinge
quest for ye yeare followinge, because hee is
left acquainted with ye estate, condicon & abihity
of every severall tenant within his psh & can
informe ye rest of his fellowes who are of suffici
-encie & abillitie for ye paymt of ye lords rent
& who they are doubtfull of that they may enr
-iquire those to put in & produce sufficient ser
-curitie for ye paymt of ye said rent, or if
they cannot, to provide a new tenant

20. If any tenant havinge his house on ye lords land
shall remove and depte from thence hee may
take & carry from ye sd house the doores thereof
but soe many of ye sd doores as shell be found
to have hung upon iron hinges, may not bee

21. It standeth otherwise with ye Abbey Tenants for if
they remove, howsoever ye doores of their houses be
hunge, they may by ye antient custome of ye land
carry them away as alsoe ye whole roofe, win
-dows & what els may bee usefull

22. If a man indebted shall acknowledge his debt
before ye deemster, Coronr or lockman being
before them ye deemster without any accon
grant a present execution against ye ptie

[page 8]

And if shall confess but pte thereof, for soe
much as hee shall confesse an execution is
granted, and ye rest refferred to bee tryed &
ruled by way of accon

23. If a Farm (uppon Creditt) shall make sayle of
barlie, mault, wheat or any other grayne or
corne, to a townsman or any other pson, wch
if hee is forced to doe to permite ye payment of ye
lords Rent, although ye ptie yt brought ye same
shall deny ye debt & price of ye sd grayne or
corne, yet the sd Farmer or seller of ye sd
corne by an antient custome of ye land upon
his owne oath given & ministered by ya deemster
without further proofe or testimonia, hath ye
price of ye sd corne censured & judged unto
him wth ye grant of a present execution
provided yt there shall goe before a presumpcon
of ye truth of ye sd oath, and ye deemster out of
his discrecon religion & knowledge, approve of
ye honeatie of ye deponent

24. The deemster alsoe by an antient custome upon ye
complaynt of a servant for want of his wages
is to cause ye master of ye servant to come before
him, and if hee cannot give good satisfaccon
unto him, that he hath made payment of ye sd
servants wages, nor shew inst & lawfull cause
wherefore hee withholdeth ye same; The deemster
(uppon ye bare oath of ye said servant administered
unto him before his sd maister, is to grant a
present execution against him, for soe much
as ye sd servant hath deposed to bee detayned
from him

25. This alsoe may bee done by ye Coron at ye
psh church where both ye master & servant
lyveth by ye discrecon of ye deemster, or at
ye eteele or gate of ye sd church yard, ye Coronr
is to minister an oath unto ye said servant &
certifie ye deemster how much of his wages
hee hath deposed to bee deteyned fr m him
by his said meister, that there upon an execution
may bee granted

26. If a man doe enter an accon for goods or cattle
in ye tempall Court, & ye ptie deffend dye before

[page 9]

before a censure, ye sd accon dyeth with him also
And ye sd plant must renew his suit, and re
-move his accon to ye spirituall Court where ye
same is to receive a censure, but if ye said accon
bee for lands, notwithstandinge ye death of ye
deffendt, ye same continueth & admitteth a
censure in ye tempall Court

27. If a man move a suite, hee is to acquaint ye
deffendt thereof before hee enter his accon
wch if he shall neglect to doe, ye sd deffendt offer
-inge, & being ready to give satisfaction before
censure, whether ye plant accept or refuse ye
same, is freed from ye fyne & charges of ye Court

28. If there be 2 ptnrs or 2 halfe owners in a fishinge
boate, and ye one of them unwillinge to continue
ptner wth ye other, the deemster upon his com
playnt is to authorise him to praize ye sd boate
and offer to give free choise & liberty unto his
other ptner or fellow owner, either to accept
or take ye whole boate payinge unto him
ye sd complaynt halfe ye price thereof, or els
to accept the sd halfe price & deliver unto him
the whole boate, and if hee deny this to doe
ye Coror is to cast lotts betwixt them, and
accordinge to their lott, to enjoyne ye one to
accept halfe ye price, & ye other ye whole

29. If an antient Tenant milne bee out of repair
or want water, whereby it cannot grind the
tenants corne yt is brought to ye same, ye owner
of ye sd milne, takinge his toll or multure out
of ye sd corne (beinge ye 24th pte thereof) is
uppon his owne charges to carry ye sd corne
to another milne, & there to grind ye same
without any further multure, and after carry ye
same againe, to his owne milne, where ye tenant
is to receive it

30. 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

[page 10]

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

31. If a man shall lend corne, meale, timber, borrds,
planks, hay, iron or any other thinge yt
doth consist of nomber, weight or measure to
bee repaid in ye same or ye yeare followinge
uppon a certayne day or tyme nominated &
aggreed upon, The ptie who borrowed any of
those thinges is then at ye saide tyme or in ye
said year, tyed, obliged & bound to repay &
restore such like & of ye same goodnes as hee
borrowed, although ye price of those thinges
bee much omore at yt tyme, than they were
when hee did borrow ye same, and if ye
borrower shall unjustly deny ye paymt &
restitucon of ye sd things unto ye lender at
or upon ye tyme aggreed uppon, and force
him ye sd lender to recover ye same by suite
of law wch peradventure cannott bee ended
before ye yeare followinge, when ye sd thinges
borrowed are fallen to a lower or lesser rate
than it was when either he borrowed, or should
have repaid ye same; yet shall ye sd borrower
repay & restore to ye lender ye full price &
estimacon whereat ye things borrowed was
when hee should & ought to have repaid ye same

32 If any man have his corne eaten, or receyve
harme by ye goods of another, hee is to ac
-quaint there with who is ye owner of ye said
goods, if they bee in his owne custodie, or
any other yt hath taken ye sd goods to pasture
for hyre or paymt, and shall will & move
him to bringe or send 2 honest & indifferr
-ent men, to view, see, & censure ye harme &
loaae done, who joyninge with other two like
honest & indifferent men yt ye ptie who
hath suetayned ye losse, shall bringe or send

[page 11]

(after they have well seen & considered ye losses
and harmes are to esteeme & value them as
their best judmts & consciences shall
direct them But if hee who is & ought to give
or make satisfaccon, shall refuse or neglect to
send 2 such men ye Coror or lockman upon
ye motion or desire of him yt hath received ye
losse, is to comand & charge 4 indifferent
men, to view, see, consider & valew ye said
harme & losse, and accordinge to their estima
-tion thereof satisfaccon is to bee made & given
by authority from ye deemster

33. And in this case if hee who is guilty of ye sd losse
harme or trespas shall dye before satisfaccon
bee given his heyre, executr or successor is
tyed & obliged to ye performance thereof, to him
his heyre, or executr yt hath sustayned ye same.
But if ye ptie who heth sustayned ye losse
shall be willinge to referr ye estimacon thereof
to ye oath of ye ptie who is guilty of ye sd losse
or ye ptie to ye oath of him who hath sustayned
ye same (as oft & usually is done) it is suffici
-ent without ye viewinge of men or their vallu
-inge their losse & harme
Likewise if a man have sustayned losse in his
grasse or pasture by another, hee is to receive
satisfeccon for ye same in one & ye same maner
as for his corne

34. If ye cowe or oxe of one man shall kill ye Cow
or oxe of another wee observe in this cause
ye civill law of Moses as is expressed in ye
21 chapter of Exodus verse 35 36

35. If a man shall kill yee beast or cattle of another
either by blowes, stroakes, by famyne in keep
-ing ye sd goods eoe longe within ye house or
elawhere, yt they dye & persh, or any other
maner or means whatsoever The sd beast or
cattle are to be viewed & scene by 4 judicious
& indifferent men & satisfaccon given to ye
owner of them as their discrecon & conscience
shall direct them

[page 12]

36. If a man bee beaten by another, either by
his fist, staffe, or weapon, or bee defamed by
eeandalous words or infamous libels or
hand violence offered him within his house
hee may & ought to have an accon of injurie
against ye sd ptie, but if hee ye sd ptie dye
before ye ptie wronged hath comenced suite
against him, ye sd ptie wronged can have
noe accon against his heyre ae executor

37. If an oxe, bull, cow or horse, or any other
beast whatsoever, shall kill, or bee ye immedi
-ate cause of ye death of a man, woman or
child, that oxe, bull, cowe, horse or beast
(Although ye same did belongs to ye tenants of
any of ye Barons, or to ye barons themselves
doth fall & become propy & due to ye lord

38. Hee yt through errour or mistake shall
assume to himself or use ye goods of another
whether ye same bee lambe, shepe or weather
or any other things whatsoever, is not to be
indited for ye same, but only used to give
satisfaccon or to make restitucon because
ye theft may not bee comitted but wth a pur
posse & intention of stealing & ye said
law in our languadge is called Marraine
wch signifies a mistake, notwithstandinge
a jury pssseth thereupon to examine & find
out ye truth

39. Whereas there is s law or statute yt if any man
Bd shall dye posest wth free & debtles goods to ye
value of 20s viii s thereof is to be paid thereon
for a Corpresent That law or statute is to
bee understood thus and ye sd goods in his
sort & manor are to bee esteemed & valued by
antient customs of ye countrey a draught
oxo at 5s a milke cow at 5s viii sheape
at 5s a boule wheate 12d a boule barley 3d
& all other goods accordinge to this precedent

[A comment in the margin reads "This corrected 1643 & entered in Statute]