The papers of the Dukes of Atholl relating to their administration of the Isle of Man

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of documents gathered into two numbered prefixed bundle systems, (bundles AP 5 - AP 155 & X/1 - X/73). The documents relate to the Dukes of Atholl’s administration of the Isle of Man, with the majority of material comprising incoming and outgoing correspondence, reports, minutes, books, legal papers, historical papers and financial papers. Various subjects covered within the deposit include Acts and Bills (Manx and British), accounts, agriculture, archaeology, art, banking records, buildings (including maintenance and remodelling), Manx coinage, customs and the Derby family.

Other subjects present within the deposit include Manx domestic matters (such as living conditions, famines, naturalisation, health, population), the Duke’s Manx estates (for example Lough House and Castle Mona), ecclesiastical matters (academic funds, Bishoprics, Bishopscourt, Tithes, Roman Catholics on the Island) and education (the academic school, Castletown Grammar, Peel Academy).

Fiscal matters such as the Island’s revenue and taxation, highway constructions (bridges and roads), the history of the Atholl rule of the Island (falcons, Atholl accession, Duke’s claim the Derby estates, the Revestment Act of 1765), legal matters (admiralty court, appeals, chancery court, criminal court, legal cases, deeds, wills, prisoners), legislative material (the council, Tynwald, resolutions from the House of Keys, observations, appointments, resignations, speeches, protests, petitions, elections and addresses) and the Manx mailing system are topics covered within the deposit.

Other subjects include manorial items (rents and payments, leases, parishes), the Manx language, military matters (defence, non-Manx troops, East India Company, Irish Regiments, Royal Manx Fencibles, and Volunteers), Manx industry (coal, fishing, mills, mining, quarrying), nautical matters (steam packets, ships, boats, wrecks, Royal National Lifeboat Institution), newspapers and material on various individuals (for example, Attorney General, Governors, Deemsters, High Bailiff, Receiver General ).

Further subjects present within the deposit include the problem of smuggling on the Island, trade on the Island such as imports and exports (merchants, brewing & distilling, cotton spinning, herring curing, inns and inn keeping, limekilns, linen manufacturing, papermaking, rope making, salt making, smelting, snuff making, soap making, starch making, tobacco, wine & spirits, woollen manufacture) and transport around the Island.

Further material includes a series titled ‘Books 1-128’ (book 127 missing).

  • Books 1-49, 94, 104 and 109: Revenue books (1736-1795 & 1813)
  • Books 101, 121 and 126: Account books
  • Books 50-67, 86-87 and 102: Minute books (valuations and reports) regarding the Duke’s sale of the Isle of Man’s Bishopric Demesne Lands, Tithes and Advowson to the British Crown 1826-1828 (outsize item included)
  • Books 68-69, 74-76, 81-82, 88, 91-93, 95 and 98-99: Letter Books (1757-1825)
  • Book 70: Minute book relating to the House of Keys regarding a petition made by the Duke (1805)
  • Books 71-72 and 77-79: Report books for further compensation for the sale of the Isle of Man to the British Crown (1805)
  • Book 73: The 4th Duke of Atholl’s writings from 1774-1806
  • Books 80, 103, 105-108, 113 and 115-120: Legal books (Deeds and Trust deeds)
  • Books 83 and 97: Record books of public papers (1812-1813)
  • Book 84: The Diary of the 4th Duke of Atholl (February 1813 - March 1813)
  • Book 85: General statement book (1813)
  • Book 89: Treasury cash book (1755-1765)
  • Book 90: Tynwald Court book (1796)
  • Book 96: Book relating to the Isle of Man 1810 census
  • Books 100 and 112: Memorial books (1830-1839)
  • Books 110-111: Speech books
  • Book 114: Rent book for Scottish land (1765)
  • Books 123-125: Customs books (1755-1765)
  • Book 128: Outsize book of Manorial accounts (1788-1817)

Administrative / Biographical History

The Dukes of Atholl inherited the Isle of Man in the eighteenth century; prior to this the Island had been ruled by the Stanley family (eventual Earls of Derby) since 1405 when King Henry IV (1367-1413) made a lifetime grant to Sir John Stanley (c.1350-1414) and his descendants, for the Manx feudal and bishopric rights; John Stanley became the King of Mann (in 1504 the title was changed to Lord of Mann). In return the Stanley family paid a feudal fee in which they rendered homage and provided two falcons to all future Kings of England on their coronations.

When in 1736 James Stanley (1664-1736) 10th Earl of Derby died without any male issue, his rights to the Island were passed to his closest living male relative, James Murray (1690-1764) 2nd Duke of Atholl, a Scottish cousin. Murray was the grandson of Lady Amelia Sophia Stanley (1633-c.1702), daughter of James Stanley (1607-1651) 7th Earl of Derby. James Murray was in fact the third son of the 1st Duke of Atholl; his elder brother William (1689-1746) was excluded from the succession due to his part in the Jacobite rebellions. Murray also had a younger brother George (1694-1760), who like William was a supporter of the Jacobite cause. James Murray avoided attainder by supporting King George II (1683-1760).

During the eighteenth century Britain (after the 1707 Act of Union) participated in various wars which saw the government greatly needing funds. The decision was made to increase taxes on purchased goods; however this in turn became a catalyst for the growth in smuggling throughout the British Isles. The geographical position of the Isle of Man was ideal for this operation. Vessels would land in Manx ports, paying much-lower duties and then the crew would reorganise the cargo into smaller vessels and transport it to coastal areas elsewhere in the British Isles. During the 2nd Duke’s reign as Lord of Mann the act of smuggling reached extraordinary proportions. In an attempt to regulate the smuggling the British Treasury offered the Duke the opportunity to sell the Island back to the Crown; Murray declined the offer. The 2nd Duke’s sons had predeceased him, thus by the time of his death in 1764 his titles were passed to his nephew (also his son-in-law) John Murray (1729-1774) 3rd Duke of Atholl. The Lords of the Treasury once again approached the new Duke to sell his rights to the Island. The negotiations led to the 1765 Isle of Man Purchase Act also known as the Act of Revestment. The Isle of Man came under the control of the British Crown and the Atholl family was paid £70,000 in compensation.

The Duke of Atholl retained some privileges, for example still holding manorial rights and financial gain from various industries such as fisheries, mines, mills and quarries. Under the settlement the Duke had to pay the Crown £122 12s. 2d. per annum and continue offering two coronation falcons. In 1774 the 3rd Duke died and his son John Murray (1755-1830) became the 4th Duke of Atholl. The 4th Duke felt the Isle of Man had been sold at a diminished value and thus sought further compensation from the Crown. A Royal Commission was established; in 1792 the enquiry concluded that the Duke was due compensation and in 1793 the Duke was made Governor to the Isle Man, giving him the power to superintend the administration of the Island. In 1824 and 1825 Parliamentary Acts saw the Crown purchase the Duke’s remaining Manx manorial rights and an annuity payment was established, compensating the Duke for future loss of duties, customs and sovereign rights. The Duke sold his remaining rights for £417,144 in 1828. In 1830 the Duke died, signifying the end of over 400 years of family rule over the Isle of Man.

Conditions Governing Access

No regulations or restrictions are implemented on this material.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im.

Other Finding Aids

Six volume descriptive list and subject and person name card index available for consultation in the Reading Room

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from Sara Goodwin’s A Brief History of the Isle of Man (2011: 88-91, 96-97 & 100).

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), June 2016.

Separated Material

Separated material held by Manx National Heritage includes maps and plans, reference numbers: AP-M 1 to AP-M 49.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes various library, archival, maps and plans and social history resources.