Historical records of the 2nd and 3rd Corps of the Royal Manx Fencibles

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The contents consists of material relating to the 2nd Corps of the Royal Manx Fencibles such as, morning reports (August 1795 - April 1796 & June 1796 - March 1797), a private orderly book (July 1795 - April 1797), regimental orders (January 1796 - August 1796), description book (1795-1802), official letter book (April 1795 - June 1802), register of Courts Martial Proceedings (July 1798 - January 1801) and a file of received letters (c.1800). Other material relating to the 3rd Corps of the Royal Manx Fencibles includes weekly sates (1803-1811), monthly and fortnightly returns (1803-1811) and a description book (1803-1810).

Administrative / Biographical History

The Royal Manx Fencibles were units of men called to defend the Isle of Man’s shores during the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. The term Fencible derives from the word ‘defensible’ and is defined as ‘a person capable of making defence and is fit and liable to be call on for defensive military service’. During the late eighteenth century the American Revolution (1775-1783) occurred and throughout the British Isles it was deemed necessary to increase the home defence, especially after France joined the American forces in 1778. In the Isle of Man an early Fencible unit was raised in 1779 and disbanded in 1783. This Corps of Manx Fencible Infantry were made up of three companies of men, each with four officers, a captain, two lieutenants, an ensign, nine non-commissioned officers and one hundred men; each company also had two drummers. The role of this first Fencible unit was to guard the capital town of Castletown, Douglas, Peel and Ramsey with headquarters in Castle Rushen.

In 1793 the 1st Corps of Royal Manx Fencibles was formed: the pressure of defence was further felt due to the French Revolution (1792-1802) and its close proximity to British shores. The Duke of Atholl (1775-1830), as Governor of the Island, was authorised to raise a Corps of three companies. Each company had five officers, one captain, two lieutenants, two ensigns, ten non-commissioned officers and ninety five men. By 1798 the company number had expanded to six and the majority of its services consisted of delivering home defence. The unit was disbanded in July 1802. During the 1st Corps of Royal Manx Fencibles’ lifetime another unit was formed. In 1795 the 2nd Corps of Royal Manx Fencibles was established and provided a defence service throughout the British Isles. It served in Yorkshire and then Ireland, during the Irish Rebellion of 1798. The 2nd Corps of Royal Manx Fencibles was disbanded in July 1802.

In 1803 the 3rd Corps of Royal Manx Fencibles was established and again provided home defence services. The unit was made up of three companies, each with three officers, one captain, one lieutenant, an ensign, eight non-commissioned officers, an armourer, two drummers and seventy men. In 1804 the company number was increased to six and by 1808 the Corps consisted of ten companies. By December 1809 the size of the unit was dramatically cut to four companies: this was most likely due to the financial strains of maintaining ten companies on the Island. During the early nineteenth century the threat of European invasion was diminishing and by 1811 the decision to disband the 3rd Corps of Royal Manx Fencibles was made.

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

One page catalogue available for consultation in the Reading Room

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from B.E. Sargeaunt’s The Royal Manx Fencibles (1947) and Duncan C. Grant’s 2001 dissertation Fencible Life and Discipline (MNH reference number: MS 10577).

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

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage includes various costume & textiles, library, archival, photographic and social history resources.