TREENS

J. Roscow

1 The failure of workers in this field to take into account the gradual evolution of inheritance within the treen has in the past clouded the issue. It didn't all happen at once. Professor Fergus Kelly in his book 'A Guide to Early Irish Law' makes the point that the early C.7th century law texts of Ireland never refer to farm land being communal. Each person was responsible for cultivating his own division. Since the Isle of Man existed under the same technical farming conditions as the rest of the Irish Sea basin it is likely that this also applied to Mann, and seems to be borne out by the existing Manx law tracts

The Treen was a area of land often delineated by physical features such as streams, cliffs and valleys stretching fron the hills to the sea coast. Part of this land was divided annually among the members of the Treen to avoid using up all the fertility with continual cropping on the same patch. Attempts were made to put fertility back into land by folding the animals on areas due for cultivation in the next year. The land was divided by the youngest member of the farming group and the eldest had first choice down to the youngest member last in order to get the best possible division. In the case of dispute the land was to be divided by the Setting Quest, a jury of four local farmers appointed by the Lord for a term of one year. The duty revolving among the active farmers of the area, (eventually the Parish). Eventually the Setting Quest was used not only for settling border disputes but also for setting the rent of the land.

Land was not divided by area but by the judgement of its fertility, and therefore its probable crop producing output being capable of sustaining the annual rent due to the Lord by the tenant. The tenant was responsible for working his own land and receiving the product of its crops for himself and his family subject to certain conditions. Firstly the plough and team of oxen was jointly owned by the Treen as a whole. This was because it represented a very large financial outlay which would have been beyond the means of many of the tenants. Also a team of oxen had to be over-wintered with sufficient grazing, not a simple matter as shown by the majority of animals having to be slaughtered and salted down at the start of winter.

In Christian times the Parish Clerk received a plough groat from every plough that ploughed three furrows or more within the Parish. In Norse communities the wife of a Norse man who would have been left at home to manage the farm had the legal right to enter into a bargain to hire a plough, emphasising the importance of this piece of equipment. Certainly in Ireland the original rent was paid as a food and/or hospitality rent to the chief and in Mann in 1405 each tenant still had to pay a beef yearly to the castle. In the seventh century Ireland was not a money economy as a man's wealth was expressed in cattle. Similarly there would not have been a money economy in the isolated island of Man at that time. That concept of barter by corn and animals would have been still in place at the time of the Viking settlement of Mann in the ninth century, and the concept of money would have been introduced by them.

It is important to note that the origin of the word Treen may have come from Tir-unga, or ounce land, being based on the value of an ounce of pure silver being worth twenty Viking silver pennies. It is unlikely that the residents of this island paid their rent in silver, or silver coins, but continued any such payments in the equivalent value of cattle and corn. The naming of the Treen after an amount of silver then points to the introduction of a tax unit by the Norse overlords. As many Treens bear Norse names the Scandinavians may have used the existing land divisions as tax units when they organised the administration in the Isle of Man.

The Treen holders were responsible for the repair of the parish church hedge at twenty yards of hedge per treen. When the parish churches came into being in the mid twelfth century it was unlikely that they originally fixed this measurement, so we must assume that it evolved later, but what it does incidently do is to create a link between the parish population and the size of the church yard. The role of the treen holders in the upkeep of the church hedge was acknowledged by Deemster Gell in his address to the Great Enquest members.

This gives an introduction to its junior partner, - the setting quest. The number of quarterlands within certain treens had increased by 1703. (Kirk Michael). This indicates that new land within the treen boundary had been settled and brought into cultivation. I have an entry stating in 1703 that an ancient intack was within a Treen so that we can be certain that not all the land had tenants. After the Stanley's' took over Mann in 1405 they brought in laws prohibiting persons from leaving this island without a licence and further laws placing strangers as well as farmers eldest sons on farms to cultivate the land and thus bring in rent to the Lord of Man. This shortage of labour on the land may have resulted from young men going off the Island to earn the high wages being paid for labour in the surrounding countries as a result of the substantial drop in population caused by the plague. The Garrison Roll of 1428/9 gives several examples of young men being found stowed away on merchantmen by the Waterbailiff in the course of his duties.

The shortage of farm labour must have affected the amount of land being cultivated within the Treen resulting in a considerable amount of land returning to waste. Weather conditions at the end of the fourteenth century were not conducive to the successful growing and harvesting of corn and it may be that the population became more dependant on cattle rearing with the consequence that land which went out of cultivation returned to waste land. Let us now look at the surviving laws regarding forced labour on the farm.

Strangers being set in a farm in order to earn rent for the Lord.

If I took any member here and plonked them on a muddy piece of waste land without money or equipment and demanded that you produced five shillings worth of corn it could not be done. On the other hand if put you on an occupied farm you could put your labour to good use. This implies exactly what the laws state that the land shall be divided yearly among the working members of the farm.

1.Plough team. The greatest improvement in Medieval farming in England came from the introduction of the wooden shoulder span used by oxen. It gave greater pulling power and led to the introduction of the heavy plough. In the Island they still made collars fron woven straw for the oxen and were therefore restricted to the light plough.

2. Land not divided for one hundred years shall not be divided thereafter. This was a successfull ploy to develop family quarterland farms and increase the rent income. Discuss evidence from The Heirs Corbes article. From the 1495 rent roll of the North of the Island we see that the rent of land was not fixed but went up and down. The roll carries three different notes in the margin;- 1. Increase. 2. Decrease. 3. New. In 1505 it appears that a new system of leasing land for seven years at an increased rent was commenced. The carrot to enable the new leasing to be brought in may have been the guarantee that the rent was in future to be fixed and unchanging.

Wooden fittings ,the Lord and the Church differed. The heading for Intack land does not appear until C1520. There was also the tythe due to the church, and the increasing exactations of this body by taking equipment and money off residents left the Island community with great difficulty in setting up new areas of cultivation. This was finally addressed in the early sixteenth century by the introduction of the Corb laws and a legal reduction in the Church charges for birth, marriage and death. Treen names are not used on the Abbey lands but this may have been because the Church collected rents and customs directly from the land tenants and therefore did not require the Treen as a tax unit. Comparison of Treens with Abbey lands are a possible line of research made difficult because of incomplete records. The cultivated land area within the Treen seems to have developed after the boundaries had already been established. In Scotland there was a similar division to the Treen, and this evolved in much the same way as Manx quarterlands in that it became divided into "sides". Their could be from two to four sides which often referred to the position within the main boundary by compass points, -North side, etc Beware the fifteenth century dates shown in the modern printed Statutes Summary. Raiding, burning of standing crops. Decimation of the population. Weather. The Plague increased wages for farm labourers in surrounding countries. Attempt to increase the labour force. Up to that point I do not consider that the modern Quarterland farm existed. It was the alteration of inheritance practise in the fifteenth century that brought it about. Introduction of Intack to increase land cultivation, (and rent income).

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