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Woods' Atlas

Woods Atlas–A NEW ATLAS and GAZETTEER of the Isle of Man (1867)

These pages contain facsimile reproductions of the maps and schedules contain in James Woods’ New Atlas and Gazetteer (1867).

In 1860 Tynwald established a Committee to levy a rate on land owners to fund healthcare provision. In 1861 valuers were appointed by Lieutenant Governor Pigott with instructions to use the 1841 Tithe plans as a base to determining the ownership and extent of land holdings. James Woods was appointed as a surveyor to the valuers.

Where the tithe plans were unsuitable or out of date new plans were drawn up as basic sketches and the survey was completed in April 1864. These documents form official taxative surveys and serve to provide official authenticated evidence of land ownership in 1864 to which the Land Registry and the conveyancing community often refer. The shorthand terminology for the series of plans prepared or approved is the 'Tithe plans' and the 'Asylum plans'. Copies of these documents are held at the Public Record Office, in the Deed Registry and at the Manx Museum. For comparison purposes these documents are similar to the 'England and Wales (Exclusive of the Metropolis): Returns of Owners of Land 1873' which provides a taxative record of land ownership in England and Wales at that date.

On a private commercial basis James Woods used the results of this taxative survey to prepare his 'New Atlas and Gazetteer of the Isle of Man'. This fascinating document, the contents of which are produced below, was sold for £1 11s 6d per copy. The Atlas of James Woods (‘Woods Atlas’) received widespread acclaim but no official endorsements. It is a stylised topographical survey rather than fulfilling a taxative purpose. It is, however, widely used as a source document (together with the Title and Asylum plans to which it refers) in examinations of legal title. When put to this use it may be described as a 'muniment of title'. When used in conjunction with the 1st Edition of the Ordnance Survey Map (1869) a good insight may be formed of land ownership in the 1860s on the Island.

The Atlas consists of a single bound volume consisting of 17 maps with scales shown in chains. Land parcels are numbered. Numbers showing a 't' suffix indicate a reliance on the taxative Tithe plans; those without a 't' suffix refer to the taxative Asylum plans of the same number. The schedules provide the name, location number, proprietor and size of numbered parcels in acres rods and perches.

The Deeds Registry holds an original edition which is, through constant use, in a fragile condition. The facsimiles produced in these webpages are intended to facilitate the easier inspection of this valuable resource for the public on the Isle of Man and to reduce wear on that precious paper copy.

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