The son of a Cambridgeshire squire, Isaac Barrow was educated at Cambridge, where he took Holy Orders. In 1663, Charles, 8th Earl of Derby, appointed him Bishop of Sodor and Man. With his dual appointment as Governor in April 1664 he became, for the following two years, a ‘Sword Bishop’.
Bishop Barrow energetically set about both improving the lot of his clergy, whom he described on his arrival as ‘very ignorant and wholly illiterate’, and raising the standards of education amongst the Manx people. He first alleviated clergy poverty by collecting funds in England. He also obtained a £100 per annum Royal Bounty from King Charles II, raised stipends from £5 or £6 to £17 per annum, and repaired many of the Island’s dilapidated churches.
He then turned his attention to education, collecting £600 from the nobility and gentry in England to establish a church school in every parish in the Island. He purchased two estates to fund the further education at Oxford, Cambridge, or Trinity College Dublin, of boys destined for the ministry. Money accumulated in his trust was eventually used in the establishment of King William’s College.