[From 1st Report Archaeological Commission, 1878]


MEETING AT DOUGLAS, 13TH MARCH, 1877. J. M. JEFFCOTT, Esq., Chairman, Presided.


The CHAIRMAN read the following paper:- We are, unfortunately, without any record of the date of even the more modern portion of Castle Rushen. From the Chronicon Manniae et Insularum we learn that in the month of May, 1313, " Lord Robert, king of Scotland, besieged Castle Rushen, which was defended by the Lord Dungali MacDowyle against the said Lord King, till the Tuesday after the feast of St. Barnabas, the apostle, on which day the said Lord King took the castle." Now at this time the then existing castle was, doubtless, dismantled and partly destroyed; for it cannot be believed that the conqueror left it in such a state as to render it available for future defence. The fortress which yielded to the doughty phalanx of Robert Bruce was, probably, a Scandinavian structure. We are told by Robertson that Guthred, the traditionally son of the first Orry, erected Castle Rushen, and that his body was interred within its precincts. Though the construction of the present noble castle cannot possibly be ascribed to any of the Danish princes of the tenth century, it is not improbable that the conjecture, if applied to the original fortress, may be correct. In the same year in which the castle had been surrendered to Bruce, he granted a charter of the Island to Thomas Randolph, Earl of Morey, by which charter he reserved to himself the patronage of its episcopal See. It was a condition of the charter that the earl should, after reasonable warning, supply annually to the king " six ships, each of twenty-six oars, with men and provisions for six weeks."

The detailed account of events mentioned in the Chronicon Manniae et Insularum, with the exception of those relating to the bishops of the Isle, is not extended to a date later than A.D. 1316. The list of bishops is given as an appendix to the chronicle, and that portion of it which is of a later date than the chronicle itself was added by several annalists, whose object was simply to record the prelatical succession. Our public records can only be traced to the beginning of the fifteenth century. Of the occurrences in the Island during the interval between the last of the events detailed in the chronicle and the earliest of our public records, there is scarcely an authentic narrative. May not the present castle have been erected in this interval ? If its date could be ascribed to this period, the fact that there is no account of so remarkable an event as the construction of such an edifice would not be very surprising When the Cambrian Archaeological Association inspected the castle some years ago, they referred it to the time of Edward II., or that of Edward III. If, however, it had been built in the reign of the former, the circumstance would, I think, have been recorded in the chronicle. It is not unlikely, therefore, that it was erected in the reign of the latter monarch. We know that in the beginning of his reign England was at war with Scotland, and after some sanguinary battles, Edward was victorious. We know, moreover, that Edward III. in A.D. 1333, granted the Island to William de Montecute, first Earl of Salisbury, by whom it had been conquered. Some historians indeed affirm that the earl had been furnished by this monarch with ships and men for its conquest from the Scots. Edward's grant to the earl conveys the Island, without reserve, to the king's "beloved and faithful William de Montecute." May not the castle have been designed and erected as a stronghold for the king's troops when at war with the Scots, and after the conquest of the Island. Its architectural character points to this period and to this object. There is an imperial air about it. It is too grand and noble a structure to have been the work of a feudatory prince. It indicates imperial authority, wealth, and prestige. It stands as an enduring monument of English prowess and strength, impregnable to the martial vigour of Scotland at the period when it was erected -a period when the practical application of cannon was unknown. The momentum of the ponderous battering-ram was, perhaps, harmless against its walls.


Back index

see also Castle Rushen

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001