[From Brown's Directory, 1894]

Historical Chapter


In 1866, after a protracted correspondence, Mr Loch obtained the consent of the Imperial Treasury to a re-adjustment of the fiscal duties levied upon articles imported into the Isle of Man—such as, spirits, wines, tobaccoes, teas, sugars, &c., in order to obtain a surplus revenue to expend upon the erection of harbour and other works of which the Island stood in much need. It was arranged that, after deducting the cost of the civil government of the Island, together with a sum of £10 000 to be paid annually into the Exchequer, as interest upon the purchase money laid out in acquiring the rights of the Athol family in the Island, the surplus should be at the disposal of the Tynwald Court to be expended upon public works, such expenditure to be, nevertheless, subject to the sanction of the Treasury. The Imperial Government, however, made increased taxation conditional upon a change being effected in the mode of election of the House of Keys, as it was deemed to be unconstitutional that a self-elected body should levy taxes upon a Population which did not elect the persons who taxed them. This reform was effected in 1866, and the first popular election took place in April 1867.

In a community so intensely conservative as the Manx, it would have been idle to expect any great or immediate change in the composition or temper of the newly constituted legislature. Even the personnel of the old House of Keys was largely represented in the new House—thirteen out of the twenty-four members having belonged to the old self-elected Chamber; while the old parties in the House, representing, respectively, the Conservative, or Country, and the Progressive, or Town, interests, still confronted each other in almost unchanged strength, when the newly elected House met for business in June. The first real trial of strength between the two parties took place, during the winter of 1867—8, over the New Highway Bill; one of the proposals of which continued the payment, by the towns possessing local Boards, of a highway rate of three shillings per house. In this preliminary encounter, the Towns Party, weak in numbers, and without organisation, was badly defeated; and the House decided to retain the objectionable impost—a decision which was promptly met by the Douglas Town Board, with a resolution to suspend the further prosecution of the town drainage works, and also to send a deputation of their body to lay their case before the Lieut.Governor. Next year, the struggle over this obnoxious tax was renewed in the Council, which adopted a series of resolutions, almost identical with those which had been passed by the Keys in the preceding year; except that, by an additional clause, the towns possessing local government powers (Douglas and Ramsey) were exempted from taxation for highway purposes. But, when these resolutions came before the Keys, a few weeks later, this exempting clause was struck out, and an amendment substituted, forming a common fund for highway and street purpose, to which both town and country were to contribute equally. At a subsequent conference between the two branches of the Legislature, the Council stated fully its objections to the novel proposal; and the Keys, yielding the point, fell back upon their old position—-a tax upon the objecting towns, Douglas and Ramsey, of three shillings per house, towards the maintainence of the country roads, these towns, in addition, having to form and maintain their own streets, out of their own funds.

During the two years thus occupied with this discussion of the Highway Question, a number of measures were adopted by the Insular Legislature, of great practical importance to the further progress of the country, and the assimilation of its laws and modes of procedure, with those of England. Among those were—The Appellate Jurisdiction Act, the Petty Sessions, and Summary Jurisdiction Acts, the Criminal Code, the Limited Liability Act, the Real Property Act—making real property liable to the payment of debts and devisable by will—The Wills Act, the Adulteration Act, and the Registration of Deeds Act. The country, also, was making steady progress in all its various industries, and the people were generally prosperous and contented. The revenue was in a most satisfactory position, the budget for the year ending the 31st March, 1868, showing an increase of £3,500, notwithstanding considerable reductions in the duties on tea and other articles; the trade of the Island, especially its ,summer trade in connection with the visiting season, was rapidly growing; agriculture was making great strides, under the stimulus of the increasing demands of the local markets, as well as of a considerable foreign trade; the old coast fisheries for herrings were more energetically prosecuted, and new fishing grounds for mackerel were established off the south-west coasts of Ireland; the mineral treasures of the country were explored with greater diligence, old mines being worked with more energy and success, and new ones being opened in various parts of the Island; the towns, especially Douglas and Ramsey, and to a less extent Peel, were in a Prosperous condition; work was plentiful, and wages good; the indigent poor were more carefully and systematically provided for; local improvements of great utility and value, were undertaken especially in the towns under local boards; new roads were formed to open up fresh and more attractive routes to visitors; and, in town and Country alike, there were unmistakable signs of a general and much needed revival of prosperity.

The growth of this summer trade was one of the most striking features of this extraordinary revival of Insular prosperity. Originating in the earliest days of the railway system in England, this trade had grown steadily year by year, until it now exceeded all the resources of the Insular harbours to accommodate it ; and unless the new prosperity of the country was to he checked at its main source, it was seen to be an absolute necessity to improve and enlarge the harbour accommodation of the Island. This necessity had, indeed, been felt for many years; and numerous appeals had been made by the Insular Legislature and Executive to the English Government, to carry out the necessary works. To understand the position, it must be remembered that, from the period of the Revestment, the English Government had taken possession of the whole of the Insular revenues, merely disbursing sufficient out of them to maintain the local executive in the most meagre and unsatisfactory manner. The Acts of Parliament, under which these revenues were raised, expressly stipulated that the surpluses remaining after the payment of the necessary expenses of the local administration should be applied to the improvement of the Insular harbours, and to the encouragement of the trade and manufactures of the Island; but these provisions were systematically disregarded by the English Government, and nothing which could be helped was spent upon the Island. Under this selfish policy, the condition of the Manx harbours had gone rapidly from bad to worse, The roughly constructed piers and quays which had sprung up during the smuggling period, became so ruinous and decayed that the Commissioners appointed in 1791, to inquire into the condition of the Island reported that the harbour of Douglas had fallen into a bad condition, that a great part of the pier had been carried away by storms, and that, if it was not attended to, the whole would soon go to ruin. These representations resulted in the erection of the "Old Red Pier"—an admirably built structure, all the circumstances considered, 540 feet long, and 40 feet broad, except at its extremity, which was 90 feet broad. The foundation stone of this work was laid by the Duke of Athol (Governor in chief of the Island), on the 24th April, 1793, but the greater part of its cost, £22,000, was defrayed by "The British Society for extending the fisheries, and improving the sea coasts of the Kingdom." This Society, of which the Duke of Atholl was one of the Commissioners, also expended large sums in improving the various fishing stations of the Island. In 1830, the trade of the Island with the opposite coasts had become so important, that a company was formed in Douglas for running a line of steamers between Douglas and Liverpool. In 1837, in consequence of strong representations to the English Government from the Insular Harbour Commissioner supported by influential public meetings in Liverpool, a small pier known as the jetty, was built on the south side of the entrance to the harbour, to lessen the force of inshore seas in the harbour. By an Act of Parliament, passed in 1845, a sum of £2,300 was ordered to be paid to the Receiver-General out of the Insular surplus revenue for the maintenance of the Manx harbours. But this concession was soon found to be inadequate to the necessities of the case; and, in 1853, in consequence of the repeated and urgent representations of the Insular authorities, a further grant of one-ninth of the gross revenue of the Island was made for harbour improvements. The necessary funds having, at last, been thus obtained, steps were immediately taken to provide the much needed work, and, in 1861, the Tynwald Court adopted the plans of Mr. Abernethy. C.E., for breakwaters at Douglas, Ramsey, and Peel. These works were to consist of a structure of creosoted timber, resting upon a rubble foundation; and the estimated cost was, for Douglas £45,000, and for Ramsey and Peel about £10,000 each. Work was begun upon them without delay; and Governor Loch laid the foundation stone of the Peel breakwater, on 6th June, 1863, amid great popular rejoicings. But it was soon seen that these works, as planned, were too weak to withstand the force of the winter storms off the Manx coasts. During the winter of 1863, signs of weakness began to show themselves in the Douglas Head work; and so evident did its failure become, that, before it had attained half its full length of 1,100 feet, the Legislature, at the request of the Governor, caused a searching inquiry into its condition to be made by Mr. Hawkshaw, C E. But, before anything could be done towards carrying out Mr. Hawkshaw’s suggestions, another great storm, on January 29th and 30th, 1865, swept over the country and carried away the last fragments of this unfortunate work.

The failure of this attempt to protect the port of Douglas rendered it necessary to reconsider the whole question, and to devise fresh works strong enough to resist the rough assaults of the sea; and, a more difficult task still, to raise the funds for the construction of these works. Ultimately, after a long and difficult negotiation, the consent of the English Government was obtained to the Tynwald Court regulating the taxation of the Island; and applying the revenues thus raised, after paying the annual sum of £10.000 into the Imperial Exchequer, and defraying the expenses of the Insular Administration, to the improvement of the Insular harbours, and the carrying out of other public works. On the 15th March, 1866, Governor Loch laid this arrangement before the Tynwald Court; and also explained the condition annexed to this concession by the Paramount Authority—that the House of Keys should give up its privilege of self election, and become a popularly elected body, as it was originally. This condition was reluctantly accepted by the Keys; and the necessary arrangements were accordingly carried out by the two Governments.

Meantime, evidence of the requirements of the port of Douglas was being taken, and plans of the necessary works inspected by a Committee of the Tynwald Court, under the presidency of the Lieut.Governor; and on the 23rd November, a report was presented to the Court, recommending the construction of a landing pier from the Pollock Rocks—a reef of rugged rocks on the north side of the harbour. After considerable discussion, Mr. (afterwards, Sir John) Coode’s plans for this work were adopted by the Government—the pier to be a composite work, 400 feet long; 200 feet of built concrete blocks, and 200 feet of a timber viaduct; and its estimated cost was to be £21,000. In addition to this landing pier, plans were prepared by Mr. Coode for other works of a protective character; which were laid before the reformed Legislature, in the following June. After a series of warm debates, in which the Lieut. Governor appeared as the strenuous and persistent advocate of a large and comprehensive system of outer works, which was opposed on economical grounds with equal obstinacy by a considerable section of the Court, the further consideration of the matter was adjourned on the 2nd March, 1869, pending the receipt of further information by the Court. During this long consideration of the proposed outer works, the construction of the landing pier had been going on steadily; subject, however, to certain alterations in its form and length. By a resolution of the Tynwald Court, of the 28th March, 1868, that portion of the pier which was to have been an open timber work was ordered to be built of concrete blocks, like the remainder of the work; and, in March, 1869, a further sum of £10,000 was voted towards its cost. making £35,000, to that date. Further sums of £5,500, and £9,900 for casing the Peel and Ramsey breakwaters respectively were voted at the same time. Mr. W. Powell, C.E., was also appointed resident engineer to the Harbour Commissioners, at a salary of £1,200 per annum and allowances. In May, 1869, the debates on the proposed outer works were renewed; and in July, it was decided to carry work B (the Battery Pier) to a length of 450 feet, at a cost of about £160,000. It was also decided that a further sum of £10,000, snaking £45,000 altogether, should be applied to the completion of the New Landing Pier; and £8,500 for the formation of an Approach Road to the Battery Pier, on the south side of the harbour.

Contemporaneously with these proceedings, an attempt was made by the Imperial Government to convert the beautiful, land-locked bay of Port Erin, on the south west coast of the Island, into an imperial harbour of refuge, by throwing a protective breakwater across its entrance. The Manx and other fishermen employed in the fisheries off these coasts, had for many years agitated for the erection of a small landing pier, on the south side of this sheltered inlet; but the English Government, having at length yielded to the representations of those interested, proceeded to carry out a much larger work, with the intention of providing protection not only for the local fishermen, but also for the shipping navigating the Irish Sea. This work, upon which the English Government spent altogether a sum of nearly £60,000, took the form of a stone breakwater, 800 feet long, running across the opening of the bay, from the south point of the land, with a deep water landing pier on the inner side of the work; and was begun on the 26th October, 1864. It was pushed on with great energy, under the superintendence of Mr Coode; and, after that gentleman’s other professional engagements began to necessitate his frequent absence in England, its supervision was committed to Mr W. Powell. The situation of the work, however, was badly chosen and the amount set aside for its cost, by the English Government, was absurdly small. Placed at the extreme point of the bay, and exposed without the slightest protection to the violent gales to which this coast was subject, it met with frequent and disastrous injuries from storms almost from the first, while its foundation of loose rubble, was constantly worn away by the strong tidal currents. In February, 1868, damage to the amount of over £12,000 was done to it by a succession of heavy gales. On the 7th July, 1869, when abont £50,000 of the amount of its estimated cost had been expended, and it was still far from completed, a secret session of the Tynwald Court was held in Castletown, after a visit of inspection to Port Erin, at which a sum of £13,060 was voted out of the Insular revenue to "complete" the work.

Another matter of great importance to the public interests, which had been agitating the country for some years, was the question of removing the various government offices and the judicial courts from Castletown, the ancient capital of the Island, to Douglas its modern capital. The way for this change had been gradually Preparing for a long time past, by the rapid growth of Douglas, and the general recognition of its greater suitability from its central position and convenience of access from all parts; but it was precipitated by the action of the owner of Government House, who noticed Governor Hope, in 1859, to give up possession of the house. Unable to obtain other suitable premises in Castletown, he and his successors were compelled to go to Douglas; and as they found it necessary to have the public offices and courts near their own official residence, the transference of the seat of the Government gradually became an accomplished fact. The superiority of Douglas, as the centre of the executive and administrative business of the country, was so evident, that one of the first official acts of Governor Loch, was to announce, early in 1864, his intention of holding the Common Law Courts alternatively in Douglas and Castletown, in place of exclusively in the latter town. During the next three years, he adopted a similar plan with regard to the meetings of the Legislature. These tentative arrangements were found to be so convenient, that a strong feeling in favour of extending and making them more general, grew up among all concerned; and, in October, 1867, a deputation from the House of Keys was appointed to ask the Lieut-Governor to take the necessary steps for the removal of the Tynwald and other Courts to Douglas. A long and involved controversy followed, in the course of which the hostile Castletown faction stubbornly resisted the further degradation of their town; and by skilfully playing local interests against each other, and even by making one-sided representations to the Home Secretary, succeeded in blocking the reform, and in delaying for many years the full accomplishment of this useful measure. Various proposals were discussed for the removal of the Legislature and the Courts, and for the erection of suitable buildings for their accommodation; but they fell through owing to the continued opposition of factious parties. Ultimately, the Douglas Court House was enlarged and fitted up to accommodate the legislature and the various law courts; and, in 1879, the premises of the Bank of Mona were bought by the Insular Government, and altered to meet the requirements of the executive departments, and of the legislature. The sessions of the Council and the Keys, when sitting as separate branches of the legislature, are held in these buildings; but, when sitting together, as the Tynwald Court, they are still held in the Douglas Courthouse. This latter building, however, is not suitable for this purpose; and more convenient and better arranged buildings are now in course of erection upon a site adjoining the Government Buildings.

On the 6th July, 1870, the Lieut. -Governor, acting as the Insular Chancellor of the Exchequer, laid before the Tynwald Court a large scheme of additional public works, with the design of conciliating the sectional opposition, which his project for removing the public business to Douglas was encountering. The works now proposed included a new Court-house and House of Assembly in Douglas, at an estimated cost of £14,191 ; £30,300 for additional harbour works at Ramsey; £6,000 for harbour works at Peel; and £7,950 for harbour works at Castletown— a total proposed expenditure of £58,441. After an elaborate exposition of the financial position of the Island by the Lieut.-Governor, votes of £28,800 for harbour works at Ramsey; of £6,340 for harbour improvements at Castletown; and of £14,200 for the proposed new Court-house and House of Assembly at Douglas, were passed. Three weeks later, a sum of £4,500 was voted for the repair of the reel quays. Immediately after the passing of this vote, a motion was made by Mr R. J. Moore, member for Peel, and Mr B. Sherwood, one of the members for Glanfaba, that a Committee should be appointed to report upon the additional harbour accommodation required at Peel. This motion was seconded by Deemster Stephen, but was opposed by the Lieut. -Governor, who said that at present the revenue could not provide works which, according to Mr Powell, would cost at least £25,000; and that, if the Court passed any such vote, he should feel bound to veto it. This announcement was received by Mr Sherwood with a spirited protest, as unconstitutional, and calculated to prevent discussion; and he asserted that the Governor, sitting as a member of that Court, had no right to threaten to veto a subject before hand. A warm passage of arms ensued between the Lieut.. Governor and Mr Sherwood, which ended in the motion being referred to the Harbour Commissioners, who were directed to prepare plans and estimates for the Peel works.


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