[From Brown's Directory, 1894]

Historical Chapter


Meanwhile, the new low-water landing pier at Douglas was making rapid progress towards completion. In 1870, it was so far advanced that it was made use of by the steamers to land and embark passengers; and on the 1st July, 1872, it was formally opened by the Lieut. Governor, and named the Queen Victoria Pier.

The formation of this work, by landing the increasing crowds of summer visitors in apart of the town composed of narrow, winding lanes, in which two vehicles could not pass each other, made it imperatively necessary to form a better and more attractive means of access into the town. Accordingly, as the Victoria Pier approached it completion, a number of schemes for accomplishing this object were brought forward and advocated by their supporters with energy. Most of these were plans for providing a new street from the Pier to Prospect Hill only but among them were two or three which included also the construction of a marine promenade, by the enclosure of a strip of the foreshore. The best of these latter schemes was one drawn up by Mr. C. 0. Ellison, C.E., of Liverpool, who proposed to form a new street to Prospect Hill, and, in addition, a promenade along the southern half of the bay, 50 feet broad, to be called the Loch Parade, after his Excellency the Lieut. Governor. The movement was supported by a number of prominent Douglas professional and business men, and from the first received the practical sympathy and assistance of the Lieut. Governor. In July, 1871, about twelve months after the first publication of Mr. Ellison’s scheme, and when several other plans were before the public, a deputation from the Douglas Chamber of Commerce, consisting of Messrs. Greig, Todhunter, and T. Cubbon, was received by the Douglas Town Board, and strongly urged the Board to carry out the proposed work. But, after listening to the statements of the deputation, the Board adjourned the further consideration of the subject to their next meeting. This interview was followed by an official communication to the Board, from the Limit. -Governor, suggesting that a deputation from their body should wait upon him to consider the matter with him and to learn what lie was prepared to recommend the Tynwald Court to do in the matter. On the 6th August, a deputation of the whole Board accordingly waited upon the Lieut. Governor. In this interview, his Excellency expressed in strong terms his sense of the necessity and importance of the proposed improvement, and also the desirability of its being carried out by the Town Board; and then read to them the conditions upon which he would be prepared to recommend the Tynwald Court to assist them. These conditions, which were afterwards very largely modified, were :—That he would recommend a government guarantee of four per cent, interest upon any loan necessary to the undertaking; to procure an Act of Tynwald to enable the Board (or, if they declined the task, a company) to purchase the ground and houses necessary for opening op the proposed new street: the granting of compulsory powers of purchase, within certain limits; and a provision for an equitable system of valuation of the property required. On the 15th August, the Town Commissioners formally discussed the question, as thus brought before them, and Mr. C. Cleator moved, and Mr. McGhie seconded :—That the Town Commissioners undertake to engage a surveyor for the purpose of preparing plans and procuring a valuation of the cheapest route and most direct line for a new street from the bottom of Prospect Hill to the Landing Pier.

To this motion no direct negative was raised, but an indirect block was proposed in an amendment moved by Mr Kinley, and seconded by Mr Craine :—That before any actual expense is gone into by the Commissioners, in connection with plans, the Tynwald Court be petitioned for the remittance of the three shillings rate on houses in the town, or to guarantee preliminary expenses for obtaining plans and survey.

Ultimately the amendment was altered so as to make it a preliminary to any actual expenditure, that an inquiry be addressed to the Governor whether in the event of the Town Commissioners not carrying out the proposed street he would recommend the Tynwald Court to pay the cost of survey, &c.; and, so altered, this amendment was carried by a majority of one. The Board then unanimously passed the following :—That the Commissioners will be glad of any information and plans of route for a new street, from the Parade to Prospect Hill, from any persons who may feel interested in the improvement of the town.

The Lieut. Governor next appealed to the Town Members, Messrs. Taubman, Moore, and Dumbell, recapitulating his interview with the Town Commissioners, and their reply that, though they recognised the great usefulness of the proposed New Street, they did not feel justified in incurring so great a responsibility without first consulting their constituents In consequence of this communication, the Three Members for the Town addressed a requisition to the High-Bailiff, asking him to call a Town’s Meeting to consider the question. A meeting was accordingly held, in the Court House, on the 15th November, 1871, at which the following resolutions were unanimously passed :—That, in the opinion of this meeting, a new street ought to be opened from the New Landing Pier, through the centre of the town, to the bottom of Prospect Hill.

That this meeting, having taken into consideration the suggestions of his excellency the Governor, as delivered to the Town Commissioners on the 7th August last, is of opinion that the principles laid down by his Excellency, if adopted (with some necessary alterations as to detail) will form a basis upon which the requisite improvements may be carried out; and it is, therefore, hereby resolved that his Excellency be respectfully requested to select a surveyor of known ability, not resident in this Island, and entirely unconnected with any person in Douglas, and that the instructions to such surveyor be :—(1) To lay out upon a plan, and survey the intended new street, in such a particular course as he may think most advisable. (2) To estimate the probable amount to be paid for the property required to be taken for the purpose. (3) To estimate the cost for taking down and removing alt obstacles, and opening out the new street. (4) To estimate the probable value of property to be acquired along the new street for building purposes. That the surveyor’s charges be provided for, if requisite, by certain persons who may this day guarantee payment thereof; but it any money be advanced by such persons, the same shall be repaid to them out of any funds hereafter provided to carry out the proposed work, or out of some public fund.

That, upon the surveyor’s report being returned to his Excellency, he be requested to direct a copy thereof to be forwarded to one of the three members for the town, and another copy to the Town Commissioners, and that the same be laid before a public meeting of the inhabitants of the town; and, if approved of, that the Town Commissioners be then prepared to elect, and do then state to the meeting, whether they will take part in carrying out the proposed work; and, if they decline, ; that the meeting determine how it shall be carried out; and that in either case, directions be given to procure an Act of Tynwald, in order to proceed with the undertaking.

In accordance with these resolutions the Lieut. Governor called in the services of Mr. Culshaw, a Liverpool surveyor, who, in June, 1872, sent in plans of a new street, and reported that he estimated the net cost of forming this street at about £20,000. On the 2nd July, the Town Commissioners held a special meeting to consider this report, at which serious objections were taken to the line of the street adopted by Mr. Culshaw; and, ultimately, the following resolution was come to :—" That, seeing the necessity which at present exists for better communication between the Queen’s Pier and the upper part of the town, and that the prosperity of the town demands a new street; we, the Douglas Town Commissioners, do agree to take part in the formation of such a street, and seek to secure similar terms and powers to those proposed in his Excellency the Governor’s communication of the 7th August, 1871, believing that such terms, &c., would cover the loss necessarily incurred; but we do not bind ourselves to the adoption of any particular plan. or route, until we are in possession of further information as to the value o( the property along the line of the route of the street." On the 15th November, the adjourned Town’s Meeting was held in the Court House, which was crowded in every part. At this meeting, the arguments for and against Mr. Culshaw’s route and estimates were lengthily discussed—Mr. B. Sherwood being the principal speaker against Mr. Culshaw’s plans and maps : and Messrs G. W. Dumbell, W. F. Moore, A. W. Adams, and A. N. Laughton being the chief speakers in their favour. In the end, the following motion, proposed by Mr. Sherwood, and seconded by Mr. D. D. Lewin, was adopted :—‘ That before any proposed line of new street be approved of, the Town Commissioners be requested to obtain estimates of the cost of making the various lines of the new street proposed; and that the estimates thus obtained be submitted to the public before any particular route be resolved upon." In consequence of a second communication from the Lieut. Governor, offering to submit all new street plans, whose net cost did not exceed £20,000, to an independent surveyor, and two other persons, provided they were received by him not later than the 25th August, four separate plans for a new street were sent in; Mr. Culshaw’s the net cost of which he now placed at £17,214; Mr. Ellison’s, practically proposing the line of the present Victoria-street, the net cost of which he estimated at £9,674. This scheme also included an embankment of the foreshore of about 1,000 feet, a part of his original scheme for a Marine Parade, which he calculated would cost the town nothing, as the expense of its construction would be repaid by the sale of new building land. Mr. Todhunter’s plan; and Mr. Robertson’s plan. On the 19th November, the three arbitrators, Messrs. Alderman Picton, Whiteman, and Sherlock, made their award in favour of Mr. Culshaw’s plan; passing over Mr. Ellison’s plan on the ground that it was only part of a much larger scheme, including an embankment of the foreshore and the formation of a marine parade, which was beyond the scope of their instructions. On the 3rd January, 1873, the Lieut..Governor transmitted a long communication to the Town Commissioners, in which he laid down the procedure proper for carrying out the construction of the new street, the cost of which he now estimated at £30,000, including compensation to dispossessed tenants. To meet this charge he proposed to apply the three shillings house tax, a general town rate, and a special improvement rate upon the property benefitted. After an interview with his Excellency, on the 4th inst., the Town Commissioners decided to instruct Mr. Adams to draw up a Bill empowering them to construct the new street on Mr. Culshaw’s plan. On the 18th February, this Bill was introduced into the Legislature; and on the 9th June it came before the Council for consideration. Meanwhile, however, the movement in favour of Mr. Ellison’s scheme was steadily growing, and being headed by Mr. Sherwood and other prominent townsmen, it rapidly gained strength and consistency. Accordingly, when the New Street Bill came before the Council, it was met by a petition signed by 450 ratepayers, in favour of Mr. Ellison’s scheme. Messrs. Sherwood and Laughton addressed the Council at length in support of the petition, and Mr. Ellison gave evidence as to the nature and cost of his scheme, showing, by plans and figures, that the town would obtain, by his plan, a magnificent marine promenade along the southern half of the bay, as well as a new street, for the same amount as by Mr. Culshaw’s scheme, it would have to give for a new street alone. The consideration of the New Street Bill was resumed on the 17th June, when Mr. Adams, counsel for the Town Commissioners, explained, on behalf of his clients, that having brought forward the Bill, in the assumption that the line of street had been definitely settled, they would withdraw it altogether if that point were re-opened. Acting, therefore, under these instructions, he should decline to call or to cross-examine any witnesses, and leave the matter with the Council. Mr Laughton, acting with Mr Sherwood in opposition to the Culshaw scheme, after expressing his surprise and regret at this announcement, presented a second petition against the Bill, signed by 613 ratepayers, which, with the 450 who had signed the former petition, made up a total of 1,063 out of a total register of 1,500. After hearing evidence against the Culshaw line of route, and rebutting evidence in its favour— called by the Lieut. Governor, the Council passed the Bill, with some unimportant modifications. On the 7th August, it was road a first time, in the Keys, after which the House, by 18 to 2, passed a motion asking that the whole of the plans which had been reported by Messrs Picton and others, should be laid before the House; and also the land valuations made by the Commissioners’ valuers: and further, that the Governor be requested to obtain from Mr Powell the cost of enclosing and filling in the part of the foreshore which the Town Commissioners proposed to purchase, and also an estimate from the said Commissioners’ valuers of the probable amount of business compensation, and other incidental expenses attending the making and completing of the street proposed by the Bill. This reasonable request for necessary information was refused by the Lieut..Governor (a strong partisan of the Culshaw scheme), and when the House again met, on the 28th October, a communication was read from him, stating his inability to give the information required. Upon this, a motion, by Messrs Sherwood and R. Corrin, was passed by 19 to 2, appointing a Committee of the House, consisting of Messrs W. B. Christian, Farrant, Gell, LaMothe, and Stevenson, to, take evidence and report to the House, within two months, upon the several points respecting which the House required information; after which Mr. Sherwood gave notice of his intention to move for leave to bring in a Bill for carrying out the Ellison scheme for an embankment and marine promenade and a new street. On 26th November, Mr. Sherwood asked leave to introduce this Bill; but it was refused on technical grounds. On the 9th December, the Keys Committee sat in the Douglas Court-house, and took evidence on the various schemes before the public. On the 17th December. the report of this Committee was read to the House, by Mr. Christian, and proved to be strongly in favour of the Ellison scheme. Mr. Sherwood then moved for leave to bring in a Bill for carrying out this scheme; but on Mr. Adams, counsel for the Town Commissioners, explaining that his clients were willing that their Bill should be amended as to the line of the pro. posed street, Mr. Sherwood withdrew his application for leave, and himself took charge of the Commissioners’ Bill on the understanding that it should be so amended as to substitute the Ellison scheme for the Culshaw scheme. The measure now progressed rapidly, and passed its last reading by a majority of 16 to 1. On the 29th January, 1874, the Town Commissioners held a special meeting to consider a communication from the Lieut. Governor, enclosing copy of additional report of the arbitrators, stating that Mr Ellison’s plan presented many decided advantages over Mr. Culshaw’s. In his enclosing letter, the Lieut..Governor laid down the revised conditions upon which Government assistance would he granted. towards carrying out the amended scheme. These conditions, however, were afterwards, in deference to the objections of the Commissioners, modified in such a way as to be proportionally the same as had been offered towards the cost of the Culshaw scheme. Several meetings were held by the Commissioners; but, being hopelessly divided on the question, they asked the Governor to sanction the submission of the whole question to a direct vote of the ratepayers. This he declined to do; but he agreed to insert a clause in the New Streets Bill providing for the dissolution of the present Board. On the 4th of February, the amended New Streets Bill came before the Council, and passed with a few alterations, the principal of these being a clause constituting the Town Commissioners, with one person nominated by the Lieut.-Governor, to be called the Government Commissioner, to be the body to carry out the Act. On the 5th and 6th the Bill was. re-considered by the Keys, and the Council’s amendments agreed to; and later on in the latter day, a Tynwald Court was held, at which the New Streets Bill was formally signed. On the 21st it received the Royal assent; and on the 3rd March, 1874, it was promulgated on Tynwald Hill.

On the next day, the House of Keys was dissolved by proclamation, after having existed the full term of the law.

On the 24th February, the Town Commissioners met to transact some urgent business in connection with the purchase of the shore for the purposes of the embankment and parade ; and a second meeting was held on the 26th to affix the town seal to the purchase deed. On the 6th March (three days after the promulgation of the Act), all the members of the Board, except Mr J. Robertson,. resigned their seats, and on thy 8th, 9th, and 10th April, elections were held to fill their places. At the first meeting of the new Board, held on the 14th April, communications from the Lieut.-Governor were read announcing the appointment of Mr W. Dalrymple as Government Commissioner on the New Streets Board,, of Mr W. Powell to be engineer to the Board, and of Messrs J. T. Clucas, J.. R. Grieg, and W. Culshaw to be valuers under the Act. At the same meeting a letter from Mr Ellison was read asking for the appointment of architect and surveyor under the Board, on the ground of being the author of the plans adopted. After some conversation, in the course of which the claim of Mr Ellison to consideration on account of the time and money which he had given to the working’ out of the scheme was favourably discussed, it was decided that the Board should form itself into a Committee, and discuss the matter with Mr Ellison. This interview, accordingly, took place after the ordinary business of the Board had been transacted, and resulted in an offer on his part to accept £1000 in lieu of all professional charges. An adjourned meeting was held next day, at which Mr Powell was present, and refused to work from any plans but his own. The Board at. the same time were shown by Mr Sherwood, who had recently been appointed legal adviser to the Board, that the deposited plans for which Mr Ellison claimed compensation, had been drawn up by Mr Cregeen, at his (Mr Sherwood’s) own instructions. Mr Ellison’s services, in respect of the shore enclosure part. of the scheme, were consequently declined by the Board; but he was commissioned to prepare plans and estimates of the new street part of the scheme—the engineering part of the work being in Mr Powell’s department. On the 2nd June, the town valuers’ estimates (excluding compensation) were received from which it appeared that the value of the land required was set down at £26,597, and the value of the land to be re-sold at £20,700, leaving a net deficiency of £5,897. Mr Ellison’s plan and estimates were also received, and showed his estimate to be about £2000 higher than that of the town valuers. Mr Powell’s estimate for the shore enclosure was £22,800, the value of the land for re-sale £19,578—having a deficiency of £3,222. He further calculated that the work would be completed by the end of 1877.

The work to which Douglas had now committed itself involved issues of momentous importance to its future condition. Looking back, after twenty years, upon the situation, the difficulties of the task it had undertaken, and the hopes and fears expressed by those selected to carry it out, will appear to have been exaggerated beyond measure. But it is easy to be wise after the event ; and if we consider the circumstances of the town up to this period, and the character of its known resources, our astonishment at the want of faith of those who threw up their work an despair, and at the half-heartedness of those who took up their dropped task, will disappear, and our admiration of the zeal and energy of those who not only carried out this great work to a successful conclusion, but piloted the town through its subsequent difficulties, will grow in proportion to our knowledge of their labours.

No time was lost in starting the work. On the 18th April, 1874, the Board, and their engineer, Mr. Powell, inspected the shore to be embanked, and marked out the line of the proposed sea-wall, fixing upon a line a little to the seaward of the line on the plan. On the 15th June, the Tynwald Court granted the Board leave to borrow the necessary money; and, on the 19th. work actually began on the shore. From this time the work was pushed on with the utmost vigour-, and in spite of almost constant bickerings with the engineer, who wished to carry it on in the manner and at the rate he was accustomed to in the superintendence of the works undertaken by the Harbour Commissioners, it progressed rapidly. On the 21st April, 1875, Victoria-street (the new street) was opened for traffic as far as Duke-street; and on the 9th June, or less than a year after the laying of the first block of the sea-wall, the Loch Parade was sufficiently advanced to be "informally" opened by the Lieut. -Governor and Mrs. Loch, amid the congratulatory cheers of the crowds who had assembled along its course. On the 21st October, the last block of the sea-wall was laid. The engineering part of the work being now completed, the question of dispensing with the services of Mr. Powell, as engineer, became urgent. On the 2nd November, the Board had an interview with the Lieut.-Governor respecting this matter; and, after some delay interposed by Mr. Powell objecting to dismissal without compensation, his Excellency, unable to withstand the facts placed before him by the Board, wrote to Mr. Powell that the work contemplated by the Act had been completed, and that, therefore, his appointment had terminated on the 24th ult. On the 6th March, 1876, a number of building plots, in Victoria-street and Loch Parade, were sold by auction; the land sold by the Board, to that date, amounting to £21,000. The prices obtained greatly exceeded what had been expected, and the eagerness shown by town tradesmen to obtain them produced an agreeable change in the views of the Board as to the ultimate result. Building commenced as soon as possession of the land was obtained; and in a short time there began to rise along the line of the new street and of the Promenade a series of shops and boarding-houses of a size and character hitherto undreamed of in Douglas. The remaining plots were rapidly sold at enhanced prices; and so great has been the success of this scheme, and so important its effects upon the progress and prosperity of the Island, that the same policy was subsequently adopted with regard to the other parts of the bay of Douglas, as well as upon a very large scale at Ramsey, and also on a smaller scale at Peel, and other places. On the 26th February, 1877, the Loch Parade was formerly declared to be completed by the New Street Board, and by them handed over to the Town Commissioners, in trust for the town. The total cost had been £24,860. The total expenditure upon the new street and the shore enclosure had been £47,496; of which £21,100 had been paid for properties purchased by the improvement, while the total amount realised for land sold had been about £40,000.

Feeling dissatisfied at his abrupt dismissal by the Town Commissioners, and failing to obtain satisfaction from the Board, Mr. Powell instituted legal proceedings for the recovery of one year’s salary of £400. The case dragged its way thorough several adjournments, and judgment was given on the 4th December, 1877—the case being dismissed, on the ground of want of jurisdiction. On the 5th December, 1877, Mr Ellison, undeterred by this result, applied to the Town Commissioners for a settlement of his claim for compensation for the use of his plans of the New Street scheme. On the 7th he addressed a communication to the Lieut.-Governor, enclosing a copy of his letter to the Board, and asking his influence to procure a settlement of his claim. Failing to procure a satisfactory reply, he made a second application, on the 27th April, 1878, offering to submit his claim to arbitration, The Board still refusing to entertain his claim, he entered a suit against the Board, claiming £3,000 damages for the wrongful use of his plans. The case came on for hearing on the 17th July, 1879, before Deemster Drinkwater and a special jury; and after a prolonged trial, resulted in the case being dismissed with costs, on the 14th November, 1879.


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