[from D. Robertson, Tour, 1794]



CASTLETOWN, though dignified with the residence of the Governor of the Isle, is in wealth and mercantile importance greatly inferior to Douglas. It is however an airy and pleasant town; and though considerably smaller, surpasses the other in neatness; the houses being more uniformly elegant, and the streets more spacious and regular. The town is divided by a small creek, which opens into a rocky and dangerous bay. The difficulty of entering its harbour certainly in some degree injures its commerce. A considerable quantity of grain is however annually exported; and a variety of merchantise as well: but the articles of rum, wine, sugar, tobacco, &c. according to the regulations of the Customs, being admissible only into the port of Douglas, are from thence conveyed to the other towns of the Island.

In the centre of the town, Castle-Rushen rears his gloomy and majestic brow, and for several miles overlooks the subject country. This solid and magnificent pile was raised in the year 960, by Guttred, a Prince of the Danish line, who lies obscurely buried in the edifice he had founded; leaving it as the most durable monument of his regal dignity. It is built on a rock; and before the introduction of artillery was deemed impregnable. The figure of the Castle is irregular; and by some travellers is said to resemble that of Elsinore. A stone glacis, supposed to have been built by Cardinal Wolsey, surrounds it. For several ages it has braved the injuries of time; and still retains, with its towers and battlements, the gloomy and formidable grandeur of Gothic architecture.

Before the subjugation of Man by the English, the kings of the Island resided here in all the warlike pomp of those barbarous ages; supporting their splendour and dignity by oppressing, or destroying, mankind.

In the annals of modern history the Isle of Man is distinguished by Hume, as the last place in Europe, tributary to the English, which yielded to the arms of the Republic. After the decollation of James, the Seventh Earl of Derby (for his enthusiastic loyalty to Charles the First) his lady, a French woman of princely birth and heroic spirit, sought with her children an asylum in Castle-Rushen; and presuming on the valour of Sir Thomas Armstrong (1), the fidelity of Captain Christian (2), and the attachment of the Islanders, flattered herself with the hopes of defending it against the Republican army. However, when Colonels Birch and Duckenfield, with ten armed vessels invaded the Island, Christian, either possessing less zeal, or more prudence than his Lady, surrendered this Fortress to their first summons; and thereby saved the inhabitants of the Isle from bloodshed and misery: Yet, for this generosity he has been represented by the sycophants of Royalty, as the betrayer, while in truth he was the preserver, of his country.

The pride of the Countess of Derby was severely wounded by this event. She was, however, honoured with generosity and respect, during her captivity in Castle-Rushen. The Republican soldiers, remembering her gallant defence of Latham-house, admired her heroism: the officers emulated each other, in paying a just deference to the dignity of her mind, and the delicacy of her sex: while the Majesty of the English Republic disdained to resent the arrogance of the seventh Earl of Derby, by any indignity to his captive widow.

On the restoration of Charles the Second she returned to England, with the sanguine hopes of recovering the whole of her Lord's forfeited estates, and of obtaining ample vengeance on her enemies. But this prodigal and voluptuous Monarch was too much engaged in prosecuting his oven pleasures, to revenge the injuries, or reward the sufferings of his friends. Among many others, the Countess of Derby was neglected; which so affected her lofty spirit, that with the highest indignation she retired to Knowsley, where she soon after died, bewailing the ingratitude of kings.

Castle Rushen still retains an air of royalty. Its Gothick apartments are occupied by the Governor, and the barracks by some companies of soldiers, who are seldom permitted to reside much longer than a twelvemonth in the Island; but whose intercourse with the inhabitants of Castletown increases their trade, and undoubtedly contributes to render them more polished and affable than their neighbours of Ramsay and Peel.

The Governor of the Island is invested with ample powers (3). He is the Representative of Majesty; and a council, consisting of the Bishop, Attorney-General, Clerk; of the Rolls, and Deemster, is appointed to guide and sanction his decisions. He is Captain-General of the troops in the Island, and sole Judge in the Court of Chancery. In his name all arrests and judgments are issued; and without his permission no person can (without occasioning a heavy penalty (4) to the master of the vessel that carries him) depart from the Island. The Governor is also an important member of the Manks legislature, for his assent, with the advice of his council, constitutes the arts of the House of Keys into a law; which remains valid, till it is either confirmed, or annulled, by His Majesty's commands, communicated to the Governor by the Secretary of State for the Home Department.

Castletown also derives importance from the courts of Chancery and Common Law being held here: but as these are now conducted on principles nearly similar to our English courts of justice, I shall only mention two peculiarities which still remain. Although any person may plead his own cause, yet none but natives are allowed to practise at the Manks bar. Besides this birthright, a Manksman enjoys another which is more universally important. No native, without intending to leave his country, can be imprisoned for Debt. his effects alone can be distrained; while a loathsome and hideous prison (5) is ever ready, for the most trifling debts, to receive the unfortunate stranger. However, on swearing that he has no maintenance, he is entitled to 3s. 6d. a week from the creditor: and this generosity of the law, perhaps more than the humanity of his creditor, generally prevents any tedious imprisonments for debt in this dungeon.

Before I conclude this subject it may not be improper to mention, that, for the most part, justice is impartially distributed to the native and alien: though sometimes the prejudices of a Manks judge, or a Manks jury, prove injurious to the stranger. 

Near the castle stands the House of Keys, a building certainly not corresponding with the dignity of the representatives of the country. But of this legislative body I shall give a more ample account in a subsequent chapter, on the constitution of the Island.



1 Governor of the Castle.

2 Commander of the Insular Forces.

3 The Governor and Lieutenant Governor have equal and independent powers; but the salary of the one is 400l. per annum, and of the other only 2401.  

4 The master of a vessel carrying a debtor off the Island, without the Governors' pass, is subject to a penalty of lot. besides being amenable to pay his debts: and on returning, the vessel may be seized, till satisfaction is given. The pass costs 6d. Manks currency). 

5 dungeon in Castle Rushen,


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