Saint Michael's Church

Kirk Michael



(including Notes on the Pastoral Staff of the Diocese).



(Hon. Sec. to the Vicar and Wardens of Kirk Michael).


St Michael's Church and Parish

In the early days — say from the tenth century on to probably the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries, the Parish of Michael, or "Kirk Michael" as it was then called, must have been a very important place for two main reasons, the first being that in those early days sittings of Tynwald were regularly held there, and, secondly, that the official residence of the Lord Bishop was in the parish.

The earliest of the Manx Statutes — that is such Acts as have been made and passed by the three estates of the Legislature — the Sovereign, the Governor and Council. and the 24 Keys (of course there were Ordinances which were and are regarded as part of the Common Law, and which are included in the earlier chapters of the Statute Book) recorded in the Statute Book, were passed at a Tynwald "holden "at Kirk Michael, upon the Hill of "Reneurling, the Tuesday next after the "Feast of St. Bartholomew, in the year of "our Lord God 1422."

At this Tynwald, certain men who had attacked "John Walton, Lieutenant of "Mann, sitting in the Court of Kirk "Michaell upon Tuesday next after the "Feast of Corpus Christi, in the year of "our Lord God 1422" were brought up for trial. In describing the attack, it states that the Lieutenant-Governor and the Court were driven off the Hill (now known as " Crook Urleigb," situate about a mile south of the village) and they finally took sanctuary in the Parish. Church, and the Statute continues "the men then being "with him did beate and misuse the "Lieutenant's men in the Church and "Churchyard."

In the Manorial Records, " Kirk Michaell Town" is often referred to in describing property situate in the Village,

The area of the Parish is about 8,773 acres, and the population today is 749, the Parish District containing 396, and the Village 353, a considerable decrease on previous census returns.

The original Parish Church (which would be in existence in the twelfth century) stood in the centre of the village and of the ancient parish burial ground, being surrounded on three sides by the vicar's ancient glebe and clerk's glebe land, and the writer has conversed many times with parishioners who worshipped therein. It was a small and plain rectangular building, with a tower at the west end and a gallery, the admission to which was from the tower, and the lighting arrangements were that every person should carry his own candle. The site of the old Church is marked by a portion of the chancel wall, still standing, near to which is the tomb of the famous Bishop Wilson, the greatest of all Manx Bishops, and in the portion of wall still standing is a tablet stating that Dr. Thomas Wilson (a son of Bishop Wilson) rebuilt the chancel of the old Parish Church in 1776.

Undoubtedly the old Parish Church was built on the site of a still older Treen Church and burial ground, probably the most important Treen Church of the parish, as many traces of early Christian burials have been found in the old burial ground, and the name by which the surrounding ground was known by old people was "Cronk-y-Keilleig" ("the hill of the Church enclosure").

The position of the Church — unlike many old parish churches — is in the centre of the village and population, and is situate on the Treen of Lyre, the headman or chieftain of this treen or tribal division being the leading chieftain of the parish, and probably of a very large district to the north of the present parish boundary. If the inscriptions on some of our Runic Crosses are correctly translated, it is just possible that the original owner of the Hunterstone Brooch (a facsimile of which is now in the Manx Museum), "Malbrida of Lari," was a Manx chieftain or "lawman" and head of the clan occupying the principal Treen in Michael, viz., " Lyre." In 1834, under the provisions of the :Michael Church Act, the Vicar, Wardens, and Sidesmen were empowered — taking into consideration the state of the present Church — by resolution of a special Vestry meeting held oil the 19th July, 1833, to erect a new Church on the Vicar's ancient glebe.

The Church — which by the way is large enough to accommodate about 650 persons — was to be of sufficient dimension to afford a pew for each quarterland, and a pew or pews in the accustomed proportion for intacks, mills and cottages within the parish, the pews to be at least eight feet in length.

The sum of money required to complete the building and furnishing of the nave or body of the Church was to be "borne "and paid by the several proprietors of "quarterlands, intacks, mills and cottages within the parish by a fair and equal assessment, amounting to and not exceeding ten pounds British for each quarterland, to be made, levied and raised in the usual and accustomed manner, and at the time or times specified in the said Act of Vestry."

It is, however, understood that about fifty per cent. of the money necessary to build the Church came from the Church Building Fund, raised by Bishop Ward, across the water.

The cost of building the chancel was probably borne by Bishop Ward's Fund (above referred to), but originally the cost of repairing the chancel was a charge on the impropriate tithes of the parish, which tithes bad on the 4th April, 1774, been purchased by Dr. Thomas Wilson from the Duke of Atholl.

In 1730 Dr. Wilson and others provided money which was formed into a trust for the benefit of clergymen's widows, and in 1774 the impropriate tithes of the parish and these funds were conveyed by Dr. Wilson to the Archdeacon of Mann, the Vicar-General, and the Rectors of Bride and Ballaugh for the time being as trustees, and the repairs of the chancel and the keeping of Bishop Wilson's tomb in repair are (inter alia) at present charges on such trust funds.

A certain parcel of ground called "Corneil-y-Killagh" ("the corner of the Church"), purchased from John Rodgers, was conveyed to the Vicar in lieu of his ancient glebe, the same "for ever here "after to belong to and be the property of "the Vicar of Michael."

The plans were prepared by a Mr John Walsh [sic J Welch], architect, and provision was made at a future date, if necessary, to add a gallery thereto. This need has never arisen, as the population has decreased to such an extent that it is only on rare occasions the Church is now filled.

It was completed in 1836, and consecrated by Bishop Ward. The dedication is to St. Michael and All Angels, the date of the patronal festival being 29th September.

The Church is substantially built, but there is nothing very striking in the design, the architecture being a rather heavy type of Gothic, cruciform in shape, with a large tower at the west end.

A very valuable set of pewter Communion plate, inscribed "K.K. Michael, 1759," including two small plates marked " St. Patrick, 1771," belongs to the Church. These may be seen in a small oak case in the Church.

The silver Chalice at present in use is the Church was presented by Dr. Thomas Wilson in 1755, and is a beautiful specimen of the silversmiths' art of that period. It has the following inscription: "Thos. Wilson, D.D., son of Thos. Lord "Bishop of Sodor and Man, humbly offers this Chalice for the use of the Altar of "KK. Michael, ye place of his nativity, "1755." The silver Patten was presented by Bishop Hildesley in 1758.

There is also a small set of Communion Plate in case (for use on sick visitation) which was presented to the Parish by the late James Hooker Green, of Glen Wyllin. who also presented a very fine carved oak chair, at present used in the chancel.

The family pew of the Lord Bishop is in the chancel, as is also the pew allotted to the Vicarage.

The Communion Table — which, by the way, is trade of oak grown on Bishop's Court — was presented to the Church about the year 1880 by the then curate, the Rev. Charles F. Knight, during the time when the Rev. E. B. Savage was vicar. . This, as well as practically all the other carved oak work in the Church, was carried out by the firm o£ D. Kelly & Son.

The pulpit, lectern, prayer desk, and font are all in the chancel, but outside the Communion rails, and the oak work of these show very fine design and workmanship.

The clock in the tower was presented to the parish by Bishop Bardsley in 1887, and a brass Tablet over the Bishop's pew records this fact.

The present organ — which was previously in use in St. Nicholas' Chapel, Bishop's Court, and which was being replaced by a new one — was presented by Bishop Hill, who also found money for several other alterations and improvements.

The outstanding features of the Apse, or Sanctuary, are the very beautiful stained glass windows, reredos, and carved oak wainscoting.

The centre light, reredos, and wainscoting were erected in 1898 to the memory of the late Joseph Mylchreest, of the White House, by his widow. The oak carving is particularly fine, and is the work of Mr J D. Kelly, the carving in the wainscoting being that of the then Vicar, the Rev. Alfred Morris. The reredos consists of five panels, the centre one, which is the largest, contains an ecclesiastical monogram, wrought in oak on a gold background, diapered with black Maltese crosses and Fleurs-de-Lys. The other four panels, representing the four Evangelists, St. Matthew, St. Mark, St. Luke, and St. John, are painted in oil colours on a gold background, diapered in black and blue with various ecclesiastical designs, and are the work of Mrs. Morris.

The two side lights and a brass tablet, erected in 1913 by the executors of the late Mrs. Walker, are in memory of the Gell family (Captain Gell of the White House).

A beautiful brass tablet, recently erected in the chancel by Mrs. Morris to the memory of the Rev. Alfred Morris, was dedicated by the Lord Bishop on Sunday, 5th December, 1926.

Mr. Morris was Vicar for nearly twenty years, and did good solid work. The tablet is oblong in shape, mounted on an oak base, and the tracery of laurel leaves and roses around the border is exceptionally fine, and is the work of Mr Maile, of London.

Michael War Memorial

The War Memorial Tablet, of Sicilian marble, fixed on the north wall of the nave, on which are inscribed fourteen names of parishioners who fell in the Great War, is a good specimen of designing work by Mr Archibald Knox, of Douglas, and carried out by Messrs Royston & Sons, the carved oak bracket being the work of -Mr J. D. L. Kelly. These were erected in 1922 as the Parish -Memorial to the Fallen. The tablet was unveiled by the Lieutenant-Governor (Sir William Fry) on Easter Monday, 1922. The, singing was on that occasion led by the combined Church and Chapel choirs of the parish, and the Church was filled to overflowing.

To the older generation, the outstanding feature of the entrance to the Parish Church and Burial Ground was the fine old Runic Cross (No. 10 of the, present collection), which stood in a circular base in the centre of the circular drive to the entrance gate. This was, in 1907, removed to a position in the Lychgate.

A feature of the entrance to the Parish Burial Ground is the Lychgate, built to the design of the late Mr Armitage Rigby by the Manx Museum and Ancient Monument Trustees. The foundation stone was laid on Easter -Monday, 1907, by the Lieutenant-Governor (Lord Raglan), and it was formally opened on 16th October. 1907, by Lady Raglan. It contains one of the finest collections of Runic Crosses to be found on the Island.[now moved into the church]

No less than four Bishops are buried in the Parish Burial Ground, viz. : Bishops Wilson, Hildesley. Mason, and Cregan. [A fifth Thornton Duesbury is also now buried here]

In 1910 the old ground was practically closed, and new ground added to the west of, and adjoining, the old burial ground. This was consecrated by Bishop Drury on Easter Day, 1911.

The Vicarage is some considerable distance from the Parish Church, being at the lower end of the village. The Glebe Farm is part of the White House Quarterland, and was purchased by and presented to the parish by Dr. Thomas Wilson in 1743, conditional upon the parishioners afterwards erecting thereon a vicarage house in size equal to the vicarage at Braddan. This condition was duly fulfilled, and it is apparent that both vicarages were built to the same plan.

In connection with the Church in the parish, there is also a Mission Room and Sunday School at Spooyt Vane, built at the sole expense of Miss Gore Currie, a niece of Bishop Powys, who personally superintended the Sunday School there for many years.

Parish hall (phot of  Gordon Bennett trials 1908 ?)

There is also a Church Room in the village, which was the first of its kind to be built in the Diocese. Erected in 1894, the foundation stone was laid by the late Joseph Mylchreest, H.K., of the White-House, and formally opened by Bishop Straton on Easter-Monday, 1895. This Room is a permanent monument to the energy and foresight of the, then Vicar, the Rev. Alfred Morris, who took a leading part in the work.

The list of Vicars of Michael contains many illustrious names, men who have attained to high office in the Church.

The following is a complete list of Vicars from 1511: —

Sir John McCorkill, 1511;
Donald Graham,1571;
Philip Leighe,1605;
Sir Hugh Cannell,1609;
Samuel Wattleworth,1672;
Sir Edward Nelson,1680;
Henry Norris,1686;
John Allen,1734;
Edward Moore,1735 (who was also Vicar-General) ;
James Wilks, 1752 (Vicar-General and Episcopal Registrar) ;
John Crellin, 1771;
Daniel Mylrea, 1799;
Nicholas Christian, 1802;
Thomas Harrison, 1808;
Joseph Brown, 1818 (also Episcopal Registrar) ;
James Butler Knill Kelly, 1860;
William Clavill Ingram, 1864,
Robert Airey, 1874;
Ernest Bickersteth Savage, 1878;
William Hawley, 1883;
Alfred Morris, 1894;
Reginald Bradley Jolly, 1913;
Henry Thomas Devall, 1914;
Edward Thomas Pakenham, 1922;
Charles Alfred Cannan, 1926.


THE Pastoral Staff of the Diocese of Sodor and Mann has a most interesting history. The material of which it is made is Manx throughout, and it was presented to the Diocese when the late Dr. Drury, D.D., who was a Manxman, occupied the See.

In a recent conversation with the present Bishop (the Right Reverend Charles Leonard Thornton Duesbery, D.D.), it was suggested that I should write a short history of the above Staff.

In passing, I would point out that the Pastoral Staff used by the great Bishop Wilson can be seen in the Manx Museum in Douglas, and labelled "Bishop Wilson's Mace." It is of very simple design, being made of bog oak, with gilt ornamentation, the short shaft being surmounted by a bishop's mitre, instead of the usual shepherd's crook, as will be seen from the accompanying illustration.

It is impossible to say how long this Staff was in use after the death of Bishop Wilson, which took place in 1755. During the Episcopates of Bishops Powys, Hill, Bardesley, and Straton, I, at least, have never seen a Pastoral Staff carried at any official function in Kirk Michael Parish Church, when any of the above-named Bishops took part.

When Bishop Drury was appointed to the Bishopric of Sodor and Mann, in 1907, there was no Pastoral Staff in use, but in 1908, Miss Talbot, of Douglas, very kindly offered to provide one for the Diocese as a memorial to her father, the Rev. Theophilus Talbot. The arrangements for obtaining the Staff were entrusted to Mr. F. J. Johnson, Registrar of Deeds and Diocesan Registrar, and Canon Savage, the Vicar of St. Thomas, and they succeeded in securing the necessary Manx Silver for the hands and ornamental work; and Mr. J. D. L. Kelly, of Kirk Michael, was commissioned to obtain a piece of Manx bog oak from which he could execute the Staff.

Mr. Kelly told me of the great difficulty he had in obtaining a suitable piece. After repeatedly searching the Curraghs, he gave up in despair, and informed Canon Savage that it was impossible to procure a suitable piece for the purpose. In his typical Manx way, the Canon wrote Mr. Kelly, asking him to "have another try," whereupon he continued the search, and eventually Mr. Kelly's son, Milward, found a beautiful piece of bog oak in the Curraghs at Ballaugh, in shape and size almost identical with the dimensions of the approved design, the root naturally forming the shepherd's crook, the whole simply requiring dressing down to the requisite measurements, and so completing the Staff in one piece. It would almost appear that the Staff had been there in the Curraghs for centuries, just waiting to be brought into use.

The Staff, as will be seen from the accompanying illustration, is a beautiful piece of work, both in design and workmanship.

On the one side, upon a shield inside the crook, are the arms of the Diocese, in enamel, the figure of the Virgin Mary (or that of St. Brigit, some authorities say) standing between two columns, with outstretched arm supporting a church, whilst on the other side of the shield is a representation of St. Maughold, in a kneeling attitude in the small coracle, as sent adrift from Ireland by St. Patrick. He is looking towards the guiding star which led him to the hospitable shores of Maughold, in the Isle of Man, and the legend declares that he afterwards became Bishop. The shield is surmounted by a bishop's mitre, in. silver.

The chasing is highly ornamental in character. The shaft and crook of the Staff being clearly cut and shaped, various motifs found on Celtic and Runic Crosses being skillfully worked into the design, everything being thoroughly Manx, and all proportions having undoubtedly received careful consideration at the hands of the designer (W. D. Caroe, Esq., M.A., F.S.A., F.R.I.B.A., London), and the makers (Alex. Fisher, Esq., of Chelsea, silverwork; and J. D. L. Kelly, Esq., oak work), reflecting, it will be generally agreed, the greatest credit on them all.

It has always been greatly prized by the several Bishops appointed since it was presented, in 1908, as a genuine Manx possession of the Manx Church.

The following inscription encircles the shaft: "To the Glory of God and in memory of Theophilus Talbot, Clerk, at one time Chaplain of St. Olave's, Ramsey, who died 19th March, 1908."

It is interesting to note that the Staff was used for the first time on the 27th April, 1909, by Dr. Drury, at the Induction of the Rev. Hugh Selwyn Taggart to the living of St. Matthew's, Douglas, with which Church the donor was closely associated.

Brown & Sons, Ltd., Printers, Douglas.

 Manx Note Book  [Full Text Index]  

switch to frames viewAny comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001