[From Oswald's Guide,1831]
" I lode thee, dear Isle ; my affections are wound
Round thy glens and thy mountains, thy oceans and streams ;
A thousand endeared recollections surround
The land where my childhood indulged its fond dreams."
Possesses one of the best dry harbours in the channel, for its size, with 18 feet water at spring tides, It has an elegant pier and light-house, and is provided on every side with spacious and commodious quays, in excellent repair. It is cleared by the river Douglas, that passes through it, and is well regulated by a harbour-master. It has been planned to build a breakwater, projecting from the inside of the head, under the battery, northwards towards Connister, by which means the anchorage would be protected against every wind, and the harbour greatly enlarged. The streets, as in many old seaport towns, are somewhat irregular, crowded, and confused ; but contain many excellent and comfortable houses. It contains upwards of 7,000 inhabitants, and is a place of some bustle, most part of the trade and riches of the country centering here. The shops are well furnished with all sorts of goods and merchandize, more so, indeed, than is usually the case in a country town of the same size. The magistracy is vested in the High-bailiff, appointed by the Governor, who with his constables are answer able for the peace of the town. The High-bailiff holds his court every Saturday. It has a very neat Courthouse, where the Deemster and the Vicar-General, of the southern division, frequently hold their courts. Chancery courts used also sometimes to be held here.
Douglas is only in its infancy as a place of public resort, and, therefore, possesses few public buildings deserving of notice, the principal occupation having been to build houses and new streets, for the accommodation of new residents; of these Atholl-street, in the higher part of the town, is spacious and handsome; and terraces and cottages, for sea-bathing quarters, are planned, and going on rapidly along the margin of the bay. It must be added, that the town is not lighted, except along the quay, and in Duke-street during the winter, which was effected in 1829, by a subscription of its inhabitants. The town is supplied with water from carts, although surrounded with excellent water in almost every direction.
Besides the parish church of Braddan, a little up the country, there are two chapels belonging to the established church, St. George's and St. Matthew's, and several meeting houses of different persuasions of Christians in the town. A new chapel, under the patronage of the Bishop, was founded in Fort-street, on St. Barnabas' day, 1830. This is one of the new churches constructed out of the funds originating in the pious views of the incumbent Bishop, and is a commodious, handsome, and solemn structure.
A few years ago, proposals were printed for building an Infirmary for the Island, at Douglas; and as there is no establishment in the country of this description, it is hoped it will not be lost sight of. It was at Douglas that the national institution for the relief of shipwrecked mariners took its origin, in the humane mind of Sir William Hillary, Bart., whose exertions in the cause of humanity, on behalf of unfortunate seamen, rival those of a Howard.
There is a national Free School, a substantial building, supported by subscription, in which upwards of three hundred children are educated ; and private seminaries, for the education of young gentlemen and ladies, are numerous. Amongst the objects worthy of notice, may be ranked the herring houses; and a fleet of a hundred or two of herring boats fluttering on the coast, is a gratifying spectacle during the season.
The Post-office is in Douglas, and hence all letters for the different parts of the Island, are forwarded by runners, twice a week in summer, and once in winter.
THE PUBLIC BATHS
Consist of hot and cold sea water baths, shower and vapour baths, fitted up in a neat and comfortable manner, which the proprietor is anxious to make as agreeable to various tastes as possible, and spares no expence to render as much assistance to the valitudinarian as it is in the power of bathing to afford. Bathing machines are also provided in the bay, and at the Crescent.
Is well supplied with all sorts of necessaries, (see tables) mutton and veal are particularly excellent. Fish is abundant, and a good dish may almost always be had for a shilling, and often for half the money. The sorts most common, besides herrings, are white and red cod, rock cod, whiting, and whiting pollock, or the kellag, haddock, skate, soals, flounders, turbot, mackrel, and gurnet. The first mentioned are abundant in their proper seasons. None of the shell-fish are abundant, except crabs and lobsters ; but oysters, scollops, and shrimps are not altogether wanting. Lobsters are to too great an extent exported to the Liverpool and Dublin markets, so as often to cause a scarcity of them ; and oysters are frequently brought from England and Ireland, for the use of the curious in that fish.
House rent and coals are certainly the highest articles of expence ; but by living in the country, raising milk and potatoes, feeding a few sheep and poultry, for the use of the house, families of eight and ten, and even more numerous, live in ease, abundance, and luxury, on £200 or £300 per annum; some of them keeping a carriage as an additional comfort. This appendage is subject only to a tax of 5s. a wheel, and if not kept for show, but worked by the horses of the farm, costs little more than the value of the purchase money. Milk is another article, the price of which is sometimes complained of; and it is surprising that an active competition in the market has not been established in consequence; it would be most useful. Goats' milk and asses' milk can only be procured by making special enquiry about them.
There are public libraries* in Douglas, news-rooms, and billiard-rooms, which, with several other things, will be found enumerated in tables at the end. The amusements of the inhabitants are principally of a domestic kind, in the gay round of social intercourse in all its forms. Of course there are various classes of refinement and taste in society. That of the best grades is in a superior degree familiar with the elegancies of life and of manners, more so than those in Britain of equal expenditure and show ; and few of such expend more than £500 a-year. This remark does not apply to those possessed of large property in the country. Fashions find their way here rapidly from London, for which purpose some tradesmen keep up a frequent intercourse with houses there, as well as in Liverpool.
* That which has been recently established by Mr. Jefferson, printer, Duke street, is the first on the Island, for choice selection and variety ; it contains double sets of all the Scotch novels, and the productions of all the popular and fashionable novelists of the age.
Public dancing subscription assemblies are occasionally held in the large new room attached to the British Hotel; and also card assemblies, and clubs, and meetings of that kind, at the house, and at Hanby's Hotel.
The Mona United Service Club was established in 1828, in imitation of the united service club in London. It is under the management of a president and committee, and is the daily resort of the half-pay naval and military gentlemen in Douglas.
There are sometimes theatrical amusements ; but it must be remarked, that the population is not a play-going one, and has not hitherto afforded the encouragement necessary for such establishments.
In June, 1830, a Regatta was held in Douglas bay, at which thirty pleasure yachts, from all parts of the channel, were present. Both the rowing and sculling matches were well contested ; and the town was filled with company for the week. One of the prizes was a silver cup, value £100, raised by subscription. There were two public balls, a dinner, and breakfast announced ; but the death of George the Fourth unfortunately interfered with the arrangements. It is proposed that a similar source of amusement should be held annually.
Boating and little excursions into the country are a frequent source of amusement to the active and the young. At the Hotels and Inns, horses to hire, and post-chaises can be had to any part of the Island, on the shortest notice. A coach, twice a-week round the Island, was tried by Mr. Dixon of the British Hotel, but it failed ; travelling in gigs and on horse-back being generally preferred. Another attempt is at present making, by Rogers and Lenard, to establish the running of a stage coach to the different towns.
As happens in all small communities of company, brought together by public resort, there is sometimes some squabbling amongst parties, which is a circumstance that must be reprobated ; but this is what can be subjected to the management and good sense of every person individually.
Is the principal promenade of the place, and it is certainly a fine one, often the resort of much beauty and fashion, and much enlivened by the gaiety and bustle, which the arrival of company by the steam packets occasions. But there are many other walks in the environs of the town.
Crossing the bridge at the head of the harbour. apd turning to the left, the walk to the top of the Head, called the Howe, of Douglas, affords some views, which convey, with much accuracy, a general idea of the town, and of the Island; but the footpath cannot be spoken of in terms of praise. On this walk we pass Fort Anne, the property of P. Laurie, Esq., picturesquely situated on the sea precipice at the mouth of the harbour, opposite to the Pier-head. A little beyond is the fort for the defence of the bay, and on the top of the headland, or Howe of Douglas, a tower, a landmark for mariners. Here the sea view, and that along shore, are remarkably fine.
" From cliff to cliff the foaming waters shine."
And the admirer of Crimson cloud, blue main, and mountain grey,"
will consider his time by no means ill disposed of, when taking a ramble on the back of the Howe. The walk up by the river, through the groves of the Nunnery, is also much frequented as a promenade. In this direction we enter the vale of Braddan, passing the Nunnery, the beautiful seat of Lieut.-General Goldie, of the House of Keys, in the immediate vicinity of the town, lately built on the south bank of the river, about half a mile from the bridge. This place is one of the chief ornaments of the neighbourhood. The old house was lately pulled down. It was once the site of the Nunnery, said to have been of great antiquity. Excepting some parts of the chapel, with its gothic windows, and some old fonts in the gardens, hardly a vestige of the ancient structure remains. Both the park and gardens are extensive, and some of the evergreens are remarkable for their beauty; in particular, there is a Portugal laurel, twenty feet high, on one stem, and whose umbrageous top covers a space ten yards horizontal. Proceeding up the river half a mile, we see Pulrose, the beautiful farm of Mrs. Moore, on the left; and a few hundred yards further, Spring Valley, at present occupied by Colonel Shum; back from which, near the top of the rising ground, is Farm Hill, occupied by Major Stewart, belonging to D. Wilson, Esq.; where there is a commanding view of the vale of Braddan, and Douglas bay. On the left, a little beyond Spring Valley, is Ballaughton, the neat and commodious residence of J. Wulff, Esq. banker. Next to it, on the right, and close to the church of Braddan, is Kirby House, the elegant seat of Colonel Wilks, late Governor .of St. Helena; the grounds of which are well laid out in the modern taste, with excellent gardens, &c. It is distinguished by its thriving plantations, which embellish this part of the valley. The country is well wooded here, and the perambulator cannot fail to observe in this neighbourhood several rich and picturesque views. The situation of Braddan church, especially, creates a romantic effect, and presents several objects interesting to the imagination. In front of it there is a Runic pillar with an inscription, which has been translated "For Admiral Durliff, this cross was erected by the son of his brother, the son of Safrsag." There are also some ancient crosses.
Returning to Douglas, by the Peel road, and immediately after leaving Kirk Braddan, Port-e-chee, or the Harbour of Peace, is situate in the extensive flat lawn on the left; it is the property of the Hon. John Murray.
Leaving the main road at Port-e-chee bridge, the road to the left leads to the village of Onchan; or to the sands of Douglas bay, by taking the first lane ' on the right, by which means we pass Woodburn, the villa of Mrs. Harrison, commanding an extensive view of the bay, &c.
Proceeding to Douglas, from Port-e-chee bridge by the main road, you pass Ballabrooie on the east of the road, the castellated villa of Robert McGuffog, Esq., Comptroller of Customs for the port of Douglas, having a unique and striking effect. Next to it, a mile from the town, is Mount Vernon, Dr. Curran's, very pleasantly situated.
A stroll along the bay and the road to Ramsey is equally agreeable. On the margin of the bay, at the north end of the town, stands the elegant Marine Villa of Robert Steuart, Esq., Collector of the port, and Receiver-General of the Island, which, for its size, is one of the most complete things of the kind to be met with. Marina Terrace, belonging to the same Gentleman, immediately adjoins the lawn.
Castle Mona is the insular residence of his Grace the Duke of Atholl. This princely fabric was erected about 30 years ago, on waste ground on the shore; but notwithstanding the newness of the grounds, they are already well worthy of admiration, and were the first of any extent attempted in the Island. The shrubbery especially is very picturesquely situated along the foot of the cliffs, and that of the hot-house is novel and pleasing; and the walks that rise in succession, at the back of the Castle, on the wooded brows that encircle the bay at this place, are beautiful. The ride along the sands is most agreeable ; and good views of the town and neighbourhood are seen from the heights beyond Castle Mona.
The road to Ramsey leaves the sands about a mile from Douglas. It is here that the Duke has fenced, at a great expence, the beach from the sea ; and upon the ground thus gained at the foot of the cliffs, Mr. Cloke's public hotel, and an elegant crescent of cottages, have lately been erected, for the reception of visitors. On the top of the brow stands Summer Hill; a little farther north, Bemahague, both the property of Deemster Heywood ; and Glencrutchery, the villa and farm of Calcott Heywood, Esq., of the House of Keys. A little farther on the Ramsey road, is the village of Onchan, and the new parish church of that name, where there is a specimen of the ancient cross. There are many neat cottages in this neighbourhood; and in the bay below the village, there are some curious coves scooped out of the rocky shore, which are frequently the resort of boating parties from Douglas.
None of the public gardens in the vicinity of Douglas, possess other attractions than those of kitchen horticulture; because the taste of the public in general is not directed to such things ; but all the gentlemen's seats just mentioned, and many others, have accompaniments of shrubberies, vineries, hot-houses, and excellent gardens, for amongst such, gardening is a principal amusement. There is no tax on hot-houses, and the prime cost of glass is more than one half less than in England*; hence, besides wall fruits, those of the hot-house, especially grapes, are more frequently raised than by people of equal circumstances on the other side of the water, and are generally acknowledged to be of very superior quality. The Manks codlin is a dwarf apple tree which is very prolific, and is propagated by cuttings ; but it is believed to be now generally known to gardeners. The fruit that arrives at the greatest perfection in the open air is pears, and in favourable seasons, peaches, apricots, and nectarines, acquire maturity; figs never do, but they have been known to live on the tree throughout the winter, and to acquire an encrease of bulk the following summer. Other garden fruits are common, and the natives are yearly improving in their attention to such things.
* Since our last edition, the law respecting the importation of glass has been changed, and the drawback on it discontinued.
At one period there existed several barrows along the margin of the bay, but they have been demolished. The north suburb of Douglas is called Sena; which signifies aged. Can this be the site of the Druidical Nunnery mentioned by Mela ? Up the eastern branch of the Douglas river, about a mile above Port-e-Chee, at Castleward, there exists an example of the fortified hillock of the early ages. The old Fort at Douglas, which was pulled down twelve years ago, was an ancient structure of unknown era. The following is a delineation of it : it stood at the bight of the Pollock rock, the original entrance into the harbour.