[from A Hundred Years of Education]



In general, Education in the Isle of Man has passed through the same stages as in England, but it has some features of its own. Sometimes it has moved more slowly, but in more than one remarkable instance it has anticipated development there. Churchmen, as everywhere, took the lead, notably Bishops Barrow and Wilson, but at all times laymen, Lords, Governors, officials and private individuals co-operated, and a common sense instinct has avoided some of the Mother Country’s false moves. This is so, notably, in "Religious Education," which has been considered as a unity. The now abandoned philosophy which distinguished mind and feelings as two distinct faculties in water-tight compartments, with education to train one and religion the other, involved England in acrimonious controversies. A sounder psychology now recognises that these functions of consciousness are an integral whole, correlated as are heart and lungs, and that there is no true education which is not, in the widest sense of the word, religious. But to this topic I shall have to return.


Educational movement in the Isle of Man dates from Bishop Barrow, who was Napoleonic in his ideas and in the drive he applied to their execution. It was a calamity that his episcopate lasted only eight years, even though after his translation to St. Asaph’s he maintained his interest in the Island.

There is some conflict in the evidence as to pre-Barrow days.1 A state paper endorsed by Archbishop Laud, in 1634, describes the clergy, " except two or three,as illiterate men, brought up in the Island in secular professions," their livings, according to Bishop Barrow, not amounting to above five or six pounds per annum,at a time when, with the different value of money, £17 was thought to be a "competence " in ‘the Isle of Man ; and this " forced them to engage in all mechanical courses, even in keeping of ale houses, to procure a livelihood." And, in 1639, Bishop Parr says that "the Island was destitute of means of learned education" and "most of the ministers were of no better ability than to read distinctly divine service.’’ William Blundell, on the other hand, writing in 1648, before the execution of Charles I and while the "Great Earl "was still Lord of Man, remarks "Their ministers truly are not unlearned. I did not converse with any but that I found him both a schollar and discreet "; and Chaloner, the first Governor appointed by Fairfax during his short term as Lord of Man, writes "considering the Ministers here are generally natives, and have had their whole education in the Isle, it is marvailous to hear what good preachers there he." But the conclusion one draws is more favourable to the native ability of the Manx than to their educational system ; and though Moore thinks that the deplorable picture drawn by Barrow of the condition of the people and clergy on his arrival may be coloured by anti-Commonwealth prejudice, he was probably right in substance when he said "they have no means of instruction . . . their ministers, it is true, took upon them to preach, but were themselves much fitter to be taught, being very ignorant and wholly illiterate."

For education in pre-Reformation days had everywhere been in the hands of the Church, and, better organised than the Civil power, it had in the Island been mostly engaged from the coming of the Stanleys, in 1405, with the long drawn struggle against the State. Lords found no time to establish Schools by charter, nor the Church a Cathedral school. Of monastic institutions two only were important, St. Brigit’s, near Douglas, which, being a nunnery, did not count, for the female mind was not then considered susceptible of education, and Rushen Abbey, which was Cistercian . Though there had been men of learning among the monks, the Cistercians occupied themselves with austerity and agriculture. They abjured science as worldly and were not a teaching order. So the Reformation, which was slow in coming, and the dissolution of the monasteries, which came by "an act of power on the part of the Sovereign of England," made little if any difference educationally. The revival of learning scarcely penetrated the Island before Barrow’s day. Education too, like other things, suffered from absentee Bishops, compelled by the poverty of the See to be pluralists. Bishop Meyrick (1576-159g) tells us his income was only £8o, out of which he had to pay travelling expenses, and as late as 1830 Bishop Ward held an English living at which he constantly resided during his fight against the amalgamation of the See with Carlisle. And we may recall Bishop Wilson’s beautiful sentiment when offered translation, "I will not leave my wife in my old age because she is poor."


It in no way detracts from the greatness of a great man that he had precursors, for genius has been defined as the "infinite capacity for picking brains," and in at least two items Bishop Barrow’s ideas had been anticipated. To one of them we shall return later ; the other was the scheme of Fairfax for maintaining out of part of the revenue of the sequestered bishopric "Free Schools, i.e., at Castletown, Peel, Douglas and Ramsey." I have not been able to ascertain whether the schools materialized, nor whether the idea was for Elementary Schools or for Grammar Schools. If the latter there is no link traceable between them and the Grammar Schools established later in these towns. Whatever we think of the financial basis, Fairfax deserves the credit of the idea and circumstances the blame for its non-fulfilment.

Bishop Barrow started from a different angle, and killed two birds with one stone by establishing elementary schools in every parish, a thing probably untried in any English diocese at that date. The fees, though small, might in part compensate the parish priest turned schoolmaster instead of tapster; and if it was an act of faith to entrust the education of children to those who were "themselves fitter to be taught and wholly illiterate," the best way of learning a subject is always to teach it ; and what other teachers were there ? He was, too, at the time, maturing plans for the better education of the clergy. The teachers in six of these schools a little later received £3 a year each from the "Royal Bounty," an anticipation of State subsidies to education.

These schools continued, and Bishop Wilson (1698-1755) provided endowments for the other elementary schools, chiefly from the Lady Elizabeth Hastings Charity. Education had now spread among the laity, and Bishop Wilson was able to relieve the clergy by appointing schoolmasters and mistresses, though ‘the incumbents were still required to visit the school frequently and make returns to the Bishop. The teachers were to instruct the children in learning and good manners "and to be " diligent in teaching them the Church catechism and their prayers "and to "bring them up in the fear of God." But most startling of all is the fact that Bishop Wilson’s constitutions anticipate England by about 200 years in making education compulsory and, within limits, free. Parents neglecting to send their children to school were to be fined, and poor children were to be taught gratuitously.

Had England had two such reformers as Bishops Barrow and Wilson it might immensely have speeded up educational development in the adjacent Island, but part of the credit is due to the Manx people, for whether a thing goes or not depends always in part on whether the people "love to have it so."

The next move came with another Bishop, Bishop Hildesley (1755-1773), who further increased teachers’ salaries, and, in arranging special grants in respect of pupils who could read English and had learned to read and write, anticipated the much-vexed principle of "payment by results." It was in his episcopate that a Lancastrian School giving religious but non-sectarian instruction was opened in Douglas, and grants from the National Society followed. [fpc - possibly some confusion here - see my page on Athol Street N.S.]

From 1832 ‘the custom began of Parliamentary Grant for building, etc. , and between then and 1868 twenty-nine schools in the Island received such grants, Bishop Short (1841-1847) putting himself at the head of the forward movement in education. The Island has, indeed, reason to he proud of its Bishops ; but at the next step it was a Governor, Lord Loch, as he afterwards became, who took the helm.

In 1872 an Act on the lines of the English Public Elementary Education Act, though with some differences, was passed in the Island, and the Insular standard was~ secured by the provision that to earn a Government grand a School must fulfill the conditions required by the English Education Department, whose inspectors visit the Island. The Council of Education elected by and responsible to Tynwald holds constitutionally a position here: analogous to that of the present Board of Education in England, but its decisions are subject to the assent of Whitehall ; and this was a far-seeing provision. Foil much as we value Home Rule, education must fit Manx children, riot for the Island only, but for the world, and nothing but an integral connexion could have guaranteed standard ,

But Moore notes that in three ways we improved on the English Act. School Committees, called from 1899 School Boards, which in some parts of England were long in coming, were established at once everywhere in the Isle of Man. Bishop Wilson’s provision for compulsory attendance was enforced at once, whereas in England it was applied gradually in stages, in 1870, in 1876 (Lord Sandon’s Act), and in 1883 (Mundella’s Act); and we avoided the "godless schools." Our Act, like the English Act, provided that no distinctive formularies. were to be taught in Board Schools, but whereas in England it was open to a School Board to omit religious teaching at its discretion, in the Isle of Man it was not.

We need not pursue the subject of elementary education further. It has advanced pari passu with that of England, and a great work is being done by the Elementary teachers. There have, of course, been moments of friction, but never so acute as in England, and, in particular, we have escaped the acrimony of the odium Theologicum. The concordat on religious instruction arrived at by the sound sense of the Manx people and the wise leadership of Bishop Denton-Thompson is the envy of some English areas and has been adopted in one.

Nor does it fall within our scope to consider the great Sunday School movement inaugurated early in the 19th century by Rev, Hugh Stowell, Vicar of Lonan and Rector of Ballaugh, and taken up eagerly by the Wesleyans. With an inevitable tendency towards the secuiarisation of education, it is a matter to he regretted that social forces are militating against the Sunday Schools. I have been glad, onerous though the work is, that my colleague, Rev. E. H. Stenning, has been able for many years to carry out the duty of Inspector of Church Sunday Schools.


Barrow was no Cistercian; his clergy were to be a teaching order. As "there are none here able to give their children an education in foreign universities," he hopes there "may grow up a clergy of such knowledge and learning among them as may deserve esteem and carry authority among them," so in the day of small things he is Content to build for the future, layer by layer.

One does not doubt that so great a man as Bishop Barrow was generous, but the See was poor, his activities manifold, and a national system of education a venture quite beyond the capacities of a private purse. So it is interesting to see how he financed his ventures: It must be admitted here that Moore has fallen into some inaccuracies.

At the dissolution of the monasteries the tithes (impropriate) belonging to the religious houses in the island passed into secular hands. In 1609 they were in the possession of James I, who, in that year, granted them to William, the 6th Earl of Derby. In 1666, Charles Earl of Derby, in consideration of £1,000 collected by Bishop Barrow, chiefly from friends in England, granted them to the Bishop and the Archdeacon on a lease of 10,000 years, subject to a yearly rent of £62 and a fine of £130 every thirtieth year. The purposes specified were "for the augmentation and better support and livelihood of the ministers of the gospel settled and exercising their functions in the said Isle of Man : and for as towards the erection of a free School within the same Isle, or the maintenance of some Schoolmaster or Schoolmasters there."

We are not ‘here concerned with the tangled skein of negotiations which followed over this so-called "Impropriate Fund," and which were ‘only settled by Act of Parliament in the reign of George III ; ‘the relevant fact is that it was hence there emerged the School which came to be known as the Castletown Grammar School.2

It flourished as the chief school in what was then the "Metropolitical city "of the Island, and it took boarder’s, though I am frankly puzzled by ‘Moore’s statement that Bishop Barrow set aside funds to "provide a library and to provide convenient lodgings for the academic youths who were forced to diet in the town . "The school was essentially a "Grammar School "and never emerged to "academic " rank in the technical sense which we shall discuss below ; though in 1686, to anticipate, the Trustees of the Barrow Trust resolved that "it is not altogether so convenient to contribute the said allowance (viz. , for students preparing for ‘the ‘Manx Church) to send ‘those of our scholars abroad (viz., to Dublin) whilst they may now have the opportunity ‘of attaining unto academical learning under the tuition of Mr. Gilbert Holt, schoolmaster in ‘the Isle (presumably at the Castletown Grammar School), whom we have now obliged to the discharge of that duty."

One concludes that in the passage quoted Bishop Barrow was not using the word in the technical sense. Though scholars continued intermittently to be sent to Dublin, the arrangement for paying an extra salary out of the income of the Barrow fund to ‘the Master of the Grammar School to instruct candidates for Orders went on until 1807; but Sir James Gell seems clearly to be right in his opinion that it was not in accordance with the Trust.

Nothing that could be called an "Academic" as opposed to a Grammar School is to be found on the Island prior to the foundation of King William’s College, though it is clear that the idea was in the Bishop’s mind if Moore is correct in his statement that Barrow set apart for it "of the monies collected for these good works, remaining in hand, £241," which looks like a balance of the subscriptions after the purchase ‘of the Ballagilley-Hango estate. Moore adds " from a letter of Lord Derby’s it appears that one year’s revenue of the bishopric was also reserved for this purpose." Was this a residue over from Fairfax’s sequestration or was it "conscience money "for the years (1644 to 1651) in which the Great Earl had kept the bishopric vacant and the income presumably in his own hands?

One would like to believe that Bishop Barrow contemplated "the more intelligent children passing from the parochial schools to the grammar school, and in the case of those educated for the Church, from the grammar school to the academical school," for if so he had the modern "ladder" in view ; but the evidence is at the least inconclusive, though Barrow may have hoped for it as "seeing the things that are invisible," and, as we shall see, it was an idea quite likely to be in the mind of a highly educated and thoughtful man.

When, however, ‘Moore says of the Academical School that " this school was not built until 1706," he falls into palpable error. He obviously refers to ‘the proceedings by which about ‘that time Bishop Wilson transferred the Grammar School to St. Mary’s Chapel (a pre-Reformation chapel which he did not build) from the old premises belonging to Thomas Looney, the carpenter, purchased to provide space for the present St. Mary’s, which he was building ; Bishop Wilson had many virtues, hut an eye to architectural beauty was not among them. 3

It was indeed still the day of small things, financially and intellectually, and Bishop Wilson’s aim was to extend education at its lower grades, not yet to raise it to "academical " standard. And his hands were full. Douglas was growing, but as yet it had no Grammar School, and in 1705 Bishop Wilson arranged for a grant of £270 — Moore says £250 — to found a school there from the "Academic Fund," that is presumably from an accumulation on the Ballagilley estate.

One may again question whether this grant was in strict accordance with the Barrow Trust.

By a charter executed in 1707 Bishop Wilson arranged for the appointment of a master of the new school to be with the Bishop and the post was attached to the Chaplaincy of St. Matthew’s Church, built in 1703, where the Fish Market now stands. Other endowments, not big, followed, and the School House in New Bond Street was called "Dixon’s House," after William Dixon, Alderman of Dublin, who, at Bishop Wilson’s instance, conveyed it to them. The Chaplain of St. Matthew’s continued to be Master of the School until it closed, at a date prior to 1878, after which, though with some difficulty, the scholastic were disentangled from the ecclesiastical endowments and ordered to be applied for the use of a new school, if one should be founded, to be called the Douglas Grammar School.

St. Matthew’s School, as it is sometimes called, had already a rival in the Middle School, founded in 1858 by Mrs. Cecil Hall, widow of the then late Archdeacon of Man ; perhaps that was the reason of its collapse. This school came, about 1876, to be called the Douglas Grammar School ; one half suspects that they already had their eye on the St. Matthew’s endowment, which, however, only came to it in 1916. The Trustees of the Middle (Grammar) School were the High-Bailiff of Douglas, the Vicar-General, and the Vicar of St. Thomas’, and it was to be conducted with religious teaching in accordance with the doctrines of the Church of England.

The school had a fine record lasting down to quite modern times, but the rapid growth of Douglas made it necessary for the State to take over the provision of education, and the Grammar School was closed, though its final home remains, first, as the Junior Department of the Eastern Secondary School, and now as the Telephone Head Quarters, the private house being allowed as a residence for life to the late Headmaster, Mr. J . A. Barthélemy. Another former Headmaster is still amongst us in no less distinguished a person than Canon Quine.4

So the Island had two Grammar Schools and two more were added, the Peel Grammar and Mathematical School founded by Philip Moore, merchant, of Douglas, in 1746, and the Ramsey Grammar School in 1762. The Peel Grammar School, now closed, had no connexion with Philip Christian’s endowment for the ‘Clothworkers’ School in 1652, opened as an Elementary School in 1689 by the efforts of Bishop Levinz, which, however, has this point of interest as reproducing the care in England of the merchant companies for education. The Ramsey Grammar School was embodied with the new Secondary School and the name retained at the wish of the Ramsey people. I regret that lack of time, space and information prevent me from going more into detail in the history of these schools.


At the apex of the local system was to be an Academical School, referred to in Bishop Barrow’s will.

I am indebted to my brother-in-law, Dr. F. S. Boas, for pointing out that Milton in his "Tractate of Education " (1644), a book Barrow would almost certainly have read, proposes the setting up in every city of an "academy," which, " as school and university combined, would conduct the entire course of education, and that after the Restoration and largely in consequence of the Tests Acts a number of such schools were actually started." The original "Academy "was, of course, the Gymnasium just outside Athens where Plato taught, and University Honours are still called Academical.

The Great Earl, who, like Fairfax, was a devotee of ilic new learning and, like him, too paid for ‘the education of Manx boys at Cambridge, had already gone farther in conception. Writing between 1644 and 165 I to his son, who was later to succeed ‘him, he says "I had a design, and may God enable me, to sett up an Universitie without much charge as I have contrived it) which may much oblige the nations round about us. It may gett friends into the country and enrich this land (of which some share in time will come to the Lord’s purse, as is most certain thereby with much credit). This certainly would please God and man. But of that I shall tell you more when please the Lord to settle me again mine owne." One feels that the Earl would have been an enthusiastic supporter of the June Effort.

Moore (p. 355) gives part of this, for the full quotation I am indebted to Canon Quine, who shrewdly adds "the Earl would have talked about his University to Bishop Rutter and others, and ten or a dozen years later it would still be an idea spoken of by the better set. No question !" And Bishop Barrow must have known of it. Neither then, nor at any later date, would a complete Insular University have been possible, but perhaps on the suggestion of Milton’s Tractate, he, with a greater sense ‘of realities, converted it into an Academical School, and, one may suppose, ‘handed the idea on to his successor, who, less cautious, rushed in where Barrow feared to tread. It was to take nearly 150 more years’ preparation before the idea could materialise.

An Academical School was, in this conception, to be what we might call a School with one faculty of a University tacked on to it, the theological ; but at the time it meant more than that. For a theological ‘training included the "‘humanities," i.e., all the culture of the time, and it was a teaching faculty, for ‘the ‘clergy were to be the schoolmasters ; and no distinction existed or was possible in the mind of Bishop Barrow between religion and education—they were a unity.

Thus was laid the foundation of a complete system for the future to work out.


The Barrow Trust is ruled by two instruments, the original Trust Deed dated 7th July, 1668, and the Bishop’s will dated 14th December, 1679, soon after his translation to St. Asaph.

With £600, raised in England, he purchased the estate of Ballagilley and Hango Hill, on which the College now stands, the latter comprising roughly the land from the School House to the "San Lane," and not, as is popularly supposed, the little promontory called properly Mount Strange.5 This was ‘only bought by the Trustees in 1910.

Moore, an unusual thing for him, has made a confusion when he says that this £600 was to maintain an academical master and "by his own private charity" he bought the estate. The salary paid later to the academical master at the Grammar School came from the enhanced value of the estate. The point is made quite clear in the correspondence referred to below, and at 30 years’ purchase a rental of £20 would just come to £600.

The estate was leased to the Constable of Peel at a rental of £20 a year and the Bishop does not appear to have expected a rise in value. It was, by the Deed, to be devoted to educating the youths "of pregnant parts" for the Manx Church at Dublin University or College. This was changed in the will to "some University abroad." He anticipates that in time a provision will thus be made to fill all the Manx livings with educated clergy, and the funds may then be devoted to "what other public work or charity shall by my trustees be thought profitable to the Island."

He had reserved, however, the right to vary the Trust, which he did by his will, providing that the income should be used "towards the maintenance of three boys at the academical school when it shall be settled, and in case there shall be no such school within 12 months after my death," then to revert to University maintenance.

The School contemplated was that which his successor intended to establish at Rushen Abbey, procured for the purpose ; but Bishop Bridgman only visited his diocese twice during his term of office and ‘his schemes came to nothing. It appears, therefore, that the Trustees were bound to maintain scholars only at Universities, which they have always done since. when there have been applicants. It is a very great regret to me that there have been none in my day. Sir James Gell is obviously right in saying that the maintenance at Castletown Grammar School, not an Academical school, was not in accordance with the Trust.

The arrangement continued, however, concurrently with occasional grants at Universities, till 1807. Bishop Hildesley had, in 1757, brought to be Headmaster at the Grammar School a distinguished scholar, Mr. Castley, Fellow of Jesus College, Cambridge, Senior Wrangler and Second Medallist, who had taken charge of the academical scholars ; but on his death a successor competent for this work could not be found. Hence arose a dispute, the issue of which was the foundation of the College.

Bishop Ward was a man of energy and resources, and finding a young man named Caley preparing for the Manx Church, he proposed to the Trustees that a salary should be paid out of the Trust funds to a clergyman on the Island to instruct him prior to going to Cambridge. To this they assented, but when the Bishop went on to propose that the arrangement should be made permanent they objected for sound practical reasons. The Bishop, nothing daunted, then compiled a case, which he submitted to counsel in London, contending that only he and the Archdeacon, who was at the time incapable of acting, were Trustees, for, in the original Deed, Bishop Barrow had reserved administration to himself and only named Trustees in his will.

The dispute was conducted with dignity and courtesy on both sides, and one gathers from his letters that Governor Smelt was worthy ‘of a better monument than a pillar in the Square at Castletown without a statue ; but neither side would yield, and the case was ultimately submitted to the Privy Council, which, through the Solicitor-General, Mr. Wm. Home, gave it in favour of the Trustees. By the will they were to’ be the Bishop and the Archdeacon and four of the "Chief Temporal Officers of the Isle, whereof the Governor to be always one." The other three were ultimately fixed as the Clerk ‘of the Rolls, the First Deemster and the Attorney-General. When the two former of these offices were amalgamated they were reduced to five, but raised to seven by the Act of 1921, which, yielding to the desire of the Keys for the exclusion of judges on the ground that they might be called upon to hear a suit in which the Trustees were involved, added three co-opted members, of which one must be a member of the House of Keys.

But great things come of small, and in ‘the discussions which arose the conviction grew on all sides that an Academical School was needed. The Governor, on 25th January, 1830, wrote to Sir Robert Peel, " Secretary of State," to ‘ascertain the wishes of the British Government, and subsequently obtained leave to call the School after His Majesty William IV. In this letter, he says that it was intended to incorporate the Castletown Grammar School with ‘the new School, and ‘he asks for information about schools on a similar basis, specifying "Jersey, Nova Scotia and the Canadas and London "—the new Public Schools were not then, of course, in existence.

The Bishop got busy, and besides collecting over, £1,500 On the Island, undertook to build the original Chapel for £1,000 out of the sums he had collected in England for building Manx churches.


1 For an interesting discussion of the question see Mr. W. Cubbon's paper in the Proceedings of the Isle of Man Natural History and Antiquarian Society, Vol. II, No. 2, page 116.

2 Note—For the correct statement of these facts I am chiefly indebted to the Archdeacon of Man.

3 Note. For an interesting discussion of this transaction, Cubbon, l.c.., pages 122-3 from which it is clear that the School remained at Grammar School level.

4 For the bulk of the above information I am indebted to his Honour the Second Deemster, Mr. R. D. Farrant.

5 Note.—For the exact definition of Hango Hill I am indebted to the Archdeacon of Man (Rev. J. Kewley). Walpole, p. 161 footnote, falls into the popular error.


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