HIS EXCELLENCY THE LIEUT.-GOVERNOR OF THE ISLE OF MAN.
EDINBURGH, 29th Nov., 1876.
Sir,I have the honour to report to your Excellency that, agreeably to your invitation, I visited and carefully examined the ancient Castle of Peel, and all the buildings within its walls, for the purpose of reporting to your Excellency what repairs were necessary to preserve these interesting historical remains.
I may state generally, that if it is desired to hand down to future generations these buildings, so interwoven with the history of the Isle of Man, considerable repairs must be undertaken, as the fortifications and buildings are now in that stage of decay that, if these repairs are longer delayed, much of the detail of the doors, windows, and other features will be so completely lost that it will not be possible to recover them. The fortifications, or at least the greater part of them, are evidently those erected by Thomas, Earl of Derby, in 1500. On the north-west side several large breaches have been at some former time repaired. I should say they are the ones referred to by Robert Farrant, Esq., High-Bailiff of Peel, in his evidence before the Royal Commission that visited the Island in 1791, as having been done by himself.
The whole of the external face of the walls requires overhauling, and all defective parts about the foundations must be carefully pinned, and all the loose stones now lying at the base of the walls carefully replaced.
There are one or two very bad repairsin particular one between Fenellas Tower and the West Pointthat should be re-done.
The Parapet and Embrasures are much ruined. For protection and retention of these ancient features they should all be gradually restored.
There is still a large amount of debris and accumulation of soil within the area ; this should all be gradually cleared away, so as to restore the original surfaces. The easiest way of doing this would be to shoot it over the walls, and allow the sea to carry it off.
I will now note the repairs that are necessary to towers, &c., and buildings within the walls, beginning at the entrance gate, then passing to the left and making the entire circuit of the walls, using for reference and identification the plan of the Castle published by the Peel Castle Preservation Fund, in 1857.*
* A reduced lithographic copy of which plan is attached hereto.
References to Plana & b.
The stairs are in tolerably fair preservation, and may do for many years to come.
The window on the left has been badly mended, but there is still enough of the original left to enable it to be done properly.
The Guard Room door requires repairing. The head was originally of the form shown on the margin. The ground outside should be still further lowered : this would admit more light into the room.
The Entrance Door to 1st floor, east side, and the parapets of passage leading to it, should be restored. The surest way to preserve this building would be to put a roof on it. There is still evidence of the roof that covered this tower remaining, and it would not be an expensive one to restore.
Repairs are wanted to the outside of chimney and the flags covering the entrance.
There is a crack in the Wall, from the lower fire-place extending to the top ; this could be mended by cutting out parts and putting in strong stones to tie the work together.
t t t on Plan.
The Cloak Rooms and Lavatories have been formed here. Very little can be done to prevent these buildings going further to decay.
The East Wall, with the door, might be made up.
The corner at the Ladies Cloak Room has been badly repaired.
s & r on Plan.
Unfortunately nearly all the detail of these Buildings is lost.
The debris of the West Gable and Belfry of St. Patricks Church are now lying on the ground partly covered up with soil. All that can be done to these Buildings is to go over the whole carefully and secure any loose parts, and restore any of the decayed or missing freestone corners.
The manner in which the East Window of St. Patricks Chapel has been restored, is a good example of how the architectural features of a building may be lost or falsified.
g on Plan.
The Entrance Door and Windows in West gable have been badly repaired, and should be re-done.
The Freestone corners at the East end are much decayed, and should be renewed with the same kind of stone.
The small Windows round the Ground Floor were evidently constructed for purposes of defence, and should be carefully preserved.
p o o o o on Plan.
I should doubt very much if these Buildings are correctly described as the residence of the Earls of Derby. There is not the slightest indication that the space marked o had any buildings on it at all, and the three small buildings also marked o are too insignificant and isolated one from the other to be dignified with the title of the Palace of the Lords of Man.
The only repairs I have to suggest as necessary to these Buildings are, the clearing away of all debris and accumulated soil, so as to expose the original surfaces of the ground, and making such minor repairs to the walls as will prevent further decay.
n on Plan.
This is one of the most interesting parts of the fortifications.
It consisted of a ground and upper floor, which latter was entered by an outside stair, the remains of which still exist.
The outside corners were all originally of red freestone; these should be carefully renewed where defective.
The West corner has been badly mended, the characteristics of the work being lost in the repair.
The Loop-holed Passage across the rocks is in a very bad state, but there are till enough indications remaining to show what it was when entire. It cannot be long, however, before the whole may be swept away, if timely precautions be not taken.
b 1 on Plan.
This is the largest Tower of the Enclosure, and like the former one has had an upper floor, entered by an outside stair. The walls generally are tolerably sound, but want general overhauling.
k k k on Plan.
The repairs wanted here are pretty extensive, but call for no particular remark.
The Circular Tower was originally casenrated, part of the arching still remaining. This tower wants cleaning out and pointing and pinning all round.
S On Plan.
Very little can be done with the Buildings forming this group but taking steps to prevent further decay.
C on Plan.
The repair of this, the most interesting building within the Castle walls, cannot be taken in hand too soon. Many of its features are far gone in decay, and, unless seen to immediately, will be lost.
The first thing to be done is to make the tower thoroughly secure ; it is not so at present. The Tower, Arches, and Piers, particularly the former, are decaying very rapidly, and if allowed to go much further, the whole super-structure will be in imminent danger.
This is an undertaking that will require the greatest care ; it will be rather costly, but is of the first importance.
The Parapets and upper part of the Tower require considerable repairs and strengthening.
The doorway and window in the west wall of South Transept are much decayed, but there still remain distinct evidence of what they were, making these repairs, if done by competent hands, an easy matter. The same remark applies to the windows and doorsall round they are rapidly decaying.
The repairs to these doors and windows would be a very extensive affair, and need not all be undertaken at one time. The whole of the decayed parts would require to be cut out and replaced with new and durable stone, taking care to preserve every bit of old work that is sound. The whole of the walls would require careful pinning and pointing, and something would require to be done to prevent the rain water from soaking into the walls. Cement is commonly used for this purpose, but I find that in a few years frost and vegetation break it up. I would recommend that the wall heads be covered with Caithness pavement, over-lapping at the joints, and bedded in cement. I have adopted this method at Jedburgh Abbey.
The foundation of the Aisle Walls should be uncovered, so as to show the entire plan of the Cathedral.
This completes the circuit of the walls and buildings.
The repairs I have alluded to are such as are absolutely necessary for the preservation of the buildings as they now exist. I should hope, however, that you will receive such encouragement as may justify you in going a little beyond this, and undertaking the restoration of some of the more important parts of the fortifications and buildings ; this will ensure their preservation in a more effectual manner than by mere repairs.
A building in a state of ruin is always tending to further ruin, and there is a true saying that " An empty house is a bad tenant."
One will at once be met with the question, " What is the use of restoring buildings that are no longer necessary, and cannot be made use of ?" My answer to this would be, that although no longer necessary for purposes of defence, the restoration and preservation of the ancient landmarks is a patriotic duty, their inspection and study an education, for it enables one to realise, as can be done in no other manner, the life of the past.
Visited, as Peel Castle is, by such large numbers, were the shapeless masses of building restored to their original state, many would carry away a clearer idea of Mediaval times than any description could convey to them, and there will be no difficulty in finding uses for several of the buildings.
If you should decide to carry out the works suggested in this report, it will be necessary to have the assistance of a Clerk of Works during their progress, and as the work would extend over a series of years, he must have a place to transact business in, and keep his papers and drawings ; and there must also be some place for keeping tools and plant.
Fenellas Tower would do for this ; the upper floor could be used by the Clerk of Works and the ground floor as a store.
The modern Guard House and Powder Magazine disfigure the place very much ; there need be no hesitation in removing them, and locating the Museum now in the Guard Room elsewhere.
The Entrance Tower might be fitted up for this, and also for the use of your Excellency and other officials when visiting the Castle.
At many places lodges have been erected for the keepers.
One of the towers the Warwick for example could be fitted up for this purpose, and would form part of the Keepers salary.
The large crowds that frequently visit the Castle must at times be very badly in want of shelter during inclement weather ; the Grand Armoury might be roofed in without destroying any of its character, and one may reasonably assume, that if the public knew that such provision was made for their comfort, a visit to the Castle would be more attractive, and they could be fairly asked to pay an increased entrance fee, which at present is below that paid at most other places.
The Restoration of the Cathedral as a place of worship would command the sympathies of a wide circle ; there is no constructive difficulty in the way, and its size would limit the expenditure to a reasonable amount.
I will conclude this Report with a few remarks on the architectural history and changes in the Cathedral.
It consisted of a Chancel, with Crypt under it, North and South Transepts, Central Tower, Nave, and South Aisle.
The earliest portion of the existing buildings is the Chancel, and the style of it corresponds to the time of Bishop Simon, 1229. The East Arch and Piers of Central Tower belong to the same period. The Nave and Transepts to the succeeding or middle pointed sfyle. There is no opening from the South Transept. On examination this is easily accounted for. The staircase is not bonded into the wall of Nave. This clearly indicates that it has been erected at a later period, and fills up the opening that should be between the Aisle and Transept.
The whole upper part of Tower and the parapets of the North and South Transept belong to the same periodi.e., the 15th Century.
One of the most puzzling features about the Cathedral is the different levels of the floors. The explanation of this baffled me for a long time. When trying to find some practical reason for the unusual lowness of the cills of Chancel windows, I observed that the bases of the piers of Central Tower are on the level of the present floor of Transepts, and that the moulding of the window jambs could be traced below the present cills, and down to a string course which had been hewn off, bringing these two thingscills and floor into their proper relative position.
On looking at the window arches, I saw distinct traces of a moulding, which had also been hewn away. I then saw clearly that the recessed tombs were of a different age from the Chancel, and that they had been inserted at a time when the string course and label molds had been cut away, and the whole inside of Chancel replastered and the floor raised.
Detecting some indications of a later character about the door and stairs to crypt, I found that to get space for this staircase its external wall had to be built outside the line of the wall of Chancel, and that the splayed course at the bottom of the pilasters between windows was drowned in an irregular manner in this extra thickness of wall, and showing two different kinds of work.
It then became quite evident that this staircase must have been constructed at a different time from the Chancel, and this fact, taken in conjunction with the original inside cills of windows being quite close to the present floor and the bases of tower piers rising from the level of Transept floor, shows that the crypt was not part of the work of Bishop Simon, and that its construction led to the raising of the Chancel floor to its present level.
I do not say that a crypt was not part of Bishop Simons work, but that the present one is not. There is no evidence to show what the original Crypt was, if any such existed.
Having shown that the tombs and floor of Chancel are not the work of Bishop Simon, I suspect it follows that the body exhumed from one of these tombs and re-interred was not the body of Bishop Simon, but of some Bishop of the next or succeeding century. At the time the Crypt was constructed the floors throughout would be all level ; the bases of the nave pillars show this. A further proof may be seen in the Transepts ; the small niches in the east walls are too high from the present floor, but just at the proper height from the second or later floor.
The whole of the outside work of the window in west gable of nave is either quite modern or of the same date as the building outside. The inside stone work is original, and of the same period as the north windows of nave ; in its original state it was sub-divided by mullions into two or three lights.
The Gable of North Transept has been subjected to frequent alterations. The doorway is of a very late date, and on the inside there is distinctive evidence of three windows belonging to three different periods.
The Windows of the South Transept are of two different periods, the outsides being comparatively modern and the insides original work.
To put all parts of the Cathedral in a state of security, and replace those stones that are most decayed, would require an outlay of at least £500, and I should say that a further sum of £500 would be required to secure all the dangerous parts of the walls and towers. This amount would cover my own expenses and those of a clerk of works, who would be required to superintend the execution of the work.
Should your Excellency see your way to carry out any of the restorations alluded to in this Report, special estimates and drawings would require to be prepared for each separate item. The work that could be accomplished by the expenditure of this £1,000 would be all in the direction of restoration, and nothing would require to be undone in the event of any part being taken in hand with this view.
I have the honour to be, Sir,
- Obliged and faithful servant,