[from Porter's Directory 1889]

Historical and Descriptive Account

[my copy is lacking some pages of this section - to be added later]




and Douglas Head on the South; the clustered houses of the Old Town near the harbour, and the long lines of noble terraces and detached villas which rise from the margin of the sea, row above row, and stud the thickly wooded heights behind; and the broad uplands and rocky peaks of the mountainous interior, which forms the background of the picture, present a scene of beauty which has few parallels. Immediately in front, as we near the harbour, rises Douglas Head, a rugged mass of slate rock 320 feet high, with its picturesque lighthouse standing on a projecting ledge of its rocky side, and crowned by the castellated buildings of the Head Hotel, a favourite resort with visitors on account of the magnificent views of land and sea obtained from it; and along its northern face is the Harbour of Douglas, the outer harbour formed by the Battery Pier and the Victoria Pier ; the latter a handsome structure composed of huge concrete blocks, is at the present moment being widened, and lengthened by an additional 400 feet, at a cost of about £77,000, making its total cost to the present about £130,000; and the inner harbour, which is a tidal one, formed by the old Red Pier, built at the commencement of the century, at a cost of £22,000, and the estuary of the River Douglas.


Douglas, now the seat of the Government, is the largest and most important town in the Island, having a population of over 19,000. It takes its name from the little river which rising in the mountains of the interior, flows into its harbour. The old town of Douglas, occupying the low-lying area in the neighbourhood of the harbour, is mainly a labyrinth of narrow, winding lanes and passages, formed by quaint, old-fashioned buildings, which show unmistakable signs of having seen better days—the relics of the old smuggling town of a century ago. In the centre of this old-world quarter, and opening on to the quay-side, is the Market Place, in which a considerable business is done by the country people and others who bring farm and garden produce into town for sale. One side of this Market Place is occupied by the unpretentious church of St. Matthew, built in 1711, and consecrated by Bishop Wilson. Through the heart of this decayed district, a broad street of noble proportions—Victoria Street—has been driven from the landing pier to the foot of the steep ascent known as Prospect Hill, which leads into the upper town. This fine street contains several public buildings of considerable pretentious to architectural beauty, including the Grand Hotel, the Peveril Hotel fronting the pier, the colossal Villiers Hotel, all at its sea-side end; the Grand Theatre, capable of seating about 2000 persons, and under the management of Mr. A. Hemming, one of the most perfectly appointed and best regulated theatres in the kingdom; a little further up, the Salisbury and Shakespeare Hotels; and further still the Manx Bank, and opposite to it the Wesleyan Chapel. At the foot of Prospect Hill is Dumbell’s Bank; and a few yards higher up, at the corner of Athol Street, is a block of buildings, the lower portion used as a grocery and provision shop and the upper as a preaching room by the Methodist New Connection, which was formerly used as a theatre in which Mrs. Siddons and Charles Kean are said to have occasionally appeared. Victoria Street is lined on both sides with a large number of finely-proportioned, well stocked shops, in which almost every conceivable article may be purchased as advantageously as in any English town. It is altogether one of the finest business streets in Europe, and presents a grand. spectacle during the season when crowded with carriages and pedestrians. This magnificent thorough fare is crossed about midway by Duke Street— the old business centre of the town, which, though it still retains much of its original narrowness, is being gradually widened and otherwise improved, and its small and inconvenient houses are being steadily pulled down and rebuilt in a more suitable style. It contains a large number of commodious and well-stocked shops. At its south end it opens into the Market Place; and at its north end it is continued into Strand Street and Castle Street, and so to the Shore Road, which skirts the bay, and forms, outside the town boundary, the great highway to Ramsey and the north. Branching off from Duke Street are a number of narrow, dilapidated streets leading into the Old Town, the principal of which are Lord Street, in which Professor Edward Forbes, the eminent naturalist, was born; Wellington Street, in which are the old Theatre Royal, now closed, the Primitive Methodist Chapel, and the Wellington Hall, a large and commodious room used for lectures and entertainments of various kinds; and Fort Street, so called from an ancient tower which formerly stood at its shore end, in which are St. Barnabas’ Church, and the offices of the Town Board. Athol Street, off Prospect Hill, is a fine open street containing the Court House in which the Tynwald Court generally assembles, the Isle of Man Banking Company’s premises, the Free Public Library, and the Penny Reading Institute; in it also are most of the lawyers’ and brokers’ offices, and at its upper end is the Railway Station. Proceeding up Prospect Hill and its continuation, Buck’s Road, we enter the upper or New Town—an extensive suburb which has sprung up within the last few years to meet the requirements of the summer trade. The houses are large and well-planned, and attractive in appearance, and have generally a small flower garden in front. The streets are broad and well macadamised, and the side-paths are smoothly concreted, and the buildings are divided into terraces and blocks of moderate size, each house having its own distinctive’ name as well as its number. On Prospect Hill is the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Mary of the Isle with its presbytery adjoining—a somewhat gloomy looking but imposing pile; and a little higher, in Circular Road, is the Unitarian Church. At: the top of Buck’s Road is Rose-mount Wesleyan Chapel, a large, fine building, with a splendid organ just opened. Descending the hill to the shore by the street opposite this church, Windsor Road, we have a magnificent view of the bay. To the left, the road sweeps round the margin of the bay in a gentle curve to the foot of the Northern Headland, up which it climbs, and passes on :through. Onchan and Laxey to Ramsey. Under the headland is seen the castellated pile of Derby Castle—a building which with the adjacent pavilion and ornamental grounds, belongs to a limited company, and is one of the most popular pleasure resorts in the Isle of Man. On the summit of the cliff, above the castle, is the Insular Industrial Home, a large and pleasantly situated building in which over 100 destitute children of both sexes are lodged and educated, and when old enough placed out at trades or established, under supervision, on farms, in Canada. This useful institution is supported by voluntary contributions. Nearer, is another and more imposing building, Castle Mona, built by John, fourth Duke of Athol, in 1802, at a cost of £40,000. This interesting property has been recently purchased by a local syndicate for the sum of £80,000; and the extensive grounds which formerly surrounded the castle have been broken up, and a considerable portion sold for building plots; while the greater part of the remainder is being laid out as a pleasure similar to Derby Castle. On the wooded heights are the picturesque tower and the enormous pavilion of the Falcon Cliff Company, another resort of the same kind as Derby Castle and Castle Mona. The roadway along the north shore is being embanked by a substantial sea wall, formed of immense concrete blocks, and the area thus being enclosed will be laid out partly in grass and shrubs, and partly as a marine promenade, which will extend past Derby Castle to the picturesque little bathing place beyond, at a cost of £10,000 or £12,000. Along the broad, sandy shore between Castle Mona and the foot of Broadway, where we are standing, are the bathing grounds, and numbers of bathers may be seen disporting themselves in the clear, sparkling waters, while other loungers are trotting about on the regulation seaside donkeys. In front is the Iron Promenade Pier, extending out into the bay to low water; an to the right stretch the Harris Promenade, and beyond, the Loch Promenade, which, flanked by terraces of handsome boarding-houses and hotels, is continued on to the harbour and Landing Pier. At the foot of Broadway opposite the Iron Pier, is the Central Hotel, one of the largest and most complete establishments in the kingdom; and on the promenade are the Falcon, the Granville, the Regent, and the Athol Hotels—all first-class hotels, where every comfort may be found at reasonable terms. At the point where the Harris and the Loch Promenades connect, is St. Thomas’s Church; and on the steep height behind is Noble’s Hospital—a picturesque group of buildings, presented to the town by H. B. Noble, Esq. and the late Mrs. Noble. In the centre of the town, between Athol Street and Circular Road, is the remaining church, that of St. George. In Regent Street, off the Loch Promenade, and near the Regent Hotel, is the Post Office. In the centre of the South Bay is the Tower of Refuge—erected by Sir Wm. Hilary in 1832, upon the Conister, or St. Mary’s Rock, a tidal rock, very dangerous on account of its position and the set of the tides, to shipping entering or leaving the harbour.


Douglas is well supplied with amusements during the season. In Victoria Street is the Grand Theatre, and on Prospect Hill is the Gaiety Theatre, both well managed, and supplied during the season with a succession of the best London companies. Near the Peveril Hotel is the Promenade Circus, a large and comfortable building, under the same management as the Gaiety Theatre. Along the front of the town, as we have seen, are the three pleasure resorts of Castle Mona, Falcon Cliff and Derby Castle, with their carefully laid-out grounds, their afternoon high-class concerts, and their nightly dancing assemblies. Fireworks and other entertainments of an elaborate kind are frequently provided by them during the season. Other amusements of various kinds—waxworks, variety exhibitions, mesmeric entertainments, &c., are numerous during the summer ; and the visitor when tired of land amusement, can vary it with boating, fishing, bathing, and sear-trips round the Island, to Port Soderic —a rocky creek south of Douglas, opening into a beautiful woodland glen—or to Laxey, the Dhoon, or Ramsey. There are also numerous drives by car or by rail into the interior of the Island, particulars of which will be given later.


The district round Douglas is peculiarly beautiful, and affords numerous delightful walks and rambles- to moderate pedestrians. The one which generally first attracts the stranger is the pleasant walk through the picturesque grounds of the Nunnery, past’ the "restored " Nunnery Chapel of St. Bridget, and the Nunnery House, to Kirk Braddan. The Old Church has been superseded by a modern edifice, and is not now used for Divine Service; but in Summer, out-door Services are regularly held in the churchyard.




great drawback of Peel in this direction is its defective harbour works. It has no low-water landing pier; and as its harbour is a tidal one, passengers will have generally to land and embark at the breakwater below the castle, which will necessitate either landing and embarking at the beach in small boats, or a long journey round the south of the harbour and through the Old Town. The houses of the Old Town, like those of other old Manx towns, are mean looking, and the streets narrow and ill paved; but great improvements are being made, and the newly-built parts of the town are pleasant and convenient. In addition to fishing, Peel possesses several small industries, including shipbuilding, net and sail making. On St. Patrick’s Isle, adjoining the mainland, are the ruins of the old castle, described by Scott in "Peveril of the Peak," of St. Germain’s Cathedral, and numerous other ancient buildings.


Castletown, at the mouth of the Silverburn, the ancient capital of the Manx Kingdom, is the smallest and least progressive of the Manx towns. It is a clean, pleasant town, with narrow winding streets, with a population of about 2000. It derives its name from Castle Rushen, a fine example of a fourteenth century fortress, round which it is irregularly built. It is the principal port of the south, and has considerable trade in agricultural produce.

Among the younger towns, we have PORT ST. MARY, four miles ~nth~west of Castletown, the southern centre of the Manx fishing industry, and also a rising Summer resort. It possesses a fleet of about 150 fishing boats, and has a considerable trade in fish and agricultural produce. Population about 2000. LAXEY is the centre of an important mining district. Its harbour is small and unsafe, but it is to be immediately improved by the construction of sheltering works scenery in neighbourhood very beautiful. Population of the district about 2000. BALLASALLA, a large agricultural village near Castletown, possesses extensive limestone quarries. In the neighbourhood, are the ruins of Rushen Abbey, founded in 1098, and dissolved by Elizabeth. In the centre of the Island is FOXDALE, a large mining village and in the north is KIRK MICHAEL, a large agricultural village; near it is Bishop’s Court, the residence of the Bishop of the Island. - PORT ERIN is a rising watering place in the south of the Island, in the centre of a beautiful district. At ST. JOHN’S, in the centre of the Island, is Tynwald Hill, from which, according to ancient custom, the laws of the Island are proclaimed to give them validity.


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HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001