[From Quiggin's Guide, 1841]
Though not the seat of government, is the largest, most populous, and greatest commercial town in the Island, and is the point at which nearly all the visiters first arrive. The approach to it by sea presents a most imposing aspect; on turning either of the heads which form the semicircle of the bay, the eye takes in a variety of objects which are gazed upon with delight. In the centre of it stands the magnificent free stone palace formerly the residence of the late Duke of Atholl, but now converted into an hotel; from which to the north extremity it is studded with gentlemens marine villas, terminating with an elegant building called Derby Castle. In a recess, at the south side, rises the town, with a handsome pier and lighthouse, and the shore is bedded with fine hard sand, which renders it one of the finest bathing places in the kingdom. The extreme limpidness of the water is proverbial, as fish may be seen near its bottom at a depth of from 20 to 30 feet! The bay is two miles across, and has good anchorage, being sheltered from all winds except the east and south-east; both its points are rocky, precipitous, and dangerous, and in the centre is a large bed of rock called St. Marys or Conister, which is just covered at high water, and on which many vessels have found their destruction. On this rock has lately been built a Tower of Refuge, planned by Sir William Hillary, Bart., and which is not only a beacon at high water, but also a secure retreat for any individuals who may unfortunately he cast away upon it. The first stone was laid by Lady Hillary on Easter Monday, April 23rd, 1832, since which not a single accident has occurred.
The harbour, the entrance to which is rather difficult, and in stormy weather dangerous, is dry at low water, ans esteemed the best dry one in the Irish sea; it will admit, at high water, vessels of considerable burthen to approach the quay, the depth being then from 15 to 20 feet. In tempestuous weather it affords but insecure shelter to vessels, being exposed to a heavy swell, from the E., S., and E. S. E. To remedy this inconvenience, Sir William Hillary submitted a plan to the consideration of government for forming a spacious central harbour, which, by the formation of a breakwater from Douglas head, and a pier from St. Marys rock, might be accessible at all times to the largest vessels. A survey was made by order of government, by Sir John Rennie, and lately Captain Denham, an eminent hydrographer, and Mr. Edwards, government engineer, were engaged in a similar undertaking, and there is reason to hope that this great national work will be carried into effect.
The pier is an agreeable promenade, and is much frequented on the arrival of the steam vessels from Liverpool, Dublin, and Whitehaven, and the visiter cannot fail being gratified with the beauty of the scenery around him. The pier was constructed by government at an expense of £22,000, is 520 feet in length, and 40 feet broad for an extent of 450 from its commencement, when it expands to a breadth of 90 feet, terminating in a circular area of greater elevation than the narrower part, and having in the centre a handsome lighthouse, which, as well as the pier, is built of yellow freestone.
The quay is spacious, and well adapted to the purposes of trade. All vessels having licenced goods, are, by Act of Parliament, compelled to deliver their cargoes exclusively at this port.
On the pier is a plain building in which the Deemster for the southern division holds his court as often as may be necessary, and the high bailliff every Saturday, for the recovery of debts under 40s. The Vicar General also holds an Ecclesiastical Court every alternate Friday, and a Chapter or Circuit Court in spring and autumn. Adjoining the court-house is a small lock-up house for the confinement of disorderlies and culprits, previous to their being examined before the proper authorities ; on the other side of the courthouse is the largest horse and carriage establishment in the Island. At the end of the pier is the room in which the United Service Club, established in 1829, hold their meetings ; a short distance from which is a subscription news-room and the Isle of Man Library. Proceeding from the pier along the quay, the stranger will come to the market place, at the corner of which; is the custom-house, a large and commodious building, conveniently situate for business ; it was erected during the prevalence of the contraband trade, by one of those persons who had realized a considerable property in that pursuit; but in the panic following the revestment of the island, it was sold to the Duke of Atholl, who made it for some time his residence, and is now rented by the Board of Customs. At a short distance from the custom-house is a small chapel, dedicated to St. Matthew, built in 1711, and consecrated by Bishop Wilson, in which service is occasionally performed in the Manks language. To this chapel is attached a library, established by Bishop Wilson, and augmented by Bishop Hildesley.
The streets are in general inconvenient and narrow, and the houses without order or uniformity of appearance; though the town has recently undergone considerable improvement., and in the suburbs are several new streets regularly formed, and many detached houses of handsome appearance; amongst the former must be ranked Atholl street, above which, on a small eminence, is the spacious and elegant chapel of St. George, containing 800 sittings. It was built by subscription during the episcopate of Mason. In the same street is the Independent chapel. built by subscription, and opened for divine worship in 1813, a neat building, affording ample accommodation for its frequenters. In Atholl street is also the Roman Catholic chapel. Not far from this chapel to the left, is a place of worship erected for the adherents of the Scotch church. In Atholl-street are also very commodious school-rooms for the education of the children of the poor, on Dr. Bells national plan. erected in 1810 by subscription at the expense of £1120, and supported by voluntary contributions and sermons preached annually at St. Georges. They are capable of containing 1000 children. Since their first establishment, 4000 boys and 4000 girls have been educated in them, and a very sensible improvement has taken place in the behaviour of the children. Sunday Schools. for the instruction of children of various denominations, are numerous. In Fort-street, a new chapel, called St. Barnabas, capable of accommodating 1200 persons, has lately been erected; it is a neat building, in the early style of English architecture, with turrets crowned with pinnacles at the angles of the nave. Nothing can be cruder than the architecture of the interior which is lighted by a range of fifteen long clerestory windows on each side; at the west end is a handsome tower, surmounted, by a spire 140 feet high. It was built by subscriptions raised in England, and was originally designed for the accommodation of the poor. When the chapel was nearly finished, Bishop Ward sold it to private gentlemen in London, at the head of whom is a Mr. Gordon, for £1300, giving them the right of presentation for three lives; but the poor are exclusively indebted to the British government, and not to the money raised in England, for the free sittings, as the ground on which the chapel is erected, was given on the condition that 500 free sittings should be reserved for the poor. At the upper end of the harbour is moored a mariners church, a vessel formerly employed as a transport, and lately granted by government at the request of bishop Ward, in which service is regularly performed on the Sabbath.
The Wesleyan Methodists have two large chapels, one in Thomas-street, which seats a thousand persons, and another in Well-road that will contain six hundred; underneath the latter are spacious school rooms.
The Post-office for the whole Island is in this town, and the mails arrive and are conveyed away by the steam packets every day in the summer, and twice a. week in the winter; the office is situated in the most inconvenient place in the town; a portion of the custom-house which remains in a useless state, ought to be appropriated to the purpose of a post-office.
The Isle of Man District Association of the Royal National Institution for the Preservation of Life from. Shipwreck, which institution originated with Sir Wm. Hillary, Bart., of Fort Anne, and of which the Governor is patron, is held in this town. It provides with food, clothing, medical assistance, and the means of returning to their homes, the destitute sufferers of all nations. It has Captain Manbys apparatus at the four principal ports.
There being no poor rates, nor any legal provision for the relief of the indigent poor, they have been partly maintained by collections made every Sunday in. the different churches, and voluntary subscriptions collected quarterly. Liberal subscriptions having recently been made, a commodious House of Industry has been erected, to which Government contributed: £800, into this the poor are admitted, and employment found for those capable of working. This institution is also supported by voluntary aid, and is under excellent management. Visitors are admitted, into it at any hour of the day. A. Ladies Soup Dispensary has. been some time established, from which about 100 pensioners are daily supplied during the winter with, nutritious soup, bread, and meat. A Medical Dispensary has also been instituted, and is well supported, and there are various benefit and friendly societies in. the town. Two lodges of the Manchester Unity of Odd Fellows have lately been opened.
There are four printing offices in the town, from each of which a newspaper is weekly published.
The intercourse with the neighbouring kingdoms is greatly facilitated by means of steam packets, which go to and come from Liverpool direct every day during the summer, the voyage, 72 miles, being frequently made in less than 8 hours. Scotch steam vessels running between Liverpool and Glasgow call at Ramsey, and there is a weekly communication with Whitehaven and Dublin. There are also several trading vessels from this port to Liverpool, Whitehaven, and the Scotch and Irish ports.
Considerable improvements have lately taken place in the town; the establishment of a gas company by which the quays and principal shops are lighted, has added much to the credit and respectability of their appearance, and although at present there are but few public lamps, we hope to see them shortly in every street in the town. The formation of a Water Company, by which the public are supplied with excellent water from a reservoir at the Crescent, has proved of great benefit to the town.
The MUSEUM, in Great Georges-street, was established in 1835, by Mr. J. R. Wallace, from materials collected principally by himself during different voyages to the South Seas, Peru, Chili, Colombia, Costa Rica, and Mexico; it has also been greatly augmented since its first opening both by presentation and purchase. It contains, at the present time, upwards of 6,000 specimens of quadrupeds, birds, reptiles, fishes, insects, shells, and corals, and a miscellaneous collection of manufactured curiosities, war weapons, dresses, and domestic utensils from South America, the islands in the Pacific Ocean, and Indian Archipelago. Among the liberal donors are the names of the Hon. S. Garling, governor of Malacca, for a rich present of the birds of that peninsula; J. Newton, Esq. for choice specimens of British birds; E. Forbes, jun. Esq. for an extensive collection of the mollusca of the Isle of Man and Irish sea; Capt. Lawson for corals from Java, &c, and varieties from every quarter of the world; and Gen. OBiren for specimens of gold and silver ores from Santa Rosa. Residents are admitted by annual tickets of 5s., or family do. 21s., and visiters on payment of one shilling.
A Mechanics Institution has been some years established, and is liberally supported; the books are selected with care and judgment, and the working part of the community have derived much benefit from it.
The market is on Saturday, and is well supplied with provisions and vegetables of all kinds, brought from different parts of the Island. A neat Market-house has lately been erected in Duke-street.
Douglas, as a sea-bathing place, is not surpassed by other in the kingdom for the salubrity of the air the clearness and strength of the waterthe extent and fineness of the beachthe numerous suitable residences and lodging houses erected along the shore and in the town for the accommodation of visiters, and the moderation in all charges, are strong inducements for genteel families to take up their summer residence here for sea bathing.