[From Castle Rushen, Armitage Rigby, 1927]




EMERGING from the Gate House we find ourselves on a raised causeway of earth leading to the draw bridge of the Inner Ward. On the right-hand side the causeway is supported by a retaining wall, while on the left the bank slopes down to the lower level, probably for bringing horses into the outer ward. Remains of some walls under the surface suggest that there may have been a barrier across the causeway something like that described in Chapter I. The slope on the left has been altered at various times. The erection in 1644 of Lord Derby's house necessitated the first alteration, and it seems to have been altered again when the Castle was given up to prison purposes about a century ago.

The accompanying plans shew what seem to have been the arrangement of this part before and after the erection of Lord Derby's house, so far as can be judged from the remains of walls found during recent excavations.

There were probably a few minor alterations to this part of the Castle between the 14th and 17th centuries, for instance, the addition of the steps strewn on plate G. between the Gate House and the Chapel, which appear to be earlier than the Chapel and yet not quite original.

With. the building of the Derby House the Gun Ward, commonly misnamed the moat, was probably turned into a garden. Possibly the gate from the Market Place to the Gun Ward was opened at this time and became the main entrance, while some of the land now occupied by the town was probably laid out as a park. A gateway may be seen in a passage opening from Arbory Street, apparently of this date, which tradition says was the entrance to the Castle grounds, and next to it the quaint house now occupied by Dr. Hannay, then probably a lodge, and said to have been called the Bagnio House.

Just beyond the gate is the street called The Crofts, suggesting that this ground was occupied by a number of small crofts clustering round the Castle entrance, the dwellings of the numerous small tradesmen, stable hands, and others who would find employment in connection with the establishment. In his history, Mr. A. W. Moore mentions some notes of matters to be attended to in the Island, found among the papers of the Earl of Derby, one item being " To improve the Park," possibly referring to this enclosure round the Castle.

We may suppose that the enlarged Sally Port then became the private entrance to the Castle.

When the Castle was turned into a prison in 1815, the ground on the East side of the main ward seems to have been raised considerably, partly burying the lower story of the Derby house, and completely burying the remains of the old stables, brewery, mint, etc.; and on their sites warders' cottages and other prison buildings were erected. During the recent restoration this added ground has been removed, exposing once again the foundations of the older buildings.

Going round the main ward with the sun, we are first confronted with the above-mentioned Derby House, a very plain three-story building of rough masonry plastered over. The main curtain wall forms the back wall of the two lower stories. The third story rises above the curtain, and the back becomes the front. This upper front wall, which was rebuilt in the Early Victorian style, rests on the inner edge of the curtain wall, leaving the parapet walk intact, and thus providing a sort of balcony for this floor.

There was originally a fourth story, but this was taken down when the new front wall was erected. These alterations were carried out when this house ceased to be used as the Governor's residence, and was added to the Rolls Office.

Describing the Derby House, the author of " Brittanica Curiosa" says. " On the other side of the Caftle is the governor's houfe which is very commodious and spacious. Here also is a fine chapel where divine service is celebrated morning and afternoon and several offices belonging to the court of Chancery." The house could only be called " commodious and spacious" in comparison with other houses then (1776) existing in Castletown. There are two fairly good rooms. The offices belonging to the Court of Chancery are presumably the Court-room over the Gate House and the towers on the curtain wall. These with the later addition of some of the upper rooms of the Derby House formed the Rolls Office until the Government Offices were removed to Douglas in 1891; and a very inconvenient office it must have been, including as it did three detached single-room towers only connected by the parapet walk of the curtain wall. It seems, however, to have had compensating advantages, as one of our legal luminaries who was articled in this office tells us that the arrangement afforded unique opportunities for indulging in a quiet " rubber."

The Derby House is now chiefly occupied by Mr. McLaughlin, the custodian of the Castle, to whom I am much indebted for his valuable assistance in my researches. As a building it cannot be considered an improvement to the Castle, but the fact that it was built at an interesting period of English history (1644), and by the "Great" Stanley, members of whose family were Kings and Lords of Man for so many generations, entitles it to respect.

The thickness of the basement wall of the house has suggested that the great hall of the Castle may have originally occupied its site, but an examination of the masonry does not bear this out, and the accommodation in the inner ward is so complete that it is improbable that such a hall would be required. The well opposite was probably sunk for domestic convenience when the house was built.

Passing the end of the Derby House, we come to a large opening in the curtain wall, evidently not original. It is, however, only an enlargement of the original pastern or sally port. The lower jamb stones of the original doorway are still in situ below the present floor. Their position may be seen marked on the modern floor in red stone. There is also marked on the floor a very curious barrier found in front of the door. Only the foundation of the barrier remains, and there are no data as to its height.

It will be noticed that it allowed egress either to the right along the scarp of the Castle mound for attacking an enemy who might be attempting to undermine the curtain, or to the front along a causeway leading to the counterscarp near the main entrance. The latter opening could be barred, as will be seen from the bar holes in the wall of the adjacent tower. There was a machicolation over this door. This enlargement was probably made when the gun ward was formed. It was used later as the private entrance to the Derby House, and explains the reason for placing the door of that house at the end of the building. The covered passage from this opening to the street (commonly called the " Red Passage") seems to have been built later as a judge's entrance to the Court.

We now come to the foundations of various buildings which have recently come to light through lowering the level of the courtyard. It was found, on excavating at various points, that the ground, as generally happens in old buildings, had risen or been raised until it averaged about 4 feet above the original level. This would be the natural result of accumulation of debris over a long period, added to by periodical repaving as the ground rose. In some places three separate cobble pavements were found a few inches below each other. When the lowest pavement was in use there must have been some method of drainage, as in some of the wells the water rises occasionally above that level, and on recently lowering the ground to its original level it was found necessary to insert a drain to carry it off. Before the ravine surrounding the Castle was filled up, the well water would naturally overflow into it.

In lowering the ground a number of stone and iron cannon balls were found, also a bombshell, such as were thrown from mortars in the 17th century. Poor Thomas Tetloe could no doubt have given much interesting information about these munitions of war had he thought of writing it down before his distressing end in 1677. In the Malew Parish Register of that year we find that " Tho: Tetloe gunner of Castle Rushin beinge gunner in the Calfe* and falling sick there was brought out of the Calfe and betwixt William Nelson's house in Port Iron* and the shoare died on the back of Ro: Geele fisher, on thursday fete: 21th. brought to Castletown on friday and buried on Saturday febr: 23th in Kk Malew Church. +

Whether the bombshell was part of the Castle ammunition or was thrown into the building during a siege one cannot say. Probably the latter, as a mortar was of more use to an attacking than to a defending party.

At the siege of Lathom House, which was so gallantly defended by Charlotte de la Tremouille, a mortar caused great discomfort. In a history of the house of Stanley published in 1783, we read that the Parliamentarians " raifed a very strong Battery; whereon they placed a large Mortar piece (sent them from London) from which they cart about fifty Stones of fifteen Inches Diameter into the house; as also Grenadoes of the same Size, alias Bomb Shells, the first of which falling near the Place where the Lady and her Children with all the Commanders were sat at Dinner, shivered all the Room but hurt no Body. The Lady and her Commanders observing the Soldiers fomething terrified with the frequent shooting of thofe unufual and destructive Fire Balls, resolved at a Council of War to make a strong Sally, and attempt the taking of that Mortar Piece." The sally was successful, for they " Nailed up and overturned all their Cannon, and thofe they found upon Carriages they rolled into the Mote, and brought the Mortar Piece into the Houfe."

Is it possible that the Countess brought this historic Mortar Piece to the Island and that the shell formed part of its ammunition?

Bontell (" Arms and Armour") says that the mortar was invented in (Germany during the second half of the 16th century, but it seems at first to have been more dangerous to the gunner than to the enemy. Until about the middle of the 17th century mortars were invariably discharged by double firing-that is to say the gunner lighted the fuse of the shell with one hand while with the other he fired the mortar from which it would be discharged. The process of loading while this system was in vogue was peculiar and tedious. " After the powder had been placed in the chamber of the mortar, it was closed in by a wooden board or shutter, made to fit the bore of the piece; then this board was covered with turf; and over the turf, again, earth was placed; and finally on the earth the shell with its live (or lighted) fusee was made to rest in such a manner that it was only partly enclosed within the mortar."

Though we have seen above that a lucky shot had sufficiently alarming results, we begin to understand that there was some hope, even in the 17th century, of holding a castle against artillery.

In reducing the ground to its original level a few coins of no great antiquity were found, but it was disappointing not to find the remains of any tools or arms.

The foundations uncovered probably represent only a few of the buildings which occupied the main ward. It may be supposed that there would be numerous sheds of timber or lath and plaster with thatched roofs, the remains of which have, of course, entirely disappeared. There would probably be kitchens, bakehouse,brewery, stabling, barracks, granaries, storerooms, tannery, chandlery, blacksmith's shop, etc. A mediaeval castle of importance was very self contained, and the continuous row of corbels built into the inside face of the curtain wall at Castle Rushen shews that it was expected that buildings would be erected all round the ward.

The storage room must have been very considerable. Probably the ground floor of the inner ward would be chiefly used for stores, but this would hardly have been sufficient. We know that at one period six hundred beeves were to be supplied annually to the two Castles (Rusher and Peel).* If other stores were on a similar scale considerable space would be required. In 1422 the following order was recorded: " Alsoe that there be in the Castle x Bowles of Mault Ground, and x Bowles of Wheate, the wheate to be putt in Pipes, and the Mault laid upon a Floore."+ It is not recorded how often the amounts of malt and wheat were to be supplied. If only annually the amounts were extremely moderate, but comparing them with the beef allowance they would seem to be the weekly supply.

In 1601 there was a considerable change as to the Castle stores owing to local agricultural distress. An agreement was entered into dated August 3rd of that year between the Deputy Governor, council, and officers, Deemsters, Keys and others as to the payment of customs in money instead of in kind, beginning: " That whereas by reason of the great Death of Cattle and Horses of late happening Universally over the whole Isle the said Inhabitants are not able as before to pay their usual Customes of Corne Victuall and fyer unto the Garrisons of the said Isle the Countrey not having p'vision of beeives nor yet Horses for carriage of ther Turffe and Linge as heartofore," etc., etc. To make up for this the Lord's rent seems to have been doubled.§

Whether the household stores became more moderate when they had to be paid for in cash we know not, but it seems certain that, at all events in the earlier days, a large space must have been reserved for them.

It would be idle to attempt to assign their particular uses to all the buildings of which there are remains, as there is in most cases little detail beyond mere foundations. Warders' cottages recently occupied the ground over the first set, and their erection would destroy anything likely to give a clue. The second building:, however, was probably the brewery. There are the remains of a furnace evidently made for the heating of a large cauldron, and near this a brick-paved depression in the floor which looks like a standing place for a vat, also a brick-paved space on which one can imagine that the barley was sprouted. This, however, is mere conjecture. We know that there would be a brewery; and that there was a brewer, at all events in 1422, appears from certain rules drawn up by the Deemster and 24 Keys in that year, among which we find that every Sunday the Comptroller was to " take the Steward, the Cooke, the Brewer, and Baker, and charge them on their Oathes to give a true Expence for the Week past; and this is to be done upon Paine of forfeiting his fees."* The same formality was to be carried out at Peel Castle every Saturday (par. 40).

It was also laid down that " Ten hogsheads of Beere to be made of nine Bowles of Mault," so that the amount of malt which, as we saw above, was to be stored, namely x Bowles, would make about twelve hogsheads of " Beere." If this is to be taken as the annual supply, the garrison might have worn blue ribands without shame; but the rules of livery for the Castles, laid down in 1422, suggest that the above supply would hardly see them through twelve months.

" And forasmuch As Greate Wast hath been made in the Castle and Peele, in bread, and alst':in Fuell and candles; therefore be it ordained that the Lieutenant have one Loafe of Bread, one Gallon of Ale, two candles in Somer, and three in Winter, and reasonable of Fuell every night from Allhallow day till Easter; and iij Men and one Page, iii Horses at Hay, with xx Bowles of Oates at the Lord his Price. And the Receivers to have a Pottle of Ale, halfe a Loafe Bread, one Candle in Somer and ij in Winter and reasonable of Pyre in the same manner; and one Man a Piece, 2 Horses at Hay, and xij Bowles Oates. The Clearke of the Rowles one Quarte Beere, one candle in Somer and ij in Winter and vj Bowles Oates. The Comptroller one Quarte Beere, one candle in Somer and ij in Winter j Horse at Hay, and six Bowles Oates, with one page. The Constables of both the Places either a Quarte of Beere, Halfe a Loafe Bread, ij Candles, Quell in Winter reasonable, and ij Turves a night in Somer to search the Watch, and the Water Bayliffe to have as the Receivers afforesaid, and noe more Liveries without special Warrant from the Lord. Also that noe Yeoman have meate or drink except he have been on the Lord his Business but at the Bell"* (par. 60 and 65).

The amounts allowed to the yeomen, to the brewer himself, to the cooks, bakers, etc., do not seem to be laid down. Drinks between meals seem to have been stopped by the rule, but no doubt the supply " at the Bell" was fairly liberal. The Lieutenant's allowance was quite handsome; it is difficult to imagine a Lieutenant-Governor, in these degenerate days swallowing a gallon of ale.

* Calf Island, separated from the S.W. extremity of the Isle of Man by a sound about a mile in width. There was a battery there in the 17th century.
* Port Erin. ~
Manx Note Book.
* This was reduced later to 500. Lex Scripta.
t Lex Scripta, 1422, par. 39.
§ The doubling took place in 1703. Manx Note Book, Vol. I, p. 61.
Lex Scripta


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 1999