[From Castle Rushen, Armitage Rigby, 1927]


HE first known reference to Castle Rushen is in the Chronicon Manniae, where it is stated that in 1265 King Magnus died " in the Castle of Rushen." Whether he built it or not we may never know, but there is little doubt that his century must have the credit of starting the building.

In the last chapter an attempt was made to shew the improbability of a castle existing in the Isle of Man before the Norman conquest of England in 1066. It is now suggested that it is very improbable that there was any castle in Man before the Anglo-Norman conquest of Ireland in 1169

Perhaps it is wise to first decide upon the meaning of castle, as here used. The word is now accepted as meaning a private fortification, as distinct from a fortification suitable for the protection of a tribe, clan, or town. Many people have become confused by the use of the word castellum in ancient documents, but it is merely a diminutive of castrum, and, in Saxon times, was used to denote a walled town, or a town defended by earthen ramparts The earliest form of private or personal castle in western Europe was the Norman matte. Dr. Sophus Muller says of those found in Denmark, " They are the oldest personal castles-a genuine Middle-age phenomenon-which came with the new relation of society which was then everywhere forming."*

Personal castles are first mentioned in Europe early in the 11th century. The Normans were among the earliest to change from the clan to the feudal system, and with the change came the castle in its earliest form-the matte. In England there is no mention of such castles until Edward the Confessor settled some of his Norman favourites on English estates, and tried to introduce feudal forms into English clan life. In Ireland the clan system was still in vogue at the time of the Anglo-Norman conquest of that country, which began in 1169; consequently it is very unlikely that any personal castle existed there before that time. Giraldus Cambrensis states that the Irish did not use castles, and no mention is made of them in the history of the conquest. Considering the close connection between Ireland and the Isle of Man at this period, while England and the Isle of Man seem hardly to have heard of each other, we may assume that the Isle of Man was similar in manners and customs to Ireland rather than to England, and it is very probable that there was no private castle in the Isle of Man before such castles were introduced into Ireland about 1169. On the other hand we know that Godred Crovan is said to have granted the Southern part of the Island to the men of the Isles who helped him to conquer it in 1079, and that in 1134 certain men joined King Olaf in signing the charter of Rushen Abbey, from which it has been assumed that they gave up parts of the lands granted to their fathers by Godred to form the Abbey glebe. But it is most probable that these new settlers took up the land on the clan system which was in vogue in the islands they had left, and that those who signed the charter did so as heads of the various clans.

Again, we have before noted that Magnus Barefoot made the men of Galloway bring timber to Man for the erection of forts, but there is nothing to shew that these forts were castles of the private type. On the whole the historical evidence favours the view that there was no castle of the personal type in the Isle of Man before the conquest of Ireland in 1169.

Leaving the above an open question for the present, we may pass on to local historical reasons for supposing that, if a castle existed in Man before 1169, it was in the North or West of the island and not at Rushen. Indeed it is historically unlikely that there was a castle at Rushen at all events before 1220.


* Vor Oldtid.



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