[From An Accurate Description by T Callister, 1815]
This town has been almost entirely rebuilt within these thirty years, and the extraordinary improvements it has experienced from time to time during that period, especially of late, are great and many indeed ; insomuch that at present it exhibits a most genteel appearance in almost every street, particularly at the Parade, and from thence along the Quay as far as the New Bridge. Redfern's Square, together with the red herring houses on the other side of the river, affords a genteel view from the Quay on this side. Bridge Place cuts a remarkable handsome figure from every part of the Quay.
Many of the houses in Fort Street are handsome and genteel, particularly two of them, built by Mr. FELL,, and those lately built on Mount Prospect, in the modern taste, are peculiarly fine, and the view of them from the Bay is grand, and has a very pleasing effect. The lane called Shaw's Brow, near Atholl Street, is composed of new houses, all in the modern style. Duke Street is the largest and finest old street in the town, beginning at the Market Place and goes as far as Messrs. CALLOW's shop, being little short of half a mile in length ; there are many well constructed houses built in it of late years, and some of them quite new. Great George's Street is also very handsome ; but Atholl Street bids fair to excel in a little time every other in point of broadness, airy situation, and elegant building; Mr. SIMPSON's new houses, in particular, cuts a very handsome figure there.
Such numbers of genteel families having for some years back resorted to this town from the neighbouring kingdoms, as a pleasant, locality, and eligible place of retirement, the rents of the houses built for their accommodation became higher than those of a similar size in Dublin and London ; this circumstance produced that rage for building which prevailed for some years past, and which now begins in a great measure to subside, and is likely to continue so, in consequence of the late "Act of Tynwald, for the more easy recovery of debts contracted out of the limit, of the Isle of Man ;" this and the late general peace, has already brought several Gentlemen out of the Island to France, Flanders, and Holland, and more are likely to follow soon, while it is most likely that fewer than usual by far, will in future resort to this Island, which circumstance will injure many, particularly in Douglas, and more especially the farmers in the country, as provisions of every kind are falling fast every where, and of course must do so here; however, the poor will benefit by it, for meat of all sorts, also butter, poultry, bread, &c. had been a long time uncommonly dear'. The best view to be had of the town is from the other side, a few fields above Mr. HOLMES.'s herring house.
The old Pier, together with the old Light House, and a great part of the old Quay, was by a dreadful hurricane,(about five and twenty years since, which lasted for several days) almost entirely demolished. A lamp was then fixed on the ruins of the old Quay, as a substitute for the former light; and sometime after in another great storm, that came on of a sudden from the south-east, while the fleet of herring boats were fishing,(of a very dark night) a number of them were lost ; on approaching the harbour, one or two of them having come in with such force as to knock down the temporary light, which prevented the others from distinguishing their way, so that a great many of the fishermen unfortunately perished at the mouth of the harbour, and on the beach behind the Quay, by the boats running with violence one against the other; this deplorable disaster was chiefly owing to the Pier and much of the Quay being left very long inthe ruinous state it was in. From this circumstance, a native poet was induced to compose a doleful ditty, the tune was taken from Boreas, in the play called the Tempest; it was printed and dispersed through the country, and as the same may prove an agreeable digression to many of my readers, I here present them therewith verbatim :-
1 COME all ye bold Manks hardy seamen,
And pray listen to my song:
For the subject which it treats of,
To you 'specially do belong;
'Tis of the dangers ye encounter,
And the hardships that ye meet,
Ev'ry year without exception,
And the loss of the Herring Fleet.
2 On the 20th of' September
The weather proving fine and clear,
The same night more fish was taken,
Than any other the same year;
The whole fleet next day got ready,
Bending way to the herring ground,
Little thinking so fine an ev'ning,
That so many would be drown'd.
3 Now just about the hour of nine,
Not half the boats' nets being shot,
The sky darken'd to the southward -
To southeast the wind veer'd about;
Then the Admiral hoisted signal for
To weigh and steer for home,
Not a man in in the fleet expected
To see the waves so dreadful foam.
4 Some approaching in a cluster,
Just by the harbour's mouth,
To fall foul of one another,
The poor fishermen were loath
At length one boat knock'd down the Light Post,
Then another ran on board,
Which caus'd the crews of both to go down,
Their souls to render to the LORD.
5 Then many other of the fleet, that for
The harbour made their way,
Mistaking lanthorns for the Pier Lights,
On the beach all wreck'd they lay ;
Another crew, and one odd man,
By this mischance then lost their lives.
What a dreadful sight next morning!
Oh ! what tidings to their wives.
6 Had the Pier of Douglas been rebuilt,
This misfortune had not been,
And it really is most scandalous
That the ruins still are seen.
Ships and boats pay certain duties,
The harbour to keep in repair;
Pray then why not repair our Harbour,
And rebuild our Quay and Pier?
Whereupon a proper remonstrance was drawn up by some of the principal inhabitants, representing this sorrowful case to the Board of Admiralty, the members whereof having taken the matter into due consideration, orders there shortly after given by them accordingly, and an able engineer was appointed to employ a sufficient number of people to clear away the stones and rubbish, and to lay the foundation of the present Quay; many of the best stone cutters also, were sent for from Scotland, and who were a long time employed in preparing large free stones, many cargoes whereof were brought from Cumberland for the Quay, so that in the course of a few years it was finished, and that in the most complete manner, at a very great expence to Government ; and a very elegant Lighthouse was erected at the Pier end.
About a quarter of a mile further up towards the town, there is a superb Courthouse, where' the High Bailiff gives hearing every Saturday in causes under forty shillings. Here the Hon. Deemster CRELLIN came into the place of the late Deemster LACE, he condescends to accomodate the inhabitants of Douglas, and its vicinity occasionally, on certain days which he previously appoints to give hearing in causes above forty shillings. Adjoining the Courthouse there is a small prison called the Blackhole, where petty offenders are punished by temporary confinement. Adjoining there is a large office for the Piermaster, and some of the Customhouse officers, and such as have business to transact with them. Between the Lighthouse and the Courthouse, the Quay is handsomely paved with freestone, and this part constitutes the chief promenade of the Gentry, particularly in summer-time, and there are seats for their accommodation all along the low wall, that was erected on the northside thereof.
The Harbour and Quay from the lighthouse to the new bridge is nearly a mile in length, on the northside whereof, taking the harbour, and all along from the Courthouse, there are very few houses which are not of modern construction, and some of those that are not so, are remarkably genteel ; as that belonging to the Duke, where the Collector resides, in particular ; so that the whole Quay forms a very agreeable walk on a dry day, even during the winter.
Towards the close of the herring fishing season, there are frequently above four hundred large fishing boats to be seen in the Harbour at a time, besides many square-rigged vessels, sloops, and wherries, and other small craft. On an evening when the fleet sets sail for the fishing grounds, and also of a morning on its return, it exhibits a beautiful view from the Pier, of indeed from any part of the Quay near it, forming a most charming coup d'oeil.
The Strand is about a mile and a half long, and at low water it is above half a mile from that to high water mark, with the occasional variation of the tide. In the day time it is a very pleasant place for walking, or riding, especially during the hot months in summer, owing; to the refreshing cool breezes which come from the sea, and from almost every part of it, there are pleasant views of the town and the bay as well as of several parts of the country, and of a summer's evening at low water, or even at half flood, numbers of people are seen walking on it, especially of a Saturday going to and going from market, but particularly of a Sunday, going to and from Onchan Church. At a place called the black rock, being about half a mile from and nearly opposite KAYLI.'s brewery, are some convenient places for bathing without machines, as are also near the Old Fort. There are two elegant bathing machines during the summer, for the accommodation of such as prefer this mode of taking the benefit of the salt water at a very moderate charge.
Whenever the Douglas races occur, this is the ground fixed upon for the occasion. Last summer, Mr. LEWIS GENESTE, junior, took, in a large portion of this strand, by building a wall and bulwark, near the Little Fort, for the purpose of having an extensive and commodious timber-yard there. In winter during the continuance of a strong easterly wind, this strand, particularly towards the town, is generally almost covered over with sea-wreck, which is carefully gathered up, put into carts ,and brought to the country for manure.