From Douglas to Castletown.
To go from Douglas to Castletown we proceed over a bridge at the upper end of the harbour beyond which a spring-tide flows two or three hundred yards. Past the nunnery mill the road. becomes very pleasant, having on one side the grounds of Major Taubman, commencing; with a deep bank, well covered with trees; and on the other a hedge planted upon rising ground. In ascending the hills the prospect becomes extended, and on turning about we perceive Snawfel, Penypont, and the neighbouring mountain About half way from Douglas to Castletown we pass the seats of Mount Murray and Newtown, and see plainly the houses of the metropolis with the castle rearing its head amidst them. On the right of the road is South Barrule, vieing in majesty with the loftiest mountain of the island and nearer to us, in the same direction, the little chapel of St. Mark, built in 1712, and situate in the parish of Malew. On the left is Santon church; and another mile leads us to the cross road, which turns off towards it. As it is my design to make the reader acquainted with every thing in the least degree worthy of his notice, I need not apologise for making him occasionally deviate from the highway, to view a rustic village or solitary church.
Santon, or St. Anne's church, takes its name from its dedication to St. Anne, the mother of the Virgin Mary. It is situated half a mile from the sea. It is the practice of the island, whenever a person wishes to make any thing known, to affix a notice to the church-door; and here I found the following:
" Joseph Johnson respectfully informs his friends and the public, that he has opened a shop adjoining Mr. Robert Cannel's, chandler, where he follows saddling, harness, and trunk-making, &c.
" An apprentice wanted.
" Highest price for horse skins, pig skins, and slink skins.'-,
In the churchyard is a tomb-stone to the memory of Daniel Tear, who died at the advanced age of one hundred and ten years, on which is engraved the following epitaph, introducing a pun:
" Here, friend, is little Daniel's tomb,
To Joseph's years he did arrive;
Sloth killing thousands in their bloom,
While labour kept poor Dan alive.
How strange, yet true! full seventy years
Was his wife happy in her Tears."
About a mile distant, upon a rising and heathy ground, and near the road to Douglas, are several stones, probably of Druidical antiquity, placed in a form somewhat similar to those of Laxey, hereafter to be noticed.
Having retraced our steps and turned to the left, we cross a bridge called Mulen de Cunie; and soon arrive at Balasalla, perhaps the largest Village of the country, situated in the parish of Malew, two miles from Castletown. Here are the old cotton works now devoted to some other purpose; and many other mills. In the vicinity are a lime quarry and a lime kiln: and trees scattered here and there improve the scenery.
Contiguous to the village are the ruins of Rushen Abbey. It was founded, according to Sacheverell by one Mac Marus, or MacManus, supposed to be elected to the government of the island on account of his many virtues. He laid the foundation of the abbey in the year 1058. The monks lived by their labour, with great mortification; wore neither shoes, furs, nor linen; and eat no flesh, except on journies. There were twelve of them, with an abbot. The Cistertian order had its beginning the very year of the foundation of this abbey, and was probably planted here six and thirty years afterwards by Evan, abbot of Furness in Lancashire.
In 1134 Olave, King of Man, gave to Evan the monastery of Rushen with additional lands, and a third part of the tithes of his kingdom. He either enlarged or rebuilt the abbey, dedicated it to the blessed virgin, instituted the Cistertian discipline, and made it a cell of the abbey of Furness. In 1192 the monks removed to Douglas, but in four years afterwards returned.
The religious self-denial and austerity of the monks now gave way to indolence, and the refinements of luxury. Their temporal power was increased. The abbot was made a baron of the land; held courts in his own name; could exempt any of his tenants from a trial at the Lord's court, and have his guilt or innocence decided by a jury of his own vassals.
The abbey was plundered in the year 1316 by Richard le Mandeville, who, with his followers, having remained a month here, returned to Ireland.,
In the reign of King James it belonged to the; crown; but in 1611 it was granted to Lord Derby and his heirs, to hold for ever under the manor of East Greenwich, paying the accustomed rents to the King as Lord thereof. All the abbey lands were held under one grant, at the annual rent of 1011. 15s. 11d. and of 201. 17s. in lieu of woods, mines, and quarries. These are the sums originally fixed by Henry the Eighth, when he took possession of this property and let it to the Earl of Derby.
The site of this abbey is now in the possession of Mr. Moore, whose father, chief deemster of the island, built upon it an elegant mansion, converting into out-houses many parts of the ancient monastery. The remaining ruins are not a very pleasing object. The walls, except just at bottom, are for the most part naked, notwithstanding the gardener's care to train the ivy, The tower is not at present so high as the contiguous house. The best view of them is from a shrubbery behind.
At a short distance is the abbey bridge, formed of two arches, over the Castletown river. The inhabitants suppose it to be of great antiquity; but whether it belonged to the abbey or not seems uncertain. It is extremely narrow, the passage being only six feet eight inches in the clear, exclusive of the parapets walls almost demolished. One of the arches is nearly semicircular, and the other somewhat pointed, but both are irregular. Grose's view of the scenery is very correct, even to the number of trees.
Two miles, beyond Balasalla, and nine from Douglas, is Castletown, or Rushen, the metropolis. The houses are neat and their number is estimated at five hundred. The streets are more regular than those of Douglas. The town is divided by a river, over which, and opposite the castle, is a draw-bridge for foot-passengers; and higher up, a larger one of stone for carriages. In the middle of the town is a parade, or market-place, terminating on one side with the castle wall; on another with a chapel; on a third with houses, and left open on the fourth. The market is little frequented, the women being in the practice of going about to private houses to sell their provisions. Many people in the neighbourhood send the produce of their farms to Douglass The rocky and dangerous bay affords no encouragement to commerce, and the town would quickly dwindle were it not the seat of government few strangers dwell here, and I am told that the natives do not associate with them upon easy terms. There is one very good inn, the George, kept by Downes and, I believe, two others.
The parish church, dedicated to St. Malew, is a mile and a half distant; and a chapel was founded, or rebuilt, in the town by Bishop Wilson in 1698, the year of his enthronement and his marriage. Lieutenant-Governor Horn and the Bishop were equally ready to exercise or surpass their authority. The following circumstances gave rise to the imprisonment of the latter by the former. Mrs. Horn, the governor's wife, had defamed Mrs. Puller and Sir James Pool with a false charge of criminal conversation; and in consequence of her refusal to ask pardon of the parties was banished by the bishop from the holy communion. But Mr Horrobin his archdeacon, who officiated at Castletown chapel, and was also chaplain to the governor, received Mrs. Horn to the communion, and was consequently suspended by the bishop, who authorised the Rev. Mr. Ross, Academical Professor, to supply his place. Horn had possession of the keys, refused to deliver them to Mr. Ross, and kept the chapel doors shut. This conduct gave occasion to the following letter from the bishop:
" Having just now received an account from the Rev. Mr. Ross, whom I appointed to officiate in Castletown chapel during the arch-deacon's suspension, that the doors of the said chapel are shut up, and that you have refused to deliver him the keys, whereby the people are deprived of the public worship of God; and the chapel of that town, which has ever been subjected to me and my predecessors, is endeavoured to be made independent. I do therefore complain against your said act as a fresh instance of your intrenching upon the episcopal authority, and which, if not speedily remedied, may open a gap for a much greater and more pernicious innovation."
The governor, however, conceiving that the bishop had acted illegally, fined him £50, and his two vicars general , £20 each, a most arbitrary act; and, on their refusing to pay the fines, committed them all, June 29, 1722, to Castle Rushen. Great disturbances ensued; but the people were restrained from offering violence to the governor by the bishop's exhortations from the castle walls. He told them he should "appeal unto Caesar." After a confinement of nine weeks he was released on petitioning, the King in council. The proceedings of the governor were reversed, as being illegal; and could the bishop have been persuaded to bring an action against him, it was supposed that the damages would have been extremely heavy.
The free-school of this town is formed of an old chapel, dedicated to St. Mary, and consecrated A. D. 1250. The institution was established by Dr. Barrow about the year 1670, the purpose of supplying the church with ministers. The funds are lodged in eight trustees and arose primarily from some tithes which were purchased of the Lord-proprietor with a sum of money, raised for that purpose by voluntary subscription. They have been since increased by a few donations and legacies. Four students are educated free of expense; and from the time of their leaving school to their promotion they are allowed the annuity of, I believe, £25. The professor must be Master of Arts of one of the British universities, and is allowed the salary of sixty pounds.
The castle, called Castle Rushen, is worthy of inspection, and the stranger will find easy admission to the interior apartments.
It was considered the chief fortress of the island, and is now the only prison. According to the Manks' tradition, it was built about the year 960, by Guttred, grandson to a King of Denmark, and the second of a succession of twelve kings by them called Orrys.
This building which is remarkably solid is said by Chaloner, Sacheverell, and other writers, to be reckoned a striking resemblance of the castle of Elsineur in Denmark. As this fortress has suffered several sieges, the repairs of the damages sustained must somewhat have altered its inferior parts.
The Manksmen, according to Waldron, had a strange tradition concerning this castle, which, as it may probably amuse the reader, is here transcribed in his own words:
" Just at the entrance of the castle is a great stone chair for the governor, and two lesser for the deemsters. Here they try all causes except ecclesiastical, which are entirely under the decision of the bishop. When you have passed this little court, you enter a long winding passage between two walls, not much unlike what is described of Rosamond's labyrinth at Woodstock. In case of attack, ten thousand men in attempting to enter might be destroyed by a very few. The extremity of it brings you into a room where the Keys sit. They are twenty four in number they call them the parliament, but in my opinion they more resemble our juries in England, because the object of their meeting is to adjust differences among the common people and they are locked in till they have given the verdict. They may be said indeed to be supreme judges, because from them there is no appeal but to the lord himself.
"A little further is an apartment which h never been opened within the memory of man The persons belonging to the castle are he cautious in giving you any reason for it; but the natives, who are excessively superstitious assign this, that there is something of enchantment in it. They tell you that the castle at first inhabited by fairies, and afterwards by giants, who continued in the possession of it till the days of Merlin, who, by the force of magic, dislodged the greatest part of them, add bound the rest in spells, indissoluble to the end of the world. In proof of this they tell you a very odd story: They say there are a great many fine apartments under ground, exceeding in magnificence any of the upper rooms; several men of more than ordinary courage have, in former times, ventured down to explore the secrets of this subterranean dwelling place, but none of them ever returned to give an account of what they saw; it was therefore judged expedient that all the passages to it should be continually shut, that no more might suffer by their temerity. But about some fifty or fifty-five years since, a person who had an uncommon boldness and resolution, never left soliciting permission of those who had power to grant it, to visit those dark abodes; in fine, he obtained his request, went down, and returned by the help of a clue of packthread which he took with him, which no man before himself had ever done, and brought this amazing discovery: " That after having passed through a great number of vaults, he came into a long narrow place; which the farther he penetrated, he perceived that he went more and more on a descent: till having travelled, as near as he could guess, for the space of a mile, he began to see a little gleam of light, which, though it seemed to come from a vast distance, was the most delightful object he ever beheld. Having at length arrived at the end of that lane of darkness, he perceived a very large and magnificent house, illuminated with many candles, whence proceeded the light just now mentioned. Having, before he began the expedition, well fortified himself with brandy, he had courage enough to knock at the door, which a servant, at the third knock, having opened, asked him what he wanted ? I would go as far as I can, replied our adventurer: be so kind therefore as to direct me how to accomplish my design, for I see no passage but that dark cavern through which I came. The servant told him he must go through that house; and accordingly led him though along entry, and ant at a back door. He then walked a considerable way, and beheld another house more magnificent than the first; and, all the windows being open, discovered innumerable lamps burning in every room. Here also he: designed to knocks but had the curiosity to step upon a little bank which commanded a low parlour; and, looking in, he beheld a vast table in the middle of the room, and on it extended at full length a man, or rather monster, at least fourteen feet long, and ten or twelve round the body. This prodigious fabrick lay as if sleeping with his head upon a books with a sword by him, answerable to the hand which it is supposed, made use of it. This sight was more terrifying to our traveller than all the dark and dreary mansions he had passed through in his arrival to it. He resolved therefore not to attempt entrance into a place, inhabited by persons of that unequal stature, and made the best of his way back to the other house, where the same servant re-conducted and informed him, that if he had knocked at the second door, he would have seen company enough, but could never have returned. On which he desired to know what place it was, and by whom possessed; but the other replied that these things were not to tee revealed. He then took his leave, and by the same dark passage got into the vaults, and soon afterwards once more ascended to the light of the sun."
Having thus far embarked in the fabulous history of this castle, I shall add another story of the same sort by the same author, who appears by his narration to have given credit to it.
"A mighty bustle they also make of an apparition which, they say, haunts Castle Rushen in the form of a woman, who was some years ago executed for the murder of her child. I have heard not only the debtors, but the soldiers of the garrison, affirm that they have seen it at various times; but what I took most notice of was the report of a gentleman, of whose good understanding as well as veracity I have a very high opinion. He told me, that happening to be abroad late one night, and caught in an excessive storm of wind and rain, he saw a woman stand before the castle-gate; and as the place afforded not the smallest shelter, the circumstance surprised him, and he wondered that any one, particularly a female, should not rather run to some little porch or sheds of which there are several in Castletown, than chose to stand still, exposed and alone to such a dreadful tempest. His curiosity exciting him to draw nearer that he might discover who it was that seemed so little to regard the fury of the elements, he perceived she retreated on his approach, and at last he thought, went into the castle though the gates were shut. This obliging him to think that he had seen a spirit, sent him home very much terrified: but the next day relating his adventure to some people who lived in the castle, and describing, as near as he could, the garb and stature of the apparition, they told him it was that of the woman above-mentioned, who had frequently been observed by the soldiers on guard to pass in and out of the gates, as well as to walk through the rooms, though there were no visible means to enter. Though so familiar to the eye, no person has yet had the courage to speak to it, and as they say that a spirit has no power to reveal its mind, unless conjured to do so in a proper manner, the reason of its being permitted to wander is unknown."
The castle is built close to the river, the rocky bed of which is nearly dry at low water. Its figure is irregular, and not easily conceived from any verbal description. A sort of stone glacis runs round it, said to have been built by Cardinal Wolsey. Within the walls are the Lieutenant Governor's house, barracks with rooms for the Officers, and three rooms for debtors who are separated into three classes, according to the appearance of their gentility, and who, when I was there in 1808, amounted in number to thirteen. For their use are also four forlorn detached houses of one room each, built up on the walls, which may be inhabited only by special leave of the Governor. There is one court of justice used for the various occasions of the administration of the law; but by the Keys only when sitting in their judicial capacity: in the private debates they occupy a room of the own, without the castle. The prison room for criminals is damp, dark, and wretched. Under it is a dungeon for such prisoners as were outrageous, and who, for want of any steps, were let down by ropes or descended by a ladder. No light is admitted, except what makes its way through the chinks of its trap-door or covering. The two criminals who were last here [? Tracy & Gallagher 1781], are having been found guilty of murder, were led out to be executed, were confined in a small room, not quite so dark and miserable as the prison which had formerly been used. The stone work of the keep, built of hard limestone, similar to that found in this neighbourhood is entire,as are many of the walls. In the roof is some very large timber, said to have been brought from the Isle of Anglesea. The interior of the castle is without flooring, and in a very ruinous condition. It was formerly the mansion of the king or lord of the island; and as the stranger rambles about the ruins, he has pointed out to him the kitchen, known by its fire-place, the banquetting-hall, and various other apartments. He may plainly see where floors have been, by timbers projecting from the walls. The stairs being of stone and not much used are still in a state of some preservation.
In this castle were deposited the archives of the island. James the Seventh, Earl of Derby, was beheaded for his attachment to his royal master, and his countess, having been taken prisoner by the republican army, was here confined. On her release she carried with her these archives, and what afterwards became of them is not known. To inquire into the motives of her conduct at this remote period is vain: we can only regret the loss of much authentic document. The statute-book of Man is preserved in Castle Rushen.
From the top of the tower is a view of the surrounding country, interspersed with gentlemen's' seats and villages; of Castletown and Pool-Vash bays, with rocks here and there projecting through the water; of the rocks of the Chickens, and also of the Eye or Borough, having a considerable aperture at the lower part, plainly discernible from the spot by its transmission of light. At the distance of two or three hundred yards is the gallows. It has not been used since the year 1745.
A mile and a half on, across the sands and the isthmus which joins the peninsula of Langness to the land is Derby haven, formerly called Rannesway or Rainsway, having on its southern termination St. Michael's Island, joined to the main land by a wall, twelve feet thick, and about one hundred yards long, and at low water by the sandy beach. It contains a round tower, the outer wall of which is still entire. On a square stone, over the entrance, are the decal coronet and the figures 16. The third figure appears to have been 6 but as Chaloner, who wrote in 1653, informs us, that the late Earl of Derby, built a fort here, we must give it the interpretation of 0 or 3. The fourth figure is obliterated. In the area are four iron cannons without carriages, one about eleven feet long, the others eight. The tower may be about eighteen feet high, and as many yards in diameter: its walls are eight feet thick.
Not far off are a few ruinous walls of a church, apparently not very old, but supposed by some to be the cathedral in which the bishop, were formerly consecrated or enthroned. If such was ever its use, it must have been before the building of St. Germain's in Peel Isle in 1245, The authority of Camden does not, in this instance, seem sufficient to confirm the supposition: his relation of the circumstance is very far from clear: and I cannot learn, that this small territory was ever called Sodor or Sodorensis. He says, " By Castletown, in the Isle of :Man, there is a little island, wherein Pope Gregory the Fourth instituted a see, the bishop whereof was named Sodorensis, and had, in times past, jurisdiction over all the western islands; but exerciseth it now only upon that islands (1) Near the eastern wall is a solitary tombstone erected to the memory of a mariner who died in 1782.
In a retired spot near the Peel road is Kirk Malew Upon the tombstones are several attempts at poetry, but none worthy of insertion. It is remarkable, that the parish of Malew, which includes the metropolis, and the largest village, should afford no parsonage-house for its minister.
1 Gibson's Camden's Britannia.