[From Proc IoMNHAS vol 1]


The following is an account of the chief places of interest seen, which was prepared for the occasion by the Hon. Secretary, with the assistance of the Rev. John Quine and Mr. A. Rigby, past presidents of the Society ---


(By P. M. C. KERMODE, F.S.A. Scot., Etc.)

The ruined Chapel of S. Trinian's, in the parish of Marown, is pleasantly situated at the foot of Greeba, in a meadow still known as "the old Glebe," on the north side of the high road from Douglas to Peel, about 157 feet above the sea level. The Treein, of which the name is lost, now comprises the Barony of S. Trinian's, the Quarterland on which the Church stands being; that of the Rock.

St Trinian's (1910)

The existing ruins show nave and chancel of the old Manx type, rectangular and without architectural division ; there has, however, been some mark of distinction between them as indicated by the foundations of a cross wall, three feet wide, at a distance of about 19 ft. from the east end, thus forming a square chancel ; this is not bonded into the walls of the Church, it may have borne a screen of woodwork.

The Church measures, inside, 73 ft. long by 19 ft. wide; the walls, with a batter, forming a graceful curve from the foundation, vary greatly in thickness, the north measuring only 2 ft. 8 in. at the west end, increasing by a foot. at the east, towards which it inclines outwards ; the south wall is 5 ft. at the west end, and diminishes to 4 ft. at the east. This is in part, probably, due to the contour of the ground, and the greater exposure to weather at the south-west. The height of the walls is from 10 to 11 ft. out- side, and over 12 ft. inside; the total height of the gable, 22 feet outside.

The east wall, no doubt for additional lightness in the structure, is recessed, forming two steps, the lower on a line with the side walls, the other about half-way up the gable.

Plan St Trinian's

*In this Plan. Mr. Rigby accidentally omitted to note the window in the south wall of the nave, the position of which is just behind the tree as shown in the view-p. 328.

It is built with a hard lime cement, in irregular courses, of the clay-slate of the district, carefully selected and well fitted, but unhewn and undressed ; there is a mixture of some quartz boulders and many pieces of Foxdale granite. The latter are now ascertained to have been taken from an earlier building, very many of them showing traces of moulding or carving. Peel red sandstone has been made use of for coignes and dressing to the windows and to the north doorway. It appears to have been rough-cast within and without. The south door, 5 ft. wide, like the windows, was slightly splayed inwards ; unfortunately, the upper part is gone, but there are indications of a rounded arch outside. The removal of the rubbish here revealed a broad sill-stone forming a shallow step to the floor, where some flat stones and cement seem to have formed the base of a pavement ; there is a hole on the east side of the doorway 18 in. square and 3 ft. 6 in. deep for a stout wooden bar. The walls are pierced through in many places by carefully-formed rectangular holes from 5 in. wide by 7 in high, to 7 in. wide by 9in. high. The south wall shows five such holes in a line about two feet below the roof, but at uneven distances apart ; in the north wall, two now remain, but these are neither opposite to nor on a level with the others. The east gable is pierced by one on the north side ; the west shows only one, which is on the south side of the window. They do not look like "put-log" holes, but for what other purpose care and time were expended in making them is difficult to surmise. Other similar holes, inside and out, do not pierce through the walls.

The north wall of the nave had entirely fallen in 1908, when taken over by the Trustees of Ancient Monuments, but, Cumming, in whose time it was in part standing, records that there were two one-light windows, and the remains of another, with flat sustaining arch, may still be seen in the chancel, which has also a north door. On the south side there is one window in the chancel and one, together with the south door, in the nave. The east window is pointed ; outside it bore a label moulding projecting five inches, and terminating at the spring of the arch. Above the west window, which has the sandstone dressings flush with the wall outside, is a turret for two bells, The north doorway, 4 ft. deep and 3 ft. 10 in. wide, is 4 ft. 9 in. high to the spring of the arch, which is broken ; the outer jambs show hollow groove moulding. Like the south door it had a hole in the side to receive a wooden bar, implying that the present building was erected in troublous times, when it might be necessary to convert it temporarily into a place of defence.

The rubble foundations of the altar remain ; on its south side, in the position which at an earlier age would have been the site of the founder's shrine, the removal of a great ash tree revealed an interesting pavement-cross, the only instance yet brought to light in the Isle of Man. Inside, to the east of the south doorway, is to be seen the remains of a red sandstone Holy Water Stoup, similar in size and appearance to those in the Cathedral and in S. Patrick's Church, Peel. The missing portion has not been found, but, not far away. Another Stoup, carefully chiselled out of a hard dark trap rock (actinolite), which is met with in situ across the valley, was found loose on the floor.

The present building may date from the XII. or XIII. Century, but there are plentiful indications of an earlier structure of the XIth., while some of the mouldings and carved stones are still older, and thought by Mr. Rigby to belong, probably, to the X. Century. The south doorway is a reconstruction from one of the XI. Century ; many of its stones had long since been removed for use in repairs to the old parish church of Marown. An early granite font, now in the parish church, may have been taken from S. Trinian's at the same time. Throughout the walls were many pieces shown, by their remains of moulding and carving; to be of the same period ; a number of these have been recovered, they are all of Foxdale Granite, and give some idea of the architectural finish and simple beauty of the small church which preceded the present ruined one. They are now being built by the Trustees into the new north wall, where they may readily be inspected. Mr. Rigby, in a recent report, with figures to scale, mentions* - (1) Remains of a round-headed window of very early type, the outer arch cut out of stone of apparently indifferent shape, splayed inwards from a feather-edge ; the inner arch simply splayed, without moulding ; there is, however, a slight attempt at moulding on the outer face of the head. (2) Four stones of a segemental arch with unsplayed and immoulded soffit. (3) Single-light window with recessed and splayed jambs and sill ; the head is missing ; it might have been twice recessed like many of the windows of this style at Glendalough. Some ovolo-moulded splayed angle-stones (now inserted in the reveal of the window) may have belonged to it, and have been continued round the head and across the sill. (4.) Two-light window, probably the east window, represented by triangular stones with roll moulding at apex, and carved capitals, made evidently for a double arch ; these capitals show human heads. (5) Remains of door, or porch. Parts of two carved capitals belonging to the same side of the door, evidently set on free shafts. The inner of the two doors so accounted for, Mr. Rigby thinks, may have been formed by the moulding moved to the old parish church, the bases of which are in the jambs of the present south door at S. Trinian's.


There may have been further orders of which no remains have yet been discovered. Besides these were two capitals not mentioned by Mr. Rigby, and some other carved pieces.

*Sixth Report of the Manx Museum and Ancient Monuments Trustees. Douglas, G. & L. Johnson.

In clearing the fallen rubbish from the inside, there was revealed a dry wall, about 4 ft. thick, parallel to and about 8 ft. away from the south wall, and reaching from the west gable almost to the chancel screen ; but, that it was subsequent to the disuse and ruin of the church became apparent by the discovery of several of the roofing slates beneath it, and it was believed locally that it had been built in recent times. In excavating at this walling, the unexpected discovery was made. within 12 in. of the floor surface, of two lintel graves ; one, approximately east and west, was 6 ft. long by 12 in. wide, and 14 in. deep ; the other crossed the foot of this running almost N. E. and S. W. ; there was nothing to indicate their date. In the middle of the chancel, however, was another grave, covered by three flags, one of which bore an incised cross of very early type and rude workmanship, almost worn away by the constant tread of feet when it had formed a part of the pavement. It may, perhaps, date from the VI. Century, showing that there were Christian burials here, and presumably a church at that early period. This, and the pavement-cross referred to, are figured in the " First Report of the Archaeological Survey." (See above, p. 278).

The outer enclosure appears to have been roughly rectangular, covering a space of about an acre ; the northern boundary is marked by a line of trees, the western by a stream, and the others are indicted by a line left by the plough. Excavations at the S.E. corner seemed to show that there had been an entrance there. It lies with a south-westerly aspect on a ridge running north and south, the chapel standing near the S.E. corner. It was not artificially raised. The outer embankment, formed of earth and stones, was from four to six feet thick ; it is now three feet high at the north-west corner. Lintel graves have been found in ploughing both on the north and south of the chapel, one was met with at the north-west corner of the Church, which contained a few white quartz pebbles. Evidently S. Trinian's was used for burial as well as for other services, but when it ceased to be so used, there is nothing to show.



(By Rev. Canon QUINE, M.A.)

The history of S. Trinian's is linked to the history of the Pre-monstratensian Priory at S. Ninian's, of Whithorn, in Galloway ; " S. Trinian's" being one of many forms of " S. Ninian's." There exists among the Bridgwater M.S.S. a transcript of Whithorn charters relating to S. Trinian's, prepared in 1504. There are twelve charters in all, and the two earliest of greatest historical importance. The first is a grant, made by Olaff II. of Man to Whithorn, of " the hospital of Ballacquiba . . . (with endowment lands indicated) . . . . . . the Church of S. Ninian of Ballacquiba, and the Church of S. Runan, in chapels, lands, and tithes " The second is a charter of Bishop Nicholas, confirming the King's grant in respect of the rectory of S. Runan, but securing the tenure of Brice, the then parson ; this second charter is especially valuable as bearing on the date of Olaf's grant.

Olaf, though legitimate heir of Man from 1187, did not actually become King till 1226 ; his elder brother, Reginald, having usurped the rule. And when Olaf attempted to assert his rights, in 1206, Reginald, by arrangement with William the Lion of England, had Olaf imprisoned till the death of William the Lion, in 1214. Olaf was then released ; and came to Man to Reginald ; and soon after, with a small retinue of nobles, set out for Compostella, in Spain. As adventurers were then flocking from all quarters of Europe to take service against the Moors, it is probable that Olaf and his companions went on this crusade.

In view of Olaf's affairs before 1214, it is extremely unlikely that he executed his charter, granting S. Trinian's to Whithorn, before that year; and as Bishop Nicholas died in 1215, the date of the charter is confined to these two years. Whether on crusade or pilgrimage the journey to Spain implied considerable expense ; and it is therefore probable that Olaf granted the hospital and its lands, and the two churches to Whithorn Priory, either for value received in money, or as security for the repayment of what the Priory had contributed to the cost of his outfit.

The Church at S. Runan had already at that time given to the valley or district the name of Kirkmarown and Dalmarown, and was consequently even then a place of great antiquity ; also the hospital and the Church of S. Ninian (S. Trinian's) were already in existence, the hospital with extensive endowment of lands, the church with tithes. Olaf, then, was not the founder of S. Trinian's; but gave, in his capacity as lawful, though not actual, King of Man, an existing hospital and two churches, for the actual possession of which the Priory had to wait till the end of the reign of Reginald the Usurper. That Olaf had some peculiar interest in S. Trinian's may be inferred from words in his charter, "for the souls of my father and my mother, and of our ancestors." The mention of his father (Godred II.) and mother (Phingola O'Loughlin, of Ulster), leads us to think they may have been associated with the place. It gives us, indeed, the clue to the probable origin of the hospital ; but hardly to that of the Church of S. Ninian. The recently discovered grave slab, with cross of vij. century (circa), proves that S. Trinian's had been a place of Christian burial many centuries before Olaf's time ; and the Normanesque fragments of an older church built into the present XII. or XIII. Century

S. Trinian's seem of an older date than the time of Godred II., Olaf's father. But that Olaf's father and mother founded and endowed the hospital is in the highest degree probable.

Godred II. married Phingola, daughter of MacLoughlin, a son of the great Murkartac O'Loughlin, King of Ulster, and Monarch of Ireland. This Irish princess belonged to a family associated with the endowment of religion ; and her marriage took place in 1177, at a period when the " hospital" as an institution to be established and endowed had a vogue in Ireland. Cardinal Vivian, the Papal Legate, was present in Man at Phingola's marriage, accompanied by Silvanus, Abbot of Rievault, who performed the marriage ceremony. We know that Godred gave to Silvanus a gift of land in Lezayre. The Cistercian chronicler, while recording the gift to a Cistercian, says nothing of gifts to other religious orders or churches ; but does not in the least imply that no other gifts were on that occasion given ; and every probability favours the idea of this occasion as the origin.

It is significant that the predecessor of Silvanus, viz., Ailred, Abbot of Rievaulx, had quite recently written a " Life of S. Ninian," which had greatly contributed to extending the fame of the saint, and further to the making of Whithorn, to become a place of pilgrimage. With this fact fresh in the mind of Silvanus, it is probable that the Church of S. Ninian in Man, would receive his attention ; for at the moment the name of Ninian had become " as ointment poured forth"!

The endowment of a hospital, viz., a hospice, or guest-house for travellers, and especially for the poor, with lands to provide free entertainment to those who needed it, was just then a form of benevolence, which had, as indicated above, a vogue at least in Ireland among Phingola's own people. In 1176, the year before Phingola's marriage, "Roderick O'Conor, King of Ireland, granted a Belly-biatach to God and St. Bearraidh" (Four Masters); and in 1177, the identical year of her marriage, " Donogh O'Carellain bestowed a Belly-biatach on the monastry of Derry, in the parish of Donoghmore" (Four Masters.) A Belly-biatach was a town-land given as endowment for a hospice or guest-house for travellers, and especially for the poor ; and the evidenee of the extent of this benevolence is seen in the number of Ulster townlands in which the name "Belly-biatach survives."

Now the situation of S. Trinian's or the " Church of S. Ninian," in the great gap in the hills and exactly on the divide of the Island, between the north-western and south-eastern regions, beside a highroad which was doubtless a travel route much earlier than the XII. Century, was a spot admirably suited for the establishment of a hospice of the kind indicated. Not only was the founding of this kind of hospital antecedently probable, if we consider the circumstances and the period of the marriage of this princess of the Ulster family to the King of Man ; but that this actually was the kind of hospital is confirmed by two curious details of fact.

We find as the names of two of the chief farms on the endowment lands of S. Trinian's, " Ballavitchal," and " Bautchin" - two names supposed, with a high degree of probability, to be etymotogically equivalent to Belly-biatach and Biatach. Also, in connection with those two farms, there is evidence that down to the earlier decades of the XIX. Century they were " a refuge for the poor"; that is to say, free bed and food for one night was given at both these farms to the beggar-folk on their rounds, either coming from the west by Greeba (Ballaquiba), or from the east and bound westward.

Had a record of the act of Godred and Phingola survived in annals such as those of the Four Masters, we should expect to to find some such brief entry as this : " A.D. 1177-Godred, King of the Isles, and Phingola, daughter of MacLoughlin O'Loughlin, his wife, granted a Belly-biatach to God and S. Ninian "!

Of records earlier than the time of Godred, nothing exists in writing as to S. Trinian's. There remain, however, the fragments of a church of date probably earlier than his time, worked into the walls of the present church of the time of Olaf, his son. There remains also a vj. or vij. century cross.

Of the charters relating to S. Trinian's, the following is a list -the donation of Olaf ij.; confirmation of Bishop Nicholas ; confirmation of Bishop Symon ; confirmation of King Harold ; confirmation of King Reginald ij.; confirmation of Prince Alexander, son of Alex iij., of Scotland ; confirmation of Alex iij.; Mandamus of Alex iij. to his Bishop of Man ; confirmation of Bishop John. There are also grants of the advowsons of Kirk Christ, Lezayre, and Kirk Bride to Whithorn, but at dates subsequent, and in no way affecting S. Trinian's.

The Reformation period in Man was for all practical purposes almost simultaneous with the Reformation in England - viz., in respect of the dissolution of monastic houses. Not so in Scotland. Rushen Abbey, Douglas Priory, and the Friary of Bemaken were dissolved in 1540. All that is known of S. Trinian's is that it was not dissolved absolutely till 1587, when it was vested in the King of Scots, " S. Trinian's" had ceased to be a source of revenue to Whithorn in 1545.

It is a curious fact that S. Trinian's (for centuries perhaps); down to the disuse of the Manx language was called, by the country people "the broken Church," a name or an expression that may have originated in an act of breaking or removing the roof. It is much to be regretted that in 1780 much material with mouldings was removed from S. Trinian's and conveyed to the old parish Church of Marown, and used in the re-building of the western gable and doorway, and the porch which formed a steps to reach the door to the western gallery.


Back index next

see 6th Report of Museum Trustees 1910

Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received MNB Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2002