J. J. Joughin.
February 14th, 1924.
Upon entering an old Church like this or any other old building of historical interest, the first questions the visitor usually asks are ' How old is it ?' ' When was it built ?'
Unfortunately no actual date can be given, as there do not appear to be any records of any kind to show when it was built, or, indeed, of most others of the ancient Manx Parish Churches and there is very little, if anything, to enable us to ascribe a date as to Its erection.
There is a piscine, or, rather, the remains of one, in the Chancel, from which we may gather that the Church is, at best, of a pre-Reformation date, but there have been so many alterations at various subsequent periods that the identification of any portions of the original building are almost entirely, if not quite, lost.
Canon Quine, one of the greatest of our living authorities on Manx Ecclesiology,
whom I may quote, says:
'The inconvenience of the Parish Churches of Kirk Patrick and Kirk German being on Peel islet made it a matter of course that eventually there would be a church or churches on the mainland, and so there came St. Peter's Church at Peel Market-place; and outside it the 'Parish Cross,' the place of the 'Market' and of the 'Parish Fair' one Church common to the two parishes.
' The great curtain wall of Peel Castle is understood to have been built by Thomas Stanley, first Earl of Derby,1460 to 1505: and to conjecturally assign to that period the exclusion of parishioners from access to the Churches on the islet, and the necessity of a new Church, might be a natural thought. But it is probable that St. Peter's was already in existence before the time of the first Earl of Derby, and that the church-going parishioners were in no way inconvenienced by the building of the Castle wall; incidentally, also, that St. German's had already ceased to be a de facto Parish Church, and remained in use only as the Cathedral. The frequent mentions of the ' Parish Cross,' viz., after the actual Cross, which once stood at the Market-place outside the Church had probably disappeared, point to the 14th Century as the most probable period of the erection of St. Peter's.
' Reference to St. Peter's is probably implied in a record of 1408, Which mentions 'Maurice, Vicar of Hollm,' as one of the parochial clergy at Sir John Stanley's first Tynwald; and in another record of 1429, in connection with ' Gubon, Clearke', Commissary to Richard Pullen, Bishop of Sodor, in his visitation, holden at Hollandtowne (Holm-town, or Peel).' From the foregoing evidence we may safely place the age of the older portion of the Church at 500 years or thereabouts Since then the building has undergone very many alterations and additions.
The earliest drawing of the Church shews it with Chancel and Nave only; a plain, almost barn-like, structure, with a turret at the west end pierced for one bell, and with an entrance porch on the south side. A later drawing, probably at the period of Bishop Wilson or earlier, shows it with the south transept added, and what seems to be most unusual, a door in the east gable. The north transept was built at a later date Feltham, in his ' Tour of the Isle of Man,' in 1797 and 1798 speaks of the Church (St. Peter's) as being 'built in the form of a cross, with side galleries for public scholars and a deep one over the west window.' He also mentions that one of the ancient low arches in the Church was removed for the present gallery presumably the west gallery.
The west gallery was erected in 1764 by a few parishioners at
their own cost on condition of their having absolute right to the
seats or parts of seats allotted to them
Their names were George Moore, Rose Mylrea, Saml. Nicolson, Thomas Crellin, John Fairbrother, Finloe Stephen, Ant. Kennedy.
The gallery was extended and two additional pews added to it in 1826.
According to a tablet outside on the east wall of the north transept the Church was rebuilt in 1826. The rebuilding and alterations must have been fairly considerable, for at a vestry meeting held 16th July, 1816, the Parish was assessed at the rate of £3 per quarterland, the mills and the town of Peel in proportion. The total cost of the work £476 10s. 4d. So far as we can learn, in the absence of much detail, the work consisted chiefly of the erection of a new gallery (north), raising the roof and coving it in, new Pulpit, Reading Desk, and Clerk's seat and repairing the rows, etc., etc.
In the year 1872, the Hon. J. K. Ward, of Montreal, and a native of Peel, presented a public clock to the town, and as there was no suitable position for it, the present tower at the west end was built by public subscription and the clock placed therein. In the same year a stained glass window, the gift of the Misses Crellin, of Ramsey, was placed in the east end in memory of their father.
St. Peter's served as the Parish Church for both of the Parishes or Patrick and German with the one Vicar for the two parishes until 1714, when a new Parish Church was built in Patrick. From that time it became the Parish Church for German, and Peel only until 1884 when the present Parish Church was built. As regards regular use, though, it did not cease to be the Parish Church until 1893, when the new and more commodious Church was consecrated.
For ten years it lay closed, empty, and deserted until 1903, when it was converted into a Mission Church, through the efforts of the then Vicar, the Rev. Edward Rainbow, and the interior was greatly altered. All the pews, and both north and south transept galleries were removed and the floor re-laid, the west gallery only being undisturbed. Week evening and other services are regularly held, so that it has been restored to a further term of usefulness.
Most notable of the past Vicars of the Parish of German was the Rev. Henry Corlett (b 1735 d. 1801), Vicar of the Parish for 41 years (1760-1801) He lies buried just outside the east end of the Church, and of him A. W. Moore, in 'Manx Worthies,' says:
'He became an academic student in 1753, and was in the following year staying at Bishopscourt with the aged Bishop(Wilson), to whom he was a great comfort in his last illness. So serious was then the difficulty of finding suitable men to become clergy, owing to the fear of losing the impropriate tithe, that the Bishop was compelled to give Corlett, though then only nineteen years old, a licence, which was worded as follows : ' We do tolerate you to read the prayers and services of the Church, as by law established, and also to read an homily or some other practical or instructive book as you shall be directed by the Vicar-General of the Isle for the time being in such Churches or Chapels as you shall be desired by the said Vicar-General, to whom we require you to give title obedience.'
' He was appointed Vicar of German in 1761 by Bishop Hildesley, and he held the living till his death in 1801.
' He was among the few clergy in the Isle of Man who showed any active friendliness towards the Wesleyan Methodists. In 1775 he assured John Crook, one of the earliest preachers in Man, that he would give him the right hand of fellowship, and he desired him to make use of his house as if it were a brother's. In 1777 he told John Wesley that he would gladly have asked him to preach, if it had not been that the Bishop (Richmond) had forbidden him to do so, but 21 years later he seems to have fallen out with John Crook, and to have stated his intention of preaching against the Methodists. In 1781 he greatly increased his congregations by preaching Bishop Wilson's sermons to them in Manx. He translated the book of Exodus into Manx, and superintended the publication of the ' Christian Monitor ' in the same language.'
He was followed by the Rev. James Gelling, who was Vicar for 38 years, who in his turn was succeeded by the Rev. John LaMothe Stowell. John LaMothe Stowell was born whilst his father's corpse was being taken out of the house for burial. He was Vicar for 42 years, thus making three Vicars only in the Parish for a period of 120 years, an unbroken record so far as the Manx Church is concerned.
There are five Vicars of the Parish buried in the Churchyard:
John Woods 1730-1740
John Crane 1741-1742
Robert Christian . 1752-1754
Henry Corlett 1761-1801
James Gelling 1801-1838
Though the tombstone of Robert Christian has disappeared.
We may now inspect a few of the objects of interest within the Church, the most notable of which is
On examination we find that the arch only remains. The piscina itself would consist of a hollowed block of sandstone with a drainage pipe from the bottom leading through the wall to the outside of the building, and as the arch is so narrow the piscina would project several inches from the wall for greater convenience when performing the necessary ablutions of the sacred vessels. Pews were afterwards placed along the walls one on each side of the Altar, and the projecting piscina being in the way, it would be removed, the cavity caused by its removal being filled up, and leaving the arch only, as it is at the present time. This, I think, would be the cause of its removal, rather than any revulsion of feeling against anything which savoured of Roman Catholicism at and after the Reformation. If the latter reason had been the cause, every trace of it would have been removed.
This was the original font used in the Church. It was found lying in the Churchyard two or three years ago under a heap of rubbish. An old man remembers to have seen it there more than sixty years ago. It is very much weather-beaten through long exposure, and if it ever had any ornamentation or carving, it has long since been effaced. It is made out of a single block of red sandstone, probably local. There is apiece out of one side of it, which has the appearance of being cut rather than broken out; for what purpose we can't conjecture.
Feltham makes mention in his ' Tour Through the Island of Mann ' (1797-8) of ' a small ancient font ' in St. Peter's Church but as this can hardly be described as a small one, it is clearly not the font he refers to, but a much older one, in fact it maybe considered to be a large font, and was probably intended for the total immersion of the infant.
The first reference to the Bell of the Church we can find in any of the registers or vestry books, dates :25th June, 1714, when the seats in St. Peter's were renewed and regulated, and
' Mr. George Moore (afterwards Sir George Moore) promised Five Pounds towards the casting of a bell for the Church, provided he has the upper seat on the south side of
This bell does not appear to have had a very long life as bells go, as may be learnt from the following entries from the Vestry Book:
' At a vestry holden in St. Peter's Chapel, on the 22nd day of November, 1808, to consider what is proper to be done with respect to the Church Bell, which is cracked and broken. It is unanimously agreed by us who are assembled for the aforesaid purpose, that an experiment be first made on the said Bell, by sawing the crack or cut in the said Bell, but provided the said experiment should not answer the purpose to send for a new Bell to England as soon as convenient.
JAMES GELLING, Vicar.
Apparently this experiment was not successful, for another Vestry meeting
was called shortly afterwards for further consideration of the matter.
The minutes of the next meeting being as follows:
'At a vestry holden in St. Peter's Chapel, on the With day of February, 1809,
to consider about sending for a new Bell for the Church, it is unanimously agreed
by us who are assembled for the said purpose, that Captn. James Cowll, Mr. Charles
Cooper, and Mr. Caesar Wattleworth be appointed to procure a good and sufficient
Bell from England the aforesaid gentlemen having consented to undertake
the business, and having engaged to sell the old Bell, and to convert the value
thereof towards the purchase of the said new Bell.
JAMES GELLING, Vicar.
JOHN COTTIER THOMAS CLUCAS Wardens
According to the annual accounts of disbursements for the year ending June, 1810, the total cost of the new bell was £30 14s. 9d., the details of the cost being, as extracted from the accounts:
To Robt. Corlett for Freight and Entry of New Bell .-1 5 0
,, Cash paid to Mr. Perry for Bell as per received :6 19 7
,, Thomas Clucas, for Rum and Ale when fixing the Bell 0 13 3
,, John Cain Clarke, for Iron Work for New Bell 0 15 11
,, John Cowin, for fixing New Bell 0 3 9)
,, David Leece and Thos. Kaighin, for puting down the old Bell and up the New Bell 0 7 32
,, Thos. Shimin, for Iron Work for New Bell 0 6 HI
£30 14 9
This is the bell still in use. It bears the name of the founder, ' E. Perry, Whitehaven, 1809.' It measures 22 inches in diameter at its mouth, and weighs approximately 3 cwt.
In these respectable days the item in the foregoing list of expenses ' Thomas Clucas, for rum and ale when fixing the Bell, 13. 3d.', is somewhat startling reading. It is not even camouflaged under the more generic term ' refreshments.' One can easily picture the scene. The excited crowd of onlookers, the eager band of honorary helpers (more hindrance than help probably) all anxious to lend a helping hand to place the bell in position, the dozen different orders shouted from a dozen throats at the same moment, the mighty exertions before it was slowly and triumphantly swung into its final position. linen the congratulations, the handshakings, the comparisons drawn between it and the old bell, and then, dare we mention it the wild revelry which followed when 13s. 3d. worth of Rum and Ale was consumed.
Poor old Bell! or poor young Bell, rather with such an unhallowed baptism. It is a marvel it did not crack like its unfortunate predecessor!
In the year 1902, when the Church was being converted into a Mission Church, the pews, north and south transept galleries, being removed and a new floor laid, etc. there were found in a cupboard in a storeroom leading off the west gallery stairs, a pair of brass Altar Candlesticks. They had lain therefor a considerable number of years; in fact, no person then living seems to have ever remembered their being in use. They were covered with dirt and verdigris, and one of them was broken into two pieces, the other being in a good state of preservation. They were sent away to be cleaned and the broken one repaired, but, unfortunately, the repairer relacquered them, which rather took way their antique appearance.
They both bear the inscription: ' The Gift of M. Est. Tear to Kk. Germain,1746.'
Esther Tear (nee Harrison) was the wife of William Tear, who was a schoolmaster in Peel for 52 years. She died in 1756, a month after her husband. She left to the Poor of Peel a field called ' Close Beg,' and a meadow called, " Lace's Meadow.'
William Tear, her husband, was buried at Jurby. He is mentioned by A. W. Moore in ' Manx Worthies,' who says of him :
' Manx schoolmasters have usually been clergymen also. Of the Schoolmaster whose name follows we know nothing except from his epitaph.'
Then follows a long Latin epitaph, which I will not inflict upon you; but if anyone is curious enough to read it, he will find it on page 130 of ' Manx Worthies,' with a translation by Canon Quine.
Notwithstanding that he was ' guide, philosopher and friend ' to the youth of Peel for such a long period, he does not appear to have led an altogether blameless life, rather the reverse, in fact, judging from a document, under the hand of Bishop Wilson, still preserved in the safe in the Parish Church, of which the following is a copy:
' Whereas Upon the 31st of August last we with our Vicars General (the Vicars of Kk. Patrick and Germain with some gentlemen present) were obliged to suspend Mr William Tear the late Schoolmaster of Peel town ab officio and beneficio for the space of six months because of the great scandal given by his Disorderly life. And that at the time of our proceeding in that case Mr Tear afores'd upon our Reproving him for the Irregulartys he had been guilty of Resigned the School into our hands, declaring openly that he would not teach nor be concerned with the said School any longer.' However out of a Fatherly Compassion towards him and upon his humble petitions wherein he sorrowfully lamented his Irregularitys and great Irreverence as also in regard that the Vicars of Patrick and German together with the Town Wardens have certified under their hands that the peticoner during his suspension has behav'd himself soberly and unblameably. We do hereby upon trial of his good Behaviour and in hopes of a thorough Reformation, permit him the said Mr. Tear to teach the Free School in Peel town, and do also Impower him to Receive the stipend settled thereon. And this to continue during our pleasure. And We do Require and Expect that the Vicars of Patrick and German as also the Wardens with the principal Inhabitants of the Town, as they tender the Welfare of the place, the Education of their Children and Our good Intent, that without fail they signify unto Us, if this Our Indulgence to the petitioner has not its due Effect upon him.
' Given under our hands at Bishop's Court, this 8th of March, 1741
THO. SODOR AND MAN.
Vera Copia pr. ED. MOORE, Ep. Regr.
8th March, 1741.
What his particular offences were we do not know. Bishop Wilson was a rigid disciplinarian and would not tolerate in any of his Clergy or any others under his authority any deviations from the straight path. Perhaps, judged by the present day standards, Tear's crime might not have been considered very serious, or was it that he was too fond at times of ' looking upon the wine when it was red.' We can't say. Whatever his offences were, he apparently 'amended his former naughty life,' for he remained in the School up to the time of his death.
Now that the churchyard has been closed for several years, so far as further burials are concerned since 1880 or thereabouts it is fitting that a record should be kept of all the existing Memorial Stones and their inscriptions, for, whilst a record of all burials is kept in the Burial Register, the information contained in them is very scanty, usually nothing more than the name, age, and date of burial of the person interred, whereas the tombstone inscription often contains much that is helpful in tracing family genealogy as well as interesting bits of local history.
John Feltham, in his 'Tour Through the Isle of Man,' in 1797 and 1798, made a record of the inscriptions of every tombstone in the Island.*
But even he confined his record chiefly to names, ages, and dates of burial only, whereas it would have been much more valuable and interesting if the complete inscriptions had been taken, thus preserving, perhaps, many quaint epitaphs and local history which are now irretrievably lost. So far as St. Peter's churchyard is concerned, many of these stones have disappeared, for out of 113 names recorded by him, only 43 are now to be found, though there are several at present existing bearing dates prior to his record, which were probably overlooked by him, or were erected after his visit. Of the stones erected since that time, very many are fast crumbling away and are quite illegible.
A year or two ago, with a view to preserving a record of all the existing stones, we examined every stone in the Church and churchyard, and copied every inscription in detail, though the lettering on numbers of them, through long exposure to the weather, had entirely disappeared. We found a few remarkable stones, one, for instance, records that ' Philip Killey, Airy Woar, died on the 1st April, 1763. 172 years! 'Feltham1 recorded the same stone, but he assumed that the addition of 100 was the work of some practical joker. It is significant that Killey died on April first, and perhaps the joker had a somewhat grim sense of humour! Another stone gives us an apt illustration of the importance of recording the inscriptions, and thus rescuing the name of many a worthy man from oblivion. For instance, the burial register baldly records the fact that ' James Warring was buried, 12 June, 1832.' but his tombstone tells us that his memory is worth preserving, for he rendered valuable service to his country.
The epitaph is as follows:
To the Memory of
Lieut. James Warring, R.N., formerly of
Witherslack, in the County of
Westmoreland, who died at St. John's in this Parish, on the 8th day of June, 1832,Aged 50 years.
He was engaged in the Action of the Nile, that of Sir Robt. Calder, and in the Battle of Trafalgar, was serving on board the Ajax when that ship was destroyed by fire: at the passage of Dardanelles, and was in the Action of Basque Roads in 1809; and, in fine, was, with very little exception, serving throughout the whole of the long and arduous War that then convulsed Europe.
The most interesting stone we found was the oldest inscribed stone in the churchyard, it is dated 1663 and records the death of ' Elin Kisig.' It is an undressed piece of slate about 2 feet long, 8 inches wide, and about 1½ inches thick It is what is termed sometimes ' a pocket knife headstone, 'that is, a stone with the lettering cut very crudely by an amateur sculptor with a pocket knife. It is peculiar, too, in as much. that the inscription reads from the bottom upwards:
1663. Rest her Soul.
Body of Elin Kisig. I pray God
Here underlyeth the
This stone illustrates to us the very gradual growth of the Reformation in the Isle of Man. As you are aware, there was no religious upheaval in the Isle of Man, as there was in England, when Henry VIII defied the Pope. There was a marked distinction between the reform in England and the Island. In the latter, the reform was very gradual, so gradual, in fact. that on this stone, which dates more than 100 years after the Reformation in England, we still find traces of the old pre-Reformation faith, viz., prayers for the dead It is worthy of note that of all the stones in the churchyard there is not a single one which has the sign of the Cross inscribed on it.
Burials also took place within the church itself from a very early period. Parishioners had the right to inter their dead beneath the family pew.
When the interior of the Church was altered in 1902, as already mentioned, part of the scheme was to take up the old floor, remove some inches of soil from beneath and put down a new floor on a lower level, but upon removing the soil it was soon found inexpedient to do so, for it was scarcely possible to lift a barrowful of earth without lifting up human bones as well, so that the whole surface had to be cemented down, and the new floor laid down at even higher than the original level, as may be seen by examining the floor inside the north transept door.
The last burial to table place within the Church was in 1839,and the last burial in the churchyard was by special permission in 1887.
I am not making any reference to the Parish Registers or Vestry Books, though one extract from the latter is interesting, being the Minutes of a Vestry Meeting with reference to the celebrated " Copper Row " in 1840.
Up to this period, the British shilling was equal to fourteen pence of Manx copper, and the Insular Legislature passed a Bill early in 1840 to assimilate the copper currency of the island with that of the United Kingdom, and a proclamation was issued by the Governor calling in the old copper, which was to be complete by September 21, after which date the Manx copper currency was to be at the rate of twelve pence to the shilling Great excitement was caused by this innovation, and the hostility to the alteration was so great that riots took place in several parts of the Island, particularly in Peel.
The windows and doors of the houses of those who favoured the change particularly the shop-keepers were smashed by the excited populace, and the riot reached such proportions that the Riot Act was read and the military were called from Castletown to quell the disturbance, but they had to beat a hasty retreat, for they were driven out of the town by great numbers of women armed with ' bratfuls ' of stones, which they had carried up from the beach. The leader of the military was knocked off his horse at Glanfaba Bridge with a stone thrown by a Cornish fisherman. There were some doggerel verses written by a local ' poet ' narrating the event. I have heard fragments of them, all of which I have forgotten, except the lines
' Captain Cornwall a stone did throw
And knocked the Colonel out of the row.'
The following is the extract from the Vestry Book:
' Oct. 21, 1840.
' At a Vestry Meeting holden in St. Peter's Church or Chapel for the purpose of levying an assessment to defray the expenses incurred by the Riot on the night of Sept. 26,1840.
' We, the Vicar and Wardens, do find it necessary to assess the Parish at the rate of nine shillings and sixpence Brit (per quarterland) and the Mills and the Town of Peel in proportion, and they are hereby assessed accordingly. The full amount of such damage being Fifty-eight pounds and reverence Brit. A statement whereof is here unto annexed.J. L. STOWELL, Vicar.
CAESAR WATTLEWORTH. THOS. CARRAN.
HENRY GRAVES. JOHN CREBBIN
JOHN SHIMIN. JOHN KING.
JOHN CRELLIN.Wardens. E. R. H. HINTON.
JOHN QUINE. PAT CARRAN.
CAESAR CORRIS. WILLIAM WOODS.
ROBERT J. MOORE.
STATEMENT OF DAMAMGES ABOVE REFERRED TO.
P. Clarke to 4 o
Robt. Clarke - 4 -
M. Smith 0 19 0
Michael Oates 2 0 0
R. Kerruish 0 8 2
Thos. Clarke 3 6 6
J. King 3 9 8
Edwd. Russell . 7 4 6
H. Hay 0 15 0
Jas. Coole 0 3 0
R. Higgins 6 IT TO
John Gellin 4 10 6
P. Carran, Esq. 3 18 0
junr. 2 19 9
Thos. Carran, pd. 16 9 8
Esq 3 16 0
Total -s8 0 5
Cess not to be had.
Prom the footnote, 'Cess not to be had,' which was written by a different hand, it appears doubtful if these claims were paid. I can find no trace in any of the Church account books that any payments were ever made, except R. Thompson's claim, and that only from the fact that ' pd.' is marked opposite his name in the foregoing list.
When the excitement died away the new copper circulated freely, and was considered
to be a great benefit in facilitating commercial intercourse.
The new copper coinage issued on this occasion was the last issue of Manx Copper Coinage bearing the Manx Arms.
*See Monumental Inscriptions in the Isle of Man.' Vol. xiv of the Manx Society's Publications.