[from Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol2 #4 1926]
[note this a slightly altered version of two articles that appeared in 1896 Ramsey Church Magazine - by S. N. Harrison
REVD. M. W. HARRISON.
18th December, 1924.
Ballure Church, to give the little place the name by which it is generally known, is a small building about 66 feet long, standing in the S.W. corner of a small burial ground, of which the circumference is about 100 yards, and which on three of its sides stands 5 to 7 feet above the level of the surrounding fields; the Manx Electric Railway passes close by the wall of the Churchyard at the East.
In bygone days a stream flowed close by the Chapel and passed through what is now the lower part of Queens Drive, but was formerly known as The Bog. The Chapel served the needs of Ramsey till the population grew to more than 1,500, and it was felt that Ramsey ought to have a larger Church. St. Pauls was erected, and was consecrated in 1882. It became the Parish Church of South Ramsey by the South Ramsey Church Act of 1904, though the Parish District of South Ramsey was constituted by the Church Act of 1880.
Ballure Chapel stands within the 'Treen' of Ballure, on the site of one of those earlier structures known as Keeills, that were in existence before parishes were formed, and of which in the parish of Maughold there are remains or sites of 15.
When the lands in the Isle of Man were divided into Treens one of these Keeills seems to have been kept in repair in each parish, and in several instances more than one. In 1712 the occupant of the Treen of Ballure, which consisted of the quarterlands of Ballure, Ballastole, Ballacowle, and Clenaigue, was, together with the inhabitants of Ramsey, assessed to keep the Chapel in repair.
What the original dedication of the Chapel was is not certain.
Some have thought it was S. Mary, and there is a well (Chybber-y-Voirrey) in the neighbourhood. But it has been called St. Catherine, and the name has been attributed to Bishop Parr.
At various times the Chapel was allowed to fall into a dilapidated condition.
In 1637 one William Sumpter had his penance commuted for 20s to be paid towards Ramsey Chapel. It was at this time in a ruinous state. Money commutation of penance had been frequently prohibited in the Church, yet it continued. Bishop Barrow, who was translated to S. Asaph in 1670, tried to prevent it in the Island, yet in 1673, the commuted penance of one W. Brew was, with the consent of the Bishop, who took a different line from that of his predecessor, given towards building a bridge over the Lhen Moar. Bishop Wilson; in one of his canons, orders 'that it shall cease'.
Richard Parr, the last Bishop who held the See of Sodor and Man previous to the Civil Wars, and who was first driven out of a Rectory (Eccleston, in Lancashire), and afterwards from his See, rebuilt the Chapel, and the document from which the following extract is taken bears his signature and is dated from Bishopscourt, Feb. 15th, 1640 :
That ye inhabitants of Ramsey and ye neighbours about ye Chappell of Ballaure, may give to God his due worship and Service ; Wee have for that purpose Sworn two chapel wardens, Henry Chrystian and ffard ffoxe, whose office is to have special care of Gods publique worship ; presenting by virtue of theire oathes, all such ye inhabitants of Ramsey and other neighbours about ye Chappell as shall absent yemselves without cause where wee will and require yem to serve God, except it bee att. Solemn feasts and and Communion dayes, at wch tymes wee will yem to go to ye Mother Church, but att other tymes duely to com to ye Chappell made wth great cost so readie to yeir hands.
These are further to require all such who are thus bound to repaire to ye Chappell, for ye exercise of true religion and to beg Gods blessing, with cheerefulness to pay ye readers wages, for wch they may expect double blessinge from God, to whose protection and mercie in Christ I leave you all, and rest.
A Reader had been appointed to Ballure, whose duty it was to read Prayers and sometimes a Homily. The Reader was also Master of the Grammar School. It would seem that 'school was kept in the Chapel.
In 1661, at Castletown, Samuel Robinson, Michael Beard, and Robert Fergusson took their oath of allegiance to the King, fidelity to the Lord, and conformity to the laws of the Church, and were allowed, by the spiritual officers in the absence of the Bishop, to teach schools. Fergusson was licensed to Ramsey. The School had been endowed with a small sum and the money placed in the hands of J. Cholmondley, of Vale Royal, Cheshire. Much difficulty arose about obtaining the payment of the interest from time to time, and both Bishop Levinz and Bishop Wilson had considerable trouble in the matter.
The Chapel was restored in 1706, in the time of Bishop Wilson, who was Bishop of Sodor and Man 1697 to 1755. Captain Wattleworth and W. Christian were the Wardens who collected cess for repairs, and James Knipe was the School-master. In 1712 Knipe presented a petition to the Ecclesiastical Court asking that fit persons should be appointed to assess the inhabitants of Ramsey and Treen of Ballure to keep the Chapel in repair and see that the Reader received such payments as should fall due to him. The petition was granted. and a further order was added that all persons indebted to Mr Knipe should pay him within 14 days and that such people as refused to pay were to be committed to St. Germans prison, and that if necessary assistance was to be obtained from the soldiers of the garrison of Peel and fort of Ramsey to enforce obedience.
James Knipe was followed by another James Knipe, who became an imbecile. These Knipes were probably connected with John Knipe, of Flodden Hall, Westmorland, buried in Malew, 1740. Henry Callister was licensed in 1740 in Knipes place, but, as some trouble arose from parents continuing to send their children to Knipe, Callister left and went to America, where he settled at Oxford, Maryland, and held an honoured position. He never forgot his great admiration and respect for Bishop Wilson.
In 1743 the Chapel was again restored and enlarged. Bishop Wilson took a great interest in the restoration, and it would seem to have been a work he particularly had at heart. There is in existence a Deed of Consecration of Ballure Chapel dated 1747. The suggestion has been made that the Chapel was not actually consecrated by Bishop Wilson, though the deeds were prepared, as the site was a sacred one before, but Mr. Keble, who visited the Island in 1849, to gather material for his Life of Bishop Wilson, and was indebted to Mr. Kermode, chaplain of St. Pauls, for information about Ramsey, says that the Chapel was rebuilt with such entire reconstruction that there could he little doubt about consecrating it anew.
Mr. Thos. W. J. Woods was appointed Master of the School and Reader, and two years afterwards Chaplain. Shortly after the restoration of Ballure two pewter patens, an alms dish, and a large flagon were given to the Chapel by Mrs. Taubman. They bear the inscription : the gift of Mrs. Margaret Taubman to the Altar of God in the New Chapell of Ramsea. Anno domino 1746. The Taubmans were then the owners of Ballastole. The alms dish is one of those in constant use in St. Pauls at the present time.
The Rev. T. W. J. Woods was one of the Academic lads from Castletown, and son of the Rev. John Woods, who had been appointed Master of the School at Castletown and was afterwards Vicar of Malew.
This Rev. J. Woods had suffered imprisonment at the hands of the Governor for his loyalty to the Church. The Governor was Alexander Horne, who imprisoned Bishop Wilson in 1722.
In the deed connected with the restoration of the Chapel it was ordered that no person was to keep school in the Chapel nor bury within one yard of the walls.
The seats were formed into three divisions. The front seats were 12s., the next 5s., the others 4s. The seats at the west gable were to be raised 1 ft. 6in., and all were to be let for the benefit of the Chaplain. The occupants of the seats were to be assessed towards procuring books and vestments or for repairs, exclusive of the cess payable to the Mother Church. In the licence granted to Mr. Woods it was set out that he was to instruct the children in the English tongue and in good manners', and particularly to teach and require them to learn private prayer'. He was also to warn youths and children against falling into the sins of the place where they lived, such as cursing, swearing, taking Gods name in vain, using lewd and filthy words and songs, tipling and drunkenness. And it was added, To encourage you you are empowered to receive such sums as you may by law demand from children over and above the Royal Bounty of salary. The sum to be, for reading 6s. and for writing 9s.
The Rev. T. W. J. Woods was appointed Vicar of Maughold in 1754. In 1747 Dr. Thos. Wilson, son of Bishop Wilson. Rector of St. Stephens, Walbrook, and Prebendary of Westminster, presented to the Chapel of Ramsey a Dutch silver beaker and a George I silver dish. These, together with the silver beaker which Bishop Short gave to St. Pauls in 1849, are described and figured in Jones Old Church Plate of the Isle of Man.
Bishop Hildesley held a Thanksgiving Service in the Chapel on the morning of March 2nd, 1760, upon the defeat of Thurot by Commodore Elliot off the north-west coast. The Commodore and his men, who were in Ramsey Bay, were prevented from attending owing to the number of prisoners they had to look after. Bishop Hildesley composed a special Prayer of Thanksgiving, in which thanksgiving was offered to God for Enduing the officers and marines of the British Fleet with such wisdom and courage as that, not only at sundry times, wherein we have rejoiced, but particularly in the late instance, on the coast of this Isle, by Thy mercy, they have been enabled to defeat the counsel of our enemies.
Feltham, in his Tour, written in 1798, describes the Chapel thus : It is 61 feet long by 19 broad, neatly seated and flagged. The roof is unceiled. Service is performed in English, and, as there are no poor-rates in the island, collections are generally made once a month, or oftener . . . for which purpose handsome copper plates are provided.
At the beginning of the 18th century some old Yew trees were to be seen standing near the Chapel yard. This is interesting, as the name of the Treen, Ballure, or, as it is in the Manorial roll, Ball-y-ure, means "the place of the Yew." As this tree lives to a great age, it is not impossible that these were the last of the number from which the name has been derived before any building had been erected on the ground now occupied by the Chapel. And Feltham says, Yew trees, which are generally found in our churchyards in England, are not to be found in those of Man.
A stream of water, as I said at the outset, flowed from the highlands, passing the Chapel on the East, somewhere near the spot where the tram lines now pass. From this stream may have been taken the water for the Font, as in the case of the old Church of Marown, where, after a dispute about the water flowing by the Church, it was settled that the said water was to serve for the Baptizing of Infants.
Many baptisms are recorded after 1746. And several marriages took place in the time of Rev. T. W. J. Woods, and, though the rings were not of gold from Ballure, it has since been found near there.
The small burial ground round the Chapel corresponds to the raised platform on which some of the Keeills were built, but it has been slightly enlarged on the south and east sides. This would be done when the Chapel was lengthened to 61 feet in 1743, at the restoration at that date previously referred to. Many of our Churches at that time were from 50 to 60 feet long, and from 14 to 19 feet wide, and the average population of the parishes where they stool was about 800.
The following extract is quoted from The Choir of three years ago :
'In 1786 Miller took his degree of Mus.D. at Cambridge, and four years later he issued his Psalms of David. which had an immediate success, and nearly five thousand subscribers, from George the Third downwards, gave in their names, whilst the King also forwarded Miller a present of £2.5 in token of appreciation of his work. in the year following its publication, nearly one hundred and thirty Churches adopted Millers Psalms, and, in the Isle of Man, upon the Bishops recommendation, the inferior clergy and the inhabitants of the parish of Ramsey entered into a. subscription for a large Psalmodic or Barrel-organ, to be erected in their Church, to perform all the tunes in Dr. Millers Selection, with additional interludes and voluntaries of his adoption.
After S. Pauls Church had been consecrated in 1822, the old Chapel fell into ruins. but it was again restored by the Rev. William Kermode in 1851 . A sum of £300 was raised by voluntary subscriptions and a grant of £45 was made by the Incorporated Society for Promoting the Enlargement, Building, and Repairs of Churches and Chapels, on condition that the whole of certain seats described in the plan should be set apart and declared to be free.
The present Font of Caen stone was put in in 1867. The Altar rails and Font cover were formerly in St. Pauls. The East window was erected to the memory of Rev. George Paton. The other windows were the gift of Miss King, except the two small circular lights in the West end, which were put in to the memory of Jessie Theodora, daughter of Rev. G. Paton.
In 1913 Canon Harrison purchased the field in front of the Chapel and planted it with various trees, much improving the appearance of the spot.
The first recorded burial, within the Church, was in 1611. Since then several other interments have taken place within its walls. At one time burials within the Church were common, not only in the Chancel but in the body of the Church. Pews were introduced instead of benches at the beginning of the XVII century, and, as late as 1737, when the pews in Braddan Church were re-arranged to accommodate intak' as well as quarterland holders, the latter were permitted to bury under their seats. And a few years earlier, when a new Church was built in Lonan, the parishioners had reserved to them their ancient rights and place of burying in the old Church, as well as the Churchyard. This custom has been abolished by law.
The earliest dated stone to be seen in the graveyard is that of Margaret Martin, 1750. At one time the Martins and MacCowles owned Ballure. Both these names were common in Galloway, and the MacGoilla Martins are said to have gotten their name from the patron Saint of the Church at Whithorn, S. Martin of Tours. The name Peate, made familiar to many by Sir Hall Caine, is to he seen on one stone. Another, having upon it the name of a certain Ann Stowell, bears the quaint inscription : She was the mother of 15 sons and 1 daughter
'May they like her their time employ,
And macct lvi in the realms of joy.
Her name before she was married to Thomas Stowell, of Ramsey , was Ann Brown, and I am informed that she was a great aunt of the Rev. T. E. Brown, the poet. One of her sons, John, was Master of the Peel School, and in 1790 published some topical poems under the nom de plume Philarithus.
On the west side of the Chapel is the tomb of two sisters, Martha and Elizabeth Fricker, well-known as the sisters of the wives of three poets, Southey, Coleridge, and Lovel.
On the north side is the tomb of Sir Henry Claude Loraine. He was descended from one Robert Loraine, who was murdered by moss troopers in the reign of Elizabeth, and of whom it is said that they cut him in pieces as small as flesh for the pot. Near this tomb is that of Sir John Macartney, who had been knighted for assistance in the inland navigation of Ireland. His son Edward was lost from the Hawk on her way from Dublin to Douglas.
On the right-hand side of the entrance gate is the vault of the Frissell or Frazer family. In the XII century Oliver Fraser was Thane of Man. John Frissell was Attorney-General in 1757 and 1758, and John Frissell, junior, was a member of the House of Keys in 1777. In this year the office of High-Bailiff was constituted, taking the place of the ancient one of Captain of the Town, and the latter John Frissell was High-Bailiff of Ramsey. The Hill under Albert Tower is still known as 'Lhergy Frissell.