[From Proc IoMNH&ASoc vol 3]



(Read at Bishopscourt, 17th Sept., 1925.)

'The oldest and most interesting feature of Bishopscourt is the old Tower, commonly called King Orry's Tower. Why it is so called we do not know. Its date is doubtful. It is certainly not later than the 13th century; that is a safe statement to make.

There are good reasons for assuming that it is earlier than the 13th century : it may have existed as a military work even in the days of the Norse kings of Man. One reason for that assumption is that the position is an important strategical one, situated as it is on the only possible highway to the rich Northern plain. The Tower had a fine moat about it, fed by the stream from the glen, and part of the moat is still to be seen.

I have handed round copies of three old prints found in the British Museum, made about the year 1640, showing the buildings then at Bishopscourt. The date is probably that of Bishop Parr, before the Commonwealth. It is certainly previous to Bishop Rutter, who came here at the Restoration, in 1661.

You will see from the prints that the outstanding feature was the square Tower. There was an ancient chapel on the site of the present chapel, on the east side. There was also a long one-storied building, at one time called a Hall, and at other times a Lodging Room, on the west side. You will notice that the print shows that there were two roofs covering the Tower, side by side. It had at least two floors. There is a bell shown as swinging on the top of the wall. The kitchen is shown far apart from the Tower. Its site must have been on the east side of the lawn.

Considering how important this edifice was in the history of our country, it is astonishing to find that none of our older historians describe it. Chaloner's Treatise, published in 1656, styles it ' the Bishop's Palace ' ; and he was Governor here about 20 years after the old prints I have shown you were made. Blundell, who was a military man, contemporary with Chaloner, makes no reference to the Tower in his History. Neither does Camden, Sacheverell, Townley, or Feltham.

Bishop Simon is said to have occupied Bishopscourt. He was Bishop from 1229 to 1247. The authority for that statement is the following paragraph from the Chronicle of the Monks of Rushen Abbey:-' In 1247 died Simon of blessed memory, Bishop of the Isles, on the last day of February, at the Church of St. Michael the Archangel.' That church was, probably, the parish church, situated a mile and a half away. The particulars which I have relating to the Tower are taken from the papers of the Registry of the Diocese of Sodor and Man recently deposited in the Manx Museum by the Vicar General. Many are quite new to us, and I will give a brief summary of the most important of them.

In the year 1682, John Lake was appointed Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, and it would appear that he made representations to William, the 9th Earl of Derby and Lord of Man, that Bishopscourt was not left in good order by his predecessor Bishop Henry Bridgman.

We find that in the year 1683 Governor Heywood received a special order from Earl William to make strict enquiry regarding the dilapidations, for on the 25th October of 1683 he charges Nicholas Thompson, Coroner of Kirk Michael Sheading, to ' charge six of the ablest and most sufficient men in ye parish of Kk. Michael (wch I am informed to be Phillip Cannell Ballacrenaine, Wm. Cannell Ballaluge, Gilbert Corlett, Hen. Woods, Jon Quayle Quillshelley, ana Adam Callister)

And this jury was to have ' the assistance and advice of Samuell Ratcliffe, junior, housewright; Jon Sainte, plumer and glasier; and Thomas Dawson, slater,' to survey the delapidations. The order goes on to say: ' And the Bopp's ' Regis. is ordered to appear there the same day with copies of ' the proceedings formerly had upon the death of Bopp Rutter ' in the like case, whereby the said jury and workmen may be ' the better informed,'- etc.

In the course of a week the jury made their report, which declared that the sum of £8 5s. 4d. was necessary to repair the ' two Rooffes ' of the Tower, etc.

Some of the items scheduled in the Report as required for the repair of the Tower are as follow:-500 Lattes, 10/-; 400 Slates, 6/-; 2,000 Latt Nayles, 5/-; 4 Sparres of 10 ft. long, 10/-, The Slater for slateing, pointing, plastering the roomes, 32 days (at 1/-), 32/-; the Labourer to serve him, 32 days (at 4d.), 10/8; etc. etc.

The jury, at the close of their Report, discreetly declared

' As for the crack in ye Tower, wee cannot competently judge ' thereof : being it hath been soe since wee remember; But refer we same to mazones, who have better judgment.'

Bishop Lake was translated to Chichester in the following year, and, as you are aware, became a great figure in English ecclesiastical history.

Baptista Levinz then, in 1684, became Bishop of Sodor and Mann, and Governor Heywood ordered a second jury to survey the dilapidations. He had received complaints from Bishop Levinz that the Tower which was his dwelling place, was unsafe.

Governor Heywood's reference to this jury is of sufficient interest to us to read a portion of it: -

Whereas complaint is made unto me that some parte of the Tower of Bopps Court is in a ruinous and dilapidating condition; These are :herefore to will and require Samuel Ratcliffe junior and Arthur Cowle Housewrights, William Macilchrist and Richard Crellin of Kk. German, stone mazons, all of them to appear at the same place on Wednesday the 24th of this instant, and then and there to inforxne themselves (by all possible means and discoverTes) whether any part of the said Tower be in such a condition as is above complained of; and if the same be sae, to certify anto me in writing under their hands what sume or sumes of money will defray or satisfie the charge of taking downe and re-edifieing the same again in such manner as it hath formerly been, that I may grant inch further order thereon as shall be agreeable to justice. Herein the said partyes are not to fayle as they will answer the contrary.-Given under my hand att Castle Rushen this 16th daye of May, Anno Dom. 1684. R. HEYWOOD.

Within fivedays of the Governor's order the jury reported, on the 21st May, 1684, as follows:

'Att Bopps Court, ye 21 May, 1684. Having this day mett att Bopps Court according to the written order to view that parte of the Tower complained of to be in a ruinous and dilapidateing condition, have taken a strict view and made a full search and examination into the breach and cliffe in the wall of ye said Tower, and find as well by our own apprehension and jud;gemeiit as also by the information of John Cottier and Hugh Cannell (who have lived near unto and frequented the said place for many yeares, and especially the said Hugh Cannell, being a workman, in filling up and pointing the said breach), who declare that the said cliffe is much wider now of late yeares than what formerly they have known it to be, and doe believe the same hath been accationed by the water that was drawn under the foundation of the said Tower by Mr. Baxter (who lived there in Bopp Barrow and, Bopp Bridgeman's time) and that since they have observed the same to be in that ruinateing and decaying condition

And, therefore, finding the same to be in that dilapidateing manner, and insufficient to be put into any good and habitable repair without takeing downe the same parte; wee have also according to ye requirement in the said order duly considered and estimated what charge and expense the same may require in the takeing down and ye re-edifieing thereof, and after a full and deliberate coTnputacon of the same, wee find aad declare that for the charges of procureing Timber to support the other parte of the building and for Mazons, C'arpinters and Servitors' work and the materials the same will require; That the sume of Thirty pounds will be little enough to defray and discharge the same upon all accoulpts.

WM. MCYLCHRIST (his mark).

Although the jury was specially ordered to view the state of the Tower, and had reported that it ought to be taken down and had estimated the sum of thirty pounds for the work, the Governor and his officers, Ferdinand Calcott and Thomas Norris father and son, did not accept the jury's verdict, but ordered that the Tower should only be put ' in such necessary ' and tenantable repair as ' it has hitherto been accustomed to be kept and maintained in.'

It would appear that the order of the Governor and his Officers was not considered satisfactory to Bishop Levinz, for, at his request, made in 1685, another jury was struck to view the Tower.

This third jury was composed of Phillip Cannell, Ballacrenaine; William Cannell, Ballaluge; Gilbert Corlett, Henry Woods, Jon Quayle, Quillshelley, and Adam Callister, and they were assisted by the experts Samuel Radcliffe, jun., housewright, Jon Sainte, plumer and glasier, and Tomas Dawson, slater.

Within a week the third jury had examined the Tower and made their report. They stated that the ' frontied part of the Tower . . . is in a very ruinous and dilapidating condition, and grows daily worse and worse, insomuch that it is dangerous and hazardable for any person to live therein as it stands att present, and cannot be repaired or putt into any habitable condicon untill that parte be all taken downe to the foundacon as ye former jury of workemen have declared.'

They assessed the cost of the work of taking down the front of the Tower and ' the re-edifieing thereof ' to be thirty pounds.

We have no record to show that this jury's recommendation was carried out. There is a gap in these particular Records from 1685 to 1780. In the meantime there had been three Bishops, namely. Wilson, Hildesley, and Richmond. In 1780 George Mason was appointed Bishop, and he petitioned for a jury to view the dilapidations, for, he declared, the dwelling was ' in a ruinous state and condition, and unfit for your petitoner's residence,'

This jury-the fourth of which we have a record-was composed of John Cannell, James Gelling, Robert Kelly, and James Kelly, and they declared that it would take £146 8s. 3d. to put the place in order. .

Their Report is most interesting from many points of view. It enumerates all the rooms in the Tower that require attention, as well as the various offices outside the Tower, some of which are described as follow :

In the Hall : In the Parlour.
In the little Parlour and Pantry: In the Kitchen. In the small Beer Cellar: In the Wine Bins.
In the Wainscotted Bedroom: In the Red Bedroom.
In the room over Red Room: In the room over Wainscotted Room. In the Stone Staircase to the 'Tower: In the Wig Room.
In the Bishop's Red Room: In the Study.
In the Herring Cellor : In the Wooden Shade for Turff. In the Brew House and Coal House.
In the Grainery and Pidgeon House.
In the Goose Yard: In the Pig House, etc., etc.

It also gives an interesting list of the field names attached to Bishopscourt. They are the Faigh Moare; New Meadow; Broom field; Close Shogil; Black hill; Merchant's Close; Clay Pit; Crot e Cane. There is also Tate and Tate Lane, which looks as if the facetious Bishop Rutter had something to do with naming it.

We have no record that the award of the fourth jury was carried out. But whatever repairs were made to the Tower it could not have been taken down, for when Bishop Claudius Crigan was appointed, he immediately moved for another-a fifth--jury, in the year 1785. They were James Gelling, of Castletown, carpenter; Robt. Kelly, Castletown, mason; Edward Cannell, Douglas, carpenter; Paul Kelly, Douglas, carpenter; and H. Fargher and James Kelly, of Douglas, masons. I have copies of their charges for surveying the Tower. They had the audacity to charge 2s. 6d. a day, which was promptly cut down to about half.

The award of the fifth jury did not share the fate of the previous ones-for it was evidently acted upon. It was estimated that £86 3s. 4d. was necessary for the taking down of the front of the Tower and ' re-edifying ' it.

In March, 1787, James Cowin and Hugh Walker; carpenters, of Peel, proceeded to strip the two roofs of the Tower, and removed all the woodwork. A mason named Lewis, according to his estimate, was to take down the south front of the Tower next the garden for £1 ; and to re-build the portion taken down, and to ' ruff cast ' and plaster them for £10.

On the 23rd Time, 1788, the re-building of the portion of the Tower taken down would appear to have been completed, for we have Cowin and Walker's receipt for the last payment made by Bishop Crigan, namely, £10, ' for completing the carpenter's work at the new building of the Tower.'

As we have seen from the first record I have referred to, that of Bishop Lake, portions of this precious old Tower were undoubtedly in a bad condition in the year 1682; but it took just 100 years and the appeals of several Bishops and the awards of five special juries before it was made quite safe for the inmates.

An interesting note in Hugh Stowell's ' Life of Bishop Wilson ' says (p. 41) : ' On his (the Bishop's) arrival the Palace was nearly dilapidated, having been uninhabited for eight years. An antient Tower and Chapel were all that remained entire.

Since Bishop Crigan's time Bishopscourt has frequently been added to, and the old Tower has been dwarfed by the newer and more imposing buildings around it.

The buildings now existing on the west of the Tower, now called The Court are partly erected on the site of the old Lodging Room or Hall. They are the work of several Bishops, notably Wilson, Crigan, Murray, Powys, and Straton.

According to the schedules relating to the work done at Bishopscourt in the 18th century, the authorities were not very generous to the workpeople. The artisans were usually paid at the rate of 1s. per day and the labourers 4d. per day. We have a most interesting account paid by Bishop Crigan, which shows, however, that the jurymen who viewed the Tower in 1784 had what might be described as ' a good time.' They had taken three days in which to examine the condition of the Tower, and a man named Cannell, of Kirk Michael, was instructed to entertain them. Cannell was probably a publichouse keeper, and here is his account for the entertainment of the jurv-two masons and two carpenters and of Mr. Daniel Callow, the Bishop's attorney. The bill consisted of:

15s. for three diners;
1s. 4d. for corn for the horses ;
3s. 3d. for ale;
13s. 6d. for punch;
40s. for 20 bottles of wine, white wine and red port.

It will interest our Castletown friends to learn that the John Saint, plumber and glazier, who was one of the first jury referred to (1683), belonged to Castletown. There were several generations of the Saint family resident there in the 17th and 18th century. They lived in and occupied a part of Castletown known as ' Paradise,' and it is assumed that the place was named Paradise because of the presence of this family of Saint. The first Saint we know of was a soldier in Castle Peel and became Forester at the Forester's Lodge in Ballaugh, early in the 17th century.


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