IT was not until the middle of the nineteenth century that the Isle of Man received more than a very few strangers within its borders, while residents seldom found themselves far from their home or the house of a friend. In these circumstances there was no need for great inns such as those which accommodated travellers upon the long, dusty roads of England.

But that is not to say that the Island had no inns or ale-houses. There were many houses of public entertainment in every parish, and the four towns were liberally besprinkled with them.

In a description of the Island which appears in the first Manx Directory (Pigot’s, 1824) it is said that ‘The Manx are in general a stout, well-made race. The lower orders, in the interior particularly, spend too much of their time in bousing over mugs of half fermented ale in mean pot-houses and smoking, many out of the same veteran pipe, with their heads reclining over a gorse fire.’

‘Mean pot-houses’ , as the writer calls them, conjures up vividly the type of place most of these Manx taverns must have been. But not all of them were bad. John Feltham, writing in 1797 says ‘If you venture in, the chance is that you will be gratified with excellent wine, plenty of rum, and improveable ale — and herrings and potatoes of course.’ George Woods, on his tour in 1811 found ‘tolerable accommodation’ for the night at an inn at Ballaugh, where his bill for a supper of cold mutton with a pint of ale, a glass of brandy, bed and breakfast amounted to 1 /6d., which he thought reasonable. Perhaps his unnamed tavern was the NORTH STAR, which was certainly there as early as 1837, and at least as late as 1889.

A writer in the Universal Magazine for 1784 gives a sample of at that date as:—



Tea and coffee


A pint of wine


, , ale


A quarter of oats


and adds that for eight pence he had as handsome a supper as would cost eighteen pence in England. He noted it as curious that ‘it is customary at the inns in this country for the landlord and his family to eat at the same table as their guests (unless they express a desire to be alone), it being considered a breach of good manners to suffer a guest to be without company at his meals.’

One of the best of the country inns was the MITRE at Kirk Michael, still to be seen beside the old Court House, and still open. Feltham calls it ‘a most respectable inn’ and refers to the ‘beautiful hostess, who cannot fail to attract and please every visitant.’

A country tavern whose proprietor had a sense of humour was the ROSE AND CROWN, which in 1837 stood halfway up the long ascent of Richmond Hill on the Douglas-Castletown road. His name was Abraham Lowe, and on the wall of his inn was written : —

‘I’m Abraham Lowe and halfway up the hill,
If I were higher up, what’s funnier still,
I should be belowe. Come in and take your fill
Of porter, ale, wine, spirits, what you will.
Step in, my friend. I pray no farther go;
My prices, like myself, are always low.’

An advertisement in the Manx Cat of 16th September, 1847, shows that this inn was then known as the OLD WOOL PACK, but it was evidently not the tall house, still standing, on the right hand side of the hill as you go up. This was the RICHMOND HILL INN, and the name may still be seen painted on its gable walls. Pigot’s Directory for 1837 mentions both houses, and names their landlords as Lowe and Joughin respectively. It would be interesting to know if Lowe’s Rose and Crown was in any way connected with the house now called Rose Cottage which is on the left hand side, almost opposite to the Richmond Hill. In 1842 a WATERLOO is mentioned as being on this hill, but whether it had any connection with the others is not known.

On the Ramsey-Laxey road was the HIBERNIAN, which is mentioned in 1837 and is still to be seen, though no longer an inn. It used to be a favourite place. of call for the miners who worked in the mines above Cornaa, and it is said that at one time the landlady of it ran an illegal still, making whisky with water of the right peaty flavour which was obtained from a stream on North Barrule. The ‘worm’ was hidden in the case of an old grandfather’s clock, and the resulting product was probably good stuff.

Other country inns, still existing, which have long histories, are the

WHITESTONE, Ballasalla ;
LEVEL, Rushen;

which were all in being at least as early as 1837; while the GINGER HALL at Sulby was open in 1818, and the BALLACRAINE INN in 1847.

In Onchan there was the MANX ARMS (earlier known as the THREE LEGS OF MAN) which was serving the village in 1852 Others, no longer to be seen there, were the UNION and the CHESHIRE HUNT. The latter of these is said to have adjoined the Nursery Gardens and may have been the one which, according to old residents in the village, stood on the main road facing the top of Royal Avenue, where the Post Office now is. They do say, however, that this was called the NURSERY INN, so it is probable that it, and not the present NURSERY HOTEL, is the one referred to by that name in Thwaites’ Directory for 1863.

Before speaking of the many inns in Douglas, and a few of those in the other towns, some facts may be recorded about conditions in the Island as a whole.

In the preamble to an Act of 1734 it was stated that there were far too many petty ale-houses and tippling-houses for the public good, and that they were not in a fit condition to entertain travellers and strangers in a decent manner. The Act therefore laid it down that the number must not exceed two hundred and fifty for the whole Island.

A later Act in 1739 raised the number to three hundred, but returns for the fifty years 1754 to 1803 show the number of licences issued to have varied between 478 in 1759 and 251 in 1766, with an average of 344. The highest year was 1759, when the figures were: Douglas 83, Castletown 45, Ramsey 57, Peel 43 and the parishes 250 —a total of 478. As the total population of the Island in that year was about 20,000, this means that there was a public-house to approximately every forty souls, including women and children.

The struggle entailed in reducing this figure to more reasonable proportions has not yet been forgotten, as is shown by the very strong teetotal feeling which still exists amongst a large proportion of the Manx people.

In the early years of the nineteenth century the spirit drunk by the working classes in the Island was almost always rum, which was both plentiful and cheap. Whisky was but little seen. Much of the ale may have been home-brewed, but certainly not all, for there were a number of breweries.

A person wishing to obtain a licence had to make an application supported by the vicar of his parish and others. He had also to produce references as to his good character, and two men to go bail that he would carry out the terms of his licence in a satisfactory manner.

The licence, of which the terms were very strict, bound him amongst other things to provide lodging and entertainment for travellers and their horses. This shows clearly that the houses were meant to fulfil all the functions of an inn, and not to be mere dram-shops or drinking places. The difficulty of believing that this was so in the case of some of the places in Douglas is lessened when it is found that when they were advertised for sale stabling was almost always mentioned: and when it is seen that there still exists behind the tiny ALBION, in Church Street, a large yard in which are buildings that may well have provided stabling for several horses, as a tradition of the place says that they did.

People of the most varied trades and callings added innkeeping to their normal occupation, so that blacksmith and shoemaker, school-master and village constable, might all be met with; though a ruling of the Ecclesiastical Court in 1763 forbade schoolmasters to do so in the future. Many of the clergy, spurred by the inadequacy of their meagre stipends, had likewise sold ale in their houses, but this was stopped by Bishop Barrow in 1667.

In Douglas, shopkeepers and tradesmen of every sort did a little tavern-keeping as a side-line; as did also fishermen, various widows and spinsters, a gardener, and a postman.

In 1813 it was enacted that the cost of a licence was to be 12/3d.. which was apportioned as follows : —

For the making and upkeep of the Highways

9 9

To the Governor’s secretary

1 2

To the Comptroller


To the Keys for the reparation of their House and to find necessaries for their meetings


 The signs by which Manx innkeepers chose to have their houses known differed considerably from the general run of such signs in England. Names connected with Royalty, for instance, were very few; and so were those of the nation’s great admirals or generals. Three battles only were commemorated Trafalgar, Waterloo and Alma.

A sign which excites speculation is that of the SQUIRREL, which was to be seen in Duke’s Lane, Douglas, in 1816 The little animal with the bushy tail is not found in the Isle of Man, and I think it likely that mine host was one of the few survivors of a very hard-fought action about which he might well be proud to tell those who drank his ale. This encounter took place off Port Erin in February 1793, between the frigate ‘Squirrel’ and the smuggling lugger ‘Spider’ of 20 guns. When it ended the King’s ship had but twelve men left out of a complement of 150 and her doughty opponent had lost 87 of her crew of 93.

An amusing sign was that of the NEW STRAND INN in Strand Street, Douglas. Until about 1875 this was known as the LABOUR IN VAIN, and the sign showed two white nurses kneeling at a tub in which an infant, black as coal, was struggling violently to escape from their efforts to make it look like a normal Manx child.

On Douglas Quay was the IVY ROCK IN THE WOOD, a sign of which I have, unfortunately, not been able to discover the origin.

Inns in Douglas

In Douglas, where a hundred and eighteen licences were issued in 1808 as compared with fifty in 1953, one imagines that many of the ale-houses must have been, if possible, even more grimy and repulsive than those in the country. But there were several inns of a better class, which were well spoken of by writers of the early nineteenth century.

Few of the smaller ones are now to be seen, for they were almost all swept away in the great clearance schemes of 1894 and 1932-3. Before these clearances were made the narrow, winding streets abounded in inns, and in addition almost every house and shop sold ale.

Which of those that still retain their licence, along with their original name and situation, can claim to have the longest history ? Within these limitations the honour appears to belong to the CASTLE MONA which technically speaking is, of course, an inn, though it would probably occur to but few of us to describe it by that name. The British, the Crescent, the Saddle and the Albion also have strong claims, the decision depending on how one regards their various histories.

The CASTLE MONA was built as a residence by John, IVth Duke of Atholl, in 1804, when he was Governor-in-Chief of the Island. The stone of which it was built was brought from Corrie in the island of Arran (Firth of Clyde). After the Duke left the Island in 1826 it was sold to four enterprising gentlemen who, on the 24th of April, 1832, opened it as an hotel, under the management of W. Mallett. In 1836 Mr. G. Heron became the proprietor; and John Welch, who visited it in that year, says of it ‘The man of rank and the votary of fashion, the mirthful citizen and the wealthy merchant, all consenting for a time to enjoy life, throw behind them the cares and troubles of the world, so that there are to be seen on the terraces and lawns groups of the young and gay and beautiful, brushing with light feet the first gentle dew off the greensward, or with merry hearts plucking the gay flowers scattered around them. ‘ A different picture, indeed, from that seen by the members of this exclusive circle when they looked seaward, and observed with horror ‘droves of raw Lancashire men and women simultaneously dipping together, like devotees along the banks of the Ganges or flamingoes on the cost of Guinea.’

The BRITISH HOTEL was opened in 1809 by Mrs. H. Robinson, whose mother had been the popular hostess of the Liverpool Coffee House. It stood in the Market Place, on ground now covered by the Meat Market, and stretched back to James Street. Here was to be seen the dignified, pillared doorway through which the best society of the Island used to pass, though the remainder of the frontage —if we may judge from a little sketch of it which appears on Fannin’s plan of the town — could not have been plainer. Those sitting in its coffee-room in the early years of the last century had the advantage of being able to see through the window the only public clock in Douglas — the one in the tower of St. Matthew’s Chapel.

A popular place for the annual dinners of clubs and benefit societies, it boasted an assembly room (which appears to have been added about 1817) on its eastern side. Thos. Dixon, the proprietor at that time, was a man of enterprise. It was he who provided the ‘cold collation’ which was served to the large crowd that gathered on the summit of Snaefell on the 1st July, 1814, to celebrate the conclusion of peace after the defeat of Napoleon. Directed by guides, who pointed out the road, some 1,500 people reached the top, where they found tents erected and the Union flag displayed upon a lofty flag-staff. The Governor was there, as were also the South Manx Volunteers with their band. At 2-30 p.m. a gunshot announced the welcome fact that dinner was ready, and 120 persons sat down, in a marquee, at tables made from sods and boards; while more than double that number, unable to find a place, gathered round outside.

The catering, by universal acclaim, was excellent. But it was unfortunate that the ascent of a balloon — which was to have been the great sensation of the day — did not take place. This was a great disappointment, both to those gathered about it on Snaefell and to the many others who had climbed the surrounding hills in the hope of seeing such an unprecedented sight.

Dixon staged another spectacle on the 9th November, 1818, when he allowed Signor Nervoni to give a grand display of Chinese fireworks in the stables which he conducted in connection with his hotel. They included a pagoda surrounded by coloured flares and ‘angelic lights’; Roman candles, and ‘fiery pigeons’ which flew in all directions. All these, not to mention seats for the spectators, were in the stable yard. It is to be hoped that the usual inmates had been removed.

In this same stable yard — which was on the Parade, some little distance from the hotel — Dixon later exhibited ‘One of the most majestic animals in the world — a noble, full-grown ROYAL LION, the largest ever brought to Europe’ and, to keep it company, ‘That singular curiosity the Great Baboon or Wild Man of the Woods.’

In 1819 he had the great actor Mr. Kean performing in his assembly room, and, a few months after his visit, there came Signor Rivolta, who played on nine different instruments all at the same time.

When the Douglas Assembly reopened in the autumn of 1809 it was to the British Hotel that the dancers went for the supper which terminated the evening’s enjoyment. Dancing had been from eight o’clock to midnight, and we can imagine how welcome that supper would be to the tired revellers after they had fought their way along the Quay (unlighted until 1840) in the wet and gusty darkness of a November night; and then, feeling in their thin pumps for the smoother stones, had picked a path over the rough cobbles of the Market Place.

On the 30th May, 1814, the Turf Club had a dinner here, as a wind-up to the Douglas Spring Meeting. The race, which was run on the sands, was won by a mare named Brandy Nan, whose owner received ‘an elegant embossed silver Cup’ . We are told in- the newspaper account that the ladies of beauty and fashion who crowded the sands sported Cossack stays, Wellington bonnets, De Berry slippers and Blucher handkerchiefs. The Allies were in Paris, and Napoleon tucked away safely, as it was thought, in Elba.

The original British Hotel was demolished in 1894, when the ground on which it stood was needed for the new covered meat market. A few yards to the westward of it there had been in earlier days an inn called the FISHERMAN’S ARMS. This was pulled down sometime after 1876 and replaced by the CHESHIRE INN. When the British went the Cheshire was likewise demolished, and a new hotel built on its site. This was named the British, though it was in no way connected with the former one, and is the one now seen.

The CRESCENT—In 1824 the Duke of Atholl, as part of his plans for attracting holiday-makers to the Island, built near the bottom of Summer Hill an inn which was opened as the MONA. This was managed by Dixon, of the British Hotel, who ran a coach six times daily between the two houses. Two years later the name was changed to the CRESCENT . In 1826 it was transferred to J . Cloke, who had travelled widely as a gentleman’s servant. His tenancy lasted until 1841, when it was sold, with the gardens and pleasure-grounds attached, to Wm. Hill, who after enlarging it in 1845 parted with it in the next year to P . Cringle (or Crangle) . Its new owner appears to have changed the name to the ODDFELLOWS INN; but sometime before 1876 the old name was resumed and, as the Crescent, it is still doing business, but rebuilt in a very modern style.

The SADDLE was first licensed, as such, in 1834 by James McKenzie. But the advertisement which announces the opening adds that it had previously been kept as an inn by a chandler named Greeves. A date on a water-spout, high up on the side of the building opposite to that on which the great sign swings, appears to indicate that it was built in 1819; So it may claim to have been an inn from that date, if we presume that Mr. Greeves was its first tenant. McKenzie left it in 1836, when he went to the York, handing the Saddle over to P. Cain.

A narrow, four-storied building in Queen Street, near the old Cattle Market and not far from the Market Place, the Saddle was a popular meeting-place for farmers. The old stable yard, which was at the side of the inn, has been roofed over, and a snug parlour occupies the space which once echoed to the thud of horses’ hoofs. On the first floor, at the head of the stairs, a large room spans the full width of the house. It is a lofty and spacious room and, standing in it, one realises that guests of the Saddle in the early years of the last century probably lived in considerable elegance.

The ALBION in Church Street is said, by a gentleman who owned it until recently, to have been licensed as early as 1813 — a date which would certainly entitle it to be considered the oldest inn still in being in Douglas. It is said also to have been known at one time as the SOAPERY; a name which, were it not said to be in the title deeds, might have been a nickname in some way connected with the soap and candle factory which once stood in Simpson’s Street nearby. It appears to have been given the name ALBION about 1900, having previously (and certainly in 1876) been known as the CROSS KEYS. But newspapers and directories of the period refer to an Albion and a Cross Keys on other sites, and the connection between them all, if there was one, is not yet clear to me.

Other old inns, still licensed, are the Adelphi, the Douglas, the Albert and the Market.

The ADELPHI. — In 1836 an inn called the KING’S ARMS was opened by T. Crelley at the top end of Church Street. The name had previously appeared in Muckle Gate (corner of Duke’s Lane) and in Lord Street (opposite the entrance to Fancy — now, approximately, Ridgeway — Street). The landlords were T Cottier and T. Crelley respectively. Crelley died in 1842, and in 1844 his widow moved the sign from Church Street to a house on the Parade, and sold it to P. E. Lycett; the premises in Church Street were opened by J . Davies as the ADELPHI. In 1845 this was transferred to W. Stead, who retained the name and installed Lycett as manager, while the King’s Arms, which Lycett had been keeping, ceased to exist. The ADELPHI was famous for its oyster suppers and, as High Bailiff Laughton tells us in his Reminiscences, it was a favourite resort of certain members of the Manx Bar, one of whom had a special glass reserved for him. This glass was a thing to behold, and was well known to his intimates. It was about the size and shape of a large celery glass, and upon high days and feast days it was always filled to the brim. Like an hour glass it faithfully recorded the advance of the evening, and its owner never departed until it was completely drained. It once served him well; for, on being brought before the magistrates as the result of some innocent but rowdy happenings in the town, it was insinuated that he was not at the time strictly sober. Denying this, he affirmed upon oath that he had had but one glass of Hollands; and the Court, not thinking to enquire about the glass, dismissed the case.

The DOUGLAS HOTEL, on the North Quay, has an interesting history as a building as well as a long record as an hotel. It was built in 1758 by a wealthy Ulster merchant named Black, who traded in wines and spirits from Bordeaux. From Douglas, where the import duty was but small, these goods were sent to England, where it was high, and a cargo which could evade the Revenue cutters earned a good profit. In 1765, however, the control of the Island passed from the Lords of Man into the hands of the Crown; and with the advent of English Customs officials trade of this nature ceased to be attractive, and Mr. Black left. His house, after passing through other hands, was bought in 1783 by the Duke of Atholl who, though he may originally have thought of it as a residence for himself, installed his seneschal, Mr. P. J. Heywood, in it. After Heywood’s death his widow remained there until 1791, from which date it was unused until 1793, when the Duke, paying a short visit to the Island, occupied it for a while. Later, after serving for a time as offices, it became the Customs House; but it suffered a surprising change in 1862 when it was licensed as the Old Customs House Inn, a name later changed to its present one of the Douglas Hotel.

The ALBERT, in Chapel Row, was known in 1863 as the Royal Albert, but the adjective was discarded in 1881. Earlier still it was the GRAPES, and a photograph taken in 1888 shows a large bunch of grapes hanging as a sign, not as one would expect above it, but over the door of the Market Inn, which adjoined it. I have been told by a one-time landlord of this inn that he had the sign removed because, being of solid wood and very heavy, he feared that it might fall and injure someone. He said also that he had always understood that the grapes had been brought from the Market Hotel when the name of that old hostelry was transferred.

The MARKET INN has stood in Chapel Row since at least 1852. At that date there was also, some 200 yards SE. on the corner of New Bond Street and Chapel Lane — which runs at right angles to Chapel Row — the MARKET HOTEL. When this was pulled down about 1933 the stone pillars which had graced its entrance were re-erected in Finch Road, at the foot of the steps which lead up to the Museum. This house was originally called the Old Market Inn.- and when the ‘Inn’ was changed for the more pretentious title of ‘Hotel’ the one in Chapel Row took the discarded name.

Before 1897, when Old St. Matthew's was demolished and the present market erected on its site, the stalls of the open-air market occupied all the space between the Chapel and the Quay. Hereabouts was obviously the right place for an inn, and the name almost chose itself, so it is not surprising that in addition to the Market Hotel and the Market Inn there was a MARKET ARMS in the Fairy Ground nearby, and an OLD MARKET HOUSE on the North Quay.

In Factory Lane (now known as Wellington Street) was the NEW MARKET INN, which owed its name to the Wellington Market Hall. This hall, built by a private company in 1835 in the hope that its use would do away with the many inconveniences and abuses of the old open markets, never became popular, the country people refusing to pay the small fee charged for the use of a stall, and the public preferring to buy in the accustomed place.

The FORT ANNE, one of the best known of modern Douglas hotels, was built as a residence, in the second half of the eighteenth century, by a picturesque Regency figure known as Buck Whaley, who found the Isle of Man a welcome haven from the hectic life of the Dublin of his day. Tradition says that either to win a bet, or to fulfil some obligation imposed upon him, he had undertaken to live upon Irish ground without residing in Ireland. To do this he had a cargo of earth shipped from Ireland, and when it had been scattered over the Manx turf of Douglas Head he built his house upon it.

After his death it was occupied by Deemster Christian and others. until in 1841 it was sold to a Mr. Rayner of Manchester for £2,500. Later still it became the residence of Sir William Hillary, Bt. , founder of the National Lifeboat Institution. Sir William sold it in January 1846 to J. Newton, of the adjoining Harold Tower, for £1,300. This gentleman converted it into an hotel which opened in that year under the management of W. Halliday. The opening was celebrated by a hail at which, according to Press reports, ‘Dancing continued till five in the morning, when the fair daughters of Terpsichore betook themselves to their pillows, to dream of the honied tones of many a captivated partner.’

With the commencement of the visiting industry a number of Douglas hotels were named after English counties and cities; and such names as- Cumberland, Lancashire, Liverpool, Manchester and York became Common.

In 1816, for instance, there was a CUMBERLAND TAVERN in Moore’s Court (later called Cumberland Court), which was on the north - side of James Street near to its junction with the Market Place, and one of the same name, which had been in Big Well Street in 1806, was still there in 1810. There was also a CUMBERLAND INN at No. 8, Heywood Place (which led on to the Quay a few yards from the end of Queen Street), which had opened in 1836 in a house earlier known as the EAGLE AND CHILD.

From 1834 to 1845 the landlord of the CUMBERLAND TAVERN in Moore’s Court was Mr. Tom Braid, who, in addition to keeping his tavern, ran a regular coach service between Douglas, Ramsey and Castletown by ‘those commodious, splendid and safe vehicles’ the Industry, Beehive and Butterfly, which were replaced in 1841 by the Regulator and John Bull. In 1845 he went to the York, taking his coaches with him.
[fpc in Manx Liberal 26 Feb 1848 is reported death of Thomas Braid who rose from being a shoemaker to largest coach operator - he sold up and bought one of largest farms on the Island]

Well-known inns which no longer exist include the York, White Lon, Globe, Royal, Liverpool Coffee House, Clague’s and Redfern’s.

A YORK CITY TAVERN is said to have been on the North Quay in 1821, and another in Duke Street in 1823. The manageress of the latter (Mrs. Meldau) in 1824 moved her sign to a house on the Parade, next door to the White Lion, and one would expect these two establishments to have been those which joined together to become the White Lion and York (see below) . But this does not appear to be the case, for the amalgamation had taken place in 1818 and the York concerned was one which had been at No. 4, Parade. Support for this statement is found in Oswald’s Guide for 1824, which shows the Yorkshire tavern as well as the White Lion and York as being on the Parade in that year.

In addition to these John Wood’s plan of 1833 shows a YORKSHIRE TAVERN at the junction of Duke Street and King Street. This is not mentioned in any of the contemporary books of reference, but Jefferson’s Almanacs for 1835 to 1837 list one in Duke’s Lane — which may well be a misprint for Duke Street, quite a different thoroughfare, though the names are much alike.

The WHITE LION was already well established by 1776, when it was advertised as being to let, and described as ‘that commodious Inn known by the sign of the White Lion, on the Parade’ , which contained ‘a large dining-room, a genteel coffee-room and a number of lodging rooms, with yard, stables, etc. adjoining. In 1801 it was again advertised as being to let, but nothing more is heard of it until 1818, when M. Hanby ‘revived it under its ancient name’ — as the Manx Mercury terms it — and joined it to the York, calling it the WHITE LION AND YORK. Whether Mr. Hanby, who presided over its destinies for many years, was a typical, jovial innkeeper is not known. But he must have been a brave one, for when H.M. Cutter ‘Vigilant’ was driven ashore on Conister one wild day in October 1822, Hanby — with Sir Wm. Hillary and two naval officers —went out in a small boat to the help of those on board her.

In 1834 the ‘Lion’ was dropped from the title, and it was called simply the YORK. After passing through various hands it seems that, sometime after 1881, part of it became a temperance hotel and another part was joined to the CRITERION BUFFET which stood next door to it. The site is now part of the Car Park.

The GLOBE was opened in October 1806 in ‘ a commodious and extensive house’ on the Parade, by J. Heuchan and Miss White. it appears to have at once become popular, for in the next month the supper following the Assembly was held there and, a few months later, Irish exiles in Douglas met within its walls for a dinner in celebration of St. Patrick’s Day. This feast, the cost of which was 10/6d. per head, was presided over by Sir J . B. Piers, Bt. , a notorious character who had sought refuge in the Island after the Courts had awarded damages of £20,000 against him for seducing the wife of an Irish peer. Although these damages had caused Sir John to flee to the Island, where he could not be arrested, they had certainly not forced him into hiding; for only the previous Christmas he had been a principal in a duel which took place in Douglas and caused a sensation amongst the emigres, as it was said that his opponent had fired before the signal was given. He denied this, but the seconds became involved, and challenges were soon flying all round the town. With such a chairman and such an occasion Heuchan must have felt a distinct sense of relief when the last of the diners passed through his door on their homeward way.

The hotel’s early prosperity did not continue, and in the autumn of the next year the partnership was dissolved and the hotel taken over by trustees for the creditors. They sold the contents, and then advertised it as being to let. It was again taken by Heuchan, but this time he opened it (as the GLOBE TAVERN) on his own. Miss White, seven months later, set up in opposition to her late partner —and that right on his doorstep — by opening ‘the upper part, or nearest the Quay, of the house lately called the Globe Tavern’ as the GLOBE HOTEL. There was thus a Globe Tavern and a Globe Hotel next door to each other, which explains the otherwise puzzling statement in George Woods’ Account of the Isle of Man (1811) that ‘of inns in the town the largest, and I believe the best, was the Globe, now divided into two.’

The ROYAL no longer exists as an hotel, but the building which housed it still stands and serves a useful purpose. Originally the town house of the Bacons of Seafield, a family of merchants and shipowners prominent amongst the Island notables of the eighteenth century, the date at which it was built is not known; but though it must have been later than 1789 — when Fannin’s plan of the town shows herring-houses on the site — it was probably not much so.

It is said to have become an hotel in July 1837, though the first mention of it which I have found is in 1852, when it was under the management of W. Hill. He was followed (c. 1876) by his son-in-law, S. Lomas, but by 1889 the latter’s widow was in charge. Sometime after this date it closed its doors as an hotel, and since 1914 has housed the offices of the cargo service of the Isle of Man Steam Packet Co. Ltd.

Standing in Parade Street, at the eastern extremity of the North Quay, it faces up the harbour; so that the original owner, whenever any of his ships were in port, had them well under his eye. Through the red sandstone pillars of its doorway have passed many visitors. One of them was the famous writer George Borrow, who arrived with his wife and daughter in August 1855, and praised the good catering it provided. He had ‘a first-rate breakfast of lobsters, herrings in vinegar, eggs and fowl, white and brown bread and butter, and tea.’ For dinner there was ‘soup and fish, followed by lamb at the top of the table, ham at the bottom, chicken and ham before me and ducks opposite vegetables not particularly good; sherry very good and port so-so.’

Round about the end of the eighteenth century the LIVERPOOL COFFEE HOUSE is constantly mentioned, and appears to have been the Douglas hotel most in favour with visitors from the mainland; but beyond the fact that it was near the old Chapel (St. Matthew’s, in the Market Place) its situation is not known.

The earliest reference to it which I have found under the name of Wilson’s is by a correspondent, who signs himself ‘Albert’ , in an account of a visit to the Island which he contributed in 1784 to a paper called the Universal Magazine . Unfortunately, however, he tells us nothing about it beyond the fact that he stayed there, and that Mrs. Wilson, the hostess, was ‘an Englishwoman, fat as a puffin and good-humoured as fat.’

Col. Townley, whose Journal is well known to all students of Manx history, went there when he arrived in Douglas on the 9th May, 1789, and records gratefully that ‘my wants from hunger and thirst were soon cured by a fine cod’s head and some excellent porter, my other complaints were also soon lost and forgotten in a very good and well-aired bed.’

On returning from a visit to the west of the Island later in the year he records that he was ‘glad to quit the Peel hotel for our most excellent quarters at the Liverpool Coffee House in Douglas; quitting one of the most saucy, impertinent, sour-tempered women that ever presided at a bar for one of the most obliging, civil and good-tempered women that was ever engaged in that bustling line of life.’

A visitor of ten years later, however, took a very different view of it. John Quayle, of Bridge House, Castletown, writing to his brother Mark on the 9th May, 1799, mentions having met while on his way to Liverpool a poor, sea-sick fellow-passenger who had stayed there, and described it as being ‘in an obscure lane, and having filthy, broken plates, cups and saucers. ‘ Quayle calls him a ‘costive gentleman’, and it is not unlikely that a rough passage had caused him to regard both his late quarters and the Island generally with a somewhat jaundiced eye.

Jeffries, in 1808, calls it an excellent inn. An Irish gentleman, Mr. Blacker, who has left an account (as yet unpublished) of a visit in 1814, mentions the excellent breakfast which he and his party were given on their arrival, and the merits of ‘one of the most recherche dinners I have ever sat down to. The fish was of the finest, and well dressed, the small Manx mutton delicious, and the wine excellent. We had the finest strawberries I ever saw.’

But though the name of the hotel was the same, the last two writers were staying at a different place from that described by their predecessors; for an advertisement in the Manks Advertiser of the 14th May, 1803, notified the public that ‘Frances Wilson has removed from the house near the Old Chapel to one on the Parade, adjoining the Quay, which has been fitted up in an excellent manner . . .'

Mrs. Wilson died in January 1807, and in the following October. B. Cole (late of the Duke’s Arms) became the landlord. He did not stay long, however perhaps his livery stables took up too much of his time for in 1811 his place was taken by Thos. Long, who had kept an establishment of the same name (Liverpool Coffee House) in Peel. Cole probably left the Island, for in September 1815 we find him asking the Duke of Atholl for a recommendation to someone in Gibraltar, where he intended to open an hotel.

Early in 1815 Long died, and H. Roberts became the landlord. in April 1817 he got into trouble and was imprisoned. In the next month all the contents of the Coffee House were advertised as being for sale by action, and this appears to have been the end of it.

CLAGUE’S HOTEL was so well known in its day that none of the references to it say where it was, the nearest indication being that given by Woods, who speaks of it as being ‘one without a sign, kept by Clague, the oldest of all, situated between the Market Place and the Post Office. ‘ Feltham calls it, simply but expressively, ‘the Hotel’ . But I think its location is definitely settled by an advertisement in the Manks Advertiser of the 19th of June, 1817, which says that William Clark, of the Cumberland Tavern in Cumberland Lane, had removed to ‘that commodious dwelling in Moore’s Court formerly occupied by Mr. John Clague’ , where he opened in it the Cumberland Tavern (see p. 421), which remained there for many years.

REDFERN’S HOTEL. Jefferson’s Almanac for 1816 mentions an inn called the Butcher’s Arms, in James Street, kept by J. Redfern. The name is said to have originated from the fact that next door to it the proprietor had a butcher’s shop, the principal one in the Island, through which the cattle were driven on their way to the place where they were slaughtered in the yard behind the shop, as was then the common custom. In 1820 this inn was taken over by T. Carr, who altered the name to the Commercial, but by 1823 the old name had been restored and the landlord was said to be T. Redfern who, unless there was a printer’s error, was probably a relative of the earlier owner.

By 1838 the Butcher’s Arms had disappeared from the list of hotels, and it was called, quite simply, ‘Redfern’s’ . In 1852 it passed into the hands of a Mr. Allen, by whose name it was known. But by 1863 his name had vanished, and the hotel — displaying on its sign a large red fern was again known as Redfern’s, the licence being held by Mrs. M. Hiscocks.

James Cowin, in his Reminiscences of Fifty Years Ago published in 1902, names it ‘Redfern’s’ and speaks no good of it. He calls it a meeting-place for the more respectable kind of fuddlers; a whitewashed sepulchre full of dead men’s bones and characters’ . Perhaps he was a little prejudiced. It must have been of considerable size, for when in later years it was let in tenements it sheltered no fewer than thirty families.

Few of the inns in the old town can have had accommodation for more than one or two guests — there would be but little need for it at the time when most of them were opened and they must have merited the description of ‘ale-house’ far more than that of ‘inn’. They were mostly of the plainest possible appearance, being flat-faced and completely undecorated. Three or four stories high, with a narrow frontage having a door in the middle and a window on either side, they resembled closely the dwelling-houses — which they had originally been — amidst which they stood. Many of them did not even boast a sign, though a few had one which swung out over the narrow street for all to see. The few larger inns were all converted houses, and not buildings specially designed as inns.

But they were, no doubt, snug places on a winter night, when an east wind blew in from the sea, and a glass of hot rum was a welcome thing to men from ships tied up at the nearby quay.

These inns, as was likewise the case with many of the merchants houses which stood in the old town, had large cellars. The demolitions which took place between 1932 and 1935 not only exposed these cellars, but showed them to have been connected one to another by a tunnel which was about six feet wide and seven high, and had several offshoots leading to the quay. The huge quantity of rum which was imported into the Island was certainly not all drunk in it, and it may safely be conjectured that many a puncheon was rolled along these passages on an illegal journey. They would also afford a convenient way of escape should the press-gang raid one of the inns they served.

Three of the smaller inns worth mention are the Ramsey, the Step-Down and the Brown Bobby.

The RAMSEY inn is shown on Wood’s plan (1833) as being in Almshouse Lane, but various directories give its address as No. 8, New Bond Street. The two sites are, in any case, within a few yards of each other. Like other inns of the days before the steamers berthed alongside the Pier, the Ramsey had a small boat which went out to meet the incoming vessel. From this boat an agent would clamber up the side shouting the praises of his employer, and endeavouring. by fair means or foul, to secure guests from amongst the passengers. As a visiting rhymester described it in some verses published in the Mona’s Herald of the 13th January, 1847

‘ .. We came just within the harbour, where
One’s luggage and one’s body too — are thrown with little care
Into boats, with ladies screaming, their legs exposed to view,
.(In such a situation, pray what else could ladies do?)
While husbands, brothers, passengers, in one accord exclaim,
Call this a landing ! . . .‘

Competition was fierce, and though a constable from the town was supposed to regulate the boats there was often great confusion. But when the agent of another inn asserted, in the heat of the struggle, that the Ramsey was no better than it ought to be, the proprietor demanded and received an apology. This inn was the Douglas terminus for Redhead’s coach, the Favourite, which ran daily between it and Heelis’ Hotel in Ramsey.

The STEP-DOWN INN was in New Bond Street, facing the side of the old Grammar School. The name was derived from the fact that its floor was some eighteen inches below the level of the roadway, so that patrons had literally to ‘step down’ in order to enter. it is reputed to have been a favourite place of call for country people coming into Douglas from Lonan and Onchan. These visitors would walk along the shore of the bay in their bare feet, a cold job in wintertime — and then by way of Stowell’s Lane into New Bond Street; and so to the inn, where they would put on their shoes and stockings and have a spot of rum to restore the circulation in their cold feet. When they called again on their homeward journey it must have required both a strong will and careful navigation to leave fire and flagon behind and get up two steps into the dark, unlit street which led to the icy water swirling across the sands This solace of the lads and lasses of Lonan was demolished in 1928.

The earliest mention of the BROWN BOBBY which I have found is in 1837, but it was probably in existence long before that date. Photographs, taken many years ago, show it to have been a low, whitewashed cottage with a steeply sloping roof of tiny slates. It is said — with what truth I know not — to have obtained its name from the fact that a well-known brown hunter of the name of Bobby was once stabled there, and it stood a petrol station which has taken its name now marks the spot — at the junction of Peel Road and Circular Road. A strong local tradition avers that it was here that funerals on the way to Kirk Braddan halted, so that the corpse, carried thus far on the shoulders of bearers, might be transferred to a vehicle for the remainder of its journey; while the bearers, no doubt, took the opportunity to obtain refreshment and comfort, for — as an old writer has it — ‘excessive sorrow is exceeding dry'. Country women bringing farm produce to market, and walking barefoot as was the custom, used likewise to stop here so that they might don their shoes before going into the town. When it ceased to be an inn is not known, but it is shown as a private residence in 1863, and had long been derelict when acquired by Quayle’s Garage in 1938.

Coffee Houses.

At one time or another there were several places in Douglas which bore the name of Coffee House; though few of them, if any, confined the refreshments they sold to that harmless beverage. One — the Liverpool — was probably the best known hotel in the town.

The DOUGLAS HEAD COFFEE HOUSE is mentioned in an advertisement in the Cumberland Pacquet of the 18th August, 1789. In this, William Armstrong informs the public that he has taken a large house, with a flower garden behind it, on the south side of the harbour. Here he offers board and lodging, salubrious air, and different kinds of the best liquors, with tea and coffee also available. The house must have been some distance up the Head, as it was said to command a full view of the harbour and town; but, so that no convenience might be lacking, ‘a bathing box will be erected, for the accommodation of ladies, at a short distance from the house. ‘ This is, presumably, the place referred to in Douglas newspapers as ‘Armstrong’s Tavern’ , and we learn from one of them in 1802 that a ‘Card Assembly’ would be held there which would commence at five o’clock in the afternoon. In those days, when the best of Douglas society lived on the South Quay, this would be a pleasant way of spending an evening almost on their doorsteps.

It is to the Cumberland Pacquet again that we are indebted for two items of information about the WHITEHAVEN COFFEE HOUSE. On the 11th of June, 1793, passengers about to sail from Whitehaven at that time the principal port of departure for the Island — were informed that Mr. Appleby had opened an hotel in Douglas where they could obtain the best of board, drinks and lodgings. The situation of this desirable place was said to be ‘particularly convenient for visitors, being near the Quay, where Mr. John Foster lately resided.’ Exactly where it was I have not been able to discover. The other mention of it is in 1786, when the same paper informed its readers that it was here that the officers of three of H.M. cutters gave a theatrical entertainment to Mr. John Millar, agent victualler, which ‘passed off with the greatest conviviality and harmony.’

FARGHER’S COFFEE HOUSE is referred to in the Manks Mercury of 7th December, 1793, where a notice states that ‘William Fargher, Coffee Room, Douglas, takes the liberty of acquainting the public that having suffered considerable loss and inconvenience by lending his newspapers without any recompense for the same, he is determined to discontinue so injurious a mark of civility, and to charge 3d. Manx for every paper that goes out of the room. ‘ Papers were not easily come by in those days, and the chance to read and discuss their contents must have made Mr. Fargher’s Coffee Room a popular meeting place. He charged a subscription of 6/6d. per annum for the privilege of having an early sight of them, and to avoid any awkwardness subscribers only were admitted to the Room for the first two days after the arrival of the Packet.

It may be — though I have found no proof of it — that this was the same place as the MANX COFFEE HOUSE which is mentioned as being in Duke’s Lane in January 1805, and was still there as late as 1837.

Somewhere near the Market Place was Kewley’s WELCH COFFEE HOUSE, which in 1810 was the starting place of a carrier cart that conveyed passengers and goods between Douglas and Castletown. In 1820 the name was changed to the WELSH TAVERN, under which designation it can be found mentioned as late as 1826.

That a SCOTCH COFFEE HOUSE also existed is proved by a reference to it in 1824; but no indication is given as to where it was. As I have been unable to find it in the lists of licensed houses it may be that this one was a coffee-house pure and simple, and not also an inn, as the others were.

A little outside Douglas was the KEWAGE COFFEE HOUSE, which was advertised in 1812 as being ‘a pleasant walk from Douglas, in a delightful situation. ‘ Beyond the fact that it was surrounded by gorse no information as to its exact position is to be found.

Inns in Castletown

The ancient capital has three old inns which are still to be seen; in addition to several which have vanished. They are the George, Union and Castle Arms.

When the GEORGE first opened its doors I have been unable to discover, but there are several references to it in the Manks Mercury during 1793. From the ‘Swarbrick’ MSS. (in the Manx Museum) we learn that in 1815 the host was one Downes, ‘an elderly Englishman and a true John Bull’ , who had been a sergeant in the Manchester Regiment, but ‘having retired from the din of arms appeared to enjoy Otium cum Dignitate.’ In 1820 he died, but the business was carried on by his widow, for whom the Duke of Atholl, who owned the house, rebuilt it in 1823. There is a local tradition that the original building was the one which afterwards served as a barracks, and later still as the offices of the Town Commissioners. I can find no grounds for this belief, however, and think it much more likely that the new hotel —the one we now see — stands on the same ground as did its predecessor. [FPC - Mathieson was wrong -- the Hotel did move further along the parade]

The UNION, which stands at the end of Arbory Street, a few paces from the George, has been there for at least a hundred years but probably not for much more, as it does not appear on a plan of the town dated 1833, which shows a brewery on the site. An advertisement issued in 1853 describes it as ‘immediately contiguous to the beach where there is the finest sea bathing in the world. ‘ The owner, Mrs. Eyre, obviously did not believe in understating her case.

The CASTLE ARMS — called by some of its facetious patrons the ‘Gluepot’ was known as the Castle in 1853, and before that as the

Queen’s Arms, under which name it is mentioned in 1845. Amongst inns which no longer exist were : —

Caledonian, Market Place.

Manchester, Mill Road.

Hope and Anchor, Hope St.

Crown Arms, Quay.

Black Cock, Arbory St.

Highland Laddie, Quay.

Traveller’s Rest, Malew St.

Liverpool Arms, Bridge St.

Forester’s Rest,

Ellan Vannin Arms.


Commercial, Bridge St.



Castletown also had a Coffee House, for the Receiver’s accounts for the 8th March, 1698, have an entry which reads ‘Paid towards a Coffy House sign to be set up in Castletown 5 /-‘ though why the Lord’s treasurer should be making a payment of this nature is difficult to understand. Nevertheless, as the first coffee house to be opened in England is said to have been at Oxford in 1650, and the first in London not before 1659, the Manx capital was obviously early in the fashion.

Inns in Peel.

The western city has had its fair share of inns, but the only two of any age which have survived are the Peveril and the Peel Castle.

The PEVERIL, probably built about 1730, was the home of Captain George Savage, chief Customs officer of the town and, from 1794 until 1802, High-Bailiff. It became an inn sometime after 1817 and, for various good reasons too lengthy to set out here, I think it very probable that it was the building in which Robert Grant opened his LIVERPOOL COFFEE HOUSE in the year 1820. At the end of the eighteenth century this hotel not to be confused with the one of the same name in Douglas — was probably the principal one in Peel. Where it was, before being moved in 1820, as stated above, is difficult to say with certainty. The evidence, such as it is, points to it having been started in a house previously known as BLACK’S. Now Black’s is said to have been on the shore — perhaps quay would be more accurate — and, after the Coffee House had been transferred to the Peveril, to have been washed away by the sea sometime about 1830. Not only is the position of the Liverpool Coffee House uncertain; its character also is in dispute. Col. Townley, when he visited it, found the hostess sour-tempered and the catering arrangements unusual. The food offered, he records, was ‘chickens or nothing, and even those running about in the yard to be chased into tenderness. ‘ When they came to the table they were uneatable, and had it not been for a large plum-pudding he and his companion would have left the table with empty stomachs.

Against this must be set the words of a writer in the Universal Magazine for 1784, who says, ‘In truth I do not remember ever being at an inn where so great pains were taken to please.’

The PEEL CASTLE was open at least as early as 1836, when Welch visited it. It was kept, he says, by ‘a very blooming widow, Mrs. Thomas’ ; and was a very comfortable house, where the charges were moderate and the cooking excellent. The present building is not the one in which he stayed. That was pulled down, and a new one — the one still standing — was opened in October 1845.

An hotel once well known in Peel was the MARINE. Originally the town house of Sir George Moore, S.H.K. (1709-1787), it stood on the site now occupied by the block of shops at the corner of Castle Street and Crown Street. Opposite to it, on ground now occupied by the Customs House, was Sir George’s bowling green, as is plainly to be seen in a picture painted by John ‘Warwick’ Smith (now in the Manx Museum) in 1795.

This house appears to have become an hotel, known as the COMMERCIAL, in 1824. In 1828 the name was changed to the WHITE LION, which was retained until 1830. Later it was again a. private residence, but about 1841 a Mr. Pitchford opened it as the MARINE, under which name it continued until it was destroyed by fire in 1885 . The present Marine Hotel, standing on a nearby corner, was built in or about 1890 by Joseph Mylchreest, celebrated as ‘the Diamond King’.

Inns in Ramsey

A traveller arriving in Ramsey in 1784 found himself, as we learn from the Universal Magazine for that year, ‘crammed into a nasty little parlour darkened with clouds of tobacco smoke and deafened with half a hundred harsh voices roaring discordant catches.’

When Feltham visited the town in 1797 he found there were two inns : the KING’S ARMS kept by Mr. Hendry, and the KING’S HEAD kept by Mr. Hind. The writer of the ‘Swarbrick’ MSS. , when he and his companions reached Ramsey in 1815, went to EVANS’ Hotel; so called from the name of the man who conducted it. The owner, however, was a Mrs. Ryde, and when Evans died in 1815 she took over the management herself, and the house became known as HYDE’S, and later still as the Mitre.

By 1820 visitors were better catered for, having a choice between the MANKS ARMS, which had been opened by C. Perry in 1818 near the Market Place, and Mrs. Ryde’s hotel. Four years later there was also Josiah HEELIS’ HOTEL, otherwise known as the THATCHED HOUSE TAVERN. In 1847 Heelis sold this to W. Crawford, who had been chief steward of the s.s. ‘Great Western’ and re-named the house the GREAT WESTERN. By 1851 it had ceased to be either Heelis’ , Thatched House, or Great Western, and had settled down as the ALBERT, which two years later is described as the principal inn of the town. Later still it became the IMPERIAL.

The MITRE, as has already been stated, began as Ryde’s Hotel; but it must have been rebuilt, for in 1841 an advertisement in the Mona’s Herald gave notice that Thos. Brett had taken ‘the above hotel, which has recently been erected’ , while another one, ten years later, speaks of ‘Brett’s Royal and Mitre, established 1840.’

In Parliament Street may still be found the CROWN, already described as ‘old-established’ in 1845, and the SADDLE, which has been there since at least 1852, and is said to enjoy the unusual distinction of having a public right-of-way running through the middle of it — in at the front door, past the bar and out at the back. A sore temptation this for any wayfarer enjoying his legal rights on a hot day.

In the Market Place are the ROYAL OAK — now a restaurant and the ROYAL HOTEL, which were there in 1837 and 1852 respectively. A very old inhabitant of Ramsey recalls that in his boyhood (c. 1865) it was the custom on Good Friday to stretch ropes from the windows of the Royal Hotel to those of an adjacent barber’s shop, and to suspend from the ropes buns dipped in treacle and bedecked with feathers. Then all the boys and girls would gather round and, with their hands tied behind their backs, would try to eat the buns — feathers, treacle and all. It mattered little to the eager youngsters that the black cock’s feathers which defended the bobbing prizes had probably swayed, not long before, in majestic mourning above the heads of the horses which pulled the great hearse that was the pride of all Ramsey. For it was Henderson, the proprietor of the hotel, who furnished the transport which took his patrons and their friends to their graves.

In closing this paper I would like to offer my warm thanks to the many people who have helped me in the preparation of it. In particular I thank Mr. B. H. S. Megaw and other members of the staff of the Manx Museum for their constant and courteous assistance; Mr. Philip Caine, especially — amongst other kindnesses — for notes from the Cumberland Pacquet; and fellow members of the Antiquarian Society — Mrs. J. A. G. Quilliam, Mr. Len. Craine and Mr. Peter Hislop — who have been most generous in allowing me to draw on their local knowledge, and in suggesting sources of information.

* * * *

Lack of space prevents the inclusion of a list of 198 inns and coffee houses known to have existed in Douglas prior to 1864.

This, with notes on a number of them, which have had to be omitted from the above account for the same reason, has been deposited in the Manx Museum, where it is available for reference on request. There is also a list of innkeepers, which is likewise available.

(These notes + tables were later printed in Vol vi #1 pp122/166 [ptA Douglas & ptB Rest])


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