[From Manx Soc vol 5, 1860]


The debris of the mounds found in every part of the Island called and generally known as the Treen Chapels, are principally interesting as being (in the absence of all records) the only index in existence of the condition of Christianity in the Isle of Man in the early ages, — those ages in which its history is extinct, and out of which a new order of things has arisen. Mr. Rolt, in 1773, says, "There were formerly many chapels in the Island, some of which remain. The most remarkable non-parochial chapel is that of St. John the Evangelist, at the Tynwald Mount, which is in use to this day." The Treen Chapel of Ballure, near Ramsey, has been repaired within the last twenty years for the use of the town. These chapels are for the most part situated on low hills and other elevated situations, like that on the top of Bulrenny Hill, near Mount Murray, and that on Archollogan, opposite Greeba. Many of them have distinct appellations — as the Keeil Vine and Cabbal Nicholas on the east broogh of the Laxey Harbour; the Cabbal Keeil Vael, on the barony lands of Maughold; the "Keeil Pherrick-a-Drumma," (the "Kirk Patrick on the Hill ;") Keeil Albin, already mentioned, has nominally a hereditary domestic chaplain attached to it in the proprietor of Awhallyon, a neighbouring farm. This Treen Chapel has been rebuilt, and has become a station of the Diocesan Association for the supply of Curates in remote districts; and a third, near St. Mark's, was covered in till lately, and I have learnt that, within the last sixty years, the Setting Quest Jury, for regulating the boundaries of lands, have met in one for the purpose of prayer before entering upon their duties. Except the above, they are all very small, and some of them are more like a small barrow, having an excavation on the top, than anything else, like the Cronk-ny-Keeil-ain (or Cronk-y-Lhaune) at Ballalough, near Peel. Others appear to have been built of large stones and mid, and they are invariably surrounded by enclosed spaces of ground, generally small, but in some rather extensive, which, in all that have been examined, are found to be as burial-grounds. At the Cabbal Keeil Vael, on the barony of Maughold, the graves are marked by upright stones.1 The bones are often found undecayed, and laid longitudinally from east to west. The graves are generally for various sizes, young and old, constructed of mountain schist, and, in one instance at Cronk Rule, the precincts of the grave are marked outside by a corresponding arrangement of schistus, placed edgeways in the surface-sod. This simple memorial is another example of the surprising integrity in which monuments of this kind in this Island have come down to our days — a slate set edgeways on the surface having been undisturbed for hundreds of years.

No connection can be traced between these Keeils, and they are supposed to have been a kind of patriarchal or domestic chapels, erected according to the primitive custom of the first Christians of the country; and tradition hints that they were occasionally supplied by the Monks itinerating from the monasteries. It is found that every treen (a kind of baronial-like division of territory, comprising three or more quarterlands) for the most part is possessed of one. hence they are called the Treen Chapels.2 To illustrate how numerous these old chapels are, I may state that five or more occur within two miles of each other in the parishes of Braddan and Marown, one almost to every quarterland: for example, there is one on the estate of Castle ward, one on Camlork, one on Cronk Rule, one on Ballaquinnea, and others in the immediate vicinity, all in the cultivated lands ;1 and stone graves have been found at Kirk Marown, under the consecrated ground.

I have been informed that chapels of a similar kind exist in Norway; and if they bear any relation to these, for reasons already stated, I would take the Island to be the original. Whatever influence the Danes and Norwegians had in regulating the laws and form of government of the Manx in the middle ages, they had little or no effect in changing either their language or their customs, or their religion; on the contrary, there can be no doubt that their influence in religious matters was very limited in this Island, where religious habits had been formed centuries before the Northmen adopted and practised the doctrines of the Gospel.

Several intrinsic appearances place the majority of the old chapels as far back as the age of hillocks. But they nevertheless manifestly belong to a different civilization; for we find that whilst the Druidical hillocks are undistinguished by any traditional name, and have fallen into an entire oblivion, these Keeils are marked by associations which have distinctly a Christian origin. Like the monuments already spoken of, the old Keeils, by being mixed or conjoined with the Cronks, Knocks, or Barrows of the Pagans, demonstrate the policy of the primitive Christians in this Island to have been not to despise or annihilate the prejudices of the people. It is uncertain at what time the change of religions began here. Capgrave states it to have been A.D. 63. Archbishop Spottiswood relates that the persecution of Diocletian, in the beginning of the fourth century, forced many Christians, amongst other places of retreat, into the Island, who were well received by Cartalinth, King of Mann. He not only gave them the necessary support, but built for them a church, which in honour of the Saviour, was called Sodorense Fanum. A third account, by the Primate of Armagh, runs thus : — That Pope Gregory having sent St. Patrick and others to propagate Christianity in the British Isles, he landed here on his way to Ireland, in 444, and was very successful in his labours. Some have gone so far as not only to deny all these stories, but to question whether such a man as St. Patrick ever lived. But, however early Christianity was introduced, these keeils and hillock cemeteries can only be referred to a very primitive period; it has in the foregoing pages appeared probable that Christianity did not gain an undisturbed possession of the country till after a protracted period of opposition from Druidism; and of course the ruins spoken of will be of different degrees of antiquity. There can be little doubt that, at whatever time the first treen chapels were built, we possess in them good specimens of the civilization, and of the primitive establishments of the first Christians in this country, and the miserable nature of their architecture. The Cronk Keeil-ayn, with its stone graves already mentioned, I take to be an example of the most ancient kind; and were it not for the associations of name and the mode of interment, it is so like an ordinary barrow, that it could not be supposed to be the ruins of a Christian place of worship. "Keeil-ayn" occurs in an idiomatic saying of the natives: to this day, when they wish to tell that there will be no service on a given day, they say, "There will be neither clag nor keeil-ayn," neither at the parochial church nor at our own treen chapel. The use of the clag, that is, the larger or parish church bell, at places of Christian worship, began in the beginning of the fifth century, and they are often mentioned in history after the sixth and seventh. The word "keeil-ayn?' is not given in Cregeen, but in the surrounding district Kiawlane is understood to signify a little bell.

Besides the Keeil-ayn and those just mentioned there are Keeil Vael on the estate of Balladoole, the Keeil-pheriks in different places, the Eyrey Cosnahan in Dalby, and many others, which I shall notice somewhat in detail.

Keeilvael, on the elevated ground named Cross Welkin Hill, between Balladoole House and the seashore, comprises the foundations of a mud wall, enclosing a flat space about 90 yards in length by 53 yards in breadth, in a circular but irregular manner, following the outline of the flat summit. The green sod of this enclosure is broken in many places by projecting points of limestone rock, and also made uneven by the foundations of what must have been the small chapel of Vael or Michael, and by seven or eight hollows, without any order relative to each other, but which appear to have been places of abode that may have been partly underneath the surface, like the dwellings of the early Britons. The largest ruin is about 15 feet long and 12 feet wide, and stands nearly east and west. This site has never, I believe, been examined for the remains of the dead, but ancient iings have been found in the immediate vicinity within the memory of man.

Eyrey Cosnahan, in the western corner of the sequestered district of Dalby, and on the rough and precipitous acclivity of Cronk-ny-Eyrey-Lhaa, 200 feet above the level of the contiguous sea, stands an aboriginal structure, which is known by the name of the "Grave of the Manx Kings,"2 and was examined by Dr. Simpson and others in August, 1849. This fabric, like all the old chapels, is surrounded 'by the ruins of a mud wall. Its walls were about three feet in thickness; their exterior rough and buttressed with sods, but the stones on the inside were set so as to form even masonry. The interior measured only twelve feet in length and eight in width. Its narrow door, at the west end entered obliquely or tortuously, like the gate of the north redoubt outside the walls of Castle Rushen, and the descent to the vault underneath the altar and chancel of St. German's Cathedral. The floor was paved with smooth rounded pebbles about the size of eggs, and apparently from the neighbouring sea beach. Some of the stones in the interior, and one in the door, were marked with rough crosses of different forms. No appearances of stone graves or urns were found underneath to a considerable depth, and no signs of a sepulchral kind in the enclosure which surrounded it, were discovered. Ancient swords have been found near Glenmoi, in this neighbourhood; and Mr. Evan Gell, of Balelby, Dalby, informs me that on digging into a mound of earth on his farm, about eight or ten years ago, a complete human skeleton, with a halbert or battle-axe by its side, was found, and distinct traces of its haft visible, which he forbore to disturb. On the south aspect of the same range of the Cronk-ny-Eyrey-Lhaa, a mile west from Culby there was a similar ruin, called Keeil-pherik. It stood in the immediate vicinity of the circle of stones described at page 63, as remains of the heathen age. Outside of the entrance to this small chapel, on the south, two conical pillars about four feet high stood, as if pillars of a porch. They were six or eight inches in diameter, and worn quite smooth and round by attrition of some sort, as if from the handling of devotees or visitors.

I feel pleasure in giving the reader here an extract from the report of the Rev. A. Holmes, vicar of Kirk Patrick, respecting the Keeils in his parish, which was sent to the Council of the Manx Society, in answer to queries issued by them to the incumbents of the parishes. Had they all responded to those enquiries, I have no doubt that the reports would have been equally illustrative of these remains of antiquity of this Island, as well as corroborative of my own views of the subject.

"Of Treen Chapels or oratories the ruins of several are pointed out. At the foot of Cronk-yn-irrey-lha, a mountain about three miles distant from Dalby, in a valley called Lhag-ny-Keeilley, are the ruins of a chapel, the walls not more than two feet high; in the burial ground adjoining lie the ashes, it is said, of many of the nobles who fell in battle. The road leading to it is wild and romantic, but appears to have been carefully constructed. It is reported that a priest occasionally came over from Ireland, and celebrated there the ceremonies of the Roman Catholic Church at a period when that religion was proscribed. A few years ago a medical gentleman from Scotland stumbled on a venerable stone, figured over with devices, but in his anxiety to remove it, it fell over the precipice and was broken in pieces on the rocks beneath.

"At Ballachreggan, a farm near Glenmay, there are the ruins of a chapel called 'Keeill Woirrey.' At Belelby there stood lately the ruins of a chapel called Keeillagh-yn-Chiarn, but not a vestige of them are now to be seen. At Ballachink there was a chapel called Chrosh-va-Lhane," the ruins now ploughed up. The late proprietor of Borrane reported that a basket-handled sword of great size, and a battle-axe, were discovered in a stone coffin rudely formed, but they were immediately restored to the grave where they had so long lain, and no traces of them can now be discovered. At Rheaby-mooar there are the remains of a chapel, walls two feet high; burial ground bout quarter of an acre in extent. The ancient baptismal font — a rude granite block — lies there, about three yards distant from a well in the neighbourhood of the chapel. The proprietor of the estate, Richard Quirk, Esq., C.P., relates that about nine years ago nine stone coffins were discovered in the burial ground, and in one of them were found a few human bones, but they soon crumbled into dust on being exposed to the air. On the estate of Ballaquayle there is an ancient burial ground where a few graves are visible. At Gordon, the site of a chapel is also pointed out, and in the burial ground adjoining are to be seen a few graves. On the estate of Knockaloe-beg, on a hill overlooking the sea., stands a tower of modern date, in the interior of which are erected several mural tablets, setting forth the excellencies of those who were interred in the adjoining burial ground. At Ballamenagh there are the walls of a chapel two feet high; in the burial ground adjoining there was a perfect skeleton found in a stone coffin, about forty years ago. At Ballabig there was a chapel called Keeill-vout, the walls of which are now scarcely visible. At the Kerroodhoo, a farm a little to the south of Slieuwhallan, are the remains of a chapel under the invocation of St. Mary; the walls on the east end are four feet high. The burial ground is about an acre in extent, covered with stone coffins, the tops of which in several places are visible. In the Glebe Field, near the Parish Church there formerly stood a chapel, but now there is nothing visible that would lead you to believe that a chapel ever stood there. A building, said to be the old Parish Church of St. Patrick, is shown on the Isle on which Peel Castle stands, a few yards west of the Cathedral; the era of its erection unknown.

The present Parish Church was erected on a parcel of ground granted by Captain Silvester Radcliff for that purpose, June 13th, 1710, and consecrated by Bishop Wilson on St. Peter's Day, 1714. The lead with which the Cathedral was covered, was, by an Act of Tynwald, on the 20th of October, 1710, granted to Bishop Wilson, to assist in the erection of the church of Kirk Patrick.

"It is very probable that the principal landholders in this parish, prior to the grant of the present churchyard, had solemn places on their own property, set apart for the burial of their dead. This we may infer from the numerous grave-yards that are to be found in the parish."

The Keeil-pherrik-a-Drumma stands about one mile and a half south-west from the village of Kirk Michael, on the old road called "Ugh lagh Breesk my chree," leading along the summits of the high grounds that skirt the coast here. In this parish also is the Karn Vael or Cairn of Michael noticed by Feltham; and in all the northern parishes, likewise, old chapels occur, — one on the estate of Shellag, in Bride, near the stone and mound called the Cronk-y-Vollan; the Cabal Druag, in Andreas; and one on Skyhill, with remains of sepulture there; although few or none of the fortified mounds of earth have been observed.

I shall now notice five chapels, of the same series with the keeils but much larger, and built of solid masonry, instead of earth. First, St. Mary's, stands on the Island of St. Michael, near Derbyhaven, and is pointed out as a Roman Catholic chapel, the burial-ground of which has been lately in use as a depository for the bodies of the shipwrecked mariners and some others. This is contiguous to Hango Broogh, on Langness, formerly described. The second is St. Trinian's, at Greeba, in Marown, which name appears to refer to the etymon of Trin or Treen. It is situated in an arable field, unaccompanied by enclosure, but the architecture, though sufficiently rude, presents an evident attempt at refinement. Its small windows are terminated by Gothic arches, which are formed by two oblong stones springing from opposite sides of the window, like the arch formed by the two jawbones of the whale. A gable window of a Treen Chapel on the West Nappin has evident traces of ornamentation. The third is the ancient Treen Chapel of Ballure, near Ramsey, repaired in 1850, and now in use by the inhabitants. The Rev. Wm. Kermode says, — " This chapel appears to have been frequently rebuilt. There is a record of its having been rebuilt during the episcopate of Bishop Parr, in 1640: it was a hundred years later rebuilt, and consecrated afresh by Bishop Wilson, 1747; and in 1850 was thoroughly repaired and restored by subscription. It is beautifully situated at the foot of the hill, on which stands the tower, erected in 1847, to commemorate her Majesty's visit to Ramsey bay, and the Prince Consort's landing and ascending the height to view the surrounding country." The other two chapels stand within the walls of Peel Castle, and are named by some St. Patrick's and St. German's, which are also the names of the neighbouring parish churches. The latter is the only cathedral ruin in the Island. St. Patrick's Church, in Peel Castle, was doubtless the parish church in early times; for the present parish church of Patrick, on the main land, was built only in the time of Bishop Wilson. The era of the foundation of the Cathedral of St. German's is not known, but representations of it were given in some of the earliest authors of the church history of cathedrals. Many of the Bishops of Mann are supposed to have been buried in it, the last of whom was Rutter, in 1663. In one of the deeds of the Earl of Derby (1505) to Huan Hesketh, bishop, the cathedral is mentioned in these words : — " Ecelesiam Cathedralem sancti Germani, in Holm, Sodor vel Pele vocatur," &c. The rocky island on which the cathedral stands is almost entirely encircled by the battlemented walls of Peel Castle, and contains upwards of four acres. The cathedral is the principal object of this fortification, and stands on the inner or eastern wall, on the most inaccessible precipice or broogh of the place — the position which a baronial residence would have occupied, if the fortification had had one as a Keep originally. Adjoining it, towards the north, are the ruins of buildings said to have been the Governor's house formerly — most probably the Bishop's in early ages. Such a warlike situation for a cathedral is by no means common, and is evidence of one of two things, either that it was necessary to protect it from enemies, regardless of the religion to which it was consecrated, or that this site was from the first, before it was surrounded with battlements, an ecclesiastical position of strength, over which the priests had territorial rights for their own special purposes. It is difficult also to attribute any necessity for the chapel of St. Patrick, that stands inside the walls of the Castle, near the cathedral, unless it was erected for the accommodation of the population of the parish of Patrick on the mainland at times when worshippers were not safe there. The battlemented walls, turrets, and parapets are modern, and are said by Bishop Wilson to have been built about the year 1500, by one of the Derby family. Opposite the Pier a small tower stands over the southern gateway, of "Mhoddey Dhoo" notoriety; and there is a sally-port on the east for ingress and egress by sea.

About the middle of the irregular polygonal area, enclosed by the battlemented walls, there is a square pyramidal mount or hillock, terminating obtusely on the summit, and flanked on every side by fossa and corresponding redoubts of earth accumulated on the rock, thus forming two covered ways of magnitude and solidity, leading eastward and southward towards the two gates of the modern battlements. This cronk is about twelve feet high, each of its sides measures about seventy yards, and they respectively face the four cardinal points of the compass. This is a beautiful specimen of the age of hillocks, excepting its quadrangular form, and doubtless was the primitive form of the fort, and probably coeval to the time when the Bishopric of Sodor and Man was first planted on this rock. It is quite in unison with the fortified and judicial hills already described. Near its eastern base a large well of water springs up from the rock, to which there is a descent by steps covered in. There can be no doubt that it is identical in construction with the barrow, and constituted the primitive structure of the place previous to the erection of the stone battlements.

I take the liberty of making these observations on Peel Castle, already so often described in most accounts given of the country, because I think they explain and confirm my meaning when speaking of the vestiges of the heathen and Christian aborigines being still found near each other in the same localities.

During the construction of a new battery, in 1815, north from the ruins of the Cathedral, one of the mounds or redoubts enclosing the central mount, being penetrated, disclosed the remains of the dead, which is irreconcilable with the modern burying-ground existing in the contiguous Cathedral, and would lead to the conclusion, either that the latter has been built subsequently, or that it was the custom in early times to bury the dead of the garrison in this manner. But I am inclined to believe that primitively the central mount in this instance was used as much for civil or religious purposes as for those of war and watch and ward, and that it was to the former institutions, and not to its fortifications that the Holm or Sodor of Peel owed the celebrity it possessed in early ages.

Had Buchannan not fixed the site of the town of Sodor, which he says existed before his time, on an island near Castletown, the Island of the Cathedral of St. German would have readily passed for that on which it stood. Indeed it is my opinion that if ever such a town existed, or if the Norwegians, upon their conquest of the Isles, translated the Sodorense fanum from Iona, or from St. Mary's Isle near Castletown, as has been alleged, this is the situation which received it. But it does not appear that the Northmen had the inclination or the influence in such matters as to dispose of or change the site of a bishopric. Religion was upon a much firmer footing in those ages with regard to its temporalities, and its affairs were interfered with by none but the Pope and the Bishops themselves.

It is, indeed, most probable that some church called Soter or Sodor existed in this Island, and gave origin to the title of the bishopric. Bishop Wilson expressly informs us that this suggestion was realized by a deed from the Earl of Derby to Bishop Huan, in 1500; on the other hand it is stated that the etymon of Sodor is Sudor, or the south province of the Norwegian conquests of the eleventh century; but in some of the early Norwegian Sagas the Orkney Islands are denominated the Sudoreys, long before they had conquered the Isle of Man. As their do minion became extended southwards to Man, by the conquests of Magnus, so would the name Sudoreys extend, and become confused with Soterensis, from the reign of Godred Cronan till the Scottish annexation, a period of about 200 years, and from that till the deed granted to Bishop Huan another 250 years. In the present state of our information, the Holm of Peel presents itself as the most probable site of it, indeed it is so nominated in the deed of Bishop Huan. The assumption that the Norwegians established a Bishopric denominated Sodor, in contradistinction to that in Norway called Norder, is very ingenious, but is without any adequate authority, and is at variance with some accounts of the history of the Scottish islands in the middle ages, more especially when it refers to two countries in which Christianity was received at dates and centuries wide apart. According to George Buchannan, Sodor, or Soterense Fanum, was situated in a small island near Castletown, on the southern shores of the Island. It is, therefore, a matter of history that there was a place called Sodor in the Island itself; indeed we have still the name Port Soderick there. Others say it was the name of a village in Iona, and, according to Hector Boethius, Conranus, Bishop of Sodor, rendered the place (wherever it was) famous as a site for educational purposes and a mansion of the muses, for the education of the earliest Scottish princes.

The styles of the Bishops of the Isles was Episcopus Insularum Solerensium, until the English wrested Mann from the Scots, when the Bishopric was divided into two — the Episcopus Sodorensis et Manniae and the Episcopus Insularum severally. These styles have been separated nearly five hundred years; and seeing that, at the time of their separation, the Scottish prelates of that time did not retain the designation Sodorensis, it is a tacit admission that they considered it then to belong of right to the Manx see. We have seen from Marchinont Herald that they retained the armorial bearing of the Isles, and that at the time of the separation, the Manx bishops assumed only an one in their escutcheon. As this Island originally formed a separate portion of the Bishopric of the Isles, Sodor must have been the designation by which it was recognised in the title Episcopus Solorensis el Insularum. This name would be taken from the site of the Manx Cathedral, where Christianity first took root, with more propriety than from the Island itself, and which remained full of heathenism; and the retention of the word Insularum in the Manx title would have been considered a pre-eminent and in vidious distinction. Hence it may be fairly concluded that the most probable origin of the word Sodor, which has been so much disputed, is referable to the Isle of Man itself, and that the reason why, as a lesser, it precedes Jilannia, the greater, is because it. was in use from the first ages, and formed part of the styles of the ancient Bishops in those seas, before the entire Island was subjugated to Christianity.

From the foregoing description, it is, I think, evident that the primitive civilization of the Isle of Man was constructed on a veneration for religion, whether it was the Druidism of the Celts of Mannanan-mac-ee-Lheir, or the Christianity of the perse cuted and primitive Christians of Britain; that a veneration of the religious element has preserved those monuments which inherited a sacred character, whether they belonged to the Druids or to the primitive Christians, from destruction, and that out of both originals have sprung the grander and better ordered system of territorial divisions into parishes, with resident teachers and incumbents.

In modern fortification, the earthern redoubts of Peel Castle can possess little or no utility. Grose supposes the Cronk to have been a place from which the commander of the garrison issued orders or harangued his troops. But, in this case, what were the uses of the ditch and circumvallations of earth? They could only be meant for defence — to cover the beseiged from attacks of missiles from the neighbouring hill, which are quite within gun-shot range, or to act as a citadel in case of a sudden rush of assailants, anterior to the modern battlements. But as they would constitute but a very feeble defence in such cases, it is still more likely that they are the remains of the ancient position, as has just been suggested, before the introduction of fire-arms.

All the early references made to this place during the Norwegian tenure of the Island, call it the Holm, or Peel of Mann but little or nothing is said conclusive of its being possessed of the warlike battlemented walls erected since the accession of the House of Derby. Hence I am inclined to believe that, in the early periods of its history, the central mound constituted the only artificial strength of the Castle, and was not removed when the fortification became modernized, not only because the room it occupies was not required by the garrison, but because it is really an ornament to the place. It is most probable that meetings of Tynwald have been held here, as well as at Castle Rushen, and that from its summit blazed the watch and ward signals when occasion required.

Another ante-historic ruin in this castle is the round tower, or Peeley, which stands near the western battlements, quite solitary. It is in all probability akin to the Irish round towers that have attracted the notice of antiquaries. In an old drawing of the castle, in the possession of the Earl of Derby, it is represented as roofed in and having the Trie cassyn floating from its flag-staff, and marks of a stair and flooring are evident in the interior. This tower is a rubble work of stones, and stands about forty feet high, and no tradition is attached to it that I am aware of. I have little doubt that it was a small place of safety and of watch and ward, during the age of hillocks,

Of the history of Peel Castle little is known with certainty, but as both it and its Cathedral are very interesting places and much resorted to by the public, I shall throw out a few remarks on the subject. It was the only place of strength on the western shores of the Island, unless Bishop’s Court was fortified in ancient times I have not discovered even a fortified hill or broogh, which are so frequent on the eastern coast (however abundant the keeils may be) on the western coast. Thus Peel was in ancient times the capital of the north, as Castletown was that of the south of’ the Island, when it was divided into two jurisdictions. it is situate in the first sheading of the Island, Glenfaba, and is, therefore, the oldest territorial division, The kings of’ Scotland, in the days of’ Eugenius, are said by Hector Boethius to have been educated in it ; and during the sovereignty of the Earls of Derby it was garrisoned and contained a residence for the Bishop, and was also used as a place of confinement for several state prisoners of England, since the accession of the house of Derby to the sovereignty of Man. But it appears to have owed a good deal of its early celebrity to its Cathedral being the only one in the Island. The small rock on which it stands at the estuary of the Neb River, at the western limit of Peel bay, is called by the Manx Peel, or the Pele Henge, or Holom, i.e., the River Island, hence Peeltown, Hollome Town and Port Henge, or Port-ny-Henchley ; the Norwegians call it the Holm of Peel, and Hallom or Hallow Town, and in one of’ the deeds of the Earl of Derby, in 1505, to Huan Hesketh, Bishop of the Island, it is called Sodor in these words :—Ecclesiam Cathedralem Sancti Germani in Holm, Sodor, vel Pele vocatur, which proves that upwards of 350 years ago the title "Sodor" continued to be given to a place in the Island itself.* In Bishop Wilson’s work it is stated that the cathedral was built by Simon, Bishop of Sodor, in 1254, who was buried within its walls much about the time that Alexander the III., King of Scotland, regained the sovereignty from the Norwegians. It is constructed in the form of a cross, 110 feet long by 70 broad, and stands on the highest summit or edge of the "broogh," on the eastern side, over the mouth of the harbour, and had a battlemented parapet on the top of its wall all round. It is built of a blue schistose stone, of which the neighbouring cliffs consist, and the coignes, windows, and architraves are faced with a picturesque-looking red sandstone found on the opposite side of Peel bay, now very much weatherworn; the chancel was the last part of the edifice in preservation, and would have still been in a tolerable state had the roof been kept in repair; in Grose’s time it was seated and shut up, and here the bishops underwent the ceremony of installation, but this ceremony had only been once performed in it since the Act of revestment of the Island in the British Crown. Underneath the chancel is the vault lighted by a window on the summit of the cliff, in which state and ecclesiastical prisoners were confined; a dreary subterraneous abode, to which eighteen steps lead from the outside through the wall, through a very narrow, crooked, dark, and steep descent. The roof of this dungeon is vaulted by thirteen ribs forming pointed arches of stone, which spring from as many semi-hexagonal pilasters, only twenty-one inches high. These arches are now beginning to fall, and the whole is choked up with rubbish.—Vide Appendix.

Such is only an imperfect account of the mounds of earth and stones of the Druidical age of hillocks, and of the Keeils and Treen Chapels and other remains of early Christianity in this Island. I could readily enumerate many more of the latter, and I hope to be able to give in the Appendix a more complete list of them, from the most authentic sources. Agricultural improvements have of late years obliterated many of them, and doubtless they will soon disappear altogether. All those mentioned are of an ante-historic date. There are a few other ecclesiastical ruins of antiquity, however, winch ought to be included in this chapter, but which have often been already described by the historians of the Island, to whom I beg to refer. I mean the Nunnery of St. Bridget in Douglas, the monastery St. Mary de jugo Domini of Rushen at Ballasalla, and that of Bimaken, a more obscure congregation of monks, as completely unknown now as the Cronks or Keeils themselves; nor ought the obsolete ecclesiastical Barons of the Island to be omitted here, although a detailed account of them will come more appropriately under the head of Regalities in the next chapter. In 1794, when Mr. Robertson published his Tour through the Isle of Man, speaking of the Nunnery at Douglas, he states that "there stood close to the modern building a venerable relique of the ancient priory, which, according to tradition, was founded by St. Bridget, in the sixth century, when she came to receive the veil from St. Maughold, and some traces of the retreat of the Ben-austeyr may still be found." Of the Ben-austeyree of the Nunnery and the aristocracy of the convents, though not ante-historic like the democracy of the keeils, nothing remains but the sites of their dilapidated retreats and the extinct memories of their mouldered dead, a description of which would render this chapter too voluminous. With reference to the date of the foundation of these remains, I may state that the abbey of St. Mary of Rushen was first laid by a chief named MacManis, in 1098, (Robertson, p. 47,) and that Castle Rushen was built by Guttred, of the Danish or Orry line, in 960, (or, according to a date found in the walls, 947,) of which more hereafter. I should like, however, to state some archaeological features of Castle Rushen, as well as the remains of four or five old camps and redoubts, which have not hitherto been observed sufficiently, and to conclude this chapter with some evidence to prove that the soldiers of the ancient Roman Empire may have left traces here of their civilization as in other parts of Britain.


1 vide Appendix of Chapter II.

2 Cregeen's Dictionary says that "Treen" means a township (or brooch) that divides tithe into three.

3 A solitary tumulated ruin remaining for ages undisturbed in a field merely because it is called a treen, is a striking instance of the veneration with which the Manx regard such things. A veneration for ante historic superstitions is a certain indication that an element of religion and the fear of God is powerfully implanted in the mind, either for good or for evil, and inspires a man with a conviction that he is designed for higher ends than he is able to comprehend. This principle, which every one possesses, more or less, when well cultured, elevates the moral condition of man, but without education produces grovelling superstition and obstinate bigotry, often of the most destructive kind.  

4 The Manx word Peeley, signifies a pile or tower, a fortress; Hengey means a tongue, a spit or rhin-of land.


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