[From Manx Soc vols 25+28 - Blundell's History]
INTENDING to shew you the strength of this Island I shall now speak of the havens, castles, and forts therein, for the Manksmen believe yt in them consist their greatest safety and security (if the native mariners betray them), for this Island is as well fortified, strangely by nature, and strongly by art, naturally is environed round about not only with main rocks but also with rocky stones pointing up like unto the crocodile's teeth, broad at the bottom, but sharp pointed at the top. On each side, or mouth of the gullet, or mouth of every haven, just as far as the arm of the sea doth ebb and flow, in the Isle of Wight there are such stones which they there call needles, and in Jarsey they are called casquets, but besides such stones as these there are many others, some great and large, others less and ragged, yt lie undiscoverable, under water so as these havens are held to be the most dangerous to be attempted, yt may any where be found, unless you make use of the Manks mariner to conduct you in.
By art it is fortified with castles, forts, and blockhouses, for as I shewed you before there are in this Island 4 towns. In every town there is a haven, and at ye mouth of every haven there is either a castle or a fort, and in some places both; I shewed you also the benefit of the contiguity, or nearness of the one unto the other, so as you may say of this Island as Botarius saith of England, The whole Island is but one fortress.
Tho' Castletown be the principal town, yet Douglas is acknowledged to have the best, fairest, and securest haven of any other in all the Island, therefore shall it deservedly be described by me: this haven most inviting foreigners commerce, and therefore is the most frequented. Ships of great burthen may there cast anchor within the road under the shelter of 2 high rocks, mountains on each side, but if any do rashly presume to approach near unto the town without a Manks guide to conduct him, the ship is in an inevitable danger to miscarry by reason of latent rocks, on every side of the fort, lying undiscoverable either at the high or low water.
Douglas hath also a most considerable fort, strongly built of hard stone, round in form, upon which are a mounted tower, 4 pieces of ordinance. It is commanded by a constable and a lieutenant; the constable and 2 of the soldiers which are there in continual pay, are bound to ly in this fort every night, and 4 of the townsmen are bound to keep watch and ward upon the rampart, where there is another great piece of ordinance, ready mounted, cover'd from discovery, on the sea shore side betwixt the fort and the town, on the northern end of the road. I could not learn that there were more than 9 or 10 soldiers at ye most in Douglas yt had pay, neither was it much necessary to be at the expence of waging many more, seeing if any danger discovered itself, as I have hinted before, the whole country thereabouts are bound to repair thither upon pain of life and limb.
The haven of Castle Town, which Mr. Chaloner some times calleth Darby haven, is almost a mile from the town itself. Only little small boats do go up the narrow channel, from the haven into the town, and cast anchor almost under the castle walls. This haven beareth still the name of Ramsway or Reynald's Way. Cambden saith it was called Ragal Wath
So yt a ship do rashly sail up towards the town it comes directly before the mouth of the cannon. and Reynold Wath, it is 6 miles distant from Douglas, by water. Ships of a great burden may anchor there conveniently, but in a storm, not securely, for either a south-east or a south wind drives them upon rocks, shelves which are not visible during the tides, and many have miscarried; yet the fleet of Alexander the 3, king of Scotland anchored here, when he took possession of the Isle of Man, and drave out Mary, Queen of Man, the daughter and heir of Reynold, ye last of the kings, whom the Manksmen call Orry's.
Castle Town is, as it were, doubly fortified, for besides the castle within the town, a little off upon a nook of land, on the south part as I remember of this haven of Ramsway, which is called Lanquet Point, the. Lord James, Earl of Darby, hath built a little but a strong sconce or fort under ground in the same fort as I observed as yt which is at Swenberg in the Low Countries; and this sconce comandeth both the bay at Ramsway and secureth the river which out of the haven conveyeth the smaller vessels unto Castletown itself. The castle of Castle Town, commonly called Castle Rushin, is a fair, not very high, strong, and well-built struc ture, which so cafled, except because as the town seated near to the side of a rushy bogg, by whom and when built I may inform you hereafter. It hath a high tower, with a gallant prospect for discovery for many leagues of both sea and land. Here the Lord of the Island seems to be like a spider in his web, you cannot touch in any part of this Island but p'ceived. This castle hath drawbridges within at your entrance and other secret defence, for there is a band of soldiers trained up and ready at an hour's warning upon any sudden occasion or suspicion of danger. A watch is there kept every night, and ye bellman walks round about the castle. This castle is held to be the strongest and chiefest of all the Island. In the year 1313 this castle of Rushin was besieged by Robert, King of Scotland. One Dingany Dowil held it against him, but the King wan it, as Cambden saith, of which and of Castle Town itself you shall be farther informed of other particulars in the 2d book of this history.
The bay of Ramsey hath a very large reception for ships, so as all of any burthen and many at once shall find easy entrance. The sea not long since overflowing, carried much of the land within the haven, with some houses also, as I related before, wherefore the ships find good entrance and anchorage, but not yt shelter from winds nor that safe riding which is found at Douglas. The fort at Ramsey was but begun to be built when I retired out of the Island, an. 1648, The occasion moving the then James, Earle of Derby, to build it, was not. solely the then troubles of England and Ireland, nor the fears and jealousies the Island had on every side of it, but there was a Scottish ship came into the haven 2 or 3 years before yt robb'd and plundered not only the in habitants of the town of Ramsey but of the country also thereabouts, and carried away a boat out of the haven and sold it at Knockfergus in Ireland, altho' the Earl of Darby procured of the Scotch Parliament reparation of the damages done and justice upon him yt did it; yet he did providently forsee yt ye like might be attempted in future times, so for the present he caused a few pieces of ordinance to be mounted and placed in. places fitting to oppose a sudden attempt until a fort could be erected. Their Chronicles relate divers invasions to have been made upon this Island at this so spacious a harbour for ships lying open for an enemy without any means to make opposition. One example I have instanced in before of Godred Crovan, the son of Harold the Black, who entered at this haven and conquered the Island. The want of a fort in this haven was supplied heretofore only by a vigilant and continual watch and ward upon the coast on yt side the Island, but not weakly to oppose or hinder his entrance therein. A fort was begun likewise at Ayre in the north of the Island, but now neglected and ruined, saith Mr. Chaloner, in his Des. of ye Island of Man, c. 6, p. 32.
The haven of Peeltown neither admitteth nor therefore can secure ships of great burden, only small barks, because ye channel betwixt this town and the island called Pile is very narrow, and therefore the sea is too boisterous at this haven, and therefore is seldom frequented but upon necessity, except only by reason of proximity. The Irish merchants frequent it more than others.
Anno 1648, there was a skonce begun to be built hard by this town of Peel, over against the castle of the opposite island, by the advice of Sir Arthur Ashton, to stop any relief which might be brought by boats in case the castle shon'd either rebel or be besieged.
This castle of Peel is by most writers called Peel Castle, and yt fitly, for the little island wherein it stands, and the fortifications do there seem to make 1 pile. Cambden calleth it but a blockhouse, and in King Henry the 4th his grant of this Island of Man unto Henry, Earl of Northumberland, the words are those, of our especial grace we give to the Earl of Northumberland the Isle, Castle Pile, and seigniory of Man, etc., whereby it may be intimated that there is but one Castle of Rushen in the whole Island, and yt Pile is none, but how soever you will call it, it is only now called a castle, but reputed and acknowledged for the 2d fortress of the Island. This castle is strongly fortified both by nature and art, by the sea round about it, and by walls and a rampart within it. Soldiers are there continually resident, observing a strict watch. It is coffianded by a Governor and other officers requisite, who never move thence. ye castle is so closely environed with the seas, as yt the pinacle which standeth in the court of the castle in a high tide the waves of the sea dash over the top thereof.
This castle is the common prison for all offenders within the whole Island, and not of this Island only, but the Kings of England, in imitation of the Roman Emperor, have here tofore banished hither, and here perpetually imprisoned sundry noble personages. Elinor Cobham, Dutches of Gloster was hither perpetually banished in the 19th year of King Henry the 6th, anno 1440, as Polycron relateth. Moreover, some years before Thos, Earl of Warwick, was sent by King Richard the 2d, in the 21st year of his reign saith Stow, others say in ye 22d year, but I find by Sr Robert Cotton yt Sr Wm Leescroop and Sr Stephen his brother were bound body for body safely to keep the sd earl in the sd isles, with out departing thence, so as it seemeth he was not imprisoned in the castle but confined in the isle.
The 2 castles of Rushen and Peel are the principal fortification of the whole Island, both are always well victualled, well manned, well armed, and kept in very good reparations; all faults committed in either of these 2 garrisons are to be corrected by the constable of the castle, and not to be brought before the Deemsters, which I found in their customary laws.
I presume besides these havens there are many bays or inletts and creeks for small boats to land in, whereof Laxy Bay on the east of the Island is accounted the greatest port, Caran in the south-east, and others yt are less remarkable; but let the adventurers beware for the best of these places are very dangerous, as some of our English confessed to me, who then fled from Anglisey thither, yt they were more beholden to the humanity of the inhabitants than assisted by their own direction and wit, for they had otherwise perished.
Discoursing with some of the island which I knew to be men of understanding, concerning these 2 castles of Rushin and Peel, how they were managed, furnished, victualled, etc. I observ'd 2 witty inventions practised from antiquity by the kings and lords of this Island, which I shall here willingly discover and insert, to show yt petty states have something tho' petty policies yet not to be contemned, and it may be not unworthy to be taken into imitation by a greater. The first is how to lay a provision into these castles every year, without disbursing any money, or endamaging any natives, or giving the least occasion to them to murmur or to repine.
Every one of the islanders, according to the quantity of land which he possesseth, is bound to bring into these 2 castles of Rushin and Peel a certain quantity of meal, viz., of a quarter of land they are to furnish the castle with a furled of oatmeal, which is but a or 4th part of a barrel. This proportion of meal is there found sufficient to furnish both these castles. This oatmeal is bronght thither in April, and no man expecteth any mony for it, because they receive it out again, the same quantity in August following, when new corn will be ripe, after which time they lay in no more provision, for they fear no enemy in the winter, which after August here approcheth.
The 2d invention is how they, without disbursing any mony, do still augment their armories in both those castles, every soldier upon his admittance (at his own charge) has to furnish himself with his arms, both a musket and a sword; when this soldier dies he cannot dispose of these, for they are seized on and laid up in the store house of the castles for the lord's use, for the better maintenance and defence of ye Island, and this antient custom is declared to the soldier, before his admittance and upon his consent, and not otherwise he is not admitted.
1 Anno 1266.