[From William Cooper's Castletown]

Chapel Lane, Parliament Square continued and the Quay


Cooper's Text Notes by Eva Wilson

Part of Woods 1833 plan of Castletown
Part of Woods 1833 plan of Castletown

5 = Post Office, 6 = House of Keys 7 = St Marys, 8 = Grammar School,
For those with the CD Version look at 25"/mile plan

The road to Knock Rushen ran unhindered along the shore line before
Bishop Wilson built the new St Mary's Chapel, at the south end of the
Market Place, consecrated in 1701. The eastern end of the old road now
became Chapel Street, making a dog-leg round the end of the new
Chapel. The street that led off to the west of the new Chapel eventually
became Queen Street. 8 The present St Mary's Church occupies the
same site as its predecessor.
Chapel Street became Chapel Lane and is also referred to in some
records as College Lane or School Lane. School Lane was, however,
more often the name applied to a short lane, not much more than a path,
which ran from the corner of the Grammar School and down to the sea.
Nothing now remains of the buildings in the area, except the old
Grammar School
. Castletown Commissioners decided already in the
early 1930s that the area should be demolished, to make way for
sewerage improvements and redevelopment. In the event, the
demolition was not completed until the end of the 1950s. The Old
Grammar School was saved, when it was purchased by Manx National
Heritage for a nominal figure of £20. The area is now a car park.
George Freestone grew up here in the 1920s. A man with an excellent
memory, he made a record of what he remembered about the people
living here. His memories will be referred to from time to time here.9
The first house, next to the church, has always been a
tailor's shop in my time, at first kept by Mr. Edward Callow
and then by his son Charles, and now by a Mr. Horrocks.
Mr. Callow used to keep pigs in the garden next to the
Grammar School and he had an apprentice from Ronague.
At one time the pig was not thriving and the apprentice said
it was bewitched. As the two of them were in the shop a
woman passed. The apprentice said "That's the one that has
witched the pig!" He got a brush and shovel and brushed
the street where the woman had passed and run down and
dusted the pig with the dust and the pig got better. Mr.
Callow was friendly with my father and I heard him telling
The next house was Mr. Ned Kewin, barber's. We lads
went there on Saturday nights to get our hair cut as the other
barbers would not cut it on that day which was reserved for
Freestone remembers an incident when cattle, being driven to Gell's
slaughter house at the end of School Lane, went straight up the stairs of
Teddy Kewin's house 'the staircase being directly in line with the door'
and 'we as kids following on and shouting'.
The house facing you as you entered the Lane was occupied
by Mr Tommy Clarke, his son Robert and daughter. The
Clarkes were small farmers (and I have told you about
them.) This house and the adjoining one, which was
occupied when I went to school by a Mr. Quayle, has been
pulled down in a clearance scheme.
The next house was occupied by a Mrs. Edwards, daughter
of T. Clarke, and later by her sister.
In another context Cooper explains that Tommy Clarke farmed fields
'here and there', as, for example, he was growing turnips in a field at
School Hill. Freestone remembers Gelling's slaughter- house here. They
had their butchers' shop in Bank Street.
The next was occupied by Mr. Flynn, a pensioner, and
afterwards by his son John and his widow and daughter.
These two houses and Kewin's are also to be pulled down.
The next was Parson's Almshouse which has been partly
pulled down.
This substantial house, at the comer of Chapel Lane and School Lane,
was, in the eighteenth century, the residence of the Rev. William Ross,
Academic Professor at the Grammar School. It was one of several
buildings in the area, purchased by Rev. George Stickler Parsons,
Government Chaplain, and turned into almshouses. There was no legal
entitlement for the relief of the poor in the Isle of Man; help was provided
by the churchwardens out of the church rates and charitable gifts.
Opposite the Grammar School were two old cottages, now
pulled down. The first, when I was going to school, was
occupied by Mr. W. Corrin, Painter, who went by the name
Willie the Post as he went round with the evening post.
The next was occupied by Mrs Curphey, who went by the
name of Deaf Ann, and her daughter went by the name of
Deaf Ann with her own name, Carrie, in front (Carrie Deaf
Freestone remembers Buck Collister, butcher, known as Windy Bills.
Next door, Eddie Monty Callow 'who fished every day with rod and line
off the pier head of the Irish Quay'.
The next house, which is also to come down, was occupied
by Mr. J. Cannell, general labourer, who went by the name
of dem the Lord. It was afterwards occupied by the reputed
centenarian, Mrs. Quinney, until she died.
Mrs Quinney (pronounced Conya) is remembered sitting on the step all
day smoking a'clay cutty pipe'.
On the opposite side is the Grammar School. I was there
for two and a half year under Mr. Wicksey. There were
about fifty boys in the school at that time, the largest
number there at one time. They came from all over, Port St.
Mary, Port Erin, Mount Gawne, The Level, Ballagawne,
Arbory, Balladoole, Ballahick, Castletown. Mr. Wicksey
also had a few borders.
Cooper attended the Grammar School when he was 12 years old. In
another context he lists the subjects taught as: 'arithmetic, algebra,
Euclid, Latin, French and a little Greek, but not much history, geography,
dictation and composition. Singing and recitation, some of Shakespear's
plays which we sometimes acted.'
The Old Grammar School, Tourist Information Centre. Built by the
monks of Rushen Abbey, this was the town church and Grammar
School. When the new Chapel was built in 1701, the old Chapel
building was enlarged and continued as a Grammar School. Mr.
Ashford-Hill was headmaster when the school closed down in 1930.
Next to the school were the ruins of an old building the
walls of which were built with mud, not mortar, with a
garden below. Outside this building was a small barn and, at
the gable of Finnegan's school, was the old soup kitchen
and store house. These buildings, with the walls of the
school yard, have now been pulled down. The first teacher I
remember in Finnegan's School was Miss Katie Jones
whose mother was wardress in the Castle. She later married
Mr. D. Callow. The next was Miss Lizzie Corrin, who
before that had been mistress at Derbyhaven School and
was there until the Education Authority closed the school.
The Halsall School. In about 1764, a house was built 'near the
Grammar School' for a free school for girls, following a bequest by
Catherine Halsall. It is not clear exactly where this house was among the
ruins and demolished buildings in this area. The Halsall School also
became known as Finnegan's School as a succession of mistresses and
their families lived there. The school closed in the 1860s.10
Freestone remembers Miss Cartmel, St. Nicholas Nurse, living in one
of the buildings here.
The next was the Widow's Alms House, a room each for
four widows, but latterly they allowed spinsters. It belonged
to the Crellin family of Andreas and was kept in repair by
Freestone remembers Lizzie Christian, Lizzie the Flitter and her many
cats and Elly Wipes.
The next was Mr. James Taggart's stables, now roofless. I
do not know anything about the next house.
This was where George Freestone's family lived for some years in the
1920s and where he was born. The cottage has more recently been
incorporated with the house next door, 2 Parliament Square
The next house was Mr. Kelly's, High Bailiff [2
Parliament Square]. I do not know if he lived in it in my
time or not, but that was what it went by. It was occupied
by Mr. Caveen, farmer, father of Mr. James Caveen who
lives Laxey way. He will be over ninety and may be able to
give you some information about old Castletown. It was
afterwards occupied by Mr. McLaughlin. It is now occupied
by Mr. and Mrs. G. Kneale and has been for some years.
The Big House, The High Bailiff's House. Built in 1719 for Edward
Cornah, The Lord's Steward, it is the most important private house in
Castletown, set very prominently between the Castle and the sea. It was
the residence of John Kelly, High Bailiff. Since then it has had mixed
fortunes and was nearly pulled down for development into offices in the
1980. It is now a private residence
Lane to New Harbour [Back Lane, now Parliament
Lane]. On the right: the outbuildings of the last house, one
of which was used as a soup kitchen when the old one was
disused, was also lived in at one time. I remember Pat
Gallagher and wife living in it.
Freestone remembers a coal yard and Bertie Cooil, whose favourite
saying was Hot News. The whole building has recently been converted
as a private house, The Old Inn.
On the left the Rocket Corps Storeroom. The loft of this
was used as a clubroom by the members of the Corps. Two
of my brothers, two joiners, and two masons, who worked
for my father at that time, were members of the Corps and
some of them had long service medals. The Chief Officers I
remember were Rev. Ferrier and J. S. Gell, High Bailiff,
and then the Coastguards took over. I do not know when
they first came here, but one of them was on duty at the
stranding of the Mona's Isle on Scarlett in 1892. His name
was Horsham.
The Rocket House. Freestone remembers that the Rocket Brigade was
run by two 'ex-navy men, Sam Harrison and Tom Pascoe, a man as
wide as he was tall!' This building was converted as a private residence
in 1998.
The next house [1 Parliament Lane] was occupied by Mr.
R. Kneale who was a shoemaker and went round with the
post at night.
This substantial cottage was probably built in the eighteenth century. On
the first floor there is panelling with carved graffiti of 18th-century-type
sailing ships.
The others below have their fronts to the Quay.
Lane to Quay [Quay Lane]. On the right the Rocket
Storehouse which was occupied by Mr James Mylchreest,
mariner. He was a tall man and went by the name of Big
Jemmy. The first thing I remember of him was [when] a
sailing boat, either the Amor Dei or Mates Dei of Naples,
came into the bay before the wind, which was fairly heavy,
and Mylchreest and some other sailors went out in a boat
and got her into the harbour to the berth below the
footbridge and tried to moor her but nothing happened and
nothing would hold, and at last they had to fasten the ropes
to the mast. I remember Mylchreest on deck swearing about
the rotten old boat. Mylchreest got on well with Lord
Raglan during the clearing out of the Castle. He and his son
John, who enlisted in the army, was [were] made
custodian[s] of [the] Castle after Mr. W. McLaughlin. His
widow now lives in the house
4 Quay Lane. Freestone remembers Dickie Duke, fisherman. With his
brother Jack, he owned a twenty-foot open boat called the Wild Wave.
Their main job was fishing crabs and lobsters. In August and
September, they would row and sail 'dipping lug sail' to the Carrick Rock
in Port St Mary Bay and catch fifteen or twenty callig and blokin and sell
them on the slabs on the Castle dike. Jack Duke lived on the Quay.
On the left: the first house [1 Quay Lane] was occupied by
a Mr. Orr and his sister and afterwards by Mr. James Tate
and his widow. Mr. Tate was one of the last old sailors from
here who sailed to foreign parts on the old square-rigged
The people I remember in the houses below, but do not
know which house, were Kelly's, the father of Topsy Kelly
(George) who got the name from a character he acted in
some amateur theatricals. He later became harbour-master
at Douglas and used to be in great demand to sing 'Hunt the
There were several other families living here but I cannot
say in which houses. There was a Mr. Fred Cleator,
fisherman and coxswain of the Lifeboat. The son emigrated
to the U.S.A. and I have seen his name in the Bulletin.
The Woods family was another, and also a fisherman or
sailor called Tommy Duke and also Mr. Thos. Kelly who
was assistant harbour-master. There were one or two houses
pulled down to build the I.O.M. Steam Packet Co.
3 Quay Lane, Solomons Corner. The Manx Steam Trading Company
first established a warehouse on this site. They sold out to the Isle of
Man Steam Packet Co. in 1912. The sale included the cargo boat,
steamer Tyrconnel the which continued to sail under Captain Willie
Collister until he retired in 1930. Tyrconnel was sold in 1932. The
buildings on this corner have now been converted as a private
The house opposite the footbridge was an old public house
[Ellan Vannin Arms]- that was before my time. The lower
Part was the Harbour Office. I do not know if the harbour
master lived in the other part. The next was Mr. J. S. Kegg's
warehouse and was converted into a Reading Room when I
was about ten years old. This did not last long and after it
was empty for years it was converted into a warehouse by
the I.O.M. Steam Packet Co. who used it until they gave up
when they stopped the steamer sailing to Castletown, It is
now a knitting factory of some kind.
Ellan Vannin and Packet House. Freestone remembers Ellan Vannin
House, or 'Billars', where Mrs Kelly kept a popular boarding house. Her
husband Billar Kelly was a real character.
Opposite side of the lane: the Crown Arms Hotel which in
my time was occupied by a Mrs. Brine who married a man
named Kelly and always afterwards went by [the name]
Kelly Brine. Mrs. Brine had a son, Willie, who was a
traveller or clerk in the Brewery
Harbour House. Crown Arms Hotel is first mentioned in 1852, and
ceased to be an inn before the First World War.11 It is now a private
The next was Mr. Moore's, Billown, warehouse. During the
last war it was used as a paper-saving store.
The Granary. Five storeys high, the old warehouse backs on to
Parliament Lane. It has been converted as a private house.
I do not know who occupied the next house [5 The Quay]
when I was young but it was owned by a family who were
always called Moore The Iron Spout, as they lived opposite
an iron pipe which was fed by a small stream, the water of
which they used. It was at the bottom of Cronk-y-Thatcher
on the road to Colby. Mrs. Moore's daughter and son-in-
law, Mr. W. Corteen lived in it for some years. It is now
occupied by Mr. George Creer, an ex-naval man.
The next house [4 The Quay] was occupied by Mr. Thomas
Kewish until he became Harbour-master. Before his time
there was no entrance to the house from the Quay side, the
entrance being from the lane at the back. The bottom room
on the quay side was used as a store. But Mr. Kewish put up
a flight of stairs so he could get up to the house from the
quay side.
There were three houses between this and the Harbour
Master's, one of which was added to that, and one of the
others was occupied by Miss Margaret Cleator, sister of Mr.
H. Cleator. Another was occupied by a man who went by
the name of Joe Andy. I do not know his right name.
The first Harbour Master I remember was Mr. James
Kewish, and next, his son Mr. Thos. Kewish. They held the
position between them for a good many years.
The present Harbour Masters Office was rebuilt and extended in 2000,
adding lavatories and shower rooms on the ground floor.
The Anchor, which for many years had been set up outside the old
Harbour Masters' Office, was moved to the other side of Parliament
Lane. It is not of a Manx or English type and it is assumed to have
belonged to a foreign ship lost in Manx waters


8 Roscow, op. cit. 13-14.

9 Freestone, George, map 1994, in manuscript with notes, Castletown Heritage records.

10 Garrad, L. S., 1967, `Catherine Halsall School, Castletown, and the Finigan Family', Journal of the Manx Museum, Vol.VII, 41-42.

11 Cubbon, S, 1998, Manx Inns. A pub crawl through history, 19.

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