[From Douglas by N Mathieson in draft.1961]


The winter of 1838 brought unusual excitement to Douglas when its normal peace was shattered by riots. A shortage of potatoes in America had caused the shipment by speculators in the town, of an unusually large portion of the Manx supply and this had resulted in a rise in the price of them . Alarmed by this attack on one of their principal items of food some members of the lower class became greatly alarmed and excited, and in November 1838 began breaking shop windows and otherwise behaving in a riotous manner. The High Bailiff, in the hope of controlling this mob, swore-in a number of respectable tradesmen as Special Constables, but their efforts had little effect, and when firing broke out he sent for troops from Castletown. Four of the ringleaders were promptly arrested by the soldiers and sent to Castle Rushen ;and on this the trouble subsided, and in a few days the troops returned.

A year later there was more excitement when the marriage of the young queen, Victoria, was celebrated with enthusiasm by the inhabitants of the town. Though but a few days notice of the exact date upon which it was to take place a fund was at once raised to provide a good meal for the-poor together with gifts of coal . Services were arranged at St. George's and St. Barnabas and shops and offices were shut. The morning of the happy day, was ushered in by the flying of flags and the firing of cannon, though no bells could be rung because, alas, there were none in the town. The Rechabites and the Odd Fellows in their full regalia and proceeded by bands of music attended divine service and afterwards marched through the streets to the House of Industry. Here the National Anthem was played and some three hundred members of the poor were given a good meal of beef, soup and Plum-pudding. Later, the children of the various Sunday Schools in numbers more than a thousand, received each a very large plum-bun. At night there were illuminations in parts of the town and, generally speaking, a good time was had by all.. {At the same time it was arranged that in order to celebrate such a worthy occasion in a useful and lasting manner steps should be taken to build and enclose a [] for the case of the sick a committee of influential men at once - unreadable text}

Under Civic Administration.

The petition of 1834 which asked for the right to levy rates much as would provide funds for the administration of the town had not been granted, but the desire for local self-government had continued to grow.

From 1660 to 1777 the town had been ruled and administered by the Captain of the local Fort, and since that date by a High Bailiff who was in sole charge. This system, it was felt by the residents, was now outdated and should be changed, and in 1844 a Public Meeting called for the purpose asked that the control of the town should be put in the hands of Council. This also the Government refused, and it was not until 1860 that the citizens got what they had waited so long to obtain.

But at length, on the 1st.May 1860 there was promulgated an Act "to provide for paving, cleansing and lighting the streets of Douglas, and for making public sewers therein and otherwise improving the town." It provided also for the election of nine Commissioners and the levying of a rate on property, though this was not to be higher than 1/- in the pound. As an offset to the payment of this rate the inhabitants were exempted from performing the labour on the roads for which they had hitherto been liable.

The Commissioners were elected and at once got to work. Although the rate was supposed not to exceed a shilling in the pound it appears to have been levied at the rate of 3/- for each house, of which there were 1,767.

A year later there were 1,888,while the population - which in 1851 had been 9,880 - had increased to 12,389,(This great increase was due largely to the fact that in the latter census the Douglas figure included residents in various localities which had previously been shown in the figure for Onchan,) The area for which they became responsible was defined as (approximately) that enclosed within a line drawn behind the South Quay (at where the Swing Bridge now is) to a point on the Castletown road between the Douglas Bridge and the Nunnery mills. Crossing the river here the line ran straight to a point about 200 yds. up Rosemount at Eastfield, and thence in a northeasterly direction to what is now the junction of Marathon Road and Princes Road. there, inclining sharply to the right, it ran down to the shore near where the Crescent Cinema now is.

It was at this date (1840) also that the residence of the Governor was transferred to Douglas 1 from Castletown, and when the Government offices followed nine years later Douglas could congratulate itself on being not only the largest town in the Island and the commercial capital but now, in every respect entitled to that description.

In 1868 they issued their first set of byelaws, and a very comprehensive one it was . These byelaws, by enumerating the things which might not be done give us some idea of what had been going on. Cattle, for instance, were not to be slaughtered in the streets; nor was nightsoil or rubbish of any kind to be thrown into or moved through them except between midnight and 8.00 a.m. in summer or 9.00 a.m. in winter. And all dogs were to be muzzled. Some of the people must have wondered whether they had not exchanged the rule of King Log for that of King Stork.

Three years later the Commissioners made their first move towards Municipal trading when they sought power to borrow money with which to erect Gas Works, or else to purchase those of the existing company. Nothing came of the idea however, and the Gas Company still retains its freedom.

In 1874 the Commissioners commenced their first big clearance scheme by driving a broad road from the newly built Victoria Pier, (opened 1.7.1876) to the bottom of Prospect Hill, and thus opening up the whole town.

To this road they, with great loyalty but few fresh ideas, gave the name of Victoria Street. The first portion - that from Pier as far as Duke Street - vas opened on the 21st.April 1876 and the remainder shortly afterwards.

An interesting relic of the changes in the town's layout which was caused by the making of Victoria Street is the tiny lane which, running between Martins Bank and Gelling's ironmongery shop, joins that thoroughfare to King Street. This lane is shown on Taggart's plan of 1834 as Society Lane, but Wood's plan of the; same date names it Sandy Lane, and it had a continuation named Water Lane which led from King street down to the harbour, what the Society was which gave rise to the name no one seems to know, and an equal air of mystery surrounds the name. Even many years ago old residents were arguing about it without reaching a conclusion or suggesting anything more plausible than that 'Sandy' might be a misprint for 'Society'. Though made so recently Victoria Street has already seen many changes. Amongst them may be noted the Gas Company's shop, which at one time was the printing office of the newspaper Manx Sun, while another is the Salisbury Hotel which originally went under the name of the Sun Hotel.

It was at this period also that there was begun under the leadership of the Governor, Mr. W. B. Loch 2 the building of the Promenade which, was fated eventually to girdle with stone the whole sweep of the Bay. Disturbed by the fact that the occupants of house: whose front windows looked on to Duke Street and Strand Street had no protection from the sea which at high water crashed against the walls of their back gardens and in bad weather overtopped those walls and, surging across the gardens swept up to the very doors of the houses, the Commissioners, under his leadership, began to build the promenade which they later named after him. A large proportion of the cost of its construction was recovered from the sale of building sites upon it, and as the houses on these sites were all built about the same time, and for the same purpose, their design is one which may not unfairly be described as more utilitarian than artistic. The portion which bears his name was completed in 1875,though not formally opened. until two years later. In 1934 it was widened.

It extended as far as the end of Marina Road where it met the road, already bullt and known as the Colonel's Road,-, from there along the edge the Villa Marina grounds to the foot of Broadway. A few yards before it reached Broadway there had been built from it in 1869 - when an erection of this type was thought to be a necessity for any place aspiring to be thought of as a first class seaside resort - an Iron Pier which extended for 1,000 ft. into the clear waters of the bay. But it did not prove to be as great an attraction as had been anticipated, and in 1892, it was sold for re-erection at Colwyn Bay.

The conversion of the Colonel's Road into a Promenade had been out of undertaken in 1864,and named the Harris Promenades in compliment to Mr. Samuel Harris, who was High Bailiff of Douglas at the time, and was by virtue of his office( the Corporation not yet having come into existence ) at the head of the town's affairs.

A road of sorts appears to have been in existence from ancient times from the foot of Summer Hill 3 across the sands to a point where it entered the Castle grounds, through which it proceeded for some distance until it emerged once more on to the shore at the point where Castle Mona Terrace now joins the Promenade. Here there was a Lodge, and from it the road went on to the foot of Broadway.

It was, presumably by this route that Dixon -the proprietor of the Mona (later Crescent) Hotel - sent the coaches which he ran six times a day to Douglas for the benefit of his visitors. For it is unlikely that he would send coaches up Summer Hill if that steep ascent could be avoided. But when the Castle became an hotel in 1832 the owners erected a wall around the grounds, and traffic using the road had, instead of passing through them to proceed along the sands on the seaward side of the new wall. This caused much dissatisfaction, for many people from the Crescent, as well as from Onchan and the north, made use of it, and now found that at high water or in bad weather it could be inconvenient and, at times, dangerous. They demanded that a proper road be constructed, with a seawall to protect it, and in 1883 this was done.

Thus from that date there was a made carriage-way along the edge of the shore from Broadway to Summer Hill. In 1894 the conversion of the part of this carriage-way from Broadway to Palace Terrace into yet another piece of Promenade was completed. This wee named the Central Promenade, and when joined to the section from Palace Terrrace to Summer Hill which had been finished in 1889 and christened the Queen's Promenade it united the latter to the Harris, and Lord Loch's vision was realised.

The fact that the Central and Queen's Promenades were built upon roads which already existed, while the Loch Promenade: was built upon reclaimed land, accounts for the fact that the former have upon them today houses of an earlier late than the utilitarian ones of a uniform pattern which line the latter. At the southern end of the Central the gracious and dignified buildings of Clarence Terrace ( ),the esplanade () and. Derby Terrace ( ) show how rapid had been the decline in architectural taste, while at the northern end the Queen's Hotel, built in 1851,and Strathallen Crescent (1829) shows what could have been done.

Strathallen Crescent was named after a daughter of the Duke of Athol who became the wife of the Viscount Strathallan. At the end of it is Derby Castle, now the site of a popular Dance Hall and Theatre. The castle - as far as its name goes - sails under, false colours, for it has no connection of any kind with the Derby family and was never in any sense a castle.

It was, in fact {built about 1835 as a residence by} Major J.S. Pollock, a half-pay officer of the 43rd. Regt. of Foot who had the large building known as Strathallen Lodge,. This unfortunate officer, five of whose children had died within a few months of each other in 1831, may have intended to reside there but - perhaps because of these deaths - he does not appear to have done so, and in 1837 we find him offering it for rent. In 1877 he sold it to Mr. A.N. Laughton (later High Bailiff of Peel) who opened it as a place of amusement After being rebuilt and enlarged in 1864 it passed into the hands of its present owners, the Palace and Derby Castle Coy.,

With the completion of the promenade al1 round the Bay In 1896 Douglas may be said to have obtained its majority. On the [] of that year it became a Borough, with a Corporation consisting of the usual Mayor, Aldermen and Councillors etc. which go to form such a body. The first Mayor way Major R. S. Stephen, V. D. J. F. M.H.K. and there were Aldermen and Councillors representing the districts into which it was divided.

This memorable year saw likewise the opening (on the 26th. August) of a system of Municipal transport. The many steep hills in the town made the choice of a suitable one no easy matter, but it was eventually decided to use tramcars propelled by underground cables.

In 1833 a Company with a capital of 5,000 was formed for the purpose of bringing a supply of pure water into the. town, and, after careful consideration of all the possibilities, decided to tap the rivulet which ran down Burnt Mill Hill,. After Insular authority to do this was obtained in October 1833 work was at once put in hand and a year later the wall of the reservoir on Burnt Mill hill was nearly completed the pipes for leading the water through the town were placed ready for laying, and the Engineer engaged in London was expected to arrive very shortly.

In 1890 the Commissioners - who had failed to obtain control of the Gas Works in 1863 - at last entered into business when they purchased the Water Works undertaking for 144,000. The existing Reservoirs at Summer Hill (256,890 galls.) and the Clypse ( 24,000,000 galls.) were soon found to be insufficient even when reinforced by one at Bllacain (450,000 galls) and in 1893 work on a second Clypse(or Kerrowdhoo)was completed. but this also, though it held 50,000,000 galls, was found to be not nearly enough, and on the 8th September 1905 the large one of [] galls. was opened at West Baldwin.

In Sept.1903 the town boundaries, which had been fixed when the Commissioners had been elected in 1860, were extended. From that date instead of crossing the river near the Nunnery they followed it as far as the Quarter Bridge; from the quarter bridge the line was drawn slightly westward of the Quarter Bridge Road, Bray Hill and Glencrutchery Road to the Onchan boundary at Governor's Bridge, from where it coincided with that boundary down to the sea at Derby Castle. For electoral purposes the space within these boundaries had been divided in 1887 into six wards known as St.George's, Victoria, Derby, Hills, Murray's and Athol.


1: It was at Bemahague, which is actually a few yards outside the Douglas limits, being within the Village District of Onchan.
2: Later' Lord Loch. Governor 1863/84.
3 earlier known as Burnt Mill Hill. The mill in question was said to have been a snuff mill. J.J. Kneen Place names of IoM.

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