[From Douglas by N Mathieson in draft.1961]


South Quay

Extract from 1849 Plan - South Quay

On the South Quay, just below the bridge, there began the long row of houses in which once dwelt the cream of Douglas society. Their social glory time now departed, but, must of them are trim and tidy and still turn a brave face on the harbour and the shipping from which many of their menfolk earn a living. Probably built soon after the construction of the quay wall in 1760 they were certainly tenanted before 1802,when some of them were being advertised as 'to let'. Look at the simple but elegant design on the woodwork of all their doorways, the similarity of which proclaims them to be of the same age. Note also the elaborate knockers which still adorn many of the doers - all of them now, alas, covered with labour-saving paint.

Here dwelt lawyers and doctors, half-pay officers of the Army and Navy, and similar folk. It is unfortunate that as the houses at that time were not numbered it cannot now be said in which one any particular person resided. How excited they must have been, how garments must have been hurridly donned, windows flung up and children roused from sleep and bade 'be quiet" when early one morning in 1811 a Press-gang from the tender "Maria" conducted a raid right on their doorsteps. When this ship arrived in the say the local fishermen, who guessed the reason for her call, at once prepared to go into hiding ashore. but on being assured by her commander that it was not his intention to press any of them they remained in their boats in the harbour. Early next morning, however, the residents in these houses awoke to find soldiers standing before their doors throwing heavy stones down on to the beats so as to arouse their crews and bring them out on deck, where a number of them were seized. One at least jumped overboard and swam to the North Quay, but other soldiers were waiting there, and he did not get very far. The whole terrace must have hummed with excitement for days,

Near its western end, almost opposite to the Bridge, the long terrace is pierced by a wide archway which gives access to a short, grass-grown lane. This lane, though it looks uninviting, is worth examination. On the right, as you enter groin the Quay, is a row of broken-down dwellings, now fit only for demolition, which form one side of the square of buildings in which was Downward's Livery stables.

On the left, immediately through the arch, is a corner formed by the back of one of the Quay houses and a portion of it which projects towards the rear. In this projection are several rows of windows, and in a room behind one of them lived Mons. Pierre Jean Joseph Henri Baume. This strange man would never tell anyone his history, which, if reports of what he declared when dying be true,was one darkened with crime and rendered miserable by remorse and despair: he claimed to have been employed an important matters of State, and to have plenty of money which he wished to dispose of in accordance with the ideas of socialist and philanthropist Robert Owen, to whose doctrines he had become a convert. He was obviously a gentleman, yet he lived, from choice, in abject poverty. His room, in which he lived for some twenty five years, was described by one who visited it 1 as a place of dust and confusion amidst which there stood a bed of unigse construction made according to its owner's carefully drawn out plans. It consisted of an oblong box raised slightly from the ground and heated, when required, by paraffin lamps which were prevented. from setting fire to it by a sort of shelf above them made of sheet-iron and placed beneath the heap of shavings which served as a mattress. His food consisted of refuse from the market and included - what he considered to be a specially nourishing delicacy - a mixture of green cabbage leaves and chopped snails. The snails were collected by small boys and passed up to him in a basket which he let down on a string from his window. When he died in 1871 his claim that he had been saving his money so that he might do good with it was found to be true, for he left property to the value of sixty or seventy thousand pounds to be administered by Trustees for the benefit of educational and charitable purposes, and these Trustees are still functioning. It is nice to know that before he died this poor refugee from a troubled Europe was removed by friends to comfortable apartments in which he received every care and attention.

Beyond the wretched abode of this miserable men and a couple of hundred yards up the somewhat unprepossessing lane a high wall surrounds a charming garden. In this, beside an apple tree in a little courtyard, is Arch Tower House, probably one of the least known but most attractive in Douglas. It contains a spiral staircase, with a lovely wooden handrail, which gives access through a trap-door to a flat roof from which an extensive view of the town is obtained. Despite local stories to the contrary this house is not of very great age, for it was described in a legal document of June 1853 as 'that newly erected, castellated dwelling house'. It was then the property of Mrs. Ann Perrie, a widow whose husband had bought it in 1860 from the widow of Thos. Shimmin,who must have built it within the previous twenty years on the garden at the place (there is no mention of a house being in it)which he had purchased from Calcott Heywood in 1831.

Beyond the house the lane (now blocked) leads on to the green slopes of the Howe in the vicinity of the spot where local hot-heads settled their affairs of honour. Of these meetings the one which attracted the most attention was perhaps that in 1837 between Sir. J. B. Piers Bt. and Mr. John Meredith. The baronet, an Irishman, was a notorious character who had sought refuge in Douglas after the Courts had awarded damages of 20,000 against him for the seduction of a certain peeress. Although this had caused him to flee to the Island, where he could not be arrested for a debt of that nature, it had certainly not forced him into hiding, and the duel caused a sensation amongst his fellow refugees as it "as said that his opponent had fired before the signal was given. This he denied, but all the seconds became involved, and it was not long before challenges were flying all round the town.

At the seaward end of the row of houses which face the South Quay may be seen the quarry - worked at least as early as 1633 - from which came the stone used in the building of the Loch Promenade. The lime-kilns which in 1834 stood between the last of the houses and Geling's foundry have; vanished, but the foundry is still there.

Fort Anne

On the road which leads up to the Head is Fort Anne. This building - now an hotel - was erected by 'Thomas Whaley, generally known as 'Buck Whaley (1766-1800) a picturesque Regency figure: from Co.Wicklow who found the Isle of Man a welcome haven after the hectic life of the Dublin and Paris of his day. Tradition says that, either to win a bet or to fulfill some obligation imposed upon him, he had undertaken to live upon Irish ground without residing in Ireland. To do thie he had a cargo of earth shipped from Dublin, and when it had been scattered over the Manx turf of Douglas Head he built his house upon it. He arrived in Douglas in 1796 2 and the building of it probably took some years, for reference to it in 1798 speaks of it as then "unfinished". The original building did not have the two wings now visible, for these were added later. After Whaley's death it was occupied by Deemster Christian and others, including Sir Wm. Hillary Bt. who lived in it from about 1825 until January 1846,when he sold it to Mr. J. Newton who converted it into an hotel which opened in that year. Sir William died at Woodville on the 5th Jan 1847. The life of Sir William Hillary - probably -one of the finest and most widely known of all Douglas residents - will be found referred to more fully under the reference to the Tower of Refuge.

Extract from 1849 Plan - Douglas Head Road

On one side of Fort Anne is Harold Tower, which is not so old as the builder of it, having the romantic ideas of the period, may have meant it to appear, for an advertisement which offered it for sale in 1836 described it as "lately erected."3 It became the residence of a prominent Douglas draper named Wilson whose wife was the sister of that of the celebrated painter John Martin (1799 -1864) whose best known work is perhaps the imaginative landscape entitled "The Plains of Heaven". Through this connection Martin became: for a few months (Oct.53 to Feb. '64) a resident at Harold Tower, though he did not die there but (on 17.2.'64) at No.4 Finch Road, which also belonged to Wilson.4 Two other residents of the Tower were E. M. Corbould (1816-1906) who had married Wilson's daughter Ann, and George Sheffield. (1839-1892) The first of these was the historical artist who was selected 'by Queen Victoria as a drawing master for her children, and the second a well-known Manchester painter of Watercolours.5

On the other side is Ravens Cliff, the date of building of which, though said to be early Victorian is not accurately known.6

Below these two houses, on the opposite side of the road, is Taubman Terrace, which arrears to have been erected c.1830, while next to this and opposite the flight of steps which leads down to the Quay, is a piece of around (now unused) on which it is said that some fifty years ago such gypsies as came to visit the Island were accustomed to pitch their tents. Also at this end of the South Quay on ground now covered by the tanks of the Oil Co, was the Bank of Mr. James Holmes, a member of the firm of Henry Holmes &Son, of Liverpool, whose main business was the curing of herrings, and the houses of Woodhouse Terrace, in one of which he lived.

[Another tenant of this Terrace - local stories of -some-quarter of a century, ago are to be believed - was a person described at Lady Bessborough, the friend of Lord Byron. The most likely person to whom these stories could refer and no printed confirmation of them has been found - would seem to be the Lady Caroline (1785-1828)daughter of the Earl of Bessborough, who in 1805 married Wm. Lamb, later Lord Melbourne. This lady talented, but excitable almost to the verge of insanity - was notorious for her passionate infatuation for Lord Byron. In 1813,however, they quarrelled and, after attempting to kill herself she was sent to Ireland. So says-the Encyclopedia but there must be some grounds for the Douglas story, and it may, possilbly, have been the Isle of Man and not Ireland to which she was sent.]

Here also were the kippering establishments of Mr. Peter Moore, Mr. Bridson and Mr. Kelsall; while on the spot where the Government lairage now is were the curing sheds of Titus Barlow where herrings were smoked (as opposed to being split in the way that kippers are 7. And not far away was another curing house - the largest of them all. This was Twemlow's which stood, just across the harbour on the site in Walpole Avenue which is now occupied by the Royalty Cinema.

The two-gun Battery which was erected on the top of the Head during the panic caused by Napoleon's threatened invasion, and converted c.1863 into a four-gun one manned by the Volunteer Artillery, has now disappeared, but is recalled by the name of the near-by battery Pier erected in 1872. (Another Battery, erected during the same period at the foot of Broadway, has left nothing to remind us of its existance) but the Lighthouse, built in 1833,is still in use.

Where the tower-house of the swing bridge now stands there was at one time a store house. At this store long strings of carts arrived daily, bringing to it for shipment land from the mines at: Foxdale, and taking from it the coal which had been unloaded there for the mine engines.

Before the swing Bridge was built there were two lots of rowing boats which acted as ferries across the harbour. Though called boats were in fact more like saucers, being as wide as they were long. One was where the Swing Bridge now' is and the other (which remained in use until [ ] was opposite the end of the Tongue, so that when the tide was out the boat could be abandoned for a narrow gangway which, being wheeled into position on each side of the Tongue brought the two sides of the Harbour in touch at a fare of ½d shortened the crossing, considerably

Castletown Road - Nunnery

Extract from 1849 Plan - Castletown Road
Extract from 1849 Plan - Castletown Road

Southward from the bridge, along the road to Castletown, it is but a few steps to the Nunnery. This building, now the residence of Capt. Fry Goldie-Taubman, has romantic and historical associations, for it stands on the site of an earlier one (rebuilt after a fire c.1765 8 and again after another one in 1828 ) which was founded, according to tradition by St.Bridget when she came from Ireland (c.A.D.447) to receive the veil from St. Maughold. Those who take tradition very seriously will even point out a well there which is named after her and which, in some mysterious manner they regard as proof of this fact.

The late Mr. P, W, Caine however gives another account or it which, if not so romantic ,is more plausible and yet interesting enough. He considers it to have been originally the Cistercian Monastery of the Blessed Mary of Douglas, which became a Nunnery in A.D.1191 when the monks who had resided in it joined their brethren in Rushen Array and handed the building over to a community of nuns such as their Order had commenced to enrol in A.D. 1125. It was here that Robert the Bruce stayed for a night when on his way from Ramsey to Castletown in 1313. (See p.2 ). The arms of the Nunnery ( a cross saltire) are to be found attached to a document dated A.D.1402 in which the Prioress opposed the claim of Sir Stephen Le Scope to the Crown of Man. Of this Prioress, who was one of the barons of the Island, Robertson, writing in 1793,says ' Her person was sacred, her authority dignified, her revenues extensive and her privileges important'. but, alas, he was but recording the traditions of his day, though in this case it is probable that they were reasonably near the truth, though it was some two centuries since the last holder of the office had died.

The Manorial Roll of A.D.1511 shows the property belonging to the Nunnery together with the fresh-water fishing of Douglas, to have been held jointly by the Prioress and a certain Robert Calcott, whose father had been one of the Deemsters. In 1524 these holdings were granted by the Earl of Derby (Lord of the Island) to the then Prioress and Robert Calcott, who may have been the same man 9, perhaps, his son, equally between them. In 1536 the Prioress was Margaret Goodman, daughter of William Goodman, an Alderman of Chester, and when it became obvious that King Henry VIII intended to do away with all monasteries and nunneries in his kingdom she took the very practical step of marrying Caleott.10 By this action it came about that when in 1540 the Nunnery was dissolved and she and her nuns - there were by then only four of them - had to depart, and the place fell into the hands of her husband, she merely laid down her office of Prioress and continued to reside there as mistress.

How this property passed out of the hands of the Church is by no means clear, but the facts would seem to be as follows. 111 Their descendants intermarried with several prominant Manx families, and through one of these marriages the Nunnery in 1685 passed into the hands of Peter Heywood (1661-.1699) and from him to Demester Peter Heywood (1739-1790) who sold it to John Taubman of the Bowling Green, Castletown. From him it came, in due course, into the hands of another John Taubman, who was Speaker of the Mouse of Keys and died in 1822.

This gentleman's daughter married in 1804, Lt.Col.George Goldie of the 5th Dragoon Guards who, twenty years later, received the royal permission for his eldest son and his issue to use the surname of Taubman with and after that of Goldie. It was their second son Thomas Leigh Goldie, born in 1807, who fell, while commanding a Brigade, at Inkermann in 1854. In the grounds of the Nunnery is an obelisk to his memory together with one of the guns taken at Sebastopol. All that now remains of the ancient Nunnery is a beautiful modern Chapel which stands near the house and is said to embody part of it.

Nunnery Mills

At the roadside, close to the arched entrance to the Nunnery grounds, are the Nunnery Mills. When the first ones were erected is not known, gut they were probably coeval with the original monastery. They were certainly there in 1524,when they are mentioned as being granted, together with the Nunnery to the Prioress and Robt. Calcott. These were evidently demolished in 1792 or 1793, for the Manx Mercury at the 14th May 1793 says 'The old Nunnery Mill was pulled down some months ago, and a large new one is now building on the site'. By July of that year it was nearly finished and Robertson, who made his Tour through the Island at that time, tells us that 'Capt. Taulbman has informed me that on his estate grain mills are now erecting which will mean -be sufficient for the supply of the Island:

In August 1803 they were considerably damaged by fire. Another broke out in April 1808,but this time the inhabitants of the town being alarmed by the beating of a drum and the clanging of the Chapel bell the two fire-engines were got out and, though the time was two o'clock in the morning, they were propelled rapidly along the dark road, and with the help of willing hands to work the unwieldy pumps and pass the necessary buckets it was prevented from spreading from the kiln, where it had started, to other parts of the mill. It is pleasing to learn that the hot and thirsty toilers who had. brought about this happy result were rewarded with two barrels of ale. It would be very welcome.

Towards the end of 1812 Major Taubman, who was very much the local 'big wig' found it necessary to remind proprietors in the Abbeylands of Braddan, and such inhabitants of Douglas as were by law bound to do that it was their duty to send their corn to be ground at his mill, and that unless they did this he would take legal action to compel them to do so., surely a somewhat ungenerous action after their help at the fire.

The next serious trouble was Oct 1821,when a mob incensed by disputes over the export of grain attacked the Mills, and an armed party under Gen. Goldie took action against them and captured two of the ringleaders.

They have seen exciting times, these old building,-but now they are no longer mills grinding corn, only an old store in which odds and ends find a resting place while they enjoy a quiet old age, dozing in the sunshine beside the rippling river. Just beyond them, out below the level of the road and invisible from it, is the miller's house, surely one of the most charming residences to be seen in Douglas.

The mill-wheel was within the building, the water being brought to it down a race which led from the river at a point well above the Nunnery and continued, after the water in it had done its duty, until it rejoined the parent stream, as may still be seen, just by the abutment of the old bridge and not far from a pool used by boys for swimming, and known as the Saint's Pool.

Turning back along the road to Douglas, a row of whitewashed cottages attract the eye. Seen on a sunny June day, their dazzling white fronts backed by the leafy, green branches of tall trees, and with a jumble of bright blossoms in the gardens which stretch from their open doors to the busy road they are indeed a charming sight, challenging with their rural simplicity - as they have for a century or more - the nearby town.

A few yards beyond them another terrace, this time of houses of a pleasing though distinctly more urban type, seem to proclaim themselves as having been built in early Victorian days. They take their name of Leigh Terrace from the gallant general Thos. Leigh Goldie, of the Nunnery, who fell at Inkermann.


{note possible handwritten insertion}

North Quay

North Quay
Extract from 1849 Plan
C = Custom House
M = Market Place
P = OddFellows Hall (later Courthouse)
R = School
S =Cattle Market (on site of St Mary's chapel)
T = Holmes Bank

On the other side of the harbour was the heart of old Douglas, the North Quay or Cheu-yn-Phurt (literally 'harbour side') as Manx folk on called it, But this 'Harbour Side', was a very narrow one. From proceedings taken in the Court of Exchequer in June 1755 it appears that the Governor had ordered that it should be twenty-one feet at its narrowest part, and since William Moore held land within this margin had awarded him a remission of Lord's rent. But Moore persisted in erecting a building on his bit of land which left only twelve feet available and the Supervisors of the Harbour fined him for his contempt.12

Modern, passenger boats demand for their use the deeper water and the increased pier space of the outer harbour. But the small craft which maintain the trade of the town still use the old harbour, and its quays are by no means deserted. Here come timber ships from Scandinavia, coasters bring varied cargoes and colliers land fuel. In fact the general work of a commercial port though it wears a different dress, goes on here in essentially the same way as it did two centuries or more ago,

Half way along the North Quay there stood - as it had since at least 1595 - the chapel of St. Mary, where it is recorded it the Episcopal register that a Convocation was held on 17th August 1685 13.

As the population increased this became too small, but the little village was not yet a parish, and while the southern half was in that of Braddan the northern portion was regarded as part of Onchan. At one of these churches - though both of them were a good two miles distant - all Douglas children were taken to be christened; all who wished to wed had to travel, and in the grave yard of one of them all had to be interred. It was a long journey for old folk, and the Ecclesiastical Courts - accepting no excuses - were hard on any who did not attend regularly. So there must have been many who were glad when St. Mary's disappeared from the records while in its place, and approximately on the same spot, Bishop Wilson between 1705 and 1708 built a Chapel which was dedicated to St. Matthew.(The change of dedication being, probably, because after the Reformation the Anglican Church did not approve of dedications to Saints who did not appear in its calendar,) The new place of worship was regarded as a Chapel of Ease to Kirk Braddan, who supplied the clergyman, and it was of this the 'Old Church' as generations of Douglas people have thought of it, and certainly the best-known building in the town that the great Manx poet T.E. Brown wrote (handbook for Bazaar in aid of the new Church)

Our Mother sits on Douglas Quay
And dreams and passes patiently.
The midnight hour will soon be fled
She has no doubts, she has no fears
Her thoughts are of departed years
Her drums are with the dead.

On market days its bell was a familiar sound in the ears of the farm-wives who spread out their wares in the shadow of its walls, while the clock in its steeple was for long the only public one in the town. Its exact site is now covered by the vegetable and flower market, the east end being marked by the line of Chapel Lane and the west by Market Street, while the old inn known as the Albert, in Chapel Row, looks across that short road to where the north wall of the church once fronted it. It is recorded in 1830 that the minister in charge had not only the spiritual responsibility for all who dwelt within sound of its bell - which meant nearly all who lived in or visited the town - but also taught in the nearby grammar school at which their children were educated. And all salary this he did for the princely sum of 60 per annum - a sum which the local newspaper (the Manx Sun ) not surprisingly, even for those days, regarded as inadequate.

In 1897 the old church, which was worn out, inadequate and uncomfortable, and could neither be restored or enlarged, was demolished and a covered which was opened in 1901,was built upon the site, while a new church to replace it was erected nearby upon the Quay, at the corner of Ridgeway Street.

These covered markets, and modern methods of shopping, have undoubtedly (though of course, inevitably, and for its good) deprived. Douglas of what must have been a picturesque scene. Townley, who was there in 1789, found the market to be "attended by a great number of the mountain inhabitants, every one following a miserably poor and ill-looking little animal loaded with a pair of creels made of straw-rope and containing a few articles such as butter, eggs and chickens etc. as for the meat exposed for sale he could find little to praise except the lamb.

But Robertson, in 1797,was delighted by the sight of the rosy-cheeked country lasses he saw arriving seated on their small Manx ponies, which carried also panniers filled with the produce of their rider's little farms.

In the nineteenth century the market stalls occupied not only the space before the church but also own to and along the Quay in one direction and up the Market Hill (at one time not 2/3rds of its present width)in the other. On market days a row of sockets held posts which supported a chain stretched across the top of this hill to prevent the passage of vehicles amongst the stalls at which the butcher sold his joints and butter-women stood the livelong day thinking but little of the driving rain which at times would soak them for it was here, as an old poet sang "the fishwife's stall rears its head by old St. Matthew's wall." Robertson, perhaps saw it on a sunny day. George Woods, who visited in 1811, was not so enthusiastic. he spoke of it as small, and destitute of shops and shambles; and affirmed that though usually well supplied by the nearby farms it was sometimes impossible on a rainy day to purchase either a pound of butter, a shillings-worth of eggs or a 'kishen' of potatoes, so that unless they could obtain them elsewhere in the town the housewives had to wait another week for what they wanted.

Amongst these stalls strolled sailors of the Royal navy, and from the merchant ships moored nearby. Men-of-war and Revenue-cutters were constant visitors, to the port. Privateers such as the 'Tyger', Capt. Qualtrough, of 16 guns and 70 men (fitted out in Douglas in 1778) brought in their prizes; slavers on their passage to Africa came in for duty-free stores; ships from the Baltic, brought; their cargoes of timber, while of from Continental ports or from the sunny West Indies unloaded for transshipment many a case and keg which would never pay duty to the Crown. It is not surprising that there was erected here in 1812 a Stocks for the summary punishment of petty offenders and a warning to any who might be tempted to break the law.

{insert handwritten text}

Of the numerous buildings which line the Quay there are not many of which their history can be traced, but amongst the small shops and dwelling houses which, constitute the majority there are to be found a few of which the story is known. At the bottom of Bank Hill - a name derived from the banking house of Messrs. Wulff and Forbes 14 which once stood where the Railway Station is, there is one now used for storage and other purposes by Ind Coope (Isle of Man) Ltd. This building has stood there since 1779, when it was the Lace Brewery of Messrs, Hogg & Co. It is one of the oldest buildings of any considerable size still standing in Douglas today, though the Douglas Hotel, further along the Quay, antedates it by some twenty year, for it was built in 1758 - The builder of this hotel was an Ulster merchant; named Black who imported into Douglas wines and spirits from Bordeaux, and in due course smuggled them thence into England. In 1765, however,when the control of the Island passed from the Lord into the hands of the Crown and English Customs-officers made this trade unremunerative, and Mr. Black left Douglas.

Eighteen years after the house was bought by the Duke of Athol, who installed his Seneschal in it. After the death of that official the house became vacant, and the Duke, while paying a short visit to the Island it, 1793 occupied it, for a while. As a ducal residence - even a temporary one - its position was not all that could be desired, for it stood on the corner of the Market Place, stalls were erected on the Quay in front of it, and chaffering crowds surged round its doorway. But at least it was central and the Duke, like many a modern politician, took advantage of it to show himself to the people over whom he - their late Lord - was now to act as Governor. On the morning of Friday, the 1st.March the people were all agog to see him, for they knew he had arrived late the previous night, and when at 11.00 a.m. dressed in the uniform of his own corps of Royal Manx Fencibles he made his appearance at the door and then, accompanied by his friends took several turns along the Quay and round the Market Place it was amidst the acclamation of a delighted people who found the sight as pleasing as it was unexpected.15 . Later in its history it became the Customs House, only to suffer a surprising change in 1862 when it blossomed out as an hotel.


1: Manx Recollections by K.A.Forrest, 1893 - Chap 15
2 :(Museum Athol papers)
3: ( Sun 17 6 1836) ,
4: John -Martin by Thos Balston 1947}
5: Mannin vol 2 no 3.
6 (Times 22 11 19)
7 (Monas Herald 17-11 1931)
8 Thos. Collister',1815
9 P.W. Caine Notes on the Manx Monasteries. Proc. NH.&ASoc. Vol. V #1 pp48/62
10 Unless she was not a professed nun she must presumaitly, have in some way obtained a dispensation from her vows, but no records bearing on this have as yet been found.
11 A. W.Moore Old Manx Families. MM MS. X 69/2-1
12 (Proc NHAS IV III 306)
13(Proc NHAS V 1 p 54)
15 (Mercurry 5.3.1793)
16 This inn, mentioned as early as 1862, (museum list of licences) was once known as the Grapes, though for some unknown reason the large bunch of wooden grapes which formed its sign were by 1888 hanging, not above its door, as one would expect, but over that of the Market Inn, which has adjoined it since 1852. (Slaters Directory 1852)

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