[from Ellan Vannin vol 1 #3 p131/134]
TO write an article on the history of one of the few of our Ancient Manx Country Churches, still existing, is not by any means an easy matter, owing to the lack of sufficient data upon which to work, and to the difficulty now of obtaining any reliable information as to their past.
The only source, perhaps, from which anything can be gleaned concerning alterations or additions thereto, are the old vestry hooks, but even in this case, probably, none of them go back much further than the middle of the 18th Century. Moreover, I do not profess to be an expert in antiquarian research. It is, therefore, with some feelings of diffidence and constraint that I take up my pen to write these few notes; but, in response to the invitation of the Editor, to say something about the subject before us in the current issue of this interesting periodical, and inasmuch, also, as the Old Church at Marown is a place very dear to my heart, I look upon the task assigned to me as a " labour of love."
According to a note by the late Professor Sir John Rhys, in "Mannin" (No. 2) :" the Parish Church of Marown, spelled variously Marown, Maronne, and Maroon. Skeeley Maroon is dedicated to a Saint called Maronog, in the Irish Calendar; and in the Scottish Calendar, Ronan."
In the Manx Doomsday Book, or Manorial Rent Roll, of 1511, A.D. , the parish is styled St. RuniiSt. Runy was evidently one of the Columban missionaries who came to the Isle of Man probably about the 7th Century, and it is in the Old Churchyard of Marown where his remains, with those of St. Lomanus and St. Onca are supposed to be buried, " and these for ever lie un-molested."
In the year 1905, whilst some work was being carried out inside the Old Church by the late Mr. Thomas Lewin, Parish Clerk, and his son, Douglas, under the present Vicars supervision, a portion of the original floor was revealed, about two feet below the present level. The surface seemed to be composed of clay, beaten as hard as cement. The old door-way was also brought to light, together with the fragment of a stoup, or holy water basin.
As the work merely entailed the erection of a stove, no further search in the interior was made, but as the workmen and their implements were on the spot, an opportunity was taken of disclosing the foundation walls of the Chancel, or east end of the building, which was pulled down in the year 1849, when the Old Church on the hill was abandoned for the new one in the valley below.
The dilapitated condition of the Chancel was a continual drain on the Cess account, and it would appear from the minutes in the old vestry book that stormy meetings of parishioners, on the subject of repairs, were frequent at Easter.
At first, it was decided to remove the whole of the building, and replace it on the same site by an entirely new church.
Another position was subsequently spoken of in a field in the immediate vicinity, and negotiations were already being made by the Vicar and Wardens with Mr. Turnbull, a former owner of Ellerslie, for the conveyance of a portion of land for the purpose; but, fortunately for the salvation of the Old Church, and, without doubt, fortunately for the convenience of the majority of the parishioners, the late Mr. P. Killey, C.P., generously offered a free gift of ground, consisting of an acre in extent, on his estate of Balla-Willey-Killey, adjoining the main road between Douglas and Peel.
Needless to say that , this gift was accepted. and in a few years time from this date, the Old Church, so far as public worship was concerned, was forsaken for the new.
It was not so, however, with regard to burials. The people of Marown still clung tenaciously to the old ground, where the remains of their forefathers lay for generations. Consequently, when the ruinous east end was demolished, the building was considerably shortened, and the wall built up again with the surplus stones.
The Old Church was then converted into a mortuary chapel, and a mission room where occasional services are held.
It was a surmise of the writer of these notes that when the work of demolition took place, the trouble of removing the foundation stones of the Chancel would not be undertaken, and this was found to be the case by probing. On a level with the adjoining portion of the graveyard, the space formerly enclosed was covered with grass, so that when the workmen removed some of the sods the top of the foundation walls were laid bare. These wails were about four feet in thickness, and traces were found in one or two instances of inter mural burials.
At the South-East corner, the masonry was rude and primitive, marking the difference in the building at the East end, which was much more symetrical and evenly constructed.
Canon Quine and Mr. P. M. C. Kermode, on viewing, these remains, were of the opinion that the rough walls indicated an older structure, probably a 7th or 8th Century kiell
This cell might subsequently have been enlarged, and ultimately became the Parish Church.
At the extremity of the South-Eastern wall, about 18 inches from the surface, a Celtic incised cross slab was found, beautiful in form and unique in design and character.
Immediately below this stone was a quantity of charcoal, or burnt oak; a discovery which seems to corroborate the story that in the 13th Century Reginald, King of Norway, seized the Island, and after committing several outrageous acts, " burnt all the churches in the land."
Several smaller objects of antiquarian interest were unearthed at the same timesuch as the mouth-piece of a Spanish drinking vessel (the process of making this particular kind of glass is now lost), portion of a cinerary urn, an old nail, etc.
In conclusion, it is hard to say what interesting discoveries might be made in and around this ancient church and its surroundings; but we must remember that the place whereon we stand is holy ground, hallowed not only by the remains of those who were the means of establishing Christianity in our Island, but consecrated as the last resting place of the hones of those who served their day and generation in subsequent ages. May they, therefore, rest in peace, in the joyful hope of the Resurrection to Eternal Life.
It may not he out of place here to mention the fact that the Old Church of Marown underwent considerable alterations in the year 1754, under the vicariate of the Revd. John Christian, of Bale-ne-Killey, now Ellerslie.
Saggyrt (i.e., Priest) John, as he was called, also added to the West end, built the steeple, and put up a gallery for the accommodation of worshippers, the original building being too small for the large congregations there assembled. Some of the worked stones, still to be seen in the porch, were brought at this time from the neighbouring ruinous Church of St. Trinian.
The Church-yard, too, was evidently much larger than at present, lintel graves being found on several occasions in the high road below, and in the adjoining fields.
5th Oct., 1924.