[From Leech's Guide, 1861]



"How often have I paused on every charm—
The shelter’d cot, the cultivated farm,
The never-failing brook, the busy mill,
The handsome church that tops the neighbouring hill,
The hawthorn bush with seats beneath the shade,
For talking age and whispering lovers made;
How often have I blest the coming day,
When toil remitting lent its turn to play."

This is one of the most progressive and prosperous villages in the Island, increasing in population, and advancing in importance day by day. It is situated in a beautiful and picturesque valley, half-way between Ramsey and Douglas, the distance from each place being about eight miles. The excursionist from Ramsey will find it a very hilly road, but it is well macadamised, and both drivers and horses being accustomed to such roads, they are traversed in perfect safety. It may be that he will have to walk up some of the hills, but independent of the healthful exercise, he will find himself fully repaid by the leisurely view of the varied scenery around him, Shortly after leaving Ramsey, and passing Ballure glen, he ascends Slieu-Lewaigue, and after passing the Hibernian Hotel, descends into the valley of Corna, the stream of which is crossed by a bridge. Ascending from this bridge he soon reaches the neat place of worship named Christ Church, with the residence of the clergyman. This is a chapel of ease to Maughold parish. After several up hill and down dale walks, which may remind him of life’s chequered course, and passing the Dhoon, the traveller attains an elevated position, from which Douglas bay and lighthouse are distinctly seen; he then begins to descend towards Laxey, passing on the right a tumulous wherein, according to tradition, Orry, one of the Kings of Man, is entombed. The coach road, until the last year or two, passed through the old village of Laxey, located on the margin of the bay, but it is so very steep that a new road has been opened, which although considerably longer, is now uniformly used by vehicles, and from it a very fine view may be obtained of the glen. This road is carried over the stream by a substantial bridge, close to the mining works, and another bridge, said to be the most handsome on the Island, spans another branch of the river. There are several good inns where the vehicle can be left, and suitable "entertainment for man and horse" obtained. It is to the mines that Laxey is indebted for its prosperity, and as a proof of their value it may be mentioned, that the original £100 shares are now worth fully ten times that sum. The ores obtained are chiefly lead (galena) and zinc, commonly called black-jack. The lead ore is unusually rich in silver, which is extracted from it in the process of smelting, but this is not carried on in the Island, the metal being exported to Wales for that purpose. The mine is upwards of two hundred fathoms deep, and is not accessible to any but the miners, who descend by ladders placed in the main shaft. The ascent from so great a depth, and by such means, is very laborious, even to those who are daily accustomed to it. The miners work by shifts of eight hours each, night and day being of course alike to them who are engaged so deep in the bowels of the earth. The air at the bottom is very close, warm, and exhausting, caused by the constant blasting of the rocks with gunpowder. and also by the burning of the miners’ candles. To those who are unaccustomed to the practice, it is curious to see those adventurous and industrious men with a piece of clay stuck on the front of their hats for the purpose of inserting a candle to light them on their subterraneous avocations. The most conspicuous object connected with the mines is the famous "Lady Isabella" wheel, for although there are other large water wheels in different parts of the valley for drawing, crushing the ore, &c. this one recently erected for pumping the water out of the mines is by far the largest, being no less than 72 feet in diameter, and 226 in circumference. How excellent the design of workmanship must be is proved by the smoothness with which the mighty circle revolves, and by the perfect trueness of its setting, as not a deflection of the eighth of an inch can be detected. It is highly creditable to native talent, this monster object being planned and made by Mr. Casement, a working millwright. The water is brought to the top of the wheel in a peculiar manner, being conveyed in iron pipes down the adjacent ravine, and introduced to the top of a wheel through an apparently ornamental pillar. A spiral stair winds round the pillar by which the adventurous traveller can ascend to the top, and on to a platform above the wheel. Here the view is extensive and interesting, the valley and mining works being spread at his feet, and the distant hills, with Snaefield towering in the back ground. It is remarked however that visitors do not like to linger here long, as an uneasy feeling is experienced in being so high; and having accomplished the feat, he cannot help thinking of the stair and its slight railing by which he must descend to his dear mother terra firma. Access is permitted to all the works above ground, with perhaps the exception of a new turbine wheel, which although occupying a small space, is said to do its work well. The washings, as in mining phraseology they are termed, form a busy scene. The stones with the ore are first broken roughly by men with hammers, and then pounded small by machinery. This is subjected to the various washings which separate the lead from the zinc, and both from the matrix. Men and boys are seen busily employed in their various departments. It is natural that the traveller should desire to carry away specimens, but this having been found liable to abuse is justly objected to. The shipment of the ore takes place under rather disadvantageous circumstances, as there is no harbour for vessels at Laxey, and when there is so much valuable property at stake, it appears desirable that a proper pier should be run out from the rocks to the north of where the stream enters the sea. Laxey bay is a fine spacious one, and abounds in fish; the shore on both sides is distinguished by precipieces which rise to a greater height than any on that part of the coast.

An elegant new church has recently been erected on an elevated and conspicuous site near the head of the glen, and in the village there is a neat Wesleyan chapel. Further down the valley is a paper manufactory, and the ruins of another building for the same purpose, but which was burnt down some years ago.


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