[From Leech's Guide, 1861]



Is situated on the east coast of the Island, distant sixteen miles from Ramsey via Laxey, and twenty-five miles by Kirk Michael. It is the principal port of the Island, and is nearly equidistant from Liverpool, Dublin, and Belfast. Since the establishment of regular communication with Liverpool, and occasionally through the summer months with other large ports, Douglas has become a watering place of no inconsiderable importance, and is frequently so excessively crowded that visitors have with difficulty been able to obtain accommodation. Although the old town of Douglas contains few attractions, a very considerable number of superior houses have been erected along the margin of the bay during the last few years, and in addition to these we may mention St. George’s Hall, in Athol street, erected in 1841; the Wellington Market, in Duke street, built in 1836, but very little used for its intended purpose; the Bank of Mona, a very elegant design, on Prospect-hill; and the House of Industry, in Buck’s-road. The places of worship include three of the Established Church, viz. St. George’s, St. Barnabas’, and St. Thomas’s; one Independent chapel; two Wesleyan, one Church of Scotland, one Primitive Methodist, and one Roman Catholic chapel. There are also several superior hotels, the most important of which is the Castle Mona, originally built for the private residence of the late Duke of Atholl. The improvement of the ports of the Island has by no means kept pace with that of the towns, Douglas has to find berths for three steamers belonging to that port, independent of the numerous coasting vessels, but so inefficient is the Harbour accommodation that the Steam Vessels plying between Liverpool and Glasgow cannot venture in for goods and passengers. As at present constituted, the communication with Scotland is by way of Liverpool, unless by the uncertain mode of sailing vessels, which, through contrary winds, may frequently be some weeks in making the voyage, thus militating very seriously against the trade and the public. It is contemplated by Government to expend a sum of not less than £30,000 upon the erection of a breakwater, &c, at Douglas, and we trust, whenever this much needed boon to the Island is commenced, that an effort will be made to facilitate a more direct transit to and from Scotland and other trading ports.

Douglas bay is about two miles in extent, and affords good shelter for vessels in almost all winds. On the height, and near the entrance to the harbour, stands Fort Ann Hotel, a very handsome building, which impresses the visitor to Douglas with the feeling that its inhabitants have a taste for the picturesque. The population of Douglas at the last census in 1851, was 9653. An increase of between two and three thousand may be computed, making about 12,000 inhabitants.

The principal residences in this neighbourhood are the Nunnery, the property of J. Taubman, Esq., Kirby, the residence of the Hon. Deemster Drinkwater; Belmont, the seat of G. W. Dumbell, Esq. ; Ballaughton, and Thornton.

St. Bridget founded a nunnery here in the beginning of the ninth century, but part of the chapel is the only vestige that now remains of the venerated edifice, with its gothic windows and dilapidated arched gateway. The principal gate was only opened on the august ceremony of the initiation of a nun, or at the death of the lady abbess, It has been a subject of much lament that this remnant of ancient architecture has been suffered to fall into decay. Sacheverell says— "Few monasteries ever exceeded it either in largeness or fine building. There are still some of the cloisters remaining, the ceilings of which discover they were the workmanship of the most masterly hands; nothing, in the whole creation, but what is imitated in curious carvings on it. The pillars supporting the arches are so thick as if that edifice was erected with a design to baffle the efforts of time, nor could it in more years than have elapsed since the coming of Christ have been so greatly defaced, had it-received no injury but from time; but in some of the dreadful revolutions this Island has sustained, it doubtless has suffered much from the outrage of the soldiers, as may be gathered by the niches yet standing in the chapel, which has been one of the finest in the world, and the images of saints reposited in them being torn out. Some pieces of broken columns are still to be seen, but the greatest part have been removed. The confessional chair also lies in ruins-" The nuns were punished by imprisonment in caverns under ground, when the laws of the institution were violated; or when suspected of falsifying, they had to undergo a different kind of punishment. "Over Douglas Head, there is a steep rock of considerable height. immediately above the sea; about half-way up this rock was a hollow resembling an elbow chair, and near the top another cavity somewhat similar. On the slightest accusation the poor nun was brought to the foot of this rock when the sea had ebbed, and was obliged to climb to the first chair, where she had to remain till the tide again flowed and ebbed twice. Those who had given a greater cause of suspicion were obliged to ascend to the second chair, and to sit there for the same space of time. Any one who endured this trial, and descended unhurt, was cleared of all aspersion that had been thrown upon her. Such a lengthened exposure to the elements, so far above the level of the sea, probably occasioned the death of many of these unfortunate creatures. If sentence of death was passed against a female, she was sewed up in a sack, and thrown from the top of the rock into the sea."


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