[From Leech's Guide, 1861]



Is distant from Ramsey, both by Douglas and Kirk Michael, twenty-six miles, and is the seat of government and capital of the Island. Castle Rushen is situated here, and is one of the finest specimens of a Gothic fortification. It was built by Gutltred, son of Goiree, the first Manx king of the Danish line, in 960, and is said to resemble the castle of Elsinore. It was besieged by Bruce in 1313, but again restored by James the Earl of Derby in 1593. After the death of James, his lady and family defended the place, till surrendered to Cromwell’s invaders by William Christian.

"There is a solemn majesty about the Castle, and a solidity in its masonry which betokens great strength. In the centre is the keep, whose ground plan is a regular rhombus, the longer sides running nearly north and south. It is flanked with towers on each side ; the eastern, southern, and western standing out from it of a square form; the northern rising upon the building itself At its northern extremity is a lofty portcullis, passing which is an open quadrangular court, with a well in the centre. The height of this keep at its entrance is seventy-four feet, and on the right-hand side of it at entering, a winding stone staircase leads up by ninety-nine steps to the summit of the northern or flag tower, the total height of which from the ground is eighty feet. The southern tower rises seventy feet, and contains the clock which was presented by Queen Elizabeth in 1597, when she was holding the Island in trust, whilst the rival claims between the heirs of Ferdinand and William were being litigated. The east tower is seventy feet, and the west the same, if we allow one foot for the rise in the ground. The thickness of the walls of the keep varies from seven to twelve feet. On the outside of it, at a short distance, is an embattled wall, in height twenty-five feet, and nine feet thick, with seven square towers at intervals. On the exterior of this moat is a glacis, erected, it is said, by Cardinal Wolsey, when he was guardian to Edward, the sixth Lord of Man. At three several points in this glacis were formerly three low round towers or redoubts, now in ruins. The best specimen of them is seen on the north-western side, near the harbour. There is a winding ditch, where formerly was the drawbridge, to the castle-gate and the first portcullis. To the left-hand a flight of stone steps leads to the Rolls’ Office, and on passing through the portcullis into the open space between the two keeps, we observe on the right hand another flight of steps leading to the ramparts, and conducting also to the court-house and the council chamber. These buildings were formerly occupied by the Derby family, and by the governors and lieutenant-governors of the Isle to the time of the late lieutenant-governor general, John Ready, who resided there be. tween two and three years."*

*Dr. Cumming.

The business of the House of Keys is transacted at Castletown. A detachment of soldiers is generally stationed there. Its spiritual requirements are supplied by one church of the Establishment, a Wesleyan, and a Primitive Methodist chapel.

King William’s College is a neat building, erected in 1830, and opened first in 1833. Nearly the whole of the interior was destroyed by fire in 1844, but restored by subscription. Many of the pupils from this college have distinguished themselves at the Universities. There is reason for supposing that the great Earl of Derby, who was executed at Bolton, originated the design of opening King William’s College, as in a letter of advice to his son, dated 1643, while at Castle Rushen, he says—" I had a design, and may God enable me, to set up an university without much charge, which may much oblige the nations round about us. It may get friends unto the country and enrich this land. This certainly would please God and man." He was deprived of the gratification of carrying out this design, owing to the troublous times in which he lived; but his son remembered the advice of his father, which, after a lapse of nearly two centuries, led to its erection. There is also a Museum at King William’s College, founded by the Rev. Dr. Cumming when Vice-Principal of the college.

*Dr. Cumming.


Is a village two miles from Castletown. Here the tourist, on the banks of a pleasant stream, beholds the venerable ruins of


This Abbey was founded in the year 1098, by Prince Mac Manis, whose wisdom and virtue occasioned him to be placed on the throne by the general consent of the people. The establishment consisted of an abbot and twelve monks, of the Cistercian order, the distinguishing dress of which was a black cowl and scapular, with white vestments. They were noted throughout the Isles for their charity and benovelence—so much so indeed that it procured for them the honourable appellation of "almoners of the poor," although the charities they bestowed, as well as their own necessities, were obtained by manual labour. At length, however, from rigid austerity, they degenerated to pride and luxury, the monastery having been endowed with great privileges and immunities by the gifts of the pious, amongst whom were King Olave, Magnus King of Man, and a great number of the Norwegian princes. The authority of the abbot was also increased, and he exercised a commanding superiority over the whole district. He was created a baron of the Isle, and was invested with power to hold courts in his own name, and could shelter a criminal from the lord’s courts, and try him by his own vassals.

In the year 1247, Richard Bishop of Man consecrated this Abbey Church, which had been founded 159 years before, during which time many of the kings and bishops were interred within its precincts. Amongst them may be numbered Olave, the son of Godred, King of Man, who died at Peel Castle; Reginald, whose remains were four years afterwards conveyed by the monks to Furness Abbey; Reginald, a bishop, and Gospatrick, the celebrated Norwegian general, who died at Kirk Michael.

In 1316 the monastery was plundered by Richard de Mandeville, who with a numerous band of Irishmen landed at Ronaldsway, near Derbyhaven, defeated the islanders and pillaged the country; but after a month’s stay re-embarked with his army for Ireland.

Upon the dissolution of monasteries by Henry VIII. this abbey was also dissolved, the possessions thereof were sequestrated to the use of the crown, and the possessors driven from their beloved habitation.


Is nine miles from Castletown, and is well worthy of a visit.—Some of the noblest rocks are here that are to be met with on the Island, they are very lofty and quite precipitous. Spanish Head is near this islet, where it is said that part of the memorable Armada perished in the reign of Elizabeth.


Back index next


Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
HTML Transcription © F.Coakley , 2001