Castletown is part of Malew parish.

Old Grammar School

Old Grammar School

Founded 1250 as church or chapel of St Mary. Converted to act as grammar school of the town on completion of the church commissioned by Bishop Wilson in 1698. The range of three arches obviously formed an aisle arcade, the aisle of which was removed in the conversion to a school. However the presence of these arches in an otherwise unpretentous church has given rise to considerable speculation. Bruce (6th Arch Rpt) is of opinion that they are reworked from a ruined romanesque church at Rushen Abbey

Grid Reference SC265674


A.M. Cubbon The Mediaeval Chapel of St Mary's, Castletown. Later the Old Castletown Grammar School 1971
J.R.BruceManx Archaeological Survey - Sixth Report pp.20/7 Manx Museum & National Trust 1968 

St Mary - Bishop Wilson's Chapel

One of Bishop Wilson's first achievements was to build a chapel of ease in the then Island Capital. Built 1698 almost on the same site as the later St Mary's. Described as 'neat and elegant chapel', however no representation has been discovered. Supposedly built without tower or steeple though a small steeple is mentioned in 1800 - there is however a reference in the 1731 Castle Rushen accounts for " hould ship timber for ye Roof of ye Steeple of Castletown Chapple" thus it would appear a steeple existed before this time - as also confirmed by the evidence of Wm Ross in 1723.

The money came from the vacant bishopric as can be seen in the following instrument signed by Lord Derby.

" To the Commissioners appointed to manage my Revenue in the Isle of Man.
" This is to authorise appoint you to pay unto the Right Revd Father in God Thomas Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, to Samuel Watleworth one of the Vicar Generals of the said Island ,to Richard Stephenson and Thomas Huddleston Gentlemen, all and every the rents Issues and profits of what kind soever belonging to the Bishoprick of the aforesaid Island due and payable in the vacancy of the said Bishoprick for one whole year ending at Lady day 1697 to be disbursed and laid out by them the said Bishop, Vicar General, Richard Stephenson and Thos. Huddleston in the building and erecting of a new Chappell in Castletown in the said Island and the acquittance of the said Bishop, Vicar Generall, Richard Stevenson and Thor. Huddleston shall be unto you a sufficient discharge herein. Given under my hand at Knowsley the fourteenth day of February Anno Domini 1697.

With the growth of population (2,000 in early 19th C) the old church was too small and it was decided to build a new church on the site.

See also extract from Vestry Book




By Thomas Brine, 1826. The high pews, galleries, wall tablets, high pulpit and liturgical arrangements here make this a pre-Tractarian church. [JB]

Would accommodate1300 Persons and had special pews for the Governor and for the troops.


Grid Reference SC265674


The church originally had a lantern on the tower as seen on the old print; removed 1911 for safety reasons
Converted to offices in 1980's though kept facade.

St Mary's with Lantern

Ian Faulds Demolishing a Saint The Manxman # 10 pp19/27 Autum 1977 - includes much of the damming report that led to the closure
Guide bookDenis Thompson A History of St Mary's Parish Church Castletown 1964

St Mary on the Harbour

St Mary on the Harbour

Built 1838 as a National School and opened on Coronation day of Queen Victoria; the belfry and school bell are still visible.
In the 1964 guide to the previous church one can read of the declining congregation, then down to 100 When in the late 1970's the previous church, which was always too large for the current congregation, became in need of renovation the parish decided to sell the old building and convert the disused school, then being used as the church rooms, into the church.

Grid Reference SC265674


Hinton Bird An Island That Led Vol 1 c1993 covers some of the early history of the Castletown National School 

Chapel within the Castle

Reference is made in the 1428 Garrison Roll to the chapel - both a chapel and an oratory are on the top floor of the inner ward; the chapel described by some early writers as "a fine chapel where divine service is celebrated morning and afternoon ". The oratory is now used to house the mechanism for the famous 1-fingered clock.

A chapel is shown on Fane's plan of 1760 in the main ward between the gatehouse and the drawbridge to the inner ward, Rigby suggests that this relatively small building 26ft x 11ft dates only from the construction of the Derby House in 1643 when the inner rooms of the Castle became private. It is possible that the 1815 conversion into a prison as well as the building of St Mary's with its special pews for the governor and troops finally removed any need for such castle chapel. It has been suggested that this chapel was also used as the first Methodist meeting place in Castletown prior to c.1790. Rigby states "About 100 years ago [ie c.1815] the ruins were thrown down, and a house was built upon them for the Governor of the prison. This house was taken down as part of the restoration just completed [1905], and the foundation walls of the chapel are once more exposed to view."

In the 1851 religious census a Chapel 'for use of the prison' was noted with morning and afternoon services; its date of consecration was given as 'before 1800' - its average congregation was 20 (33 on census day).


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