Congregationalist Churches


Congregationalism really began on the Island with the appointment of Samuel Haining as Minister in 1808. They opened their first chapel in 1813 in Athol Street Douglas from whence the congregation, after what appears to be some form of split, moved to Finch Road in 1866 and also to another chapel in Circular Road; A small chapel was also built in Union Mills.

Nightingale in his Lancashire Nonconformity, 1893, gives the most detailed history available concerning the Congregationalists.

According to Cubbon [Bibliography] Haining came as a school teacher. Mary McHardy gave a brief biography [though some dates are at variance with the church record]-

In 1804 the Rev Samuel Haining came to the Island to the independent Chapel in Atholl St, Douglas, where he christened his family: James (Feb 1809), Thomas (Apr 1810), John (Aug 1811), Jane and Samuel (twins July 1813), Isabella (Aug 1816), Anna (Jan.1819), Arbuthnot, a dau. (Jan 1821), Alexander and Charles Johnston (twins, July 1822), William (June 1827). Several were also buried there: Thomas (1848), Jane (1850), Alexander (1852). Samuel and his wife Jane [Hannay] are buried in St. George's, she in 1843, he 1846 aged 67.

The Evangelical Magazine for November 1808 has the following:

August 15th. The Rev. Samuel Haining was set apart to the pastoral office, over a small Independent Church at Douglas, in the Isle of Man. The Rev. F,. White, of Chester, delivered the introductory discourse, and examined Mr. H. who gave a satisfactory statement of his religious principles, Christian experience, and reasons for engaging in the work of the ministry. The ordination prayer was offered up by Mr. Lewis, of Wrexham ; the charge was given by Mr. Ely, of Bury, Lancashire, from 1 Tim. iv. 16; and Mr. Wilson. of Northwich, exhorted the people to 'encourage him,' from Deut. i. 38. The place in which Mr. Haining regularly preaches. being too small for the ordination, the Methodist chapel was kindly granted on the occasion. - The friends of the gospel will also be gratified in receiving the following intelligence:- Mr. H,. so far as we know, is the first dissenting minister ordained in this island, which is said to contain more than 36,000 inhabitants; and which lies within a few hours sail of England Scotland, and Ireland. The labours of Mr. H. on the Lord's Day, are generally confined to Douglas , but he has also established regular preaching at Peel, Castletown, Ramsey, &c. where he commonly meets with a very favourable reception. At one of these places he preaches in a room belonging to an inn ; and it ought to he mentioned, to the credit of the landlady, that her house, during the time of worship, is as free from noise as any private residence. She requires any company she may have at the, time, either to attend divine service, to be silent, or to withdraw. Mr. H. has established a Sunday-school; which promises considerable, utility. The room occupied for Worship in Douglas, is fitted up with pews, and will contain about 200 persons; but a larger and more commodious place seems very desirable. By the exertions of Mr. H.'s friends in the island, and the generous aid of the religious public in this country, this accommodation, we hope, will soon he obtained. Mr. H. is a native of Scotland, and has enjoyed a short course of education preparatory to the work of the ministry. The pecuniary assistance from the people being inadequate to the support of himself and Mrs. H. he has been under the necessity of establishing a day-school in Douglas, where he resides.

The register for Atholl Street chapel (Manx Museum microfilm RB512) starts in 1808 when on 20th August he was ordained according the rites of the dissenting Protestant church - described as 'of this town' - the children were entered in this register: James was the first baptism 15 Jan 1809 (conflict with McHardy's dates) entered as baptised by James Taylor Minister of God. He wrote a guidebook in 1822 . His son Thomas was indicated as an advocate in the Douglas Directory of 1837 [Pigot's 1837 guide].

The Gazette 27-Feb-1817 quotes Miles Leah as new independent preacher at Castletown - this M. Leah would appear to have later joined the Primitive Methodists as he is reported to have ministered at their first camp meeting 3 June 1823 and to have opened a new chapel in Braddan in Aug 1824 (when described as Mr Leah from Ramsey). The Manx Advertiser 20 June 1822 reports the opening of an independent chapel at Peel - this would appear to have been in the one-time Barracks though it is possible they used the long cellars at the rear of Castle street properties.

Nightingale [Centenary of The Lancashire Congregational Union 1806-1906] quotes Liverpool District giving Finch Hill £170 over period 1817-1825 and Union Mills £167/6/8 between 1891-8. Circular Road was aided to the sum of £200 before being sold to the Unitarians. He also makes reference to an abandoned Castletown Church 1836-9 aided to the cost of £87/10/-. (The Finch Road reference was I believe to its original home at Atholl Street).

Cubbon quotes Evangelical Magazine, 1822 as referring to 'Homilies in the Manx language' being distributed among the people of the Isle of Man and that on 27 May 1822 was formed 'The Isle of Man Congregational Itinerant Society' designed to spread the Gospel by means of preaching and of schools - it was also 'proposed to procure itinerants to preach in Manks'. Nothing seems to have come of this - the Congregationalists remained very much English based.

The next mention is in the Evangelical Magazine for Sept 1833 in connection with the formation of Missionary Societies:

The Rev. Archibald Jack, of Whitehaven, who has lately visited the Isle of Man, kindly undertook, while there, to bring the objects and the operations of the Society before the people of that island ; and, in a letter to the Home Secretary, he says :

" I was much gratified with the kind reception which Mr. Rodgerson and myself met with in the island, and the disposition shown to help the great cause of missions. The brethren in Douglas and in Castletown showed themselves quite alive in the work, and only complained that they had so long been left out of the churches to which appeals had been made for support. There are only two congregational churches on the island -one in Douglas, under the pastoral care of Mr. Haining, and the other at Castletown, under the care of Mr. Morss, who is not yet ordained. There is a Scotch church in Douglas, but in a very feeble state. I formed

An Auxiliary Society

for the Island at Douglas, which I hope will succeed. It is placed in the hands of some active young ladies, who, I have no doubt, will work well. I formed also

An Association at Castletown,

which promises well. They will both, however, be only miniatures, for there is not a Manchester in the island. Will you be so kind as to send to me, by the first monthly parcel, some missionary papers adapted for circulation at Douglas and at Castletown. that the ladies may proceed vigorously in their work. I am happy that I had an opportunity of making known the Society and its claims to many who seemed to have no idea that any other Missionary Society existed beside the Wesleyan. I promised that if it were in my power I would re-visit the island next year, and keep alive the impression made in favour of the Society. The primitive Methodists showed us much kindness in granting the use of their chapels. The collections mounted to £26 5s. 7d."


Nightingale[1893] states (presumably based on the quote above):

Possibly consequent upon this, at any rate, about that time a Congregational church was established at Castletown. The Rev. Mr. Morss was minister in 1833, but he was " not yet ordained. "

The County Union Report for the year ending April, 1837, has the following respecting Castletown:-

The Rev. Mr. BERRY states, that during the past year the interest at this place has proved a source of "animation, depression, and perplexity." Full one third of the original congregation, including several of their most active and valuable coadjutors, have been removed to England. In the midst of these discouragements, however, he considers that the cause has substantially advanced in public estimation, and the people seem to be united, and deeply concerned for the welfare of the place.... The congregation at Castletown has varied from thirty to sixty. There are at present seventeen members in the Church; there are forty children in the Sunday School. Mr. BERRY considers the village congregations as very encouraging; usually they are about forty. At the Strand in particular, the place is always full, and the congregation remarkably serious and devout.

Rev John Morss died, aged 37, in 1835 and is buried in German [note by Mary McHardy IOMFHS vol 2 no 2] which would appear to indicate that he was ordained before his untimely death which presumeably put back Congregationalism in Castletown.

Pigot's 1837 directory gives an Independent Chapel, Market buildings, Rev John Berry, minister - this may possibly indicate that the congregation met above the market hall at the corner of the Parade.

The Manx Liberal 17 March 1838 reports:

On Sunday last the Independent Chapel of Castletown having been shut up for a considerable time was re-opened for divine service when two sermons were delivered by the Rev Mr Saxton of Nottingham to a very full and respectable congregation.

However the use of this chapel cannot have continued for much longer as in the minutes of PM Quarter day meeting [MM MD717/6] for 23 Dec 1842 there is the note "that Bro Cain, W Shipley wait upon Mr Haining and inform him that according to the deeds of the chapel he cannot be allowed to hold regular service at the Castletown chapel". Judging from the entry in Nightingdale it would appear that this chapel was dependent on financial support from the Lancashire Union for 1836-1839.

Falcon Cliff Chapel, Douglas

A short lived chapel, formed 1845 and closed c.1852; funded by Mr John Jackson, manager Bank of Mona , who had left Atholl Street chapel following the death of Mr Haining. In the return for the 1851 Religious Census John Hill, Independent Minister, states it has 120 seats, with an average attendance of 60 at the morning service and 70 at the evening service. An average of 70 Sunday School scholars is also claimed. The separate return for a Sunday School stated it had been started in November 1850, had some 65 students on its books with 8 teachers; John Hill was indicated as general superintendent. Following closure of the chapel it was "transformed into an entrance to Falcon Cliff Hotel grounds."

Falcon Cliff (early 1900s)A description and brief history of the chapel is given in Mona's Herald [27 Nov 1850]:

Falcon Cliff School Soiree

In reporting a deeply interesting meeting which took place in Falcon Cliff Chapel, Douglas, on Wednesday evening, the 20th, for the benefit of our readers at a distance it may be necessary to premise that adjoining the pleasure grounds of Castle Mona, on the summit of Falcon Cliff, stands the splendid mansion of Mr Jackson, in harmony with the character of the surrounding scenery, an object of attraction to every stranger, and an ornament to our beautiful bay. Immediately beneath on the shore, is a small neat chapel of the same castellated style of architecture with the mansion above, where Divine worship is regularly performed. The benevolent proprietor, actuated by a sincere desire to promote the spiritual interests of his neighbours, who are nearly a mile away from any place of worship, aided by a few friends opened this sanctuary for the service of Almighty God in 1845; and since that time, to the present, the Gospel has been faithfully preached, irrespective of sect or party. The present minister is the Rev. John Hill, M.A., who came to the Island some months ago for the benefit of his health. The seats are all free, - the rich and poor alike welcome, - the cloven foot of bigotry has never crossed the threshold, - harmony and love pervade the little company of disciples, - tracts are circulated by them in the neighberhood,- the Heathen in foreign lands are sympathised with, and the attention of the young directed to the Cross of Christ!

Two years ago Miss Jackson, commiserating the condition of he young, opened a class for girls, and for many months (single handed) under much self denial, without patronage and without notice, has pursued the "noisless tenor of her way", supported by an "approving conscience and an approving God". Some time ago her hands were strengthened and her heart encouraged by the co-operation of Miss Moffat. Others have come to their aid, and the school has recently increased four-fold.


John Hill appears in the 1851 census living at No 1 Stanley Terrace, married, aged 57 living with wife and one daughter, all born in Scotland. Next door but one at 3 Stanley Terrace lived William Stallybrass, born in Siberia to a missionary father, then aged 31 who had come in 1845 to act as tutor to Mr Johnson's family and who in 1850 had been 'poached' by Atholl Street, where he stayed for 8 years - Curry refers to the role of William Stallybrass in converting William Proctor who initially "considered, however, that Primitive Methodism was not sufficiently intelligent for him".

Mona's Herald [17 Jul 1850] covered the re-opening service of Athol Street Chapel in a rather typical patronising editorial


It will be seen by reference to our advertising columns that special services are appointed for the day in connection with not less than four of the places of worship in our town. In one sense we regret this; yet in another it affords us pleasure, inasmuch all these services demonstrate the necessity for, and superiority of, the voluntary principle over all others


Then comes the services in connexion with the re-opening of the Independent, or Congregational Chapel, Athol Street, where for the future the Rev. W.C. Stallybrass has made arrangements to supply the services of his place of worship. The closing of this chapel for some time past has been felt as a great inconvenience by many persons in this town; and now the above rev. gentleman has consented to become its pastor, we feel assured it will be respectably filled under his ministration; and we indulge the hope on this re-opening occasion, that the friends of religious liberty will not be backward in their support of a branch of that church, to whose unwearied efforts and zealous perseverance the Dissenters of England are deeply indebted for many of their most valuable privileges.


[The reference to the 'voluntary' principle refers to attempts to levy a town rate for the support of various municipal services against which the editor Robert Faragher was a staunch opponent (see J.A.S. Brown's reminiscences]


Union Mills

To quote Nightingale:

"The Rev. James Dalrymple, who was educated at Edinburgh. His career was a somewhat chequered one; but, according to the passage previously cited from the Congregational Magazine, he was " pastor " of Kirk Michael in 1829. Probably all that is meant is that Mr. Dalrymple, who was a schoolmaster there at the time, conducted religious worship as he had opportunity, for there is no evidence that a Congregational Church ever existed at Kirk Michael. It was, however, at Union Mills that he spent the greater part of his life in preaching, in a very humble meeting house, the Gospel he so dearly loved."

The small memorial chapel was opened in 1863 but closed in 1873, in 1890 it was reopened but appears to have suffered significant problems in supporting a pastor. The chapel finally closed in 1930.


Cubbon quotes Manx Advertiser that 'J.Taylor was ordained pastor of the Independent church at Ramsey on 23rd September 1810'.


Churches & Chapels

Chapel Architecture:

Nightingale[1906] also includes a chapter overviewing Congregational Architecture - in it he splits the architecture into a number of phases; the first following on from the 1688 Act of Toleration was fairly free use of the surrounding vernacular architecture so as not to stand out, the second phase was one in which the church stood out but in 'clear and abiding protest against the Churches which the worshippers had left'. Grosvenor Chapel, Manchester is quoted as example of this form - the Atholl Street chapel though smaller and simpler is along very similar lines. By mid 19th century two forms had emerged - the Grecian with massive Doric columns and the English or semi-Gothic which grew in popularity. Finch Hill followed this trend.

Athol Street Chapel Douglas

Athol Street Chapel Douglas

Opened 1811, later became the Douglas Public library before the Douglas Town Hall was completed c.1897 after which it became a garage. After being used for offices it was demolished early 1999 - yet another loss to 'office fever' in Douglas.

The 1850s print shows the original facade.

Athol Street chapel

Grid Reference SC401781


The first trustees, of 1812, were: Alexander Bonnyman, William Kelly, John Cloke, Samuel Hill, Hugh Douglas, John Clark and Thomas Minto.

From Pigot's directory of 1823 we can find:
John Cloke was farmer near Kindroghed, Kirk Onchan, and who in 1826 would take over the newly erected Crescent Hotel.
William Kelly was woollen, &c. manufacturer, Union-mills, K. Braddan (possibly related by marriage to the Mintos)
John Clark wine and spirit merchants, grocers, Custom-House-quay Douglas
Alexander Bonnyman, Esq, Port-e-Chree
Thomas Minto, associated with the Scott family who arrived, from Roxboroughshire, around 1800, to farm Ballavoddan then owned by the Duke of Athol [see FHS soc vol 7 no 1 p20].

Finch Hill, Douglas

Finch Hill, Douglas

Opened 1866. Demolished 1997 after failed attempt to list building; stained glass windows transferred to St Matthew's, Douglas and St Columba's, Port Erin (see article in IoM Vic Soc. Newsletter #44 pp13/6 Sep 1996. The gargoyles were supposed by Swinerton.

Grid Reference SC


Circular Road, Douglas


Now demolished, building having a chequered history as Bethel Chapel and later associated with the Unitarians and Salvation Army.

Grid Reference SC


Memorial Chapel, Union Mills

The opening of the Chapel was noted in the Illustrated London News of May 16 1863:


Memorial Chapel, Union Mills


Closed on merger in 1930s. Building currently used as offices

Grid Reference SC353779



Rev B. Nightingale Lancashire Nonconformity, Vol VI [History of Congregational Church, IoM] 1906

Recollections of Rev. D. Inglis Manx Quarterly Jan 1921


The photograph of Falcon Cliff is (c) Mr Sam Wilkes with whose permission it is reproduced.


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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 2000