King William's College

KWV by Watts, 1834

One of the first public schools to be founded in the 19th Century - built from the proceeds of the Bishop Barrow Trust it opened in August 1833 and still continues, very successfully, today. However this page concentrates on the 19th Century aspects.

Canon Hinton Bird discusses what in his opinion was the somewhat dubious circumstances in which money allocated for a theological seminary to train Manx priests became used to fund a public school, most of whose pupils have been non-Manx with no connection with the Island. Famous non-manx pupils include Dean Farrar and Sir W.H. Bragg among many others. Many Manx boys who later went onto hold senior posts on the Island also attended the college, the most famous being T.E.Brown who for a brief period was Vice-Principal.

1831 Design
Proposed Design from 1831 Oswald's Guide - drawn by J. Welch

The building was designed by E. Welch and J. Hansom though J. Welch claimed to have redesigned the tower after his brother left the Island; later rebuilt to a somewhat different design in 1844 after a disasterous fire. J.G.Cumming who was vice-principal from 1841-1856 gave an early history in his book on the Island.
Publicity of a slightly less desireable kind, was provided by F.W. Farrar in his tale of school life Eric; or little by little written in 1858 set in a thinly disguised Rosyln College on the Isle of Roslyn, which painted a rather black picture of poor teaching and bullying. This account is well backed up by that of James M. Wilson published in his autobiography as well as that by E S Beesly.

Many building extensions have taken place over the last 160 years. The roof of the college was raised in 1892 to add another 5 dormitories at the expense of damage to the facade. - see photo for a 1920's view.


1836 advertisement

The following advertisment is found in Quiggin's 1836 guide:


Principal.-The Rev. EDWARD WILSON, M.A., late Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge.
Vice-Principal.-the Rev. ROBERT DIXON, M.A., of Catharine Hall,Cambridge.-Assistant, Mr. A. F. CHARTER.
Third Master-The Rev. JOHN L. STOWELL, B.A., of Queen's College Oxford.-Assistant, Mr. J. JAMES.
Fourth Master-Mr. G. HARVEY.-Assistant, Mr. D. S. CHARTER.
French and German Master,-Mr. F. U. GRISEL.
Drawing Master-Mr. A. WATTS.

For Pupils between 7 and 10 years of age,£ 1 0 0 per Quarter.
Ditto 10 and 13 1 10 0
Ditto 13 and 18 , 2 0 0
Ditto 18 2 10 0

Extras-French, 10s.6d. per Quarter; German,Ditto, Drawing 15s. Ditto; Washing, 10s. Ditto; and Books and Stationary on moderate terms.
Boarders are received into the College, under the superintendence of the VICE-PRINCIPAL; and by the THIRD MASTER ·into his own House, as private pupils, at £25 per Annum for boys who are natives of the Island, and £30 for boys who are not, exclusive of the fees: single beds are provided.
Vacations · July & Aug; 1 week at Easter & Christmas.

Principals and Masters


1832-1838 Rev E. Wilson
1838-1841 Rev A Phillips
1841-1865 Rev R.Dixon
1866-1886 Rev Joshua Jones (changed name to Joshua Hughes-Games)
1886-1899 Rev F. B. Walters

A.F. Watts provided many Island views including that reproduced at the head of the page; he was replaced by Mr Edward Delamotte (later Professor of Landscape Drawing Royal Military College Sandhust) who also left many views of the Island.

John Stowell's teaching abilities are dissected by Hugh Stowell Brown who encountered him as a pupil.


M.J.Backwell Centenary Notes and Pictures Castletown 1933
E.C. Owen "A Hundred Years of Education" Douglas:Brown & Sons 1933
Hinton Bird An Island That Led - the History of Manx Education Vol 1 + 2 Port St. Mary 1993/5 (ISBN 0-9516918-0-5, 0-9516918-1-3)
Michael Hoy A Blessing to this Island The Story of King William's Colleg and Buchan School London: James & James 2006 (ISBN 1-904022-12-X)
KWC Register, 1833-1905
Barrovian Magazine

 [Castletown Index]


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