Port Skillion


Built 1874 by Mr Robert Archer, draper, who also built the Traie Fogog baths at Peel, together with much of the new road from the Battery Pier to Douglas Head.

Possibly the first open air swimming pool in the British Isles. Intended for gentlemen only (mixed bathing was a thing of the future!) it would appear to have drawn an appreciative female audience as witness letter to Manx Sun (23 Aug 1884)

SIR,-Let me appeal, to the Town Commissioners to interfere in a matter,which gravely affects the good name of Douglas. I refer to the gross indecency of the dresses worn by men bathers. They are dwindled to almost nothing. In old days, when men bathed with no covering, things were better; for women kept away, or were ashamed to be seen near the bathing places. Now, however, Port Skillicorn, is thronged with women gazing at the bathers. This being so, the dress worn ought to be decent. It should reach at, least from the waist to the middle of the thigh, as is the case at all other sea-side resorts that I have ever visited. Let the Town Commissioners see for themselves the apology for dress that is worn, I suppose to save the expense of a little more calico. It is a mystery to me that because men happen to be bathing, they should be allowed to appear in a public place in a state of undress which would lead to their being locked-up were they not bathing. It is also a mystery that women can be so lost to all sense of modesty us to haunt what is in fact an exhibition of naked men. The path past Port Skillicorn is a public path,and ought to be made possible for modest woman to use it in going to Douglas Head. I have been ashamed to hear the remarks made by visitors about "The customs of the Island.". Faithfully yours A Manxman

The above postcard view does not actually show the wall (to left of view) which retained the water after the high tide.to provide an enclosed pool.

Port Skillion Baths
1922 view of pool

Browns Guide of 1906 describes it:

This famous bathing place is a small rocky creek just inside the Head, and is so sheltered from the tidal waves. Concrete walls have been built across it at different levels, thus forming swimming basins of considerable area and of varying depths. The swimming or plunge bath is about 80 feet long, with an average breadth of 60ft. The depth graduates from 2¼ feet to eight feet, at its deepest end. The pool contains upwards of 176,000 gallons of the purest sea water, which is renewed every day, by the tides. From platforms constructed at the extremities of the creek " headers " may be taken, and glorious excursions made out into the free waters of the bay ; and few more delightful or invigorating exercises can be imagined than a swim across the southern bay to the Conister Rock. These commodious bathing places, with the necessary dressing-rooms and other fittings, as well as the roads to and from them, have been provided by the liberality of Mr. R. Archer, at a cost of between £2,000 and £3,000, and they are kept by him in complete order and efficiency. They are free to all ; but a nominal charge is made by the attendants for the use of dressing-rooms and towels.

Damaged in storm in 1932.


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