Tower of Refuge, Douglas

Tower of Refuge

Instantly recognisable feature of Douglas Harbour - built on top of Conister rocks which are submerged at high tide and prior to the building of the refuge (and the new pier) had claimed many lives.

The brainchild of Sir William Hillary, and designed by John Welch, the first stone was laid by Lady Hillary on Easter Monday, April 23rd, 1832, since when not a single accident has occurred !

Total cost of the Tower £254 : 12s. subscribed by 63 subscribers; of this sum Sir Wm. Hillary initially paid £8 plus another £73 6s required to make up the shortfall between subscriptions and cost; the Commissioners of Isle of Man Harbours £75 - most others paid about £1.


A 1877 guide carried the advertisement shown on the right - obviously any oysters to be found there had been planted by the organisers! However as then (and until very recently) Douglas discharged its untreated sewage into the bay with the main pipe not too far from the tower, the enterprise did not catch on once this had been pointed out!

Oyster Bed

Phillip's engraved view of Tower of Refuge

Views similar to this by Phillips of c.1850 are to be found in all the guide books.


The Building of the Tower of Refuge Journal Manx Museum vol V #66 p68/9 June 1942

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Any comments, errors or omissions gratefully received The Editor
© F.Coakley , 1999