Laxey began as a small close knit fishing community around the mouth of the Laxey River. There was a herring smoke house and it was also important for washing and bleaching linen cloth used in the manufacture of sails.
Small scale mining began in the valley above the village. By the C19th, most of the male population worked in the mines. The women and young boys worked on the washing floors. Life was hard and wages were low. Miners had to pay for explosives and other supplies. There was no welfare state and if miners were badly hurt and unable to work or too old to work, they were reliant on Friendly Societies to support them.
As the mines grew, the harbour at the mouth of the river was improved by two breakwaters and a warehouse was built on the quayside.
A new road was built with a bridge was built across the river. Washing floors extended down the valley with a tramway carrying the lead ore to the harbour.
The population of Laxey grew rapidly in the 1840s with the growth of the Laxey Mines. The nearest church was three miles away in Lonan. Land was given by George William Dumbell, chairman of the Laxey Mining Company to build a new church and a building fund was launched. The bishop and archdeacon contributed but most of the money came from the mining company.
Christ Church was consecrated in 1856 and cost £950 to build. Work in the mines was stopped for the day so miners could attend the consecration service. The church did not have a burial ground as bodies continued to be interred at Lonan Parish Church.
It is a very simple church set among the trees near the Manx Electric railway Station. It now houses the Laxey Valley Welcome Centre and has an exhibition about the area and lead mining.
As the settlement grew, miners houses were built along Miner’s road which lead from above the washing floors to the mines.
Laxey Flour Mills opened in 1860 followed by a Woollen Mill in 1881 bringing alternative employment to the area. Both are still working. The Ballacregga Corn Mill opened further up the valley. It was sold in 1945 and is now a cafe but still retains its waterwheel.
Victorian visitors began to arrive at the Isle of Man and with the opening of the Manx Electric Railway in 1894 and the Snaefell Mountain Railway the following year.
Numbers visiting Laxey grew rapidly. Visitors paid to climb the wheel. Enterprising families in Dumbell’s Terrace along Miners Road soon opened their homes to sell refreshments and the row of houses soon became named ‘Ham and Eggs Terrace’.
At the start of the terrace is the memorial statue honouring those who worked in the Great Laxey Mine. Carvings around the base depict the train used to carry miners into the mine, the 'man engine' used to carry men to and from the work face and a mining scene.
Laxey Glen Gardens was opened by an enterprising business man to cater for the increasing number of visitors. There was a mass planting of mass programme of tree planting with secluded walks, bowers and rustic seats. Visitors were charged 3d to enter and there was croquet, lawn tennis and bowling greens as well as a boating lake and dance floor. There were open air concerts and night dances lit by gas lamps. A large family home was built at entrance of the glen which had twelve bedrooms for paying guests. This is now a residential care home for the elderly.
The boating lake has now been filled in and is now a grassy paddock with a small playground. There are attractive flower gardens at the start of the glen by the Laxey Glen Pavilion.
The beach is pebble and Laxey never became a place to stay and most people were day visitors. It was (and still is) also quite a long walk from the Manx Electric Station. The Promenade was built in 1929 as part of a winter work scheme for former miners. It lacks the grand hotels of Douglas and Port Erin. Later development was up the hillside.
On Ballaragh Road in Minorca, a ‘suburb’ of upper Laxey, are two 5000 year old chambered cairns, King Orry's Graves, named after an almost legendary character revered by the Manx as their greatest king and founder of Mann.
The Laxey Heritage Trail is an excellent guide to Laxey village .