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Isle of Man Peel and St Patrick's Isle


Peel is the largest settlement on the west side of the island and is renowned for its stunning sunsets. On a clear day there are good views of the Mountains of Mourne and this is the place to come to see basking sharks.

Peel has a long history. Hunter gatherers from the stone age settled on St Patrick's Isle and later the Irish Missionaries established a monastery here. The Vikings built a castle and it became the capital of the island during Viking times, and the seat of the bishopric. A small settlement grew up round St Patrick’s Isle, which gradually became Peel.

With the building of Castle Rushen, Peel’s importance waned. Peel castle continued to be used by the Lord’s of Mann until the Civil War and continued as a garrison until the Napoleonic Wars. The cathedral was in ruins after the Civil War and attempts were made to patch it up.

St Peter’s Church in the centre of Peel was built as a Chapel of Ease for the cathedral after a boat carrying a coffin for burial was wrecked. When the cathedral fell into disrepair in the C17th and C18th, St Peter’s became the parish church.

There were plans to rebuild the old cathedral in 1870 but it was decided that it would be too great a task. Instead a new church, St German’s, was built, which would replace St Peter’s. This was consecrated as a cathedral in 1980.

St Peter’s Church was no longer needed and much of the building was destroyed by a fire in 1958, just leaving the tower and part of the east wall standing.


Peel became a very important fishing settlement with the River Neb providing safe anchorage. The pier and breakwater were built at the end of the C18th with further improvements in the C19th. The breakwater has deep water berths and a small lighthouse at the end.


The inner harbour has a pedestrian swing bridge and automatically operated flap gates to retain water at low tide.


Fishing boats usually moor alongside the breakwater, although some also use the inner harbour.


Part of the inner harbour is now a marina for leisure craft.


With the arrival of the railway from Douglas in 1873, summer visitors arrived and hotels were built along the promenade, although Peel never developed as a holiday centre in the way Port Erin did.


The railway shut in 1968 and all that remains is the water tower and a level crossing. The station was demolished and is now the site of the House of Manannan. A small transport museum opened in the disused offices of a brickworks close to the water tower.


The centre of Peel is still unspoilt with narrow streets dropping down to the sea.



Michael Street, the main shopping street, has hardly changed over the years with its small family owned shops.


Peel was the main fishing port for the island, particularly catching herring. By the mid C19th over 1,700 men worked on the boats. The herring were either preserved by packing in salt or by smoking to become kippers. There are still two kipper smokeries in Peel, Devereau’s and Moore’s, although Moore’s is the only one who still smokes traditionally over oak and pine chippings.


Tours are run on Monday afternoons during the summer which take you into the smoke house. The herrings are gutted, soaked in brine and then hung on racks above the wood chip fire for up to 12 hours.


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1000+ Posts
Peel cont...

The House of Manannan is the flagship (and most expensive) of the Manx Heritage properties.


When it opened on the site of the old Peel Railway Station in 1997, it was cutting edge, state of the art. Unfortunately times have moved on, but not the exhibits or the museum. It is still popular with the children although there is little factual information for those wanting to find out more information about the Isle of Man. Visit the Manx Museum in Douglas for this! A surprising number of people just seemed to amble through taking little notice of the exhibits.

The museum is named after the Island’s sea god, Manannan, who could cast a cloak of mist around the island to protect it from its enemies. On the ground floor, Manannan acts as a guide through the early history of the island. A short video sets the scene and you are then led by Manannan through a series of tableaux illustrating the different periods of history. There are also a few interactive screen giving a bit more information.

The early Celts left no written history, but there was a strong oral tradition of story telling. There is a full size replica of a Celtic roundhouse constructed from upright posts infilled with wattle and daub. The family sit around the central hearth listening to stories told by the family elder.


The next scene depicts an early Christian burial


The Vikings arrive, settle and intermarry with the native Celts. The language remains Celtic although Norse place names appear. There is a scene in a Viking longhouse, complete with a conversation which could have come direct from Eastenders. The attention to detail of the reconstruction is immaculate, but there was no written information.



This then leads into the story of the Viking crosses. Beyond this is the two thirds replica of Odin’s Raven, a Viking longship made in Norway which was sailed to Peel to mark the 1000 year celebrations of Tynwald. There is some information about the voyage but little about Viking boats or how they enabled the Vikings to cover such long distances to become a powerful maritime force.


Outside the museum are three Vikings pulling the boat onto dry land.


Manannan is now left behind and the tour continues upstairs to the Chronicles of Man exhibition with a copy of the Chronicles of Man which was originally written by monks at Rushen Abbey and covers Manx history from 1066-1316. A series of display boards give a very brief potted history of the island at that time. There are a few other artefacts including pieces of pottery, and coins as well as a seal, and ring. Dressing up costumes and swords are popular with the younger visitors.

Stairs lead to the maritime galleries with street scenes from Peel, complete with smells. There is a chandler’s shop complete with a machine making ship’s biscuit’. Above is the sail maker’s loft.



Through ‘windows’ are street scenes, each depicting a different scene and ‘conversation’ with transcripts available.

This leads through into a reconstructed kipper smoke house. Again there was minimal information. You would be better visiting Moore’s Kippers and seeing the reel thing!



There is also a display about Isle of Man Steam Packet Company with a lot of small models of the different ships and a mock bridge to steer the boat.

The Leece Museum is just a short distance away in the Old Courthouse building on the quayside.


It is a fascinating hotchpotch of exhibits and is also free! The top floor is social history artefacts - from a rocking horse to everything from rocking horses to carved cow's horns done by inmates of the WW2 internment camps for foreign 'aliens who were housed near Peel.



The ground floor is a is a mecca for anyone interested in motor bikes and the TT races.



1000+ Posts
St Patrick's Isle

Until the building of a causeway in the C18th, St Patrick’s Isle was separated from the mainland by a narrow channel of water. It has been both a religious site and a fortress during its long history.


It has been inhabited for at least 7000 years. Flint tools have been found from Neolithic hunter gatherers, attracted by the abundant fish and fresh water. There is evidence of Iron Age timber dwellings from 600BC.

St Patrick’s Isle began as a religious settlement when Irish monks arrived here around 500AD and founded a Monastery. It has been a burial site since the C7th. The first buildings would have been made of wood but were later replaced by stone. Round Towers were common in Ireland and were used as a refuge by the local population in times of trouble.

The earliest remains on the Isle are the Round Tower and St Patrick’s Church, with its herring bone masonry, which date from the C10th. Another chapel to the north of St Patrick’s Church may be a similar date. These formed the core of a Christian community from 950-1050. (The building with the two gable walls by the round tower is C17th.)



The Vikings arrived around 900, firstly as raiders, but later settled and married Celtic women. Seven pagan Viking graves have been found On St Patrick’s Isle, including that of the ‘Pagan Lady’ which was one of the richest female graves found outside Scandinavia. The beautiful necklace of glass, jet and amber beads found in the burial is now on display in the Manx Museum.

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The function gradually changed from primarily ecclesiastical to one combining church and military. The Norwegian King, Magnus Barelegs, built the first recorded fortifications on the Isle. He arrived in Peel in 1098 and realising its strategic importance, built a fort here. This was probably a wooden tower on a mound surrounded by a timber palisade. A small trading establishment grew up at the mouth of the River Neb, under the protection of the fort.

This map is taken from “A Guide to the Archaeological Sites of the Isle of Man up to 1500" which. unfortunately, is now out of print.

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When Castle Rushen was completed in 1242, it became the main seat of the Kings of Mann. St Patrick’s Isle was no longer needed as a fortress and Magnus II gave it to the church in 1257.

Bishop Simon began to build the red sandstone St German’s cathedral in 1240, probably on the site of an earlier church. The chancel was built first, followed by transepts around 1300. The short nave was eventually completed in 1400. Bishop Simon is buried in the chancel, along with several other bishops. Beneath the chancel is a crypt. This was originally a reliquary but later became an ecclesiastical prison until the 1700s.




Domestic buildings, including a hall, living accommodation and kitchens were built to the north of the cathedral. This was the seat of the Bishop of Sodor and Man, although he used Bishopscourt in the north of the island, as his residence from the C13th.

At the end of the Viking rule in 1266, the Isle of Man changed hands several times between Scotland and England, until finally coming under English control in 1346. St Patrick’s Isle was a strategic site for the movement of troops and provisions. The church buildings were requisitioned by the military and used as a fortress and to house a garrison during this time. Parts of defences of Magnus Barelegs were rebuilt and the rampart overlooking Peel was strengthened by the addition of an earthen bank on top of the old wall.

A gateway entrance and tower were built around 1350, at the weakest point on the island, along with a short stretch of curtain wall on either side and another tower overlooking what is now Fenella beach.

The gateway tower was reached up a steep flight of steps and had guard rooms on the ground floor. On the two floors above were the living quarters used by the King. Above is a battlemented fighting platform. A barbican was added later giving additional protection.



Three other towers were built round the perimeter of the Isle to give extra accommodation.


The rest of the curtain wall as completed in the late C15th, possibly as a response to a Scottish attack in 1456. Battlements were added to the top of the Round Tower. An earth bank round the inside of the wall was a response to the increasing damage of artillery power, as earth could absorb the destructive energy of cannon fire.


A new battery was built at the westernmost point of castle to defend mouth of river, and this was provided with a wide ramp for a cannon. St Patrick’s Isle was by now a virtually impregnable fortress.


Following the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the C16th, the domestic buildings to the north of the cathedral were taken over by the Earls of Derby as more comfortable living accommodation.


During the C16th, cannons were increasingly being used for defence. A three gun battery was built outside the northernmost point of the castle and a large round two gun battery in the centre on an earthen mound to absorb the shock of cannon fire.


A small armoury built to store weapons, ammunition and gunpowder. A large garrison hall was built just south of the Round Tower, with sleeping quarters on top floor.


After the Civil war, the cathedral was in ruins, with the crypt serving as an ecclesiastical prison. This was used to house everyone from fishermen going out on a Sunday to those convicted of witchcraft.

The chancel was repaired ‘at great expense’ in 1692-7 and the roof replaced, except for the tower. By 1710, the nave was unusable. An Act of Tynwald authorised the removal of lead from the roof to pay for for a new parish church for Patrick. By 1725, the cathedral was in a dilapidated state and unfit for divine service. Permission to repair it for use in services was denied as St Patrick’s Isle was still being used as a military base. The last bishop to be enthroned there was in 1784.

In 1785, the Duke of Atholl ordered that the castle, apart from the armoury and storehouses, be demolished. A causeway was built to connect it to the mainland. The Atholls paid off their soldiers and stripped the castle of its guns and sheep grazed in the castle.

During the American War of Independence, the Commodore of the US Navy, John Paul Jones attacked British vessels in the Irish Sea, and Peel Castle was once again occupied an important military position. A battery of four pounder guns was installed in Peel castle in 1781.The defences were further strengthened in response to the threat of the Napoleonic Wars. Additional gun batteries were built using stone robbed from the cathedral.


A magazine was built.


By the late 1840s, the curtain wall was in a perilous state and in danger of collapse between the gatehouse and cathedral. The castle was no longer needed for defensive purposes and abandoned.

In 1870, Bishop Rowley Hill wanted to restore the ruins of the cathedral and began to raise money. It was eventually decided that the task was too great and the money could be put to better use to build a new cathedral in Peel.


With growing reputation as a holiday destination in the C19th, Governor Loch decided to develop St Patrick’s Isle as a tourist attraction. Fallen rubble was cleared and walls repaired. A custodian was appointed to show visitors round for a small fee. The site is now in the care of Manx National Heritage.

The outer curtain wall still stands, surrounding the Isle, but the buildings are ruined. On a sunny day it is an idyllic spot.


1000+ Posts
The Cathedral Church of St German

Usually just referred to as Peel Cathedra, this is built on higher land to the south west of the town centre and its square turreted tower stands above the town.


The original cathedral on St Patrick’s Isle was a roofless ruin by the C19th. There had been plans to restore it, but in the end it was decided the task was too great and the money would be better spent on a new building.

St German’s Church was built between 1879 and 1884 using the local red sandstone. It is a large and impressive Victorian Gothic building. It was eventually consecrated as a cathedral in 1980.


The cathedral gardens tell the story of Christianity on the island from the arrival of the early Irish Missionaries to the present day with a Peace Garden.



The inside is attractive with an arcade of Cheshire sandstone separating the nave from the side aisles.


At the back of the cathedral is a small treasury with a display of church silver from the C15th.


The great west window depicts the Nativity and was installed after a hurricane in 1903 blew in the original window.


The font and pulpit are both made from Caen stone. The carved wood screen in the north transept was given in memory of a local headmistress



The organ is in the south transept. The menorah in front of it was made by an Israeli blacksmith from spent missiles from the Israel/Palestine conflicts for the Anne Frank Exhibition in 2010


The chancel apse is small compared with the rest of the cathedral. The wood altar has an open carved front. Behind it is a painted reredos carved from Caen stone with the four evangelists. On either side are paintings of Old Testament figures. The three apse windows show the Resurrection in the centre, with the transfiguration on the left and the Ascension on the right.






1000+ Posts
The Cathedral Church of St German

The organ is in the south transept. The menorah in front of it was made by an Israeli blacksmith from spent missiles from the Israel/Palestine conflicts for the Anne Frank Exhibition in 2010

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First of all, thanks very much Eleanor for all these recent (and older) posts of various historical sites and interesting locations. I read almost all of them, and while my knowledge on the subjects is close to zero, I certainly get a good overview of them, especially with your clear descriptions and abundant photos. Really almost like being there, knowing I most probably never will.

This menorah/candelabrum got me interested.
Albeit this is certainly a modern way to express Isaiah the Prophet's vision of "beating swords into ploughshares", and I'm not familiar with the role of the menorah in a church or in Christianity - still, I find the choice of a religious artefact made of weaponry in a place of worship a bit strange.
Googling brought up the apparent identity of the blacksmith involved. Going over his website, I felt even more confused about the presence of this.
But I'm not to judge, and IAC this made for an interesting diversion this evening.
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