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Isle of Man Ramsey


Ramsey is the second largest town on the Isle of Man and is the main service centre for the north of the island. At the mouth of the River Sulby it has a sweeping sandy bay which attracted Victorian summer visitors.

The Vikings landed in Ramsey in 1079 and, after the collapse of Viking rule in 1265, it became a strategic location in the power struggle between the English and the Scots for control of the island.

By 1600, Ramsey was an important settlement, with the oldest part of the town with its narrow streets, around the harbour. The well sheltered but tidal harbour is protected by two breakwaters. In the C19th, boats were often able to dock here when winds made docking difficult in Douglas.



The harbour is still busy with fishing boats and pleasure boats and also has a small shipyard.


The Albert Tower overlooking the town was built to commemorate the visit of Prince Albert in 1847. The Royal Yacht anchored in the bay when heavy seas made it impossible to land in Douglas Harbour. Queen Victoria remained on the boat recovering from sea sickness while Prince Albert came ashore. He climbed up the hill, which now bears his name, for views of the town. The tower was built the following year.

Holiday makers began to arrive in the Isle of Man in the 1870s. An area of saltmarsh to the north of the Sulby River was bought by the Ramsey Commissioners in 1881 and developed into a pleasure park to attract visitors. Mooragh Park is still popular with its boating lake, cafes, children’s play area and sporting facilities. Large hotels were built along Mooragh Promenade.

Queen’s Pier was built in 1886 to provide landing at all stages of the tide for steamships bringing visitors to Ramsey. A tramway used to transport building material was used to push passengers luggage by hand. By 1900 a passenger car was added to carry passengers the 2160’ down the pier. By 1969, passenger numbers had dropped and the passenger service stopped. The pier was still open for anglers and holiday makers. The tramway closed in 1981 and the pier in 1990 when it was regarded as unsafe. In 2010, it was recommended that the pier be saved from demolition and in 2017 a lease was signed with the Manx Government to begin restoration work.


The Manx Electric Tramway arrived in Ramsey in 1898 bringing visitors to Ramsey. It still runs in the summer months and its terminus is near the town centre.


Ramsey maintains a thriving town centre with small family run shops. Felton’s Ironmongers on Parliament Square was opened in 1859 and is a wonderfully old fashioned shop which has disappeared from most high streets, but still sells everything.


Parliament Street is the main shopping street.


Away from the main shopping area and harbour, there are many splendid buildings and attractive terraces of C19th housing,


St Paul's Church

St Paul’s Church is the parish church and was built in 1822 to cater for the growing population of Ramsey.

The original parish church was at Maughold, a walk of nearly four miles. A small Chapel of Ease was built in Ballure, just south of Ramsey in 1784. The population of Ramsey grew rapidly in the early C19th and Ballure was no longer able to accommodate the congregation. A building fund was established and the new church of St Paul’s was consecrated in 1822.

The original building was a simple oblong and was soon too small. The west gallery was added in 1830, mainly for use of the musicians (clarinet, fiddle and serpent) who provided the music until the organ was built in 1852.

The two side wings were added in 1844 with galleries above. The church originally had a small vestry at the east end. This was opened up to form the small chancel and a new vestry was added. The flat roof in the nave was removed, exposing the massive roof timbers. A new font and pulpit were placed in the church.

The porch was enlarged in 1938 with stairs leading to the galleries. The church is now backed by 1960s housing.

It is a very stylish church with a central square tower, white plaster walls and red sandstone corner stones and pinnacles.


Inside it feels a massive church, reflecting the prosperity of Ramsey and still has a gallery round three sides, supported by white wooden pillars.


The ornately carved stone font is at the back of the nave.


The pulpit and reader’s desk are painted white and picked out in gold paint.


The organ with its painted pipes was installed on the north wall of the choir in 1852.


The chancel is small compared to the rest of the church and reached through a low arch. The two wooden chairs on either side of the altar came from Ballure Chapel when it closed.



The altar has Christ in Glory in the centre base. On either side are the conversion of Saul and St Maughold landing in Man.


The east window is late C19th and has Christ as the Good Shepherd in the centre panel. On either side is the miraculous catch of fish and a sower. The other stained glass windows are also late C19th.



The Lady Chapel with its carved altar and red hangings is at the end of the south wing. The altar rails came from Ballure Chapel.


At the end of the north wing is the memorial chapel with a lovely altar frontispiece with red poppies. Standards are propped against the walls.


Grove Museum of Rural Life

The Grove on the northern outskirts of Ramsey was the much loved country home of the Gibb family.

Wealthy shipping merchant, Duncan Gibb, visited the Isle of Man on holiday in the 1830s, and fell in love with a small secluded cottage for sale on the Andreas road on the the outskirts of Ramsey. He bought it as a summer retreat for his family, along with their governess, two maids and a manservant.

Gibb extended the cottage by adding a second storey and building on two rooms at the front with a hallway. The old cottage became the kitchen and scullery. When Gibb retired in the 1860s, the family moved here permanently and The Grove became a much loved family home with a thriving farm attached. The family wealth dwindled although his two unmarried grand daughters lived here until their death in the 1970s, when the estate was purchased by Manx National Heritage.

The house has been maintained much as it was in its Victorian heyday, complete with family furnishings and possessions. There was no running water until the 1920s and electricity didn’t arrive until after the Second World War. Fireplaces burned coal which was imported to the island and expensive. Peat cut on nearby hills, was also used as a source of fuel. Gorse provided kindling. Portable heaters provided extra heat in the winter months. Stone hot water bottles were used to warm beds and also carried under clothing to provide warmth.

From the outside, The Grove is a rather uninspiring large rectangular building with a front porch and covered with drab rendering.


The original cottage can still be seen at the back with the rough stone walled carriage shed. The farm buildings are in the yard at the back of the house.


The front door leads into a hallway with dining room off on the left and the drawing room on the right. Stairs lead up to the first floor rooms.

The olive green and gold flock wallpaper in the dining room is the original. The fireplace is made of black marble from Pooil Vaaish near Castletown.


The drawing room is a typically cluttered Victorian room. The piano in the corner of the room came from the Liverpool house and all the daughters would have learned how to play. This room was used for parties. The tiger skin rug on the floor reflects family connections with India.


The kitchen, with its cast iron range used for cooking and hot water, was at the back of the house. On of the maid’s first jobs in the morning was to light the fire for hot water for the family to wash.


The dresser contains a selection of crockery and storage jars.


The bells are above the door. Each room had its own bell pull with a slightly different ring.

The scullery is behind the kitchen. The gardener left vegetables here for the maids to wash and prepare, as well as firewood and kindling for the kitchen range and household fires. Delivery boys left goods here. Washing up was done here as well as cleaning and filling of oil lamps.


Steps lead down from the scullery to the coal house.


At the top of the stairs is the master bedroom, with dressing table, wash stand and a small fireplace.


The middle room above the hallway would originally have been the dressing room for the main bedroom. It is now displayed as a sewing room, and there are examples of old sewing machines. Daughters were not expected to have jobs or careers and were taught skills like needlecraft, running a household, managing the cook, gardener and servants.


The final room would have been a second bedroom but now has a display of Victorian and early C20th clothes, including a tennis outfit and mourning dress. There are also display cabinets with jewellery.

At the back of the house is a small toy room and what was originally the maid's bedroom in what was the original cottage. This has examples of old heaters and an exhibition about bee keeping, with examples of different styles of bee hives and a honey press.

Grove Museum of Rural Life cont...

The farm buildings are arranged round the yard at the back of the house. Outside the scullery window is the pump which provided cold water for the household.


The carriage shed is built onto the back of the house.


This has examples of old perambulators, a hand drawn water barrel as well as an ice box. From the end of the C19th there were ice deliveries from Ramsey. There is also a Victorian shower, popular before the days of piped water. This was a tall wooden cupboard with a container at the top which was filled with warm water from the kitchen. The water drained through a perforated screen and a servant had to pump a handle to recycle the water.


Opposite the carriage shed are the stables, a substantial stone building, reflecting the importance of horses in Victorian times.


The barn next to the stables contains old agricultural equipment.


The outside toilet is at the end of the stable block. Ash was used to absorb the contents and these were emptied out through a small hole in the wall.


A flock of Loaghtan sheep grazing in the field behind the stable block. These are now classified as a rare breed and are native to the Isle of Man and were ideally suited to rough upland grazing.


Down the side of the house is the horse driven threshing mill. Two horses were harnessed to the long wooden beam.


This was connected by an underground cog and shaft drive to the rotating wooden ‘flyers’ inside the stone mill building. This separated the ears of wheat which fell down a wooden shute into sacks. The chaff was removed along sloping racks. There is also a display of old ploughs here.


Milntown House and Gardens

On the outskirts of Ramsey, this is the only country house and garden regularly open to the public.

Milntown House dates from the C16th, although it was extended in the C17th and the Gothic facade was added in the 1830s.


This was the home of the Christian Family, a powerful and influential family on the island, until the end of the C19th when the family became bankrupt. The house became a boarding school for the daughters of gentleman, a hotel and then a private house. The estate was bought in 1963 by Lady Kathleen Edwards. It was bequeathed to the nation on the death of her son, Sir Clive, and is now run as a charitable trust. It is furnished as it was at the time of Sir Clive’s death. in 1999 and tours are run twice a week during the summer months. . Sir Clive had a lifelong interest in motor sport. His collection of vintage cars and motorcycles is displayed in the courtyard.

The house is surrounded by 15 acres of gardens and woodland.

The back of the house is very plain compared to the front. The lawn in front of it surrounded by colourful flower borders and a water feature. At the far end is a small vegetable garden.




A gateway leads to the watermill fed from a large mill pond with ducks. It is now used as a workshop.


The buildings next to it contain a collection of vintage cars and motorbikes which belonged to Sir Clive Edward


Another gateway leads into the walled garden, with its herbaceous borders and tree ferns.



Beyond the walled garden is a large area of deciduous woodland with carved statues of dinosaurs. Gunnera grows along the leat leading to the mill pond.



The gardens are well maintained and there are plenty of seats to sit in the sun and enjoy the gardens.


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