Hill Street, Douglas, Isle of Man
Together with the Ramsey church, St Mary of the Isle is one of only two listed Roman Catholic structures on the Isle of Man. When built in 1859, it expressed the confidence of the island’s Catholic community. An impressive work by Henry Clutton, a leading ecclesiastical architect of the mid 19th century, with important 20th century furnishings by Giles Gilbert Scott, and containing other significant art works, it is a building of major interest.
The first permanent Catholic church, St Bridget’s, was built in 1813 on the outskirts of Douglas. It was a modest building, and with a growing number of Catholics taking up residence and holidaying on the island, it had become necessary by 1850 to find a larger and more central site. Land was eventually purchased in Athol Street, and Henry Clutton was appointed architect. The foundation stone for St Mary’s was laid in 1857. It provoked considerable opposition: The Manx Sun considered in ‘an aggression’, and lawless mobs caused damage so that it became necessary to erect a high wall around the site to afford security for worshippers. In 1862, metal grilles were placed on the windows to protect them from breakage. The church was opened on 4 August 1859.
The presbytery, also designed by Clutton, was built in 1860. Sinnott, Sinnott and Powell added the single storey extension built against the west wall of the church to provide extra confessionals and a mission library. In 1889 the same architects introduced the timber ceiling over the nave. Clutton’s design left the muscular roof trusses exposed, but this was found wanting both thermally and acoustically. The organ gallery was extended in 1874 to make room for a larger organ, although this was removed in the 1920s when the existing organ was installed. A number of enhancements were made under the direction of Giles Gilbert Scott, beginning with the High Altar in 1910, and continuing through the 1920s. In 1930, a former auction room in Myrtle Street adjoining the church was acquired and converted to a parish hall. Various alterations and improvements have been made to it over the years.
A NOTE ON THE WAR MEMORIAL, by Mr. Michael Statham
The Memorial for the First World War in St Mary’s is one of only two known memorials in Catholic churches which were designed by Giles Gilbert Scott and make by W. Clarke of Llandaff. The other is in St Paul’s, Liverpool.
In April 1923 Clarke’s were commissioned by G. Gilbert Scott to make a tablet commemorating those parishioners of St Mary’s Roman Catholic church, Douglas, Isle of Man who fell in WW1. This included photographing the finished article in their workshop. The job was completed by the second week of June.
The Day Book record indicates the tablet was constructed of Hopton Wood stone. Sid Pollard worked on the slab, which took 44 hours and also made copper stays which took an extra 4 hours. Dare was responsible for the inscription, which took him 157.5 hours. A mason spent one hour erecting the tablet in the workshop for photographing. Day works, materials and expenses came to £22.10s.7d. and the final bill was £29.17s.0d. representing a profit of about 24.5%. The account and receipt were sent to
Rev. Dean Crookall, at St. Mary’s church. The tablet is mounted on a backing stone in an alcove on the left as you enter the church by the main door.
Taking Stock is grateful to Mr. Statham for this additional information.
Last updated: 03.01.2018.
Architect: H. Clutton
Original Date: 1857
Conservation Area: Yes
Listed Grade: II