The Manx Museum (Thie Tashtee Vannin) in Douglas, Isle of Man is the national museum of the Isle of Man. It is run by Manx National Heritage. The museum opened in 1922, in a building that was formerly Noble's Old Hospital. It was expanded and remodeled during 1986-89. The Manx Museum is bursting with artefacts and treasures unique to the Isle of Man. The Island’s 10,000 year history is presented through film, galleries and interactive displays. The perfect starting point on your journey of discovery around our Island and its Viking and Celtic past.
The name, Isle of Man, is probably cognate with the Welsh name of the island of Anglesey, Ynys Môn, usually derived from a Celtic word for 'mountain' (reflected in Welsh mynydd, Breton menez, and Scottish Gaelic monadh).
The Isle of Man was cut off from the surrounding islands around 8000 BC and colonisation took place by sea some time before 6500 BC. The first residents were hunter gatherers and fishermen. Examples of their tools are kept at the Manx Museum. The Neolithic Period marked the beginning of farming, and megalithic monuments began to appear such as Cashtal yn Ard near Maughold, King Orry's Grave at Laxey, Meayll Circle near Cregneash, and Ballaharra Stones at St John's. There were also the local Ronaldsway and Bann cultures. During the Bronze Age, burial mounds became smaller. Bodies were put in stone-lined graves with ornamental containers. The Bronze Age burial mounds created long-lasting markers around the countryside. The ancient Romans knew of the island and called it Insula Manavia although it is uncertain whether they conquered the island. Around the fifth century, large-scale migration from Ireland precipitated a process of Gaelicisation evidenced by Ogham inscriptions, giving rise to the Manx language, which is a Goidelic language closely related to Irish and Scottish Gaelic.
The period of Scandinavian domination is divided into two main epochs – before and after the conquest of Mann by Godred Crovan in 1079. Warfare and unsettled rule characterise the earlier epoch; the later saw comparatively more peace. Between about AD 800 and 815 the Vikings came to Mann chiefly for plunder; between about 850 and 990, when they settled there, the island fell under the rule of the Scandinavian Kings of Dublin; and between 990 and 1079, it became subject to the powerful Earls of Orkney. There was a mint producing coins on Mann between c. 1025 and c. 1065. These Manx coins were minted from an imported type 2 Hiberno-Norse penny die from Dublin. Hiberno-Norse coins were first minted under Sihtric, King of Dublin. This illustrates that Mann may have been under the thumb of Dublin at this time.
The conqueror Godred Crovan was evidently a remarkable man, though little is known about him. According to the Chronicon Manniae he subdued Dublin, and a great part of Leinster, and held the Scots in such subjection that no one who built a vessel dared to insert more than three bolts. The memory of such a ruler would be likely to survive in tradition, and it seems probable therefore that he is the person commemorated in Manx legend under the name of King Gorse or Orry. He created the Kingdom of Mann and the Isles in around 1079; it included the south-western islands of Scotland until 1164, when two separate kingdoms were formed from it. In 1154, what was later to be known as the Diocese of Sodor and Man was formed by the Catholic Church. The islands which were under his rule were called the Suðr-eyjar (south isles, in contradistinction to the Norðr-eyjar, or the "north isles", i.e. Orkney and Shetland), and they consisted of the Hebrides, and of all the smaller western islands of Scotland, and Mann. At a later date his successors took the title of Rex Manniae et Insularum (King of Mann and of the Isles). The kingdom's capital was on St Patrick's Isle, where Peel Castle was built on the site of a Celtic monastery.
Olaf, Godred's son, exercised considerable power, and according to the Chronicle, maintained such close alliance with the kings of Ireland and Scotland that no one ventured to disturb the Isles during his time (1113–1152). In 1156, his son, Godred (reigned 1153–1158), who for a short period ruled over Dublin also, lost the smaller islands off the coast of Argyll as a result of a quarrel with Somerled (the ruler of Argyll). An independent sovereignty thus appeared between the two divisions of his kingdom. In the 1130s the Catholic Church sent a small mission to establish the first bishopric on the Isle of Man, and appointed Wimund as the first bishop. He soon afterwards embarked with a band of followers on a career of murder and looting throughout Scotland and the surrounding islands. During the whole of the Scandinavian period, the Isles remained nominally under the suzerainty of the Kings of Norway, but the Norwegians only occasionally asserted it with any vigour. The first such king to assert control over the region was likely Magnus Barelegs, at the turn of the 12th century. It was not until Hakon Hakonarson's 1263 expedition that another king returned to the Isles.
From the middle of the 12th century until 1217 the suzerainty had remained of a very shadowy character; Norway had become a prey to civil dissensions. But after that date it became a reality, and Norway consequently came into collision with the growing power of the kingdom of Scotland. Early in the 13th century, when Ragnald (reigned 1187–1229) paid homage to King John of England (reigned 1199–1216), we hear for the first time of English intervention in the affairs of Mann. But a period of Scots domination would precede the establishment of full English control.
Finally, in 1261, Alexander III of Scotland sent envoys to Norway to negotiate for the cession of the isles, but their efforts led to no result. He therefore initiated a war, which ended in the indecisive Battle of Largs against the Norwegian fleet in 1263. However, the Norwegian king Haakon Haakonsson died the following winter, and this allowed King Alexander to bring the war to a successful conclusion. Magnus Olafsson, King of Mann and the Isles (reigned 1252–1265), who had campaigned on the Norwegian side, had to surrender all the islands over which he had ruled, except Mann, for which he did homage. Two years later Magnus died and in 1266 King Magnus VI of Norway ceded the islands, including Mann, to Scotland in the Treaty of Perth in consideration of the sum of 4,000 marks (known as merks in Scotland) and an annuity of 100 marks. But Scotland's rule over Mann did not become firmly established till 1275, when the Manx suffered defeat in the decisive Battle of Ronaldsway, near Castletown.
In 1290 King Edward I of England sent Walter de Huntercombe to take possession of Mann, and it remained in English hands until 1313, when Robert Bruce took it after besieging Castle Rushen for five weeks. Then, until 1346, when the Battle of Neville's Cross decided the long struggle between England and Scotland in England's favour, there followed a confused period when Mann sometimes suffered English rule and sometimes Scottish. About 1333 King Edward III of England granted Mann to William de Montacute, 3rd Baron Montacute (later the 1st Earl of Salisbury), as his absolute possession, without reserving any service to be rendered to him. In 1388 the island was "ravaged" by Sir William Douglas of Nithsdale on his way home from the destruction of the town of Carlingford. In 1392 William de Montacute's son sold the island, including sovereignty, to Sir William le Scrope. In 1399 King Henry IV brought about the beheading of Le Scrope, who had taken the side of Richard II. The island then came into the possession of the Crown, which granted it to Henry Percy, 1st Earl of Northumberland; but following his attainder, Henry IV, in 1405, made a lifetime grant of it, with the patronage of the bishopric, to Sir John Stanley. In 1406 this grant was extended – on a feudatory basis under the English Crown – to Sir John's heirs and assigns, the feudal fee being the service of rendering homage and two falcons to all future Kings of England on their coronations.
With the accession of the Stanleys to the throne there begins a more settled epoch in Manx history. Though the island's new rulers rarely visited its shores, they placed it under governors, who, in the main, seem to have treated it with the justice of the time. Of the thirteen members of the family who ruled in Mann, the second Sir John Stanley (1414–1432), James, the 7th Earl (1627–1651), and the 10th Earl of the same name (1702–1736) had the most important influence on it. They first curbed the power of the spiritual barons, introduced trial by jury, which superseded trial by battle, and ordered the laws to be written. The second, known as the Great Stanley, and his wife, Charlotte de la Tremoille (or Tremouille), are probably the most striking figures in Manx history.
In 1643 Charles I ordered James Stanley, 7th Earl of Derby to go to Mann, where the people, no doubt influenced by events in England, threatened to revolt. Stanley's arrival, with English soldiers, soon put a stop to anything of this kind. He conciliated the people by his affability, brought in Englishmen to teach various handicrafts and tried to help the farmers by improving the breed of Manx horses, and, at the same time, he restricted the exactions of the Church. But the Manx also lost much of their liberty under his rule: they were heavily taxed; troops were quartered upon them; and they also had the more lasting grievance of being compelled to accept leases for three lifetimes instead of holding their land by the straw tenure, which they considered to be equivalent to a customary inheritance. Six months after the death of Charles I (on 30 January 1649), Stanley received a summons from General Ireton to surrender the island, but he declined to do so. In August 1651 Stanley went to England with some of his troops, among whom were 300 Manxmen, to join King Charles II. Charles was decisively defeated at the Battle of Worcester and Stanley was captured, imprisoned in Chester Castle and then tried by court-martial and executed at Bolton.
Soon after Stanley's death, the Manx Militia, under the command of William Christian (known by his Manx name of Illiam Dhone), rose against the Countess and captured all the insular forts except Rushen and Peel. They were then joined by a Parliamentary force under Colonel Duckenfield, to whom the Countess surrendered after a brief resistance. Oliver Cromwell had appointed Thomas Fairfax "Lord of Mann and the Isles" in September 1651, so that Mann continued under a monarchical government and remained in the same relation to England as before.
The restoration of Stanley government in 1660 therefore caused as little friction and alteration as its temporary cessation had. One of the first acts of the new Lord, Charles Stanley, 8th Earl of Derby, was to order Christian to be tried. He was found guilty and executed. Of the other persons implicated in the rebellion only three were excepted from the general amnesty. But by Order in Council, Charles II pardoned them, and the judges responsible for the sentence on Christian were punished. Charles Stanley's next act was to dispute the permanency of the tenants' holdings, which they had not at first regarded as being affected by the acceptance of leases, a proceeding which led to an almost open rebellion against his authority and to the neglect of agriculture, in lieu of which the people devoted themselves to the fisheries and to contraband trade. Charles Stanley, who died in 1672, was succeeded first by his son William Richard George Stanley, 9th Earl of Derby until his death in 1702.
The agrarian question subsided only in 1704, when James Stanley, 10th Earl of Derby, William's brother and successor, largely through the influence of Bishop Wilson, entered into a compact with his tenants, which became embodied in an Act, called the Act of Settlement. Their compact secured the tenants in the possession of their estates in perpetuity subject only to a fixed rent, and a small fine on succession or alienation. From the great importance of this act to the Manx people it has been called their Magna Carta. As time went on, and the value of the estates increased, the rent payable to the Lord became so small in proportion as to be almost nominal, being extinguished by purchase in 1916.
James died in 1736, and the suzerainty of the isle passed to James Murray, 2nd Duke of Atholl, his first cousin and heir-male. In 1764 he was succeeded by his only surviving child Charlotte, Baroness Strange, and her husband, John Murray, who (in right of his wife) became Lord of Mann. In about 1720 the contraband trade had greatly increased. In 1726 Parliament had checked it somewhat for a time, but during the last ten years of the Atholl regime (1756–1765) it assumed such proportions that, in the interests of the Imperial revenue, it became necessary to suppress it. With a view to so doing, Parliament passed the Isle of Man Purchase Act 1765 (commonly called the Revestment Act by the Manx), under which it purchased the rights of the Atholls as Lords of Mann, including the customs revenues of the island, for the sum of £70,000 sterling, and granted an annuity to the Duke and Duchess. The Atholls still retained their manorial rights, the patronage of the bishopric, and certain other perquisites, until they sold them for the sum of £417,144 in 1828.
Up to the time of the revestment, Tynwald had passed laws concerning the government of the island in all respects and had control over its finances, subject to the approval of the Lord of Mann. After the revestment, or rather after the passage of the Smuggling Act 1765 (commonly called the Mischief Act by the Manx), the Parliament at Westminster legislated with respect to customs, harbours and merchant shipping, and, in measures of a general character, it occasionally inserted clauses permitting the enforcement in the island of penalties in contravention of the Acts of which they formed part. It also assumed the control of the insular customs duties. Such changes, rather than the transference of the full suzerainty to the King of Great Britain and Ireland, modified the (unwritten) constitution of the Isle of Man. Its ancient laws and tenures remained untouched, but in many ways the revestment affected it adversely. The hereditary Lords of Mann had seldom, if ever, functioned as model rulers, but most of them had taken some personal share in its government, and had interested themselves in the well-being of the inhabitants. But now the whole direction of its affairs became the work of officials who regarded the island as a pestilent nest of smugglers, from which it seemed their duty to extract as much revenue as possible.
There was some alleviation of this state of things between 1793 and 1826, when John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl served as Governor, since, though he quarrelled with the House of Keys and unduly cared for his own pecuniary interests, he did occasionally exert himself to promote the welfare of the island. After his departure the English officials resumed their sway, but they showed more consideration than before. Moreover, since smuggling, which the Isle of Man Purchase Act had only checked – not suppressed – had by that time almost disappeared, and since the Manx revenue had started to produce a large and increasing surplus, the authorities looked more favourably on the Isle of Man, and, thanks to this fact and to the representations of the Manx people to British ministers in 1837, 1844 and 1853, it obtained a somewhat less stringent customs tariff and an occasional dole towards erecting its much neglected public works.
The main international event associated with the island is the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race, colloquially known as "The TT", which began in 1907. It takes place in late May and early June. The TT is now an international road racing event for motorcycles, which used to be part of the World Championship, and is long considered to be one of the "greatest motorcycle sporting events of the world". Taking place over a two-week period, it has become a festival for motorcycling culture, makes a huge contribution to the island's economy and has become part of Manx identity. For many, the Isle carries the title "road racing capital of the world". The Manx Grand Prix is a separate motorcycle event for amateurs and private entrants that uses the same 60.70 km (37.72 mi) Snaefell Mountain Course in late August and early September.
Amongst the many things to do and see at the Manx Museum are the Introductory film to the Island’s 10,000 year history, National Art Gallery, Viking hoards of silver and gold in the Viking Gallery, The story of Tynwald, the oldest continuous Parliament in the world, Manx landscape, wildlife and habitats in the Natural History Gallery, The Island at War and its internment camps, The world-famous TT races, legendary riders and their motorbikes and the Holiday Isle in its heyday as a tourist destination from Victorian times. There are Gifts and souvenirs in their Gallery Shop and refreshments in the Bay Room Cafe. In addition one may visit theirr latest temporary exhibition.
The museum is accessible by taking the lift to level 8 of Chester Street Car Park and walking across the adjacent footbridge. Access is also available via Crellin’s Hill, although this is a steep Walk, and via the Garden Entrance at the bottom of Crellin’s Hill. Access to the main museum is through two sets of glass doors. They are not automated. The main entrance is completely level. There is full wheelchair access throughout the main galleries, with lifts and ramps available at level changes. A number of the lift points require staff operation, so please notify a member of staff if assistance is required – they are happy to help. They have a wheelchair available to borrow while you visit – just ask when you arrive or phone ahead to pre book. There is seating available in most of the museum galleries. The Manx Museum has free WiFi. Visitors with specific needs are welcome to contact the museum team in advance of their visit and descriptive guided tours can be arranged. Please contact Katie King on 01624 648035 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to talk about your requirements.
The library reading room is accessed via four steps leading up and five steps leading down with hand rails. There is a platform lift to access the reading room, a member of staff is needed to operate this lift and will be happy to assist visitors. The lift is 80cm x 100cm and has capacity for one wheelchair or one person on the fold down seat. To access the Bay Room Café, the temporary exhibition gallery and library reading room there are four steps with hand rails. There is a platform lift from the social history galleries to access the café, gallery and aid access to the reading room. The lift can be used without staff assistance, but if you would like assistance please ask. To access or exit the Folk Life Gallery (basement gallery of the museum) there are 18 steps, with handrails. There is a platform lift in the Social History Galleries leading to the gallery and back. The lift is 100cm x 138cm and has capacity for one wheelchair or three people standing.
Visitors with Visual Impairment. Lighting levels in the museum galleries are low and floor surface finishes vary. The main museum galleries on the ground floor are level. Visitors with specific needs are welcome to contact the museum team in advance of their visit to request a descriptive guided tour. Please contact Katie King on 01624 648035 or email email@example.com to talk about your requirements. Their library and reading room have large screen computer monitors, free WiFi access and Pebble readers to aid with magnification of documents. Assistance dogs are welcome and a water bowl is available at reception, please ask.
Location : Manx Museum, Kingswood Grove, Douglas, Isle of Man IM1 3LY
Transport: Douglas Ferry 13 minutes. Bus Routes : Bus Station 14 minutes.
Opening Times : Daily, 10:00 to 17:00.
Tickets : Free, donations welcome.
Tel: 01624 648000