Kirk Braddan 1876-1976

by Mona Douglas

Kirk Braddan 1876

Kirk Braddan as it was in 1884

Click here for a list of the Vicars of Braddan from 1575 to date

An illustrated booklet Kirk Braddan 1876-1976 by Mona Douglas (1898-1987), now out of print, was published as part of the celebrations of the centenary of the consecration of the New Church. The text of the booklet follows.

Also included are notes by Mr A R W Moore (a descendant of W F Moore of Cronkbourne, who was the moving spirit behind the construction of the new church) and by Mr K F W Gumbley (former churchwarden and secretary of Kirk Braddan Parochial Church Council).

IN 1976 Kirk Braddan celebrates a centenary, but the centenary only of a building, the present parish church. As a church established on approximately the same site, it can celebrate some fourteen centuries of Christian worship, for archaeologists date the first Celtic keeill there, of which some stones still remain, back to the fifth century.

Since then there have been a number of successive churches dedicated to St Brendan, or Braddan, the old Celtic "Sailor's Saint"; the latest of them is the fine Gothic structure which is a hundred years old in 1976.

It was consecrated on August 31st, 1876 by the Bishop of Lichfield on behalf of the Lord Bishop of Sodor and Man, and the ceremony took place in pouring rain after some weeks of dry weather. Farmers of the parish attending probably were uncertain whether to deplore the downpour or praise God for a much needed refresher for their crops; but about two hundred parishioners and guests were there, some of them travelling from Douglas to the Braddan Halt by a special train laid on for the occasion by the Isle of Man Railway Company.

Clergy taking part in the ceremony were the Ven. the Archdeacon of Man, the Rev. H. M. W. Christopher, Rector of St Aldates, Oxford, the Rev. H. Bell, Vicar of Muncaster, Cumberland, the Rev. William Drury, Vicar of Braddan, the Rev. W. F. Drury (his son), Vicar of Holy Trinity, Burton-on-Trent, the Rev. T. W. Drury (another son), Rector of Holy Trinity, Chesterfield,(note 1) the Rev. F. P. B. N. Hutton, incumbent of St Thomas's, Douglas, the Rev. W. T. Hobson, incumbent of St Barnabas, Douglas, the Rev. T. Caine, Vicar of Lonan, the Rev. T. C. Langton, curate of St Luke's, Baldwin, and the Rev. F. Grier, curate of St George's, Douglas. His Worship the Bishop's Vicar General, R. J. Jebb Esq, and the Episcopal Registrar, S. Harris Esq, were also present in their official capacity.

Churchwardens signing the formal petition for consecration were John Thomas Kelly, John Cubbon, William Joseph Cain and William Moore. Other signatories were Major Goldie-Taubman, Henry Siddons, Paul H. Leece, N. S. Moore, James Spitall and W. F. Moore, serving members of the Church Building Committee appointed by the parish vestry.

This Committee had been formed at a parish Vestry Meeting held in the Old Church on March 29th, 1869, when it was resolved that the existing church was "wholly inadequate" for the requirements of the parish, and that the purchase of a site, the erection of a new church and the procuring of its consecration as the parish church should be vested in a committee consisting of the Vicar, Churchwardens and other parishioners.

However, the purchase of a site turned out to be unnecessary, as sufficient land adjacent to the Old Church was granted to the Committee by Lady Laura Buchan by a deed dated the 14th day of April, 1870,(note 2) and authority to proceed with the erection of the new church was given by the promulgation on May 8th, 1872 of the Braddan Church Act,(note 3) which stipulated that the new church should be "of sufficient dimensions to accommodate not less than 500 persons".

The Act also provided that the new building should be consecrated and become the parish church, "and as such should be served, supplied, resorted to and made use of, repaired, kept up and maintained"; it was also enacted that there, should be no burials either within the new church or in the land conveyed by the Deed of Gift. (note 4) Burials therefore continued for some time to be in the old churchyard.

We are grateful to the present Diocesan architect and surveyor, Mr W. T. Quayle, FRICS, FIAA, for his thoughts on the new church; he states that the architect, John Loughborough Pearson, was an eminent member of a group of contemporaries which included Sir Gilbert Scott and William Butterfield of the English Gothic School. Among the many fine buildings he designed was Truro Cathedral, and he eventually became Surveyor to Westminster Abbey, in which he was buried. (note 5)

The design of Kirk Braddan is simple, both in plan and architectural details; it consists of nave, north transept, chancel and south-east tower. The apsidal chancel is a distinct feature of the church, a design characteristic of Pearson's work at its best. The building is well lit by natural light by reason of the clear glass clerestory windows, the stained glass being confined to the windows of the aisles, transept and chancel. Almost all the glass was designed and made by Messrs Clayton and Bell.

Through a combination of light-coloured bricks and honey-coloured stone in the interior, a warm atmosphere has been achieved, while externally local stone with imported stone dressings and Westmoreland slates result in the building's blending so well into the country site.

The original design included a timber spire erected a little while after the consecration of the Church in 1876, but it was blown down in a gale about 1884. A report on this prepared by consultant engineers indicates that the collapse was due to both faulty construction and inferior timber. (note 6)

The only addition to the Church since it was built was the adaptation of the North transept to form a War memorial chapel, consisting of a small altar and reredos, the walls being panelled in oak; the memorial furnishings are listed with others towards the end of this booklet. Mr Quayle who has here described the church was the designer of the chapel and book of remembrance.

The Church was built by Messrs Wall & Hook of Brinscombe, near Stroud, Gloucestershire, and the foundation stone was laid by Mrs Loch, wife of the Lieutenant Governor, on St Stephen's Day, 1871. The church was ready for consecration by the end of 1873, but it was decided that until it was clear of debt the building should not be opened as a parish church. It was agreed to go ahead with the consecration of the main building and organise further money-raising efforts to pay for the spire, to be added later. In October, 1876, it was announced in the Manx Sun that a bazaar in aid of this fund would be held during the coming summer, and in November it was reported that a meeting of the working committee had been held at which over £100 had been subscribed. The spire envisaged in the original design should have been 130 feet high, but for some reason not recorded it was decided to erect a shorter temporary wooden one.

Braddan was the first parish church in the Isle of Man to be built by voluntary contributions, and the total cost was £6,775.19s.7d. The publication of the accounts was delayed until the completion of the tower and spire in 1884. W. F. Moore was the treasurer.

The superseding of the Old Church and the building of the new one to take over the functions of the parish church did not enjoy a smooth passage in other respects, as it was by no means unanimously approved by the parishioners. In March, 1871 there seems to have been a serious dispute about seating in the new building, and a parish meeting was called in respect of claims by six persons that, as they had possessed six chancel pews in the Old Church, six front pews should be allotted to them in the new church. In the Old Church, according to earlier custom, there were pews against each side wall in the chancel as in the nave. This dispute was finally settled by an agreement that the Churchwardens should make an appropriation of sittings guided by their knowledge of the various quarterlands, and that a plan of their appropriations should be deposited for inspection in the High Bailiff's office in Douglas and another copy posted on the church notice board.(note 7)

This appropriation by quarterlands is interesting as showing a strong traditional survival of a very early custom brought over from the Celtic church, which was monastic and not diocesan in structure. The land division known as the Kerroo, or Quarterland, is related to the larger Treen division, of which it is a quarter. Most Kerroo owners had a small keeill, or chapel, on their own land which served their family and workers and had a resident or peripatetic monk as priest, and when the parochial system was introduced in the Middle ages these Kerroo owners would naturally be given prominence in the parish church.

A curious example of the strong folk-memory still existent regarding. the old keeills is the assertion sometimes made by countryfolk that "in old history" people used to be buried in their own land and not in the parish churchyard. Of course, this would be the case when the keeills with their surrounding small cemetery were functioning — but those who make the assertion can fairly be assumed to have no idea how very long ago the practice existed.

In fact, Manx people generally have a deep reverence for ancient religious sites, and this may account for the rather widespread feeling of resentment in the parish over the decision to build a new church and abandon the old one, to which many were strongly attached. The Old Kirk Braddan, which still stands, was erected only in 1773(note 8), but it is on the actual site of the 5th-century Keeill of St Brendan and of the succession of churches which followed this small oratory, and even incorporates in its structure parts of the earlier churches which have been preserved and re-used.

Some of these relics are the finial with crucifixion on the east gable, two lintels over the small windows of the tower and the window quoins with Normanesque mouldings; the tower itself bears the date 1714. Many people disliked the decision to build the new church on an adjacent site not previously consecrated, and would much have preferred to see the old church increased in size if this was felt to be necessary, even had partial demolition been involved. In fact, so strong was this feeling that a number of parishioners failed to attend worship in the new building after its consecration, and persuaded the Vicar to hold periodic services in the Old Church and also to conduct there some marriages and baptisms; and this led to a curious situation.

Because the licence for the solemnisation of marriages had been transferred from the old to the new parish church, it transpired a little later that such marriages were in fact illegal, and the couples concerned had to go through the ceremony again.(note 9)

The new church was an imposing building, but it had an air of aloofness and rather chilly grandeur, especially in its early years; and in ordinary human terms one can well understand that the Old Church would in contrast feel more familiar and intimate. It was characteristic of the old Manx parish churches generally, having no division between the nave and the chancel and a three-decker pulpit in which the parish clerk sat in the lowest deck and read out parish notices, the parson conducted the main part of the service from the second floor, and then mounted to the top one to preach his sermon, unless there was a guest preacher who occupied the top floor.(note 10)

Sermons in the 18th and 19th centuries were often lengthy, so, in cold weather, during the preceding hymn the parish clerk used to leave his place and march down the aisle to stoke up the big stove at the back of the church, so that people would keep reasonably warm. It was all very homely, even cosy, and after service on winter mornings most of the congregation would gather round the stove for a "cooish" before going home. Memories of these services have been recorded in old letters and commonplace books preserved in some families.

There is a curious rectangular font in the Old Church, reminiscent of an old-fashioned kitchen sink, complete with slate drainage slabs and a soak-away outside the wall. In the vestry there is an ancient safe, the door of which looks like that of an old baker's oven, but that safe really deserved its name, for once when the key was mislaid it took a locksmith an hour and a half to get it open, although the same man could open a modern safe in two minutes!

The burial ground surrounding the Old Church is probably an extension of that around the original keeill, and contains memorials of great antiquity, including some of the finest carved stone crosses for which the Island is famous. The earliest of these are believed to date from the seventh century, when the original keeill or its immediate successor was probably functioning; but the finest carving is found on the Runic crosses of the Scandinavian/Celtic, period, between 800 and 1265 AD.

There are nine Runic crosses found in the parish, four of which are Scandinavian and have inscriptions in runes, one of which may have .been not so much a memorial as a permanent record of a crime. It reads in translation: Hross-Kettil betrayed in a truce his own oath-fellow. Others are translated:

Thorl of Neaki erected this cross to Fiach his son, the nephew of Eabr;

Otta erected this cross to his father Frakka, but Thorbjoin son of (name illegible) made it;

Thor erected this cross to Ofeig Klinaison.

Several of the Braddan crosses bear the famous ring-chain design originated by the finest of the earliest Manx sculptors, Gaut, son of Bjorn, who was the main artistic influence in the gradual development of the style of ornament on the crosses into a distinctive Manx form which incorporated something of both the early Celtic and the later Norse forms.

The extent of Gaut's influence can be judged from the proud inscription on one of his crosses: "Gaut created this and all in Mann", which probably means that all the important crosses made during the period of his working life were carved either by himself or by sculptors working under his direction. The approximate period of his work here is between 950 and 1040 AD; in a very appreciative survey of his work and influence Professor Haakon Sherelig of Norway claims that Gaut "founded a distinctive school of Manx design characterised by new and more complicated band plaitings and the introduction of the national animal ornamentation. With animal ornaments the school shows itself freed from old models, and works in its own genuine home style."

Some of the tombstones of later date are also of considerable interest, especially to Manx people who are familiar with the parts those commemorated have played in the life and fame of the Island. One was evidently erected and inscribed by a former Vicar, the Rev. Patrick Thompson some sixteen years before he died, for the legend reads: "At present Vicar of Kirk Braddan, aged 67, anno 1673. Deceased 4th of April 1689."

Another memorial is to the Rev. Robert Brown, Vicar of Braddan from 1836 to 1847 and father of Thomas Edward Brown the Manx poet; other memorials are to Deemster Heywood, father of Lieutenant Peter Heywood who was court-martialled in respect of the Mutiny of the Bounty but cleared by the heroic efforts of his sister Nessy, one of the heroines of Manx history; of Deemster Sir William Leece Drinkwater of Kirby who married his cousin, Elinor Drinkwater, daughter of Peter Bourne of Hackinsol and Margaret Drinkwater. The daughter of of Col. Mark Wilks, Governor of St Helena at the time of Napoleon's exile there, married Lord Buchan(note 10A), who sold Kirby to Sir George Drinkwater in 1839. Col. Wilks returned to live at Kirby some years later and brought back with him a slave boy who died here and was buried in the Old Churchyard and has a tombstone which many people come to see. Its inscription reads:

"Samuel Ally, an African and Native of St. Helena. Died 28th May, 1822, aged 18 years. Born a slave and exposed in early life to the corrupt influence of that unhappy state, he became a model of truth and probity. This stone is erected by a grateful master to the memory of a faithful servant."

Speaker A. W. Moore, the Manx historian and folklorist, is also buried in the old churchyard.(note 11)

But that churchyard was superseded long before the church it surrounded, for in 1816 the Manx Sun reported that "an additional burial ground has been acquired at Kirk Braddan, as the existing one is inadequate for the increasing population". There were still some burials there in family graves, but the new cemetery was away over Braddan Bridge, a little way up the Strang road.(note 12) Gradually, too, the new church became accepted and more familiar with usage, though the Old Church was still maintained, and at the Easter Vestry of 1877 it was announced that the Old Church and cemetery now had their own caretaker and were kept in good condition.

There were still some disputes, however, one of the most heated being over the collection of cess from Douglas, part of which town was within the parish of Braddan. The wardens of St Matthew's, Douglas seem to have appropriated some of the Braddan dues for their own church, and the dispute almost involved a law case, but was finally settled amicably.

The parish of Braddan is one of the largest in the Island, extending from the shoreline at Douglas right up into the central mountains, where its boundary joins that of Lezayre. The coastal boundary does not now include any part of Douglas itself but has been moved south to a point between Douglas Head and Port Soderick, on account of the formation of new ecclesiastical parishes within the town, but the old traditional parish land-division is still the true one in the minds of many people and is still recognised to some extent by the fact that Douglas people may be married in Kirk Braddan if they so wish; many in fact do so, and Braddan still claims to be the Mother Parish of Douglas.note 13

For many people, however, the more remote parts of the parish territory and their historical associations have a greater attraction than Douglas and its environs, and perhaps it is worth quoting a eulogy by one of the best Manx. poets, W. W. Gill, written early in the present century. Here it is, entitled "Boaldyn", the older spelling of Baldwin:

"Of all the countries under the sun,
Their crowns and treasures and ships at sea,
Take your pick of them one by one,
Only leave, when your choosing's done,
Mannin for me, Mannin for me.

"Of all the parishes in that isle,
Their heads in the mountains, feet in the sea,
A friendly cottage in every mile,
And every face with a friendly smile
Braddan for me, Braddan for me.

"Of all the villages in those parishes,
Smouldering snug by river or sea,
In valleys the soft wind cherishes, nourishes,
Where the last of the old life flourishes-
Boaldyn for me, Boaldyn for me!"

The country and mountainous districts of Braddan hold many legends and historical and archaeological associations. It is up the Baldwin valleys and among the mountains surrounding them that many of our finest folk songs and stories have been collected, and one very well known folk singer, Phillie the Desert, was a Baldwin man.

Among archaeological remains, of which there are a number, one is an ancient fortification immediately behind the new church and another such fortification is at Castle Ward, near Tromode. These were the fortified dwellings of the early Celtic islanders, and their earthworks still remain, those from the one by the church extending to the other side of the road, while some of the great stones which were incorporated in the superstructure can still be seen, with cup markings believed to have been used for offerings of food in pre-Christian times.

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1. This was Thomas Drury, DD, born at Braddan Vicarage 1847, curate of Braddan, 1871-1876, Bishop of Sodor and Man 1907-1911, Bishop of Ripon, 1911-1920. Died 1926. (KFWG) (back)

2. Not "Lady Laura Buchan", but "Laura, Lady Buchan". Laura Wilks (1797-1888), daughter of Col. Mark Wilks (1759-1831), was a celebrated beauty, and married Lt-Gen Sir John Buchan KCB (d. 1850). Col. Wilks served with the East India Company and was governor of St Helena 1813-16, when Napoleon was exiled there. He built Kirby House; after his death it was let to Sir George Drinkwater, who purchased it in 1840. Doubts arose as to the title of Lady Buchan to convey the site of the church. Accordingly a confirmatory Conveyance to the Vicar and Wardens was made on 26th October 1877. (KFWG) (back)

3. The Braddan Church Act 1871 (Statutes of the Isle of Man vol.iv p.1). (KFWG) (back)

4. The 1871 Act has been repealed, but the prohibition was re-enacted in the Burials Act 1986.(KFWG) (back)

5. [W. F. Moore] arranged for his wife's (Hannah née Christian of Milntown) brother-in-law John Pearson to design the New Church. (His son Frank Pearson designed the present St Matthew's Church in Douglas.) (ARWM) (This is incorrect: St Matthew's (built 1895-1902) was designed by J L Pearson. His wife was Jemima Christian. See note on J L Pearson. KFWG)(back)

6. As I understand it the [spire] was blown down shortly after its construction in 1876. It was then rebuilt but was finally blown down again, never to be replaced. Leigh Goldie-Taubman of the Nunnery was actually shaving at the time, and while looking out of the window saw it fall - I thought in 1886 (not 1884). (ARWM) (back)

7. It was the practice of Quarterland holders to construct their own pews (the rest of the congregation stood during the services) and to bury their dead beneath them. For a fee they could be buried if they wished in the Chancel. This habit of burying the dead was, for obvious sanitary reasons, discouraged during the eighteenth century, and not allowed after 1773. Hence the Reverend Philip Moore was the first of my family to be buried outside the church — but as near to the Chancel as possible, in 1783. (His brother the Archdeacon is buried at Malew, actually, as he was on a visit to his daughter there when he died in 1751.) (ARWM)(back)

8. With the increasing population of Douglas during the eighteenth century the Churchwardens on April 25 1737 arranged for only one seat to every two Quarterlands. A year later on February 24 1738 the Wardens proposed the construction of a gallery for the inhabitants and cottage holders of Douglas. As these measures proved of no avail the Church had to be removed to make way for a larger one in 1773. (ARWM) (back)

9. There was of course no licence for marriages at either the Old Church or the New. The Braddan Church Act 1871 provided that the Old Church should cease to be the parish church, and the New Church become the parish church, when the latter was consecrated in 1876. It was this change of status of the Old Church that prevented parishioners being married there after that time (except by the Bishop's special licence). (KFWG) (back)

10. Old Parson Drury frequently forgot his spectacles and so he used to lean over from the three-decker pulpit and borrow W. F. Moore's, who sat in the Chancel on the South side. (ARWM). (back)

10A. Not Lord Buchan but Lt-Gen Sir John Buchan KCB. See note 2 above. (KFWG) (back)

11. Miss Mona Douglas was misled by the inscriptions on the Moore tomb five yards south-west of the Murray memorial as to the whereabouts of the body of my grandfather A. W. Moore. The only people buried here are (i) James Moore of Cronkbourne (ii) his wife Elizabeth (iii) their fourth son Edwardus and (iv and v) Alfred James and Ewan Douglas the infant sons of W. F, Moore and Hannah. W. F., A. W. and my father are commemorated only, and are actually buried in the New Churchyard. (ARWM) (back)

12. This acquisition must have been of an extension to the existing churchyard, not the new cemetery in Braddan Road, which was not acquired until 1848 under the Braddan Burial Ground Act 1848 (Statutes of the Isle of Man vol.ii p.207). (KFWG) (back)

13. This privilege (which no longer exists) came about in an odd way. The churches of St George's, St Matthew's, St Barnabas' and St Thomas' in Douglas were within the parish of Braddan, and persons resident in a district allocated to any of those churches could be married either at their local church or at the parish church of Braddan. However, under the New Parishes Act 1856 (of Parliament), the districts allocated to those churches were to become full parishes on the death of then incumbent of Braddan (the Rev William Drury). This meant that, after his death in 1887, persons resident in the new parishes were no longer entitled to be married in any church other than their local church (which was now their parish church). This important legal point was overlooked for some years, and a number of marriages at Kirk Braddan and at the Douglas churches were accordingly invalid. The Marriage Law Amendment Act 1895 (Statutes of the Isle of Man p.639) validated those marriages, and went on to confer the right in future for residents of the new parishes to be married at Kirk Braddan after banns or by common licence. (Double fees were payable for such a wedding, one going to the Vicar of Braddan and one to the vicar of the parish in which the party lived.) The privilege ceased on 1st January 1985 under the Marriage Act 1984. (KFWG) (back)

Vicars of Braddan

Alexander Stevenson 1575
John Moore 1576
William Crowe 1582
Robert Cottier 1594
Edward Moore 1603
Robert Cottier 1609
Robert Otte 1623
John Thompson 1624
Patrick Thompson 1633
John Woods 1663
John Bridson 1691
Robert Fletcher 1696
John Curphey 1704
John Cosnahan 1733
Joseph Cosnehan 1750
Thomas W J Woods 1768
Julius Cosnehan 1785
John Moore 1786
Robert Quayle 1792
Thomas Howard 1810
Robert Brown 1836
William Drury 1847
Frederick James Moore 1887
William Andrew Rushworth 1912
Bertram George Kelly 1950
Kenneth Liley 1965
Leslie Hayes 1974
David Charles Post 1978
Clifford David Bradley 1979
Roger Harry Horne 1985
Harry Aldridge 1989
Philip Scott Frear 1995
Daniel Michael Hamilton Richards 2014

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