Isle of Man

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Churches which still retain west gallery features or connections

Castletown, St Mary By Thomas Brine, 1832. The high pews, galleries, wall tablets, high pulpit and liturgical arrangements here make this a pre-Tractarian church. (CEPC)    Now converted to offices. However there is evidence that west gallery music was performed here. (Fenella Bazin 2002)   

"From the same minutes it appears that some time prior to this [1787], the Chapel in Castle Rushen had ceased to be used for Divine service, and that in the Chapel of S. Mary the gallery was and always had been occupied by the resident Governor, and that it was always to remain and to be continued to His Majesty and His heirs, to and for the use of the present and succeeding Governor or Lieutenant-Governor of the Isle, and that it was settled that the Governor was to pay one third. of the expenses and the proprietors of the pews two thirds".  [See notes by Frances Coakley at being a transcription of the Vestry Minute Bookof St Mary's Castletown originally printed in Manx Church Magazine vol 2 pp xcii et seq] ]

Douglas, St George SC379755.  1761-80. By a local builder who was sent to Whitehaven to copy the church there. The interior was much restored in 1910 when the upper galleries were removed and the church extended. (CEPC)

Presumably the lower galleries remain ??

Probably never a home for west gallery music, as it was built as a ‘gentry’ church and an organ (bought from Fishamble Street, Dublin) was installed in the church for its opening. Subsequent newspaper correspondence was critical of the standard of congregational singing.

Kirk Braddan, Old Church, St Brannan SC364768 The mother church of Douglas . . . The churchyard is full of Georgian headstones and dominated by an obelisk designed by Steuart to Lord Henry Murray. Tower 1773. Interior high pews, galleries, clear glass and monuments on walls. (CEPC)

Now on the outskirts of Douglas, it was retained when a new church was consecrated nearby in 1876. The Vestry Minutes record that it had been decided that the old church should remain as it was, as it was ‘a picturesque object, and has long been a favourite of visitors’. Box pews, a triple-decker pulpit and a fine west gallery survive, cherished by the Friends of Old Kirk Braddan. 

There are also substantial records of music-making, notably the manuscript belonging to John Sayle, dated 1837, a date that coincides with the dedication of an organ built and played by Isaac Dale, who also compiled a book of hymns. The life of the organ was, however, short lived and it has not been replaced. It is a splendid church to sing in.

Kirk Malew, St Lupus, or Lua What all the old Manx churches were like before Victorian restoration; outside a white-washed rectangle in fields; inside box-pews and Georgian fittings. North transept 18th C.(CEPC)
Lezayre, Kirk Christ or Holy Trinity, or more accurately, Kirk Christ Lezayre By John Welch, 1835; an attempt in local stone to look like a spired country church of the English midlands; contemporary woodwork inside.  (CEPC)

The church replaced an earlier, simpler building that had fallen into decay, in spite of being in the neighbourhood of one of the wealthiest and most powerful families in the Island. There is a good record of the lives and abilities of the parish clerks, who were required to have good singing voices in order to raise the hymns. The old building is said to have had a gallery though whether this was used for musicians is questioned.

(Kirk) Malew, St Lupus, or Lua SC268694 What all the old Manx churches were like before Victorian restoration; outside a white-washed rectangle in fields; inside box-pews and Georgian fittings. North transept 18th century.[JB]
Marown, St Runius SC321787 A tiny church in the hills. The blocked-up entrance to the now demolished gallery is clearly visible above the west door
Maughold, dedication not known An obvious candidate for west gallery music, as it is an important ancient site. So far, no records have emerged although Miss F M C Kermode, whose father was Vicar there at the beginning of the 20th century, remembers him talking about ‘the singers in the gallery’. There is in the Manx Museum a book of anthems from the Church Times which is said to have been used by the choir at Maughold.
Ramsey, St Paul SC454943.   1822 Classic with galleries; architect unknown. (CEPC)    A fine church in which instrumentalists played right up to the end of the nineteenth century. Unfortunately no manuscripts have surfaced. 

The west gallery was erected in 1830, mainly for these musicians and 

In 1827 a declaration was signed by the Chaplain and Wardens that certain pews indicated by a plan were to continue free for the use and benefit of the poor.

Three years later [in 1830] a gallery was erected at the west end, for the accommodation of the children, a grant of £45 towards the expenses being made by Bishop Ward. This was also used by the musicians. The side-wings with galleries were added in 1844.

The duties of the Clerk were among other things to "raise the tune," and also to sing psalms at funerals as the procession made its way to the Church. Sundry people however were from time to time paid for "conducting the choir." In 1845, £4 16s 3d was paid for a Clarionet. Mr Killip, Clerk, played the Bass-fiddle, and Mr John Boyde, whose son was afterwards in the choir, played the Serpent. This instrument is now in the possession of Mr G. W. Kewin, the Surveyor, who kindly lent it to be photographed. [PLATE IV. ] An Organ was put in by Foster and Andrews in 1852, and the place of the choir and organ was in the gallery above-mentioned till 1874   [From Churches of South Ramsey,1923.  See ]

Rushen, Holy Trinity, generally referred to as Kirk Christ Francis Roads has been studying some of the extensive collection of manuscript west gallery material that was sung here.

Churches which are known to have had west gallery features or connections

Ballough Old Church, St Mary A tiny, rectangular church that was replaced when the new church was built some two miles to the south. The old church had gone through many changes and its present form is only half the size that it had been in the 18th century. The blocked-up entrance to the now demolished west gallery can still be seen over the west porch. One of the west gallery musicians took over playing the organ when the new church was dedicated.
Ballure, Dedication ? A friend who is interested in music tells me that he remembers reading in a musical paper some years ago that Dr. Miller, organist of York Minster, composed some tunes which were not at first published but put into "barrel-organs," and the first of these was sold to Ramsey Church, Isle of Man. Perhaps therefore the tune ‘ ‘Rockingham’ ‘ was first sung in Ballure Church.

The following extract is quoted from "The Choir" of the present month:— "In 1786 Miller took his degree of Mus.D. at Cambridge, and four years later he issued his Psalms of David, which had an immediate success, and nearly five thousand subscribers, from George the Third downwards, gave in their names, whilst the King also forwarded Miller a present of £25 in token of appreciation of his work. In the year following its publication, nearly one hundred and thirty Churches adopted Miller’s Psalms, and in the Isle of Man, upon the Bishop’s recommendation,

"the inferior clergy and the inhabitants of the parish of Ramsey entered into a subscription for a large Psalmodic or Barrel-organ, to be erected in their Church, to perform all the tunes in Dr. Miller’s Selection with additional interludes and voluntaries of his adoption "
[From Churches of South Ramsey,1923.  See ]


Most of the pre-19th-century churches in the Isle of Man are known to have had west galleries though it is not always certain that they were used to house the musicians. There is some evidence that instrumentalists might have played from the front of the church, as was often the practice in Methodist churches and chapels. Singing masters such as the Cumbrian Master Shepherd were active in the island in the 18the and 19th centuries and John Wesley commented favourably on the standard of singing he heard from congregations.

It was the Methodists – Wesleyan and Primitive – who carried on the wg music tradition when it began to decline in the parish churches. Most of the town churches built by the Methodists have fine galleries but these tended to be congregational. Choirs were usually placed at the east end of the church. Country churches tended to be much smaller. Singing was (and in many cases, still is) hearty. There is some indication that in many cases instrumentalists were placed at the foot of the pulpit.

Chapels which either have, or are known to have had, west gallery features or connections

Asterisks denote churches in preparation

Thanks to Fenella Bazin for many of the notes on this page. 


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Edwin and Sheila Macadam,

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