Castletown, Isle of Man

For other places with the same name, see Castletown.
Manx: Balley Chashtal

Castle Rushen seen across Castletown Harbour at low tide
 Castletown shown within the Isle of Man
Population 3,109 (Isle of Man census 2006)[1]
OS grid referenceSC263675
    Douglas  8.9 miles (14 km) ENE 
Crown dependencyIsle of Man
Post town ISLE OF MAN
Postcode district IM9
Dialling code 01624
Police Isle of Man
Fire Isle of Man
Ambulance Isle of Man
House of KeysCastletown
List of places
Isle of Man

Coordinates: 54°04′27″N 4°39′14″W / 54.074167°N 4.653889°W / 54.074167; -4.653889

Castletown (Manx: Balley Chashtal, pronounced [ˈbalʲə ˈxaʃtʃəl]) is a town geographically within the Malew parish of the Isle of Man but administered separately. Lying at the south of the island, it was the Manx capital until 1869. The centre of town is dominated by Castle Rushen, a well-preserved medieval castle, originally built for a Viking king.


Castletown is the former capital of the Isle of Man and site of Tynwald, and can trace its roots back to 1090. The town has narrow streets and small fishing cottages. Castle Rushen (at the centre of the town) was originally built in 1265 for a Norse king, then fortified and added to by successive rulers between the 13th and 16th centuries.[2] The Castle has been used as a fortress, a residence for the Kings and Lords of Mann, as the site for a mint and even a prison (past prisoners include a bishop[3] and two newspaper editors). The town and castle were the site of a number of sieges and battles, especially during the years when control of the Island passed between the Norse, Scots and English. Robert the Bruce laid siege to and captured the Castle three times.

The history of the town and Island are illustrated in four Manx National Heritage sites in the centre of Castletown: Castle Rushen, the Nautical Museum (in the secret passage-filled home of inventor, politician and probable smuggler George Quayle), the Old Grammar School (originally a medieval church from AD 1200) and the old House of Keys.

Fishing boats still continue to go out to fish from the harbour. Commercial traffic to the port ended in the 1970s, although there has been an ongoing expansion of finance and industrial businesses in the area.[4] The first telephones appeared in Castletown in 1901.


Castletown is, along with Douglas, Peel and Ramsey, one of four town local authorities. They were all designated as towns by the Town Act 1852. Castletown became a local authority in 1883.

Until 2016 it was also a House of Keys constituency, electing one Member of the House of Keys (MHK). The town's representative until 2011 was Tony Brown who was the Chief Minister of the Isle of Man after the Manx general election, 2006. He retired in 2011 and was replaced as MHK for Castletown by Richard Ronan. Since 2016 it has been part of the Arbory, Castletown & Malew constituency.

In 1874, the House of Keys moved from Castletown to Douglas.[5]


The Isle of Man Census 2011 lists the town's population as 3,097 (2006: 3,109)[1] It is the fourth largest town on the island, after Douglas, Ramsey and Peel, but is also smaller than Onchan and Port Erin, which have the status of villages.

Geography and Geology

The town lies on the northwest side of Castletown Bay. The opposite shore of the bay is the west coast of the distinctively-shaped Langness Peninsula.

The older parts of the town are largely built of local grey limestone. At Scarlett, a short distance to the south of the town, there are the remains of an ancient volcano and various other features such as fossils and thick sheets of limestone.



To the north-east are Ronaldsway Airport and industrial zone, and the village of Ballasalla; to the north-west the villages of Ballabeg and Colby; and to the west Port St Mary and Port Erin. The A3 road connects Castletown with Ramsey via St John's, while the A5 road (also known as New Castletown Road as opposed to the Old Castletown Road which takes a more rural route nearer the coast) connects the town with Douglas to the north-east and Port Erin to the west.

The A25 road was the historical route to Douglas and is now bypassed by the A5. There are free electric car charging stations available in a car park in the centre of the town. The town has several car parks including one above the harbour close to the old school house, to the rear of the Castle Arms and off Victoria Road as well as dedicated parking for the local bank, supermarkets and the railway station.


Bus services operate through the town to Douglas, Port St Mary and Port Erin using route numbers 1, 2, 11 and 12; these run about every twenty minutes on weekdays and Saturdays with a less frequent service at weekends and after 6.00pm. Some of these services (1c and 11b) do not run through the town but use the bypass road. These routes are the island's busiest, in part because they also serve Ronaldsway Airport just outside the town. A late evening service also operates on Friday and Saturday evenings, called the Hullaid Oie (Night Owl), which charges premium fare rates. There are also occasional buses to Peel (Service No. 8) via Foxdale; all these buses are within the island's transport network Bus Vannin, a government-run service which replaced the railway-operated Isle of Man Road Services in 1976.


The town is also served by Castletown railway station, on the sole remaining section of the Isle of Man Railway, a 3 ft narrow gauge steam-operated railway which now runs 15 miles from Douglas to Port Erin. The railway station is on the northeasterly edge of the town next to Poulsom Park and playing fields, and was at one time used to transport beer from the Castletown Brewery as well as cattle and other livestock; remnants of the cattle dock are still visible at the railway station, which is open seasonally between March and November as well as weekends around Christmas; there is a small volunteer group, the Friends of Castletown Railway Station, who tend to the area in association with the Isle of Man Steam Railway Supporters' Association, a local charity.


The island's only commercial airport, Ronaldsway Airport, is just over one mile northeast of the town and is served by both Bus Vannin and Castletown railway station as well as local taxi services. There is a closer railway station at Ronaldsway. The airport runways and aprons spread over the area to the edge of the grounds of King William's College and close to the Janet's Corner local authority housing estate. The airport was first used as an airfield in 1928, with passenger services to the mainland commencing in 1933.

Long-distance footpaths


Sunset over King William's College

Private college

King William's College is an independent school. Founded in 1668 with funds from the Bishop Barrow Trust, it opened in 1833 with 46 boys. It is now co-educational, with about 500 pupils. The college has two sites in the town: the main estate is near the shore of Castletown Bay at the end of the main airport runway, and the Buchan School, the college's junior school, is in the Westhill area of Castletown, about 2 km (1.2 mi) from the main campus.

State schools

Other schools are: Castle Rushen High School, a co-educational secondary state school in the south-west of the town; and one primary school, Victoria Road School, originally opened as a boys' school in 1895, with a girls' school in Hope Street.[6] The old grammar school in the town, which later became a chapel, is now an exhibit of a Victorian period schoolroom, part of the Story of Mann. This is open to the public between Easter and November and can be found close to the castle and the Old House of Keys.


Birmingham Citadel Band. Old St Mary's Church (background)
St Mary's Catholic Church

There are three churches in the town.


Castletown Methodist Church on Arbory Street, founded in 1932, is part of the Methodist Church in the Isle of Man, which in turn is part of the British Methodist Connexion. It can trace its history back to the visits of the founder of Methodism John Wesley to the town in the 18th century. It is sometimes known locally as Arbory Street, formerly to distinguish it from the Malew Street chapel when the former was the Wesleyan Methodist and the latter the Primitive Methodist Chapel.


On the town square is Old St Mary's Church, which is now office accommodation. It once had a spire, but this was lost in the early 1900s. The "new" St Mary's on the harbour replaced this church and can be found in Hope Street, to the side of Thirtle Bridge. Known as St Mary's on the Harbour, it is the Anglican parish church. The church was consecrated in 1985 when the congregation moved from the Garrison (Old St Mary's) Church in Castletown Square.[7]


St Mary's Roman Catholic Church is on Bowling Green Road, near Janet's Corner. It was built in the 1820s; it was the first post-Reformation Catholic Church to be built on the island.[8] It is the third church in the town to be dedicated to St Mary, after the title of the Rushen Abbey of St Mary. It has two intricate and colourful Celtic Revival/Art Nouveau windows, which depict the Annunciation and the Resurrection. These were made by the Clarke Brothers of Dublin.


Further afield is Malew Church, just over a mile north of the town on the A4 road towards St John's, a road which forms part of the Billown Circuit. The Church's name is from its original dedication to the early Celtic Saint, Saint Moluag, who is said to have converted the Picts to Christianity in the west of Scotland. Malew Church has its own graveyard, unlike the churches in the town; the minor bend around the church grounds has the title Church Bends on the racing circuit.

King William's College

There is a private chapel at King William's College, which was built in 1878, and consecrated on 28 January 1879. Designed by local architect James Cowle, it features a scissor-braced roof with canopied stalls. Windows commemorate T. E. Brown, an old boy of the college.


Castletown Golf Links
Poulsom Park, Castletown R.U.F.C.
Stadium Corner, Castletown
Southern Swimming Pool


Castletown Metropolitan F.C. play in the Isle of Man Football League and are based at the Castletown Football Stadium, Malew Road. Formed in 1904, the club is one of the most successful on the Isle of Man. They have been champions of the Isle of Man League eight times, including three consecutive seasons from 1922-23 to 1924-25 and won the Manx F.A. Cup seven times.[9][10]


There are two Rugby Union football clubs in the town; both play in the Manx Shield:

Castletown R.U.F.C. are based at Poulsom Park. The club now has permanent changing facilities. These were officially opened in October 2006 and built with the support of the Rugby Football Union (RFU), Manx Lottery Trust, Manx Sports Council, Castletown Commissioners and the members of the team. With the newly formed Castletown Rugby Union Football Club Limited, the club has secured the tenure on the pitch at Poulsom Park, having taken on a lease from the Castletown Commissioners.

Southern Nomads R.U.F.C. are based at King William's College.


Castletown cricket club is based at King William's College and is a member of the Isle of Man Cricket Association.[11]


Castletown Golf & Country Club is located on the Langness Peninsula. It is a tournament golf course, and is a Top 100 course designed by Old Tom Morris and redesigned by Mackenzie Ross. The 17th hole has the unusual feature of a drive over the Irish Sea. The links has hosted, among other events, the PGA Cup (1979), Europro Tour 2002, Manx Classic Pro Am and the Duke of York Young Champions Trophy in 2003 and again in 2005.


The Billown Circuit motor cycling course has its start line in the town. The course is home to the Southern 100, a motorcycle racing event held on the Isle of Man in July of each year. The event was first held in 1955, when there were three races for different classes of motorcycles; the current calendar includes twelve races for various classes. The paddock, clubhouse and race control are all located on the outskirts of the town.


Castletown Bowling Club is located at the Crofts.[12]


Next to the bowling green is Castletown Lawn Tennis Club, probably the most successful tennis club on the Isle of Man. With teams in all local leagues. The club has recently won 6 leagues in the 2010-11 season.[13]


Southern Swimming Pool is a 25-metre, five lane short course pool.[14]

World Championship Tin Bath Races

This annual event takes place in the middle harbour; it is organised by the Castletown Ale Drinkers' Society and sponsored by local breweries, with support from the Isle of Man Department of Community, Culture and Leisure and further sponsorship from local radio station Three FM. It raises money for local charities. Each year there are over 100 competitors and teams from the Isle of Man and elsewhere. In 2011 the event celebrated its 40th anniversary.

2011 Commonwealth Youth Games

The "culture day" prior to the closing ceremony of the 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games was held in Castletown on 12 September 2011 with competitors all travelling by steam train to the town square, where a number of attractions were laid on.[15]

Places of interest

Old House of Keys, off Parliament Square; opened seasonally by Manx National Heritage
Police station

Much of the attraction of Castletown is in the quality of its many 18th- and early 19th-century buildings, many constructed in the local silver-grey limestone. The town centre retains its early layout, echoing the cluster of houses around the Castle, the harbour and the military parade ground, is still used as a market place. The interested visitor can still identify the original building plots, and the crofts attached to them, which have given their name to a residential area close to the town centre.

Tunnels and legends

Castle Rushen and the town have long been said to have networks of tunnels.[19] In 1938 tunnels under the town square were found (by Ramsey Quayle, the local baker, who was replacing an oven in his basement) leading to the Castle from nearby houses. Bagnio House (which was originally the Lord of Mann's bathhouse and brothel) also had a tunnel leading from it. The legend of Ivar and Matilda tells how in 1249 the knight Ivar saved his betrothed Matilda from the attentions of King Reginald (Rögnvaldr Óláfsson) and killed the king, after discovering a tunnel to the Castle, where Matilda was being kept prisoner.[20] The killing continued an ongoing struggle between different factions of the royal family. There are also legends of giants in the tunnels under the Castle.[21]

Notable people


Castletown, view from the castle 
Castletown from Scarlett 
Captain John Quilliam RN 
In memory of Colonel Cornelius Smelt 
Aerial view (from the west) 
Looking past police station to Nautical Museum from Castle Rushen 
No. 4 Loch Castletown railway station (1978) 
Station platform, Castletown railway station 

Members of the House of Keys and elections

Year Election Turnout Candidates
1903 General election Unknown
1919 By-election Unknown
1919 General election Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (elected unopposed)
1924 General election Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (elected unopposed)
1929 General election Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (elected unopposed)
1934 General election Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (elected unopposed)
1946 General election Unknown Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (elected)
1951 General election Unknown Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (elected)
1956 General election Unknown Sir Joseph Davidson Qualtrough (elected)
Qualtrough's death led to a by-election
on 17 February 1960:
1960 By-election 73.4%
  • Thomas Harold Colebourn (494 votes, elected)
  • Joseph P Qualtrough (347 votes)
  • James Blackburn (156 votes)
1962 General election 83.3%

(Colin Vereker became Viscount Gort in 1975.)

  • Mrs M Faragher (76 votes)
1966 General election 74.1%
  • Colin Vereker (685 votes, elected)
  • Thomas Harold Colebourn (309 votes)
  • J R G Crellin (301 votes)
  • Possibly other candidates
1971 General election 81.3%
  • Elspeth Quayle, elected
  • Colin Vereker
  • Commodore Roland Watkin, RN, CBE
1976 General election 80.2%
  • Elspeth Quayle (893 votes, elected)
  • Colin Vereker (Viscount Gort) (405 votes)
  • Clifford Peach (315 votes)
1981 General election 68.7%
1986 General election 67.3%
  • Tony Brown (995 votes, elected)
  • J. K. Gale (487 votes)
1991 General election
  • Tony Brown (elected unopposed)
1996 General election 67.2%
  • Tony Brown (876 votes, elected)
  • Elsie Pickard (467 votes)
  • Carol Edge (102 votes)
2001 General election
  • Tony Brown (elected unopposed)
2006 General election 62.2%
  • Tony Brown (915 votes, elected)
  • Roy Redmayne (Liberal Vannin), 335 votes
2011 General election 65.7%
  • Richard Ronan, 520 votes, elected
  • Jason Moorehouse, 479 votes
  • Mahendra Patel, 280 votes
  • Colin Leather, 108 votes
  • Carol Quine, 43 votes
  • David Pownall, 33 votes

In 2016 the constituency was abolished.


  1. 1 2 "Isle of Man Census 2006 Summary Results" (PDF). Economic Affairs Division, Isle of Man Treasury. 2006. p. 3. Archived from the original (PDF) on 29 October 2008. Retrieved 28 September 2008.
  2. "Castletown". Isle of Man Guide. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  3. "Old House of Keys". Isle of Man Guide. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  4. "Victoria Road School". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  5. "Castletown Parish Church St. Mary's on the Harbour". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  6. "St Mary's Catholic Church". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  7. "Isle of Man 1897/98 and 1970/71-1994/95". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. 29 May 2007. Retrieved 8 September 2008.
  8. "Isle of Man List of Cup Winners". Rec.Sport.Soccer Statistics Foundation. 8 June 2008. Retrieved 10 September 2008.
  9. "IOMCA Member Clubs". Isle of Man Cricket Association. Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  10. "Castletown Bowling Club". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  11. "Castletown Lawn Tennis Club". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  12. It is situated in the same grounds as Castle Rushen High School. "Southern Swimming Pool". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  13. "2011 venues". 2011 Commonwealth Youth Games. Retrieved 21 September 2008.
  14. "Old Grammar School". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  15. "Nautical museum". Retrieved 29 September 2008.
  16. Archaeologists move 'Britain's oldest yacht', BBC News Isle of Man/Ellan Vannin, 29 January, 2015

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