Context 153 - March 2018

40 C O N T E X T 1 5 3 : M A R C H 2 0 1 8 STEVE BLACKFORD A new view of the Quarterdeck Preparing a conservation plan was the first step in restoring and finding a new use for a small building and former car park on a significant site in front of Castle Rushen in Castletown. Castletown sits at the mouth of the Silverburn River at the south-east corner of the Isle of Man. It was the capital of the island until this moved to Douglas in the 19th century. It was initially most likely established as a fortified settlement in the late 11th or early part of the 12th century. A two-storey, square plan-form, Norman-style keep was completed by the Norse King Ragvald (Reginald) Crovan in around 1200. Over the following two centuries the castle was besieged by Robert the Bruce, partially destroyed or consciously dismantled, and rebuilt and improved in a succession of phases. Development to keep up with new innovations in defensive and offensive architecture and weaponry, and to maintain accommodation standards for the Kings and Lords of Mann, continued through to the Civil War period, culminating in the creation of new royal apartments and a defensive outwork guarding the barbican entrance. In the 17th and 18th centuries the castle fell into decline in terms of maintenance, but remained in continuous use and occupation until the early 19th century when it was converted into the first official prison for the island. This use continued until a new prison was built at Victoria Road, Douglas, long after the capital and the lieutenant governor had relocated there. Shortly thereafter the castle was the subject of one of the earliest examples of a planned conservation project. This was directed by Manx arts and crafts architect Armitage Rigby, under the patronage of Lord Raglan, governor to the island, to strip it of most of its Castle Rushen with the ‘NewWorke’ in the foreground (Photo: Manx National Heritage)