Building Name

Marine Drive: Douglas Head: Isle of Man

1892 - 1893
Marine Drive
Douglas Head, Douglas
Isle of Man
New build

Maxwell & Tuke completed the Douglas Head Marine Drive with its rugged castellated gateway in 1891 and Blackpool Tower followed, the foundation stone laid in the same year. These structures could hardly have been more contrasting, but interconnections between the relevant Douglas and Blackpool promoting companies may have led to the practice gaining the Tower commission.

In the early part of the nineteenth century the lower part of Douglas Head, overlooking the harbour and Douglas Bay, had become a favoured place for 'desirable' residences. By the 1880s, the headland had also become a place of resort and entertainment for the holiday makers. Its main drawback was its inaccessibility, the only route being by the old stone bridge at the top of the harbour. Douglas Head Marine Drive Ltd  saw the possibilities of a toll road along the spectacular coastal scenery from Douglas to Port Soderick. Open to both pedestrians and vehicular traffic, the landowner, Major Goldie Taubman, was to receive 5% of receipts. By 1891, the roadway had reached as far as Wallberry, a distance of some 1.5 miles. Entrance was by means of an ornate castellated gateway and the Drive included a wooden bridge across Pigeon Stream. But the scheme then foundered through lack of finance.  A group of Lancashire businessmen came to the rescue in 1892, and the following year saw the construction of massive bridges across the deep clefts at Wallberry and Horse Leap and a turning place for horse‑drawn carriages at Little Ness. By November1893, the drive had reached as far as Keristal. Then again the money ran out.

Two of the main shareholders in the Marine Drive Company were partners in an Old Trafford engineering firm. They secured the concession from the Marine Drive Company to build a tramway and then sought a contractor to build the line, payment being largely in shares and in 1894 agreement was reached with the Electric and General Corporation from Westminster. However, the main concern was still the access to Douglas Head. In March 1895, agreement was reached with Major (now Sir John) Goldie‑Taubman to construct a 35‑foot road from the South Quay to Douglas Head. (Matters were also helped by the  construction of a swing bridge across the harbour). A separate company, Douglas Southern Electric Railway Ltd., was formed in October 1895 to own and operate the new tramway when completed. Sir John Goldie‑Taubman was its chairman and Dr Edward Hopkinson (of the Laxey electric railway fame) was employed as consultant engineer. The tramway company would pay 1d per passenger to the Marine Drive Company.

Work began in January, 1896, a single 4' 8.5" track, with passing loops, being laid on the landward side of the already existing carriage drive, this being widened where necessary. Pigeon Stream was crossed by a three‑span lattice girder bridge but the most spectacular engineering feats were the bridges crossing Wallberry and Horse Leap. The 256 foot long Wallberry bridge was in two sections, slightly angled on a central pillar which supported the track 267 feet above sea level. Built of wood and corrugated iron, the main depot, with car shed and workshop, was built at Little Ness ‑ 1.75 miles from the Douglas Head terminus which was sited overlooking the harbour and 400 yards before the Toll Gates. The power house built at Pigeon Stream, whose water supplied the two coal‑fired boilers for the two engines and generators. The 2.75 mile track as far as Keristal was completed by July and the first public service ran on 7th August, 1896. When the season finished at the end of September 53,536 passengers had been carried.  Twelve cars (six motorised and six trailers) were purchased and the tramway was soon  carrying an average of over 200,000 passengers a year. The tramway undoubtedly affected the receipts of the Marine Drive Company which went into receivership, unable to complete the Drive as far as Port Soderick. However, the tramway company pressed on and its track was extended in 1897 to complete the three miles to a point 180 feet above the beach and facilities at Port Soderick.

Reference           Douglas Cenenary 1896-1996

Reference    Manchester Guardian Friday 24 July 1891 Page 5  - report of official opening of the first section
Reference    Manchester City News 27 February 1892 Page 6
Reference    Builder 15 October 1892 Page 295
Reference    Manchester Courier 10 October 1892 Page 6 Column 2
Reference    Manchester Courier 1 October 1892 page 9 Column 5