Laxey Heritage Trail

This walking trail around our historic village takes around 2 hours at a leisurely pace.

Much of the Information on this page comes from a printed brochure coordinated by Garff Commissioners with kind assistance from Andrew Scarffe of the Laxey & Lonan Heritage Trust, and Patricia Newton and Martin Faragher who devised the trail.

Photographs are courtesy of Daniel Kneale, Andrew Scarffe, Sarah Henthorn, Patricia Newton and Peter Burgess. The maps are by Vic Bates. The production of this brochure was funded jointly with Isle of Man Tourism.

Heritage Trail

Click on the links to reveal information and photos about each place of interest.

Our heritage trail starts at the world famous Laxey Wheel. Known as “Lady Isabella”, the world’s biggest water wheel was christened on 27th September 1854.

Designed by Manx engineer Robert Casement (see also 3 and 12) and used for driving the pump rods to force water out of the mine, the wheel became a tourist attraction in itself.

The Browside Tramway, (which utilised a water-based counter-balancing system), carried visitors up the slope for 1d, and downslope men were charged 1/2d, while ladies went free to the pleasure grounds in the current carpark area.

The footpath down to the left below Cronk y Chule, leads above the former changing rooms of the mine (see 16) to the recently reinstated Great Laxey Mine Railway which boasts the longest tunnel in the Island!

The railway, with two engines the “Ant” and the “Bee”, superseded ponies in the 1870s to bring ore out of the mine via the main adit, passed the “Deads”, to the washing floors (see 3) for sorting. Nearby the Copper Adit was the first mining trial dug.

Heritage Trail

Across the main road “Blacks” was formerly Parr’s Bank and subsequently became Dumbell’s Bank.

The Bank collapsed in 1900 with the loss of many people’s savings including those of the tramway company and Robert Williamson, owner and operator of the Laxey Glen Gardens.

The nearby entrance leads to the washing floors which Robert Casement designed in 1848 (see also 1 and 12) where you can now find a fully restored water Wheel known as Lady Evelyn.

Exit the bottom of the washing floors and follow the river onto Glen Road where it meets the Glen Roy tributary.

On the opposite side is a private dwelling, formerly the village infant school. This operated in conjunction with the National School which  was on the hillside above the Woollen Mills.

The mills started life as water powered corn mills but were acquired by Egbert Rydings a silk weaver from Clitheroe in Lancashire and the St. George’s Guild founded by John Ruskin, and reopened as such in 1881. The mills operated on the principle “from the mountain track to the wearer’s back” – i.e. you should be able to have a suit made out of the wool you supplied to the mill.

Use of steam powered machinery was not allowed but was briefly introduced in the 1940s and 1950s, until the mills returned to hand production as today. The Laxey tartan is one of its most popular products.

Heritage Trail

The broken weir serves as a reminder of the disastrous effects of a rain storm in September 1930 which resulted in the weir being blocked by a tree trunk swept
down the swollen river. The resulting flood affected all but one property in Glen Road and knocked out the power station, on the far bank of the river, which supplied the Manx Electric Tramway.

On the left hand side many of the original cottages were improved by the addition of new frontages – courtesy of the endeavours of Laxey miners who had emigrated to South Africa and other mining countries for work and subsequently returned wealthier or sent money home.

Opposite Verndale, the home of local builder John Mylroie, the Victoria Terrace workshop has the masque of his son who died as a student from influenza. Mylroie’s were responsible for many buildings in the village including Chapel Terrace and former boarding houses Seafield and Ravenscliffe.

The public footpath on the left leads to the Quarry Falls, a hidden waterfall in the surroundings of the former Hogg’s quarries, supplier of local building stone. At its base a former water wheel case was used for a joiner’s workshop.

The neighbouring Department of Transport’s depot started life as the slaughter house for the “Upper Co” Laxey Industrial” (Cooperative Society).

The public recreation ground on both sides of Glen Road is the generous legacy of the Henry Bloom Noble Trust. Henry Bloom Noble was an entrepreneur who had extensive property interests in Laxey and Lonan.

Heritage Trail

Palladian House was the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel dating from 1843 but enlarged to its present form in 1850.

When Primitive and Wesleyan sects of Methodism united, the “Prim” Sunday school on Minorca Hill became the seat of worship and the Wesleyan Sunday school, on the opposite side of Glen Road, became the hall. Seaward of Palladian House, houses are built on the site of a former builder’s yard and early chemical
factory/dyeworks. Behind Chapel Terrace are the remains of one of Laxey’s two Breweries.

The Mona Lisa restaurant and the adjacent buildings are located in the former Laxey Equitable Co-operative (Lower Co.) premises. The co-operative supplied everything – “from the cradle to the grave”, and had it’s own slaughter house at the rear.

The former Old Laxey Bridge or “Monks Bridge” was medieval in origin and had 5 arches. Unfortunately during a devastating flood event on 3rd Dec 2015 the bridge was severely damaged and subsequently demolished. The  replacement bridge was completed in 2017. The bridge lead to “Punchen” road a packhorse road to Ramsey, now Breeze Hill, – a local is said to have carried a punchen of ale up the hill for a mile and a quarter.

The original bridge was only widened in the 1820s the route having been replaced by Minorca Hill, the first horse and cart route 20 years earlier! A final widening of the old bridge took place in in the 1870s to enable the wagonway from the mine which came along Glen Road to swing around the corner and onto the bridge and thence down to the harbourside.

Overlooking all is the hilltop “keeill” site of St Niglus (St Nicholas). This early Christian chapel had a well at its foot reportedly running red with blood after a battle. The nearby chalet site was briefly the home of the first Cunningham’s holiday camp for young men on the Island.

Tent Road was named after the tents erected here for Laxey Fair. Here the sailing club now uses the Old Laxey Working Men’s Institute and Reading Room, built in 1871 by the miners.

Next door the former warehouse was opened in 1866 by Captain Rowe, Erskine Clothing factory in the 1930s, and Laxey Pipe Factory in the 1960s.

Captain Rowe was also for having the dock opposite dug out to serve the village.

Laxey Promenade was built in 1929 as part of a winter work scheme for former miners. Originally the beach extended back to Back Shore Road or Pig Street. The car parking area was the “jack store” (black jack is another name for zinc ore) and the current cafe was a lead store. In the summer months boats were available for hire.

The area was to have been the site of Rowe’s “Brighton of the North” scheme for tourism development. Until recent years the TT’s popular Honda gathering event still attracted huge crowds and was one of the last events visited by the charismatic Joey Dunlop.

On Shore Road is the Salvation Army Hall, built in1825 as the first Primitive Methodist Church.

Heritage Trail

Prior to the opening of the mine, Old Laxey was the original village based around fishing and industry, with mills, warehouses and a red herring house. Its former post office was the birthplace of the later styled “King of Laxey” Robert Williamson who founded the Glen Gardens (see 11 & 13) and a family grocer shop which was later run by his brother James.

Uphill on the right attached to Cronk-na-Quill is reputedly the smallest house on the Island formerly occupied by a shoemaker. The Shore Hotel built in1837 was the site of the second Laxey Brewery and is still used as such today. Following the river upstream alongside the Shore Hotel, the footpath leads to two industrial buildings variously used as flax mills, paper mills, dye works, power station and turbine house for the Manx Electric Railway, a carpet factory and a film studio.

The larger of the buildings as a power station had a flue 60ft high reaching the height of New Road above. Coal was brought across a bridge on a branch of the wagonway from Glen Road. The path carries on uphill to the rear of ‘the Dips’ – the BMX track, and following the right hand branch leads to the “Car Sheds” where the first tramway station was built when the track initially reached Laxey in 1894. The station  as moved along the line to its present location (see 14) as bridges were built.

Ahead, a stile to Lower Rencell Hill and steps lead to New Road (completed a few  months before “Lady Isabella” in 1854) and to the offices of the former Laxey Village Commissioners, now Garff Parish District Commissioners. This building was purchased from Robert Williamson in 1938 and was part of the premises used in the production of “pop” and acetylene.

Heritage Trail

To the left, the Queens Hotel, which like other pubs in the vicinity evolved with the stage coach route, was scene of a major fire in 1905. Towards the village centre another former ‘rest and be thankful’ – “The Commercial” or “The Coach and Horses” is now the Laxey Health Centre. In contrast, the former Temperance Hotel (opposite the Old Police Station) is now a private house.

“Moore’s Bridge” is one of the highest viaducts in the Island built by John James Moore of Baljean. Running proudly adjacent to it is a fine Railway Bridge built
in only 3 months in 1898 by Mark Carine. Laxey Glen Flour Mills, designed by Robert Casement (see 1 and 3) is the only surviving operational flour mill on the
Island. Captain Richard Rowe, a Cornishman (see 9), opened the mill in 1861 and his family crest adorns the front of the building; the same symbol is used to indicate the purity of tin exported from Cornwall.

The Glen Gardens, originally opened as “Victoria Park” in the 1860s by Robert Williamson (see 10 and 11), accommodated a host of attractions and a pavilion. The glen, now owned by the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture, is made freely available for public use. The nearby Glen House was Williamson’s own home and a hotel designed by one of the Island’s finest architects W. J. Rennison.

On the right hand side of New Road, is “The Working Men’s Institute”, erected in 1876 by the miners for their educational benefit. It has seen many notable village events such as the first Commissioners elections in 1895, the first film show and the inquest into the tragic Snaefell Mine disaster – the Island’s worst mining disaster when 20 men lost their lives.

Next door Montague House, with a freemason’s symbol above, was built for William Stevenson in 1868. This was the first building occupied by the Laxey Industrial Co-operative Society (the Upper Co.) who later built the nearby White House buildings. In the 1960’s Montague House was re-fronted and now houses the village chemist.

Turn right into the station area. In the former gardens of the Mine Captain’s house (now the Mines Tavern), is Christ Church Laxey. Built as a chapel of ease in
1853/4, the church was consecrated in 1856. The tramway from Douglas to Ramsey was completed in 1899 and combined in one station area with the extended Snaefell Mountain Railway.

Completion necessitated demolition of a third of the Mine Captain’s house which became licensed premises after the large station dining rooms burnt down in  1919. Opposite its rear entrance onto Captain’s Hill is a closed footpath called “the Captain’s path” which was used as the personal route of the Mine Captain to the Washing Floors.

Beyond the MER goods shed is the former Blacksmith’s workshop and yard.

In the Heritage Garden at the entrance to Mines Road is the “Miners Statue”. Unveiled by the sculptor Ongky Wijana on 14th May 2015, the memorial is a figure of a Miner carved from dark grey “Carlow Blue” limestone. Behind the statue is the Snaefell Mountain Railway to the “Seven Kingdoms” which was opened in 1895 the 5 mile route having been constructed in just 7 months.

Dumbells Row, the longest line of purpose built (1860) industrial housing under a continuous roof line on the island was nicknamed “Ham and Egg terrace” after most houses started selling teas and meals to visitors in their front rooms. Only the Laxey Diner, formally Browns Café established in about 1906 in No.2 remains in catering use. Other former tourist attractions in Mines Road included photographic booths and working models  of the Laxey Wheel.

Laxey Tourist Information Centre and Gift shop operated by Laxey and Lonan Heritage Trust was previously used as the village fire station and the outline of the original opening may be seen on the front gable.

Heritage Trail

Mines House was used as the mine’s office and in the early 20th century as the Mine Captain’s house. The mountings for a bell used to signal the shift changes
are on the garden wall and an original ore truck donated by Mr John Corlett of Ballacowin Farm is in the garden.

The adjoining Mine Yard contained a blacksmith’s yard, a carpenters’ workshop and a gunpowder store which is now the public toilets! On the opposite side of the river were the changing rooms for the miners who then went underground along the cross cut adit to descend to the levels where they were working.

Stables accommodated the ponies who pulled ore trucks from the mine. The buildings washed away in the 1930 flood, a year after the mine officially closed.

The Building Housing Ballacregga Tea Rooms was formally the a 18th century water driven corn mill which was operational until the start of World War 2.

Opposite, the road and path lead up the line of the former Browside Tramway and back to the start of the walk.