The Grammar School
was originally a chapel built about 1190 - 1230 AD. It consisted
of a nave and a south aisle divided by an arcade of three Romanesque
arches. The arches were constructed of yellowish sandstone and
supported by limestone piers. The doorway in the north wall may
be original but there are no surviving traces of the medieval
windows, wall plaster, floor or roof materials.
The school is sited on Castletown harbour with Castle Rushen to the north and
the sea to the south. From the school you can see out to Langness
and Scarlett. The building stopped being used as a school in the
1930's and is now a museum to the public. It still has the original
school desks, chairs, blackboards etc from the last days of the
In 1701 the town church ceased to be a church anymore
and became a school instead. Because the church was not large
enough to become a school they had to make some building changes.
The south aisle was demolished, the two western arches blocked
and an annex wing erected running toward the sea from the east
end of the nave.
In 1757 Thomas Castley was appointed master and
held the post for 50 years He had an eventful term of office.
The trustees attempted to reduce his salary as a master of the
Free Grammar School from £60 to £30, but he took chancery proceedings
and won his case.
In 1763 a committee of the House of Keys investigated
a complaint that he had reduced the number of boys from 40 - 50
to 5-6 by demanding excessive fees and decided that Castley was,
by deposition and practice, both a harsh and cruel man and was
no longer allowed to be a teacher.
In 1829 a major restoration scheme was carried
out and probably included minor structural alterations such as
the conversion of one of the annex windows into a doorway leading
to a schoolyard. Throughout the 18th century most of the Island's
prominent men received their education at the school.
In 1886 Mr Gilbert Holt was appointed to teach both
the Free Grammar School and the Academic scholars. He received
a salary for both positions. £30 from the Impropriety Fund and
£30 from the Academic Master's Fund plus fees paid by some of
the scholars for their tuition. This was a princely total compared
to the £5 paid to the master of the petty school. School life
was strict and students were always expected to look their very
Children had to wear clean clothes and have immaculately
clean faces, hands and fingernails. The teachers wore gowns and
mortar boards. Students were given the cane if they misbehaved,
and they were kept after school hours to write out lines.
One boy, when writing about his school life at the
Grammar School, wrote that sometimes the teacher wouldn't turn
up after the time they had to write their lines to unlock the
door. He said that he and his friends used to have to climb out
of a window to get out.