I was recently on the Isle of Man. It was my third visit in two years; part of my role as link tutor between the Dept of History and Archaeology at the University of Chester and the History & Heritage programme at University College Isle of Man (UCM. I hope to post about my travels on the Isle over coming weeks.
One site to begin with is the ruined chapel of St Trinian’s, Marown. I visited in heavy rain between meetings in Douglas and a visit to Tynwald. This chapel is located at the heart of the island, on the modern (and presumably historic) routebetween Douglas to the east and St John’s and Peel to the west, beneath the dramatic and looming Greeba Hill. The chapel is on a platform upon sloping ground uphill from the modern road, but perhaps upon an earlier route immediately north of the compound.
The chapel’s fabric today is mainly dated to the 14th century and is a single celled but long rectangular structure (23m by 7m) with a western bell-gable. However, Romanesque mouldings around the south door and north wall that hint at a 12th-century building at this location. Earthworks around the site, visible to aerial photographs, might relate to the hospital recorded in written sources. Post-medieval ridge-and-furrow is visible in the field too.
This might have been a far older site. It is located within an oval enclosure and lintel graves were discovered during the restoration of the ruins in 1910 which could be older than the building. Also, there are two cross-slabs and a rune-inscribed stone that indicate a pre-13th-century date for burial and memorialisation at this location. The rune-inscribed stone is now placed on the altar beside the heritage sign plaque.
The dedication to St Trinian’s is a derivation from original dedication to the early Christian ‘St Ninian’. This needn’t suggest an early site in itself, since this was the site of a chapel and hospital known from records to have been acquired by the Premonstratensian canons of Whithorn (Candida Casa) in 1215. The exact foundation might be older, supposed to date to the reign of Olafr I (1103-53). Still, the St Ninian dedication reflects later medieval affiliations with Whithorn and Galloway more generally than any exclusive association with an early church.
The folklore tells that a buggane (fairy) kept blowing off the roof of the chapel in response to the din of the bells.
The heritage signboard is a wonderful piece of material culture in itself. Fallen from its fixings on the inside of the western wall, it is now resting on the base of the altar.
My guide, Dr Catriona Mackie, and I couldn’t make my way inside the building, and so I couldn’t examine the puportedly early medieval stones in detail. However, here are some photographs of this distinctive site. We also didn’t see the buggane and the bells are no longer extant. We didn’t even spot a spectral George Cole…
Davey, P. J. 2015. Medieval monasticism and the Isle of Man c. 1130-1540, in S. Duffy and H. Mytum (eds). A New History of the Isle of Man Volume III: The Medieval Period 1000-1406, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, pp. 349-76.