As in other Celtic areas of the British Isles, the Isle of Man has a history of a high regard for academic learning. Even though Manx Gaelic has mainly been a spoken language, rather lacking the written word, it has strong poetic overtones.
Schools were operating on the Island earlier than the 17th century. In Peel there are accounts of an English School in Market Street and the so-called Latin School in Castle Street. In 1655, the will of a public spirited expatriate Peel man included a generous legacy to the people of Peel – the rents of two properties in the City of London. This was Philip Christian, who, after learning his trade in a linen mill at Union Mills, moved to London, where he prospered, becoming Warden of the Clothworkers’ Guild. Because of his legacy, substantial sums came to Peel to defray the costs of the building and maintenance of schools and to help finance many students in further education. The first of these schools was built shortly after his death, probably in Market Street.
In 1860, the all-age Christian’s endowed National School was built in Christian Street. New buildings followed in 1878 and 1898, on a site farther up Derby Road. The first of these originally accommodated only the older boys, but when the latter became the mixed Senior section, the first housed the Juniors, those aged from 7 upwards. In today’s parlance, the then Peel Clothworkers’ School could be described as comprehensive.
Change came in the mid twenties when those who passed the 11-plus exam ‘The Scholarship’, went off each day to attend Secondary Schools in Douglas – girls and boys separated. This situation lasted until 1947, when all children on reaching the age of eleven attended the newly comprehensive Douglas High School.
Back in Peel, the three old buildings were vacated in 1958, when the present Peel Clothworkers’ Primary School was built. After a rather long interval, the Christian Street School was refurbished, perpetuating its founder’s name when it took on a new life as the Philip Christian Centre, one of the small number of registered buildings in Peel. The other two newer school buildings were demolished in the 1980s to make way for a supermarket. Peel had to wait until 1979 or secondary education to return, with the opening of Queen Elizabeth High School.