Forty members of Peel Heritage Trust descended on Milntown on a pre-arranged evening visit. As a group of about twenty is ideal for the house, half of us visited the house first, whilst the rest of the party toured the grounds. We changed over after an all-too quickly passing hour. Further visits are a must.
As we strode towards the house, we were met by the ever-congenial Paul Ogden, curator, hand outstretched, in a lovely personal welcome. I’d last seen him when I visited the house when a member of the Planning Committee, so I was particularly keen to see how the dreams had come to fruition.
Our volunteer guides were first class – very affable and well informed. Heaven knows, the history of the house is exceedingly complex as are the histories of the families who have lived there. I must confess to refreshing my memory by looking at a couple of the excellent internet sites, including some lovely photographs of the interior. I can only indicate some points of interest.
The Christian family, long associated with the house, are thought to be descendants of Gillochrist, an associate of the Viking king, Godred Crovan. The family held various positions of power for the next 400 years. They also had important property in Cumbria. Notable members included the Manx patriot, Illiam Dhone and Fletcher Christian, forever associated with the mutiny on H.M.S. Bounty.
Having rented out Milntown, the Christians returned to refurbish the house in 1830. Unfortunately, by 1886, the family was bankrupt and the bank rented the house back to them, the last member of the family dying there in 1915.
Much of the surrounding land had been sold off, including Sky Hill, the golf club and Ramsey Grammar School sites.
There followed a succession of owners and uses until 1963, when the house and remaining 15 acres of grounds were bought by Lady Kathleen Edwards. They were left to the nation by her son, Sir Clive, in 1998. This included a fine collection of vintage cars, motorcycles and extensive motoring library built up by Sir Clive and his long-time friend, Bob Thomas.
Paul Ogden kindly opened the car collection for a few of us transport enthusiasts to photograph and drool over. They are on display and even on the road from time to time. The workshops are fascinating, being water powered.
The house is open Wednesday and Saturday afternoons in June, July and August but telephone 812 321 to ensure a place. The grounds are open separately and are a delight – matching the pleasures of the house and surrounding grounds. The restaurant is excellent and is operated as a separate franchise.
Our next meeting will be another treat. We meet at Ronaldsway, near the Manx Flying Club, on Sunday, 4th September, when Andrew Johnson, Manx National Heritage, will show us the sites of the excavations featured in his talk to us.