This is the flagship (and at £10, the most expensive) of the Manx Heritage properties. When it opened it was cutting edge, state of the art. Unfortunately times have moved on, but not the exhibits or the museum.
This is probably the place to visit on a wet day when you can’t think of anything else to do, and you have a card giving free entry.
The ground floor covers the Celtic, Viking and medieval period. Upstairs is the herring era and the Isle of man Steam Packet Company.
The museum is named after the Island’s sea god, Manannan, who could cast a cloak of mist around the island to protect it from its enemies. After a very short video setting the scene, Mannanan takes you through the early history of Man. This is done through myths and stories, rather than factual history.
You are taken through a series of tableaux representing the different stages in Manx history, There is a full size replica of a Celtic roundhouse constructed from upright posts infilled with wattle and daub. The family sit around the central hearth listening to stories told by the family elder.
The next tableau is an early Christian burial.
The Vikings arrive, settle and intermarry with the native Celts. The language remains Celtic although Norse place names appear. There is a scene in a Viking longhouse with two models sitting at a table (both looking slightly drunk as if they have had a heavy night on the local beer) plus a conversation which could have come direct from Eastenders. The attention to detail of the reconstruction is immaculate, but there was no written information and the spoken dialogue was less than informative…
Finally Manannan takes us to the Viking crosses and the story of Sigurd and the dragon. By now I was beginning to turn off and was getting thoroughly fed up of Manannan. It was interesting that many other people seemed to be doing the same and wandering through without stopping to listen.
Leaving Manannan behind, the next gallery contains a two thirds replica of Odin’s Raven, a Viking longship made in Norway which was sailed to Peel to mark the 1000 year celebrations of Tynwald. It is impressive. There is some information about the voyage but little about Viking boats or how they enabled the Vikings to cover such long distances to become a powerful maritime force. A wasted opportunity…
The room next to Oden’s Raven is the Chronicles of Man exhibition. A series of display boards give a very brief potted history of the island at that time. There are a few other artefacts including pieces of pottery, and coins as well as a seal, and ring. The highlight is a copy of the Chronicles of Man which was originally written by monks at Rushen Abbey and covers Manx history from 1066-1316. There were also dressing up costumes and swords which were very popular with the younger visitors.
Stairs lead to the maritime galleries with street scenes from Peel, complete with smells and noises. There is a chandler’s shop complete with a machine making ship’s biscuit’. Above is the sail maker’s loft.
Through ‘windows’ are street scenes, each depicting a different scene and ‘conversation’. May be it is my age, but I found the different conversations cancelled each other out in such a small space and I found it difficult to concentrate on a single conversation. When I did again they seemed to be just general ‘chatter’. There was a booklet of transcripts hanging on a wall but no-one seemed to bother to read it.
This leads through into a reconstructed kipper smoke house. Again there was minimal information. You would be better visiting Moore’s Kippers in Peel, which still smokes kippers traditionally and runs factory tours.
Next to this were small rooms with mannequins. You were asked to touch an item in front of each to find out more about the different characters. It was a nice idea, but many didn’t seem to work. Content was very variable from quite detailed to very little.
The final part of the museum was a display on Isle of Man Steam Packet Company with a lot of small models of the different ships and a mock bridge to steer the boat.
I had high hopes of my visit but came away feeling very cheated having learned little about the history or culture of the Isle of Man. Perhaps I should have gone to the Manx Museum in Douglas instead, which from memory, is traditional museum with lots of artefacts and information.
I’d finished (or perhaps it might be more accurate to say) the House of Manannan had finished me in two hours…
I am disappointed to be writing such a negative review about the House of Manannan. When it opened it felt such an exciting and different museum. It still has the potential to be a very good – but Manx Heritage need to have a good think about how to bring it into the C21st and ways to include more information for the visitors who want fact.
There is more information and pictures of the”here,”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/man/index.html Isle of Man