The Nautical Museum tells the story of Captain George Quail and his boat, The Peggy.
The Quayle family were one of the most important and powerful families on the Isle of MAn, living in a large house on the Silverburn river in Castletown.
George Quayle was a politician, business man, founder of the the first Isle of Man Bank and an inventor. He had three strong rooms in his house opening from secret doors on each floor and fitted with amazing ‘Heath Robinson’ warning devices which rang bells if an unauthorised person tried to get in. There were stories that he was a smuggler, although those are now disputed. The carriage shed next to the house was converted into a boathouse for Quayle’s yacht, The Peggy.
The boat was built in Castletown in 1789 to carry both cargo and passengers. She was the first vessel to be fitted with ‘sliding keels’ which made her more manoeuvrable and able to carry more sail, thus making her faster. This was the time of the Napoleonic Wars and French privateers were attacking shipping into Liverpool and Belfast. She was armed with eight small cannons. Quayle turned the room above the dock into cabin room designed to resemble the stern cabin of a warship of the Nelson era. The room contains several hidden cupboards and a secret doorway which gave access to the boat deck below.
After Quayle’s death in 1835, The Peggy was abandoned in the boat cellar and the sea gates were blocked off. The dock gradually became filled in with soil and forgotten.
The Peggy was discovered in 1935 and her importance recognised as the only surviving example of a Manx clipper built in the C17th and C18th. The Peggy and the boat house were given to the Manx Museum Trustees and were opened as a Nautical Museum in 1951, with The Peggy as the star attraction.
In 2014/15, it was discovered that humidity and salt water had lead to corrosion of the iron nails and the keel was found to be bending and distorted. The Peggy has been removed for restoration. All the mud and debris had to be dug out of the dock in front of the boathouse. The Peggy was then slid out into the dry dock, lifted in a specially constructed winch and taken for conservation. Until she returns, all that can be seen is the empty boat cellar with its cobbled floor.
Above the cabin room is the sail loft. The room was used by George Quayle as a workshop and his lathe and telescope are displayed here, along with sail making equipment.
The gallery next to it contains models of old boats, old compasses, life belts, sea boots, floats ship’s bell and figure heads. There is also a sewing machine recovered from a ship wrecked in The Sound in February 1923, on its way to the Far East. Many sewing machines were salvaged and found their way into local homes.
Behind the ticket office is the Quayle Gallery with some basic information about George Quayle and The Peggy as well as a short video. There are more model boats as well as pictures of boats. There are a few C18th costumes and some dressing up clothes.
This gives access to a walkway above the boat dock with good views of Castle Rushen.
When we first visited the museum several years ago, we were taken round by an enthusiastic curator who told us all about The Peggy and the enigmatic Captain Quayle. We were shown all the hidden secrets of the cabin room. The visit in August 2018 was very different. The lady behind the desk told me where to go but made no attempt to tell me anything about the museum.
The short video is well worth watching and I would recommending starting here. It makes a brief mention of the secret passageways from the cabin room. The smuggling and other activities of Captain Quale are very much played down in the video and also information boards. (Are Manx Heritage ashamed of them?)
I knew before I visited The Peggy was away for conservation/preservation. Even so I was very disappointed by the visit. It is only a small museum and apart from a lot of models of ships (and dressing up clothes for the children) there isn’t a lot to see or do. Perhaps I should have asked the custodian a few more questions… or waited until Billy (whose virtues are extolled in other reviews on Trip Advisor) is on duty.
At £6 it is expensive compared with the other Manx heritage attractions. It is probably only worth visiting if you have a pass giving free admission to all the Manx Heritage attractions. Although having said that, the views from the wall of the boathouse are good.
There is more information about Castletown “here.”:http://wasleys.org.uk/eleanor/man/south/castletown/index.html