Isle of Man

Nautical Museum, Castletown

"The Peggy Story"

The Nautical Museum on Bridge Street overlooks the Silverburn. Captain George Quayle, a member of the powerful Quayle family, lived in Bridge House, the big house next to the Nautical Museum.
Castletown, Isle of man

He 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.

nautical Museum, Castletown

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. The room above the dock was turned 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.

Nautical Museum, Castletown

After Quayle’s death in 1835, 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. Peggy and the boat house were given to the Manx Museum Trustees and were opened as a Nautical Museum in 1951, with 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. 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.

Nautical Museum, Isle of Man

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 s a short video. There are more model boats as well as pictures of boats.  There are a few C18th costumes as well as dressing up clothes.

This gives access to a walkway above the boat dock. There are good views of Castle Rushen from here.
Nautical Museum, Castletown

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 information in the Quayle room is very basic as are the pages in the guide book. I felt for £6 this was expensive and there wasn’t a lot to see. 

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