Capital city
Douglas viewed from Douglas Head
Douglas is located in Isle of Man
Location within the Isle of Man
Population26,677 (2021 Census)
OS grid referenceSC379750
Crown dependencyIsle of Man
Post townISLE OF MAN
Postcode districtIM1 / IM2
Dialling code01624
PoliceIsle of Man
FireIsle of Man
AmbulanceIsle of Man
House of KeysDouglas North
Douglas East
Douglas South
Douglas West
List of places
Isle of Man
54°09′00″N 04°28′39″W / 54.15000°N 4.47750°W / 54.15000; -4.47750
Photochrom of Loch Promenade during a storm, 1890s
Douglas Promenade, which runs nearly the entire length of beachfront in Douglas
Sea terminal in Douglas

Douglas (Manx: Doolish, pronounced [ˈdðuːlʲəʃ]) is the capital city and largest settlement of the Isle of Man,[1] with a population of 26,677 (2021). It is located at the mouth of the River Douglas, and on a sweeping bay of two miles (three kilometres). The River Douglas forms part of the city's harbour and main commercial port.

Douglas was a small settlement until it grew rapidly as a result of links with the English port of Liverpool in the 18th century. Further population growth came in the following century, resulting during the 1860s in a staged transfer of the High Courts, the Lieutenant Governor's residence (actually located in nearby Onchan), and finally the seat of the legislature, Tynwald, to Douglas[2] from the ancient capital, Castletown.

The city is the island's main hub for business, finance, legal services, shipping, transport, shopping, and entertainment. The annual Isle of Man TT motorcycle races start and finish in Douglas.


Early history

In the absence of any archaeological data, the origins of the city may be revealed by analysis of the original street and plot pattern. The discovery of a bronze weapon in central Douglas,[3] and the large Ballaquayle Viking treasure hoard[4] on the outskirts (now in the Manx Museum and British Museum, London[5]), both in the 1890s, hint at the early importance of the site now occupied by Douglas. Scholars agree that the name of the city derives from Early Celtic 'Duboglassio' meaning 'black river'.[6] Douglas is twice referred to in the monastic Chronicle of the Kings of Man and the Isles: first in 1190, when the monks of St Mary's Abbey at Rushen were transferred there for a four-year stay; then again in 1313, when Robert the Bruce, King of Scotland, spent the night at the "monastery of Duglas" on his way to seize Castle Rushen.[7] These may be references to the site of the later Nunnery, a little upstream from the port.

The first detailed documentation shows that in 1511[8] there were only thirteen resident households in the settlement clustered north of the harbour; most of the property there was classified as "chambers"[9] (unoccupied, unheated, single-celled structures) for which rent was paid by non-residents including clergy, officials and landowners from elsewhere on the island. This suggests that the city's nucleus originated as a non-urban port.[10] Speculation links the store buildings with the Irish Sea herring fishery, and the import/export trade.

Growth and development

In 1681 Thomas Denton described Douglas as "the place of greatest resort" on the Isle of Man, and by 1705 a clear picture of the early town emerges, with hints that its residential, market, and military defence functions were growing in importance[11] alongside the port facility. The town thrived in the next 60 years, as imposing merchants' houses, large warehouses, quays and a pier were built to accommodate the burgeoning "running trade" (smuggling): one of the stimuli for the town's expansion.[12] Other forms of trade also grew, and after the Revestment Act 1765, Douglas began to reap the benefits of transatlantic trade, due in part to co-operation at a local level with Liverpool.[13] Legitimate merchants who rose to prominence over the period included the Murreys, the Moores, and the Bacons.[13] The town's later prosperity was facilitated by the low cost of living, and the favourable legal status enjoyed by English debtors and half-pay officers.[14] The initial growth and development of the ALR owed much to its natural harbour (now the Inner Harbour), since greatly expanded and improved. Over the 18th century, the town's population rose from about 800 in 1710 to nearly 2,500 in 1784.

Throughout the 19th century, the town's demographics followed the same trends as the United Kingdom, due to the Industrial Revolution. The number of holiday visitors grew from the early 19th century,[13] and from around 1870 onwards, the town was transformed into a leading holiday resort. But there were increasingly unsanitary conditions, and poor quality housing; again reflecting a trend seen across the United Kingdom.[15] The open sewage, middens (domestic waste dumps), and smell from the harbour at low tide all contributed to the town's uncleanliness. Oil and gas lamps first appeared in the late 1820s and 1830s, the first hospital to join the Dispensary was built in 1850, and in 1832 the scenic Tower of Refuge was built in Douglas Bay to offer shelter and provisions for sailors awaiting rescue.[16] Douglas in the first half of the 19th century often suffered from the destitution of its population and the many epidemics, in particular cholera.[13]

The rise of Douglas as the social and economic stronghold was recognised in 1869, when it became the home of the island's parliament, Tynwald, and therefore the capital, an honour previously held by Castletown, a smaller town in the south of the island. Douglas's political landscape also changed significantly in the 19th century, in spite of the conservatism of some townsfolk: in 1844, for example, at a public meeting, the idea of a town council was rejected in favour of retaining the system of Town High Bailiffs; when the Town Bill Act was passed at Tynwald in 1852, the people of Douglas again rejected the idea. However, an Act passed later that decade, which did not include opt-out clauses, was accepted, and in 1860, Douglas elected its first town council, which was predominantly middle class in its makeup. The Town Commissioners could tackle the town's problems with greater efficiency, and by 1869 the sewage problem had been largely resolved.[13]

The Commissioners also worked to alter the anachronistic architecture of Douglas, built during the era of fishing and trading, and no longer amenable or safe for tourists. The proportion of the total Manx population living in Douglas was also expanding, with 35% living there by 1891. The Victorian and later modernisation of the town was achieved at the expense of the original maze-like layout of the oldest streets. These were cleared away in the new street schemes and slum clearances of the 1870s to 1920s. The town's infrastructure was radically altered for tourists' convenience, and in 1878 the Loch Promenade was constructed. In 1870, there were 60,000 visitors annually; by 1884, this had grown to 182,000. In 1887, 310,916 visited for Queen Victoria's Golden Jubilee.[13]

Seafaring links

Douglas Lifeboat Station

The earliest organised ferry services emerged between Douglas and Whitehaven, established by William Nicholson in the 1750s.[17] More formally, Nicholson's Packet Service began in 1765 or 1766, and the Post Office mail contract was secured by 1782. Sailings were irregular and heavily dependent on weather conditions. Steamer services brought a considerable improvement; the first regular link (en route between Greenock and Liverpool) was available from 1819.[18] The formation of what became the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company in 1830 led to greatly improved services, and also laid the foundations for growth in both cargo and tourist traffic.[19]

The Royal National Lifeboat Institution (RNLI) has a lifeboat station at Douglas. The first lifeboat station in the port was established in 1802. In 1825 it was one of the first lifeboat stations to be provided with a purpose-built lifeboat; this was at the request of Sir William Hillary, the founder of the Institution. It was not operational between 1851 and 1868, and it closed in 1895. The station, established in 1874, operates the Tyne-class lifeboat Sir William Hillary. There are three memorials to Sir William in Douglas: one in St George's Church where he was buried in 1847, one on Loch Promenade, and the other on Douglas Head near where he established the Tower of Refuge in 1832.[20]

Recent history

During the First and Second World Wars, Douglas and other parts of the Isle of Man were home to internment camps for "enemy aliens". Douglas held seven out of the ten internment camps on the island during World War II, including: Hutchinson, Metropole, Central, Palace, Granville and Sefton Camp. Sections of the Promenade were cordoned off and many guest houses were used for the purpose. The war dead of the island are commemorated on the Douglas War Memorial.

Douglas is now the main home of the island's offshore financial services industry, and also of the main shopping centre.

The city was the birthplace of the Gibb brothers, Maurice, Robin, both deceased, and Barry, the members of the Bee Gees.

Douglas was home to the Summerland leisure centre, which suffered a catastrophic fire in 1973.

In 2011 Douglas hosted the Commonwealth Youth Games.

On 20 May 2022, it was announced that, as part of the Platinum Jubilee Civic Honours, Douglas would receive city status by Letters Patent sometime later in 2022.[21][22] The letters patent was expected to be effective from 1 November 2022,[1][a] although there were some reports in November 2022 that it was somehow delayed following the death of Queen Elizabeth II, to a unknown date.[23][24] A council meeting was said to discuss the issue in February 2023,[25] but it was not discussed.[26]


Aerial view of Douglas and the southern half of the Isle of Man

Douglas is on the east of the island near the confluence of the two rivers Dhoo and Glass forming the Douglas. At Douglas, the river flows through the quay and into Douglas Bay. A gently sloping valley runs inland and there are hills around the city. The city is surrounded by several villages, most notably Onchan to the north-east (which forms a conurbation with Douglas) and Union Mills to the west.


The weather reporting station closest to Douglas is the coastal weather station at Ronaldsway, about 7 miles (11 km) south-west of Douglas. The highest temperature recorded in Ronaldsway stands at 28.9 °C (84.0 °F),[27] recorded in July 1983. On average, a temperature of 25 °C (77 °F) or more is recorded 0.8 days per year[28] at Ronaldsway (1981-2010) and on average the highest temperature of the year is 24.1 °C (75.4 °F).[29]

On average, 14.5 days of air frost per year were recorded at Ronaldsway[30] in the period 1981–2010. The lowest temperature recorded in Ronaldsway is −9.1 °C (15.6 °F),[31] recorded in December 1961. For the period of 1981–2010, the lowest temperature of the year was −3.4 °C (25.9 °F) on average.[32]


The Isle of Man census 2021 lists the population of Douglas as 26,677, a reduction from the 2011 population of 27,938. The 2001 census gave a population of 25,347. The city has 31.73% of the island's total population of 84,069.


Douglas elects eight members of the House of Keys: two each from four constituencies (Central, East, South and North). The House of Keys is the lower house of Tynwald, the Manx parliament. The local authority responsible for the running of services is the Douglas Corporation; 18 elected councillors sit as members of the Douglas City Council.


Douglas is the hub of the island's bus network, with frequent services to Port Erin, Peel and Ramsey, as well as various local bus services. The city also has the termini of the two main railway lines on the island: the steam railway to Port Erin and the electric tramway to Ramsey. It is also the home of the ferry terminal, from where the Isle of Man Steam Packet Company operates regular services to Heysham and to Liverpool (Birkenhead in winter) and occasional services to Dublin and to Belfast.


References to education in Douglas begin in the late 17th century, with mention of the schoolmastership, usually combined with the Chaplaincy of Douglas, and reference to a "petty school" in 1675.[33] William Walker (1679–1729) was appointed to the mastership in 1700,[34] school being probably kept in the old Chapel, (in later Heywood Place.[35]) Later being preferred as Rector of Ballaugh, and the recipient of an honorary Doctorate, Walker is now remembered in his mother's Manx Gaelic lament on her sons: "Illiam Walker as Robin Tear".[36]

Seafront, Douglas

The more formal history of education in the city begins with Bishop Thomas Wilson's establishment of the Douglas Grammar School. Alderman William Dixon (a native of Douglas, but resident in Dublin since at least the 1680s[37]) agreed to hand over his parents' former home, and passed over the New Bond Street property in 1714. The Bishop raised an endowment of £500 (Irish currency), half being funded by the Barrow Trustees, most of the balance being provided by the Bishop's Douglas relatives, the Murrey family.[38] Even after this, the mastership of Douglas Grammar School continued to be combined with the Chaplaincy, now of the new Chapel of St Matthew. Details of the building of the original Grammar School are sparse, but it seems that William Murrey was deeply involved, retaining the use of the capacious storage vault under the school in lieu of repayment of £150 costs.[39]

Another notable Master of the Grammar School was Rev. Philip Moore (1705–1783) who was a native of the city, his father Robert Moore having been one of the "Undertakers" who organised the construction of St Matthews,[40] and his mother Miss Katherine Kelly. Moore was appointed Master in 1735, and was reckoned to be a good classical scholar, and have "an inherent love of teaching".[41]

Today, Douglas has two high schools: Ballakermeen High School and St. Ninian's High School, and numerous primary schools. University College Isle of Man and the International Business School are also located in Douglas.


A horse tram passes a pedestrian crossing on Douglas promenade
Douglas during the 1992 TT Races

Douglas has a number of attractions and items of interest:

Douglas saw the first architectural essays of the Arts and Crafts architect Baillie Scott.


Douglas is the start and finish point for the Isle of Man TT. The race had been a part of the FIM Motorcycle Grand Prix World Championship but lost its status when a new British motorcycle Grand Prix was established in 1977.

The Isle of Man Cricket Club was formed in 1930 and later reformed as the IoM Cricket Association. It was elected a member of the International Cricket Council in 2004.[42]

The National Sports Centre (NSC), is a large multi-sports centre and athletics stadium located on Pulrose Road. Owned by the Department of Tourism and Leisure it is operated by Manx Sport & Recreation. The King George V Bowl, a multi-use stadium located on Pulrose Road is owned by Douglas Borough Council.

A free Parkrun takes place in Nobles Park, St. Ninian's Road every Saturday.[43]

Douglas is home to eight of the seventeen football clubs that compete in the Isle of Man Football League:[44][45]

Club Home ground
Corinthians A.F.C. Nobles Park
Douglas and District F.C. Groves Road, Pulrose
Douglas Royal F.C. National Sports Centre, Groves Road
Gymnasium F.C. Tromode Park, Tromode Road
Police A.F.C. Groves Road, Pulrose
Pulrose United A.F.C.
St Georges A.F.C. Glencrutchery Road
St Marys A.F.C. The Bowl, Pulrose Road

Douglas Rugby Club and Vagabonds Rugby Club are based in the city. Their 1st teams play in the English competitions and reserve teams play in the Manx Rugby competition.

Notable people

Public service & commerce

The Arts


Panoramas of Douglas

View of the bay showing visible landmarks of the Castle Mona hotel staircase turret (centre) and Onchan Head to left
Douglas promenade with Onchan Head in distance


  1. ^ This article assumes they received the letters patent to be described as a city


  1. ^ a b It is assumed that letters patent was received on the expected date of 1 November 2022, for it to hold city status. "Douglas Letters Patent.doc 1.pdf". Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  2. ^ D. Winterbottom, 2012, Governors of the Isle of Man Since 1765, The Manx Heritage Foundation, p. 73
  3. ^ P.J. Davey & others, 1999 Bronze Age Metallurgy in the Isle of Man, p. 48, in P.J. Davey (Ed.) Recent Archaeological Research in the Isle of Man. BAR Brit. Ser. 278, Archaeopress
  4. ^ David M. Wilson, 2008, The Vikings in the Isle of Man, Aarhus U.P., p. 113
  5. ^ "British Museum collection". Archived from the original on 7 April 2022. Retrieved 16 November 2020.
  6. ^ Broderick, G., 2006; A Dictionary of Manx PLace-names. English Place-name Soc. ISBN 0-904889-71-8, p. 103
  7. ^ Broderick, G. & Stowell, B., (Eds.), 1973; Chronicle of the Kings of Mann & The Isles. Published privately, Edinburgh. pp. 26 & 46
  8. ^ Theophilus Talbot, 1925, The Manorial Roll of the Isle of Man, p. 32
  9. ^ Crowe, N.G. (2001). Survey of Douglas. Vol. 1. p. xvi.
  10. ^ Gardiner, Mark & others; Continental trade and non-urban ports in mid-Anglo-Saxon England : excavations at Sandtun, West Hythe, Kent. Archaeological Journal, 158 (2001), 161-290. ISSN 0066-5983.
  11. ^ Crowe, N.G. (2001). Survey of Douglas. Vol. 1.
  12. ^ Moore, A.W. (1900). History of the Isle of Man. London: T. Fisher Unwin. p. 436. Archived from the original on 13 September 2013. Retrieved 7 September 2013.
  13. ^ a b c d e f Gordon N. Kniveton; Robert E. Forster; Robert Kelly; Stuart Slack; Frank Cowin (1996). Douglas Centenary 1896–1996. Manx Experience. ISBN 978-1873120217.
  14. ^ Belchem, J., 2000, 'The Onset of Modernity' in A New History of the Isle of Man, Vol V, Liverpool U.P.; ISBN 0-85323-726-3.
  15. ^ Clive Behagg (3 October 1991). "5: The Development of the Labour Party 1885–1902". Labour and Reform: Working Class Movements, 1815-1914 (Access to History). Hodder & Stoughton. pp. 99–103. ISBN 0-340-52930-X.
  16. ^ "Tower of Refuge". IOM Guide. Archived from the original on 15 September 2018. Retrieved 4 October 2008.
  17. ^ Osborne, B.G.F.,2003, Manx Postal History in the 17th & 18th Century in IOM Postal History Soc. Bulletin No. 69
  18. ^ Quayle, D., 1971, Isle of Man Steamer Services, 1819 - 1831, JMM Vol. VII, No.87, p. 181-187.
  19. ^ Moore, A.W., 1904, History of the IOM Steam Packet Co.
  20. ^ "RNLI - Douglas Lifeboat Station". Archived from the original on 24 December 2015. Retrieved 30 September 2014.
  21. ^ "Platinum Jubilee: Eight new cities created in Queen's honour". BBC News. 19 May 2022. Archived from the original on 30 May 2022. Retrieved 20 May 2022.
  22. ^ "Record number of city status winners announced to celebrate Platinum Jubilee". GOV.UK. Archived from the original on 21 May 2022. Retrieved 21 May 2022.
  23. ^ "Delay to capital being named as a city |". Isle of Man. 7 November 2022. Archived from the original on 6 January 2023. Retrieved 6 January 2023.
  24. ^ "No date set to mark city status". 3FM. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  25. ^ "Meeting on Douglas city status and the delivery of the letters patent". Isle of Man. 7 February 2023. Retrieved 12 November 2023.
  26. ^ "Borough of Douglas". 8 February 2023.
  27. ^ "July 1983". Archived from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  28. ^ "25C Days". Archived from the original on 25 February 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  29. ^ "Annual Average Maximum". Archived from the original on 25 February 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  30. ^ "Average Air Frost". Archived from the original on 25 September 2015. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  31. ^ "December 1961". Archived from the original on 7 March 2016. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  32. ^ "Annual Average Minimum". Archived from the original on 25 February 2021. Retrieved 25 February 2011.
  33. ^ Rev. Hinton Bird (2 August 1995). An Island that Led, The History of Manx Education. Vol. I. H. Bird. p. 75. ISBN 978-0951691809.
  34. ^ A.W. Moore (1901). Manx Worthies. p. 22.
  35. ^ N.G. Crowe (2001). Survey of Douglas. Vol. I. p. xiii.
  36. ^ A.W. Moore (1901). Manx Worthies. p. 101.
  37. ^ N.G. Crowe (2001). Survey of Douglas. Vol. I. p. 9.
  38. ^ McHutchin, J.; Quirk, G. (831). The Isle of Man Charities. Liverpool. p. 112.
  39. ^ McHutchin & Quirk, p. 114
  40. ^ St Matthew's Parish Register
  41. ^ A.W.Moore, 1901, 24
  42. ^ The Isle of Man Cricket Association Archived 21 October 2014 at the Wayback Machine
  43. ^ Parkrun in Nobles Park[permanent dead link]
  44. ^ Isle of Man Leagues: The Canada Life Premier League Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine, The Football Association. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  45. ^ Isle of Man Leagues: The Canada Life Premier League Archived 2 August 2023 at the Wayback Machine, The Football Association. Retrieved 2013-03-14.
  46. ^ Neesam, Malcolm G. (2022). Wells & Swells, the golden age of Harrogate Spa, 1842–1923 (1 ed.). Lancaster, England: Carnegie Publishing. ISBN 9781859362389.

Media related to Douglas, Isle of Man at Wikimedia Commons