When the Manx tourist industry began to grow in the 1850’s, it became the custom for summer visitors to walk or drive from Douglas to Braddan for Divine Service on Sunday mornings. Their numbers so increased that the old church could not hold them, and in 1856 Sunday morning services began to be held in the churchyard outside. Congregations grew further, particularly after Braddan halt on the Douglas-St John’s railway line was opened in 1897, and in 1913 the services were transferred to the field to the west of the new church; the field was purchased by the vicar and churchwardens in 1927.
The present building dates from 1773 following complaints that the previous building was too small and that the roof and gable were unsafe. It is thought that much of the walls of the early church were incorporated into present stonework. The east end was rebuilt, a new roof added and a tower built at the west end. Like other churches it had pyramids at the corners and also on the church tower. This is only one of the churches on the Island of that of that age which has a tower. Unlike many of the other island churches, it has never been whitewashed. The church is surrounded by a large and now disused graveyard with many C18th and C19th gravestones. The tall obelisk is dedicated to Lord Henry Murray, the fifth son of the 4th Duke of Atholl, the Lord of Mann.
Old Kirk Braddan, Braddan (includes photos of interior)
Surprisingly very little is recorded about the building of this church. We know that in May 1773 the Vicar and Wardens made a Presentation to the Ecclesiastical Court stating that the roof and part of the gable appeared to be in a ruinous and dangerous state. The Court ordered that the church be viewed by a Jury of experienced workmen. Their decision is not preserved in any records but in November of that year the Wardens decided to raise the level of Cess to one shilling for each Quarterland and all other properties were assessed on an area basis in relation to a Quarterland. This would be to cover the cost of the works necessary. . . . Whether repairs were started on the church and then it was decided to completely rebuild, or whether the jury recommended that the chapel was in such a dangerous state of repair that it had to be demolished we will never know. We do know that the people of Douglas had complained that the church was becoming so full that they could not use the gallery reserved for them so it is not surprising that a decision was taken to build a new and larger church.
Architecturally the church does not really fall into any recognisable category for the Georgian Period but then most of the Manx Churches have a style of their own, reflecting their amateur design and very limited resources. The church is built of local rubble stone much of which was probably reclaimed from the old church. There are however quoins of Foxdale granite in the tower, and the door and window jambs show samples of freestone, granite and sandstone. Scattered here and there on the stones are letters, dates and words, carved no doubt for practice by apprentice monumental masons while their master were elsewhere. There is nothing to suggest that the exterior of the church or tower was ever whitewashed as was the case with many other churches on the Island. The four corners of the building were marked by a pinnacle, an unknown feature for a Manx Church at that time, although St. Marks built only a year earlier in 1772 had similar ornamental finish to the corners and elsewhere.
Kirk Braddan Old Church, by Peter Kelly MBE CP (1982)
Born the fourth son of John Murray, 3rd Duke of Atholl, Henry Murray was appointed Colonel of the newly formed Royal Manx Fencibles in September 1795. The following year saw the regiment being deployed to Derry in anticipation of the Irish Rebellion of 1798 and in June 1798 he ordered the burning of Ballymoney in reprisal for the rebellion. In February 1802 he went to Bath to recover from a bout of gout and later that year, following the Peace of Amiens, his regiment was disbanded at Whitehaven. Murray acted from 1804 as Lieutenant Governor and Deputy to his brother, John Murray, 4th Duke of Atholl, in his role as Governor of the Isle of Man. Murray died in office only a year later in 1805: there is a memorial to him at Old Kirk Braddan.