International focus on the Isle of Man's historic buildings

Mon, 09 Apr 2018

The Isle of Man’s historic buildings are the focus of international journal ‘Context’

From the stone monuments in our landscape to the architecture of the TT Course, the latest edition of ‘Context’ from the Institute for Historic Building Conservation (IHBC) brings the rich variety of the historic built environment in the Isle of Man into focus for an international audience.

A legacy of the Isle of Architecture campaign, the publication arose after architect and IHBC representative for the Isle of Man, Ashley Pettit, invited the Institute’s Director, Seán O’Reilly, to the Island to find out more about our remarkable buildings. The invitation came at a time when Seán’s team had been developing training for planning teams in Scotland, so Seán was particularly interested in the future of planning here. With the success of Isle of Architecture, an issue dedicated to the Isle of Man was agreed as a legacy, and also as a way of sharing the message of 2018 Year of Our Island.

Eleven articles form the core of the Isle of Man issue, with an additional ‘vox pop’ from Minister for Policy and Reform and Chair of Culture Vannin, Hon Chris Thomas MHK. His contribution ‘Building conservation matters in the Isle of Man’ introduces the series of Manx articles, and talks about the importance of buildings to a sense of place, and to the expression of our culture and heritage within the UNESCO Biosphere status. He notes how Tynwald resolved in 2016 to encourage ‘the review of government strategies, plans and policies to raise the quality of the island’s architecture and built environment, including those aimed to conserve its built heritage.’

Architects, historians, heritage and conservation experts contribute a wide range of articles: Director of Manx National Heritage, Edmund Southworth gives an overview of 10,000 years of settlement, and his colleagues Matthew Richardson and Steve Blackford turn their attention to the TT Races, and to the Peggy and the Nautical Museum, and the re-use of the Quarterdeck next to Castle Rushen respectively.

Dr Catriona Mackie puts the Island’s political situation and planning legislation in context for the reader, and her second article focuses on community engagement within the Isle of Architecture campaign, which came out of the cross-agency Building Conservation Forum.

Often overlooked architect, Armitage Rigby, is the subject of Peter Kelly’s piece, and Dr Patricia Tutt contributes two articles – the first a reflection on the development of Manx architecture ‘From Blackhouse to Baillie Scott’, and the second an examination of building materials used over the centuries.

The person behind the issue, Ashley Pettit, celebrates the iconic three legs design of the 1960s Sea Terminal, which was developed by Davidson Marsh Architects. The Sea Terminal was one of the stars of the Isle of Architecture’s ‘I love this building’ campaign. Ashley’s article shows how buildings are important to us socially, too, noting that the terminal has been ‘the starting point for many adventures, and the meeting point for friends and families returning to the island’.

Ashley commented: “I can only encourage conservation professionals and planners on the Island to take the opportunity to submit profiles and be elected to the IHBC, where they will get support as well as this excellent publication three times a year…even if its focus is not always the Isle of Man!”

For more information about the Building Conservation Forum, visit:

A limited stock of free copies of the Isle of Man issue of Context can be collected in person from Culture Vannin in St John’s during office hours, and it can also be read online: