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Douglas (page 1) Douglas (page 3)

  Derby Castle advert
Brown's Guide to the Isle of Man, circa 1940

Douglas (page 2)

As well as its fine beach, Douglas has traditionally offered other entertainments to occupy holidaymakers. The advertisement (right) taken from a 1940s edition of Brown's Popular Guide to the Isle of Man, gives an indication of the entertainment available at the Derby Castle complex at the northern end of Douglas promenade. The original Derby Castle, latterly housing the "Summerland" leisure centre, was destroyed by fire in 1973. Unfortunately it was replaced by an unsightly concrete monstrosity.

Grand Theatre
Photography by John Ball, 1988

Left: The Gaiety Theatre and Opera House on Harris Promenade, built to an early 20th century design by Frank Machin, has recently been sensitively refurbished inside and out to recreate its original appearance.

The Palace
Old postcard, circa 1950s
Above: The Palace, on Queen's Promenade in Douglas, included a ballroom, variety theatre, concert hall and gardens. At one time, the Palace ballroom was said to be the largest in Europe. Sadly, the Palace has been demolished.

In her reminiscences of the 1920s, my late mother recalled going to the Palace to see music hall artiste Florrie Ford, singing:

Has anybody here seen Kelly?
K, E, double L, Y
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Find him if you can.
He's as bad as old Antonio,
Left me on my own-eeo.
Has anybody here seen Kelly?
Kelly from the Isle of Man.

Another favourite entertainment centre in Douglas is the Villa Marina on Harris Promenade (see below).

Villa Marina - aerial view
Old postcard, circa 1950s
Above: Villa Marina and its gardens, viewed from the air. The imposing thoroughfare just behind the Villa Marina is known as Broadway.

The history of the Villa Marina goes back nearly 200 years but the present building was opened on 19th July 1913 by Lord Raglan who named it The Kursaal. This German name was an unfortunate choice; thirteen months later the Great War of 1914-1918 began and the name was quickly changed to Villa Marina!

Villa Marina - 1950s
Old postcard, circa 1950s
Villa Marina and its gardens in the 1950s (above) and 30 years later (below).
Villa Marina - 1988
Photography by John Ball, 1988

The southern end of Douglas promenade, near the sea terminal, is known as Loch Promenade in memory of a former governor of the Island. Loch Promenade features some attractive sunken gardens, where promenaders can sit in the sunshine, sheltered from the sea breezes, and enjoy the colourful blooms. The photograph below shows my late mother admiring the floral display.

Sunken gardens, Loch Promenade
Photography by John Ball, 1986
Above: Sunken gardens, Loch Promenade.

Douglas promenade is endowed with a fine array of Victorian hotels, looking out across Douglas Bay. The original hotels, although differing in their architectural details, formed a well-integrated whole. Unfortunately the architecture of some of the more recent developments along the promenade has been rather out of character, and the original unified appearance has been lost. The Caledonia Hotel (below left) on Queen's Promenade is one of the hotels which has retained its original appearance.

Caledonia Hotel
Photography by John Ball, 2001
 View from window
Photography by John Ball, 2001

Above: The Caledonia Hotel on Queen's Promenade has recently been tastefully redecorated and refurbished inside and out. The photograph (above right) taken through a front bedroom window, shows the sun rising over Douglas Bay.

Click here to explore my family history links with Douglas.