Parish of St Matthew the Apostle,
Douglas, Isle of Man

Old St. Matthew's

Painting of Old St Matthew's

The original St. Matthew's was founded as a Chapel of Ease in 1708, by the great educational and ecclesiastical reformer, Bishop Wilson. Kirk Braddan was originally the mother church of Douglas, and it wasn't until 1879 that a reorganisation took place, as a result of which St. Matthew's ceased to be a chaplaincy and became a parish church in its own right.

The Chapel of St. Matthew was located further along North Quay than the present church, in the spot opposite the Old Market Inn on a street still named Chapel Row. The chapel was a simple, whitewashed building with a 'Pepper Pot' tower; it had high pews and a three-decker pulpit. A small, stone drinking fountain, which used to belong to the chapel, can still be seen in a corner of the old Market Hall. There are various paintings, sketches and photographs of the old building in existence, including Goose Fair, Old St. Matthew's Church, by Franz Höpfner, which now hangs in the Manx Museum

Although the new church would not open for worship until 1898 and not completed until 1908, the demolition of the old one was first discussed in 1854-partly because it was in such a bad state of repair, and partly to facilitate an extension of the marketplace. Right from the start, it was agreed that if the old church were to be razed, a new one must be built nearby, to replace it.

The old building was still in use when the Rev. T. A. Taggart became vicar, and it was during his incumbency (1878-1909) that St. Matthew's first adopted the Anglo-Catholic tradition, for which it is still known today. In keeping with the ethos of the Anglo-Catholic movement, Mr Taggart was renowned for his love of the poor. He kept the building open every day and encouraged his parishioners to use it. Early in his ministry, Taggart oversaw the abolition of pew rents (whereby better-off individuals were able to reserve pews for themselves, and keep them locked, whether or not they were actually using them), even though this reduced his own stipend by £30. It was under his stewardship that the demolition of the old church, and the construction of the new one, took place.

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