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Howstrake
View Park Mansion - 1893/94

 

The prime purpose behind the acquisition of the Howstrake estate was to parcel it up and sell it off as building plots. Tynwald's approval of the sale of Howstrake was needed and this was granted on 22nd March 1892. However, as early as 1891, Frederick Saunderson had produced a sales promotional plan of what he called the Douglas Bay estate and on 10th. September 1892 he transferred his rights in the land to the newly formed Douglas Bay Estate Company Ltd.

Saunderson's plans provided for high density terraced housing in the neighbourhood of the glen above Port Jack, and on the site of the present King Edward Bay apartment complex on Onchan Head. The remainder of the estate was to be marketed as large plots for the erection of individual houses of some distinction. On the brows overlooking Onchan Harbour, he laid out, on paper at least, some building plots of around half an acre each in size and it was for land on this site that The Douglas Bay Estate Company found its first customer. The young architect Baillie Scott, who appears at that time to have been working, if not for Saunderson, then from Saunderson's offices at 7, Athol Street, Douglas, was commissioned to design the building.

One of Scott's major works on the Island, it was built in 1893/94 as a private residence for Mr John Smith MacAndrew. Its official name was View Park but it was known locally as The Scotch House or, more simply, as The Mansion. It was later to be better known as the Hotel Majestic. In January 1893, McAndrew bought a seven acre plot of land, for which he paid £3,478. and on which his mansion was to be erected. The plan of this land marked what was described as a "..stone fence and burn.." near to its Eastern boundary and the burn and its small flow of water may still be seen. Also marked on the plan is the accurate outline of the proposed mansion house which indicates that its design was well in hand at 31st. January 1893, the date of the plan.

Four months later McAndrew increased his grounds by the purchase of a further three acres, at a cost of £1,500. This extended the Eastern boundary of his landholding to include the plot on which the dwelling house Thalassa, on the King Edward Road, now stands, together with land below it down to the coast. McAndrew's acquisitions accounted for no less than seventeen of the prestigious plots, designed for one detached and sixteen semi-detached houses, which Saunderson had envisaged for this headland site! McAndrew's mansion house was set in ten acres of land and was designed by Scott in the style of a Jacobean mansion with crocketed gables and some guide books mistakenly referred to it as dating from Elizabethan times.

View Park was featured in "The Building News" of 21st April 1893 and was described as "..House, Douglas Bay Estate, Douglas, Isle of Man. This house is now in course of erection on the Douglas Bay Estate. The walls are built of red brick dressed with Bath stone and the roof is covered with green slates. The interior is finished in oak and walnut. The contractor is Mr R.E. Cain Circular-road, Douglas; the architect Mr M.H.B. Scott, 7, Athol-street, Douglas..". A fragment of red brick found near the building is impressed with parts of the maker's name and indicates that the brick used in the mansion was manufactured by the firm of Monk and Newall of Ruabon in North Wales.

A ground floor plan was published and showed two bedrooms to the right of the entrance with kitchen, scullery, laundry and so on to the left. The Western gable housed a library. On the sea-ward side was a conservatory, drawing room, billiard room, and a dining room. In its original state it must undoubtedly have been the most impressive example of Scott's work on the Island, both in scale and in grandeur.

McAndrew was a wealthy manufacturer from Prestwich in Lancashire and Prof. Kornwolf suggests in his book on Baillie Scott that the Mansion was used as a summer house and that it proved to be something of a white elephant.

The Mansion was completed by about June 1894 but McAndrew died in August of the following year and the house passed to his brother, Francis Glenn McAndrew, who in February 1897 bought a further ten acres from the estate company. This land bounded the railway line to the North and stretched from near the foot of Harbour Road for about 650 yards almost as far as a point opposite to the entrance of Lag Birragh Drive. The depth of this land was about 75 yards and so it was a long, narrow plot but with a considerable frontage along what was to become the King Edward Road and the purpose of acquiring this land was, presumably, to provide privacy for the mansion house.

In December 1896, the mansion was acquired by a Harold Aldred who was in partnership with his father William Aldred as accountants in Manchester. Their firm were the auditors to Dumbell's Banking Company in Douglas. Aldred gave a mortgage to McAndrew for £4,000 in the course of buying the property and had leased it to Rebecca Prestwich, the wife of a wealthy cotton spinner from Manchester, Richard H. Prestwich.

When Dumbell's Bank collapsed in February 1900 Harold Aldred owed the Bank £8,200. Robert Innes. a solicitor from Manchester, was able to obtain the Mansion by the repayment of this debt together with two mortgages at a total cost of £9,700. In October 1900 Innes sold the property to Mrs Prestwich in her own right. A plan of September 1903, however, records the land as the "Property of R.H. Prestwich Esq.".

At a later period the name of the property was changed from View Park to Lag Birragh, named after the steep-sided and rocky inlet on the coast near the tram shelter at the former Howstrake Camp site. This appears to have mislead Mr J.J.Kneen into stating in his work on Manx place names that the site of Lag Birragh, meaning in Manx the hollow of the sharp pointed stones, was the rocks below the Majestic Hotel, which the mansion had become when his book was published in 1926.