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Also known as, or recorded in historical documents as;
Bishop's Court; Ballachurry; King Orry's Tower; Kirkmichael

In the parish of Michael.
On the Isle of Man.

OS Map Grid Reference: SC32859237
Latitude 54.29968° Longitude -4.57091°

Bishopscourt has been described as a certain Palace, and also as a probable Pele Tower, and also as a Masonry Castle although is doubtful that it was such.

There are major building remains.

This site is a building or structure protected by law.


Bishopscourt is the residence of the Bishop of Sodor and Man and was possibly founded by Bishop Simon who died in 1247. The oldest portionof the present building is the Medieval tower which probably dates from the second half of the 14th century and may be ascribed to Bishop Duncan. It was built as a fortified homestead as protection against the persistent Scottish raidings of the time. By the 17th century a late Medieval chapel had been added to the east of the tower and a hall to the west. Major additions and alterations were made by Bishops Wilson (about 1700), Crigan (about 1790) Murray (1814) and Powys (about 1858).
During the English Civil War, the see was vacant, and the Earl of Derby occupied Bishopscourt and refortified it, probably between 1648 and 1651. This took the form of a large, rectangular, earth fort about 500 feet long and 300 feet wide, with rampart, ditch and glacis with bastions at each corner. The gate was probably in the middle of the south-west side and protected by an earth bulwark or hornwork. The fort was captured by the Parliamentarian in 1651, and reverted to the Bishop after the Restoration. About half of the earthwork survives (Curphey 1974; Curphey 1976).
The tower is a concrete-faced, rectangular, castellated portion of an otherwise unfaced, stone-built, well preserved castellated dwelling which bears no external feature of dateable antiquity. The tower measures 11.0m by 9.3m. The moat is an average of 6.3m wide and 1.2m deep and is dry. Along its inner north-west and north-east sides is a low spread bank (F1 JR 03.11.55). (PastScape)

In the late fourteenth century .... To this period the stone tower at Bishopscourt must belong. It is similar in style to the gatehouse of Peel Castle, and both were clearly based on the fortified homestead, the 'Peele Towers', of the Anglo-Scottish borders where the inhabitants had to contend with the same dangers of raids and firing. The tower was probably built by Bishop Duncan(1374/1392) to replace Bishop Simon's house, perhaps of wood of which there is now no trace.
Although the tower has been restored and altered. much of the original structure still remains so that, in conjunction with Daniel King's drawings of the seventeenth century, it is possible to see how closely it conformed to the characteristic fourteenth-century Peel tower. These rectangular towers normally consisted of a vaulted basement with two or three storeys above: the walls range from tour and a half to ten feet in thickness. The entrance, usually at the north-east corner and protected by a cross-barred door of hammered iron, was on ground level and beneath a low and slightly pointed arch. This entrance led into the basement which was used for storage and lit only by slit windows. Just inside the entrance another doorway opened into a newel staircase. The first storey was the main living room for all the residents; oratory, fireplace, cupboards, lavatories and staircase were built into the thickness of the walls. The room usually had two large windows on the east and south sides. The upper storeys were reserved as more private apartments. The walls were crenellated so the roof could be used as a fighting platform. Some of the border towers were situated on the south bank of a river so that the water provided a further defence against the northern enemy. The tower of Bishopscourt is rectangular, forty feet by thirty-two feet, with walls four and a half feet thick, and comprised a basement and two upper storeys. The entrance appears to have been on the south-west side. the present arched doorway leading from the modem hall into the library and passage to the chapel. 'Above this passage on the second storey is a cupboard under a later staircase. The corner of this cupboard is rounded as is the wall of the staircase immediately above. Between the floor of the cupboard and the ceiling of the first storey below is a cavity of about four feet in depth'. This would suggest that this passage and space contained the original staircase, the wall at this point being almost ten feet thick. The position of the two largest windows on the north-west wall and two very small ones, one on the south-west comer and the other on the south-east corner indicate that this ten-foot wall also contained the other necessary apartments. Renewal of the roof in the 1950's revealed on the south-west wall the original corbelling which earned the roof and fighting platform. (Curphey 1976)

Comments (by Philip Davis)

David King list this as an extant castle although this seems rather a grandiose label for a moated house with one C14 tower attached to an otherwise unfortified hall. The C17 earthwork obscure any earlier earthwork defences and it may have been the site was more than just a moated house but Niemeyer's (1911) description and historical implications clearly results from a failure to identify the earthworks as C17.
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This record last updated on Tuesday, April 18, 2017