The Tower of Refuge, an instantly recognisable feature of Douglas Bay, was erected chiefly through zeal of Sir William Hillary; the founder of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.
The tower is built on top of Conister Rocks, a partially submerged reef within Douglas Bay, also known as St Mary's Isle. Prior to the building of the refuge (and the new pier) these rocks had claimed many lives.
After several shipwrecks upon the semi-submerged rock, Hillary realised that the coast was too far to swim to. A lighthouse or some kind of sanctuary should be built for survivors to await rescue. Sir William, who personally contributed a high proportion of the costs, secured a substantial number of public contributions for funding the building.
After its construction the refuge, which was built to look like a castle, was stocked with provisions for any shipwrecked persons. The tower originally housed a bell for summoning of help.
The Tower of Refuge derives its name from a poem by William Wordsworth, "Dignum laude virum Musa vetat mori." which includes the lines “A Tower of refuge built for the else forlorn. Spare it, ye waves, and lift the mariner, struggling for life, into its saving arms! Spare, too, the human helpers! Do they stir 'Mid your fierce shock like men afraid to die? No; their dread service nerves the heart it warms, And they are led by noble Hillary.” (Link
- On Entering Douglas Bay)
The first stone for the tower was laid by Lady Hillary on Easter Monday, April 23rd, 1832, since when not a single accident has occurred!
In 2008 the tower underwent extensive maintenance work. The exterior part of the tower was repointed and lighting installed.
- Isle of Man guide
- Douglas Lifeboat
- Poetry Atlas “on Entering Douglas Bay”
See other images of The Tower of Refuge