Heritage

The earliest known use of it was by the Monks at Rushen Abbey 4 miles away from the quarry in Ballasalla around the fourteenth century. Poyllvaaish lintels appear to have been used also in a 1350-1400 building phase at Castle Rushen in Castletown, only a couple of miles away, both above windows and in a corner of the gatehouse tower.

From at least the beginning of the eighteenth century the ‘marble’ was sometimes exported off the island in small ships which could sail in at Poyllvaaish at high tide. There is a record of stone from here being sent in 1704 ‘for the use of a new church in Leverpool’ where it was used for the flagging of St Peter’s Church.

Also in the eighteenth century, John Kewley made very fine stone dials of which the finest existing example is made of polished Pooil Vaaish limestone and dated 1776. It records the time of midday at Peking in China, Fort Royal in Jamaica, Jerusalem, Boston USA as well as in the Isle of Man. It has mottoes in Manx, Latin and English.

There are a number of references in all standard text books on building stone to the gift by Bishop Wilson of stone from Pooil Vaaish for the building of the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. There is conflicting evidence however from the building accounts published by The Wren Society which show that the stone for the west steps was purchased from a merchant in the period 1706-9 and which is described in the accounts as ‘Irish Black Marble’. It is possible that no distinction was made between stone from these two sources and that Manx Marble could have been supplied by the merchant giving rise to the legend.

However, in a letter from the Surveyor, F.C. Penrose dated 1876 (St Paul’s Cathedral Library) it is clear that he believed the story of Bishop Wilson’s gift which had appeared in print for almost a hundred years at that time:
‘The pavement within the porticos both N. and S. are being replaced with new marble. The black being brought from the Pol Ash quarries in the Isle of Man from whence the Cathedral was originally supplied..’

Further evidence comes from a rough time-sheet recording the work done by the quarrymen preserved in the Manx Museum Library. Written on the letter heading of a firm of stone masons in Castletown it seems to be from the 1870’s or 1880’s.

In the nineteenth century it was used for steps, tombstones, of which there are examples in the Malew Parish Church, and mantelpieces. When boarding houses were being built in Douglas Poyllvaaish ‘marble’ was in much demand for fire surrounds and there are many in existence today around the island. In the Groves Museum in Ramsey there are several fine examples.

The current owners of the quarry are still quarrying using traditional plug and feather techniques although now they are aided by hydraulic power and compressed air and the large blocks of stone are moved using a large Digger rather than manpower!

Most of the stone from the quarry is now sent, in block form, to colleagues at Britannicus Stone Ltd.  They ship the blocks to Italy for sawing and polishing into 20mm thick slabs which are then sent all over the world for projects as divers as countertops for the check-in desks at the new Kuwait Airport, tiles for a development in Mexico or a bath surround in the UK.