It is another saga which seems as if it will never end, the future of the historic Summer Hill Stables which have been the home of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway trammers for over 140 years. Ever since Douglas Borough Council relinquished control of the Horse Tramway the future of the stables have been up in the air and it appeared at the end of 2017 that it was all over with news that Isle of Man Transport would be unable to use them in 2018 and that a new structure would be needed at the Derby Castle terminus. But now the Friends of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway are urging a rethink with a call to retain the stables in tramway ownership with a recognition of their historic nature.
The lower part of the stables was constructed by the original promotor of the tramway, Thomas Lightfoot, and was built in 1877. They are believed to be the last remaining Victorian tramway stables in operation anywhere in the world. Despite this they have never been listed on the Island’s register of protected buildings. A submission was made by a local building conservation group for registration last year and this is still pending consideration by the Department for Environment, Food and Agriculture.
The Friends of Douglas Bay Horse Tramway have called upon the Isle of Man Government to consider purchasing the stables for continued tramway use. It is the Friends’ belief that the cost of purchasing the Summer Hill site and carrying out the required repairs would be similar if not slightly less than the construction estimates for the new temporary facilities which are due to be built on the former Summerland complex (for which planning permission was requested last year).
Isle of Man Railways had previously hoped to continue using the stables into 2018 but late last year it was reported that the sale of the stables – which had been on the market since 2016 – was going through and that they would no longer be able to be used for their original purpose. This led to the latest temporary stabling and depot facilities plans to be submitted for approval.