Approximately 7 miles from Douglas is Laxey and in the centre of the village is Laxey Glen, partly man-made and partly natural, steeply banked and well wooded. Glen Roy River flows through its grounds. Access is by car, (good car parking facilities), bus or electric tram. This glen, with its children's play area and paddock, is much favoured by families. Being in the centre of the village it is also popular with dog walkers. There are public toilets within five minutes walk of entering the glen and refreshments can be had at the Riverside Restaurant on the top path of the glen. For many years there was a paddling pool in the lower glen until it was replaced by a children's playground.
Laxey Glen Gardens were originally planted out circa 1800 by the Reverend William Fitzsimmons who conceived a relatively formal plan with clipped yew and holly. It was then known as Victoria Park. It was bought later by Captain Richard Rowe of the Laxey Mines.
The local entrepreneur Robert Williamson developed the glen as a public pleasure ground. Williamson was born in Laxey, of Scottish parents who ran a small business in the village. Robert Williamson and his family moved into the house at the entrance to the glen in 1866 and the glen was purchased from Captain Rowe in 1868. Such was the success of the pleasure grounds that in 1888 Mr Williamson built a new family house at the entrance, adjoining his original home. This had 12 bedrooms for paying guests and had been designed by Mr Rennison who had been responsible for many of the hotels on Douglas Promenade. This building is now a residential home for the elderly having previously been a public house.
The Manx Electric Railway Company then bought these splendid grounds in 1908.
So extensive were the grounds and plantings that at one time it was said 7 gardeners were employed to look after them.
The amenities have varied considerably over the years, from the provision of strawberry teas to sherry and cake in the building which preceded the Riverside Restaurant. However this predecessor fell victim to a terrible fire in August 1913 and was replaced by the present building.
Robert Williamson brought over to his successful pleasure grounds such famous personalities as the tightrope walker Blondin and the midget Tom Thumb.
Each successive sports craze was catered for including croquet, bicycle riding, roller skating, dancing, boating etc.
The glen boasted a fine roundabout with decorated wooden horses and two bandstands, one of which overlooked the lake that could be drained and floored for dancing on. Water, which once fed a wheel to power the flourmill, was used in the creation of a boating lake.
The Forestry, Mines & Lands Board purchased Laxey Glen Gardens in 1956 from the receivers of the Laxey Glen Hotel and Gardens Ltd Company for the sum of £4,750. The inventory included a ballroom, cafe, outside ballroom, gardeners hut, amusement park building, fortune teller's hut, wrestling bar, big top (wrestling arena), outside cafe, dodgem workshop and adjoining cafe.
In 1960 the paddling pool was created and a small area was added to the glen on the North bank. This was purchased for £50 from Philip Douglas Haughtan Jones.
In 1982 the Laxey Glen Gardens Restaurant & Pavilion were badly damaged in an arson attack. The restaurant section was completely destroyed but restoration work started the following year.
The glen is also home for Laxey & District Rifle Club who rent their premises from the Department of Environment, Food and Agriculture. The building is situated alongside the path, which runs parallel with it from the hotel down into the glen, tucked away in the bushes and trees.
[Source: Manx Glens - A stroll through history]
[Acknowledgement: Suzanne Cubbon]