In 1877, original tramway owner Thomas Lightfoot purchased three terraced houses at the northern end of Queen's Promenade where the tramway first terminated, near the bottom of Summer Hill (formerly known as Burnt Mill Hill). He proceeded to develop new stables on land behind the cottages, eventually accommodating up to 33 horses.
The adjoining 'upper' stable block and rear blacksmith shop were added later, housing a further 45 horses. The combined capacity today is greatly reduced to a maximum of 24 horses, with loose boxes large enough for the horses to turn around, lie down and sleep!
Isle of Man Tramways Ltd, who had acquired the horse tramway from Lightfoot in 1882, also purchased nearby No.1 Strathallan Crescent with its garden in 1891 and developed the site for their offices, additional stabling and a temporary storage yard for tramcars, known as "The Brig". By 1902, this site stabled up to 21 horses, much to the annoyance of and complaints from neighbouring private residences regarding 'air pollution' from stable manure, although an independent inspector disagreed and found no 'nuisance' caused.
A working original Victorian stable tucked away in a modern urban environment, complete with smithy, feedstock rolling machinery, hay loft and cobbled washyard, is a rare treasure to find in any developed country.
We must hope that the long term future of the Horse Tramway can be secured and that the original stables are conserved as part of any re-development plans.
Always popular, the Summer Hill Stables undoubtedly add significantly to the heritage attraction and experience that the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway is able to offer visitors, quite comparable with elements of Cregneash village so highly prized by Manx National Heritage.
'Meet the Trammers'
Guided tours of the stables are available on selected dates throughout the season, led by knowledgeable Friends of DBHT guides. Visitors can explore the stables, meet and feed the Shire and Clydesdale heavy horses, learn about their lives and discover the hidden story of the Douglas Bay Horse Tramway. There are also a small exhibition room and gift shop within the stables.
Tours are scheduled to take place at the following times and dates during the 2017 season:
The Summer Hill Stables are open to the public when the horse tramway is operating. Guided 'Meet the Trammers' tours are free, however spaces are limited. For information and guided tour bookings, please visit the MER Ticket Office at Derby Castle in person, or phone 01624 614687.