Papers of the Henry Bloom Noble Trust

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

The content consists of minutes of meetings of the Trust, (1903-1926), account records (1884-1976), correspondence - including outgoing (1903-1942), incoming (1886-1976), between Trust officials (1906-1954) and subject correspondence regarding different properties, projects, legacies and charitable bequests, scholarships and funds (1893-1995). Other material includes memoranda (1905-1926) and reports (1904-1923).

A large quantity of legal documentation is present within the deposit such as testamentary and probate papers (1898-1904), valuations and inventories of properties connected to the Trust (1903-1924), opinions of Counsel (1902-1912; 1995) and Chancery Court petitions (1905-1988). Abstracts of title relating to Trustees ownership of property on the Island (1844-1918), requisitions on title to property (1905-1919), deeds (1778-1926; 1980s; 1996), deed registrations certificates (1856-1865; 1921-1926) and documents relating to descriptions and conditions of sale of Trust property lots at public auctions (1904-1913) are also included.

Further items present are plans (1898-1909), building and maintenance records (1903-1918) and public notices. Newspaper cuttings (1904-1920) and printed material are included (for example Noble’s Hospital Act 1909, Statutory Rules and Orders 1918, and an item on Educational charities 1970s).

Miscellaneous documentation includes admission and discharge details of persons recommended to the Trustees as suitable candidates for hospital treatment in England (1903-1912), hotel licensing matters, hiring a telephone, postcard, death certificates, scholarship admission forms and a draft bill for the Noble’s Museum, Library and Picture Gallery Act, 1921.

Administrative / Biographical History

Henry Noble (1816-1903), the Isle of Man’s most recognisable public benefactor, was born in the village of Clifton, Westmoreland. He was the son of John Noble, a farmer and Mary née Bloom (later in life Henry adopted Bloom as a middle name). Moving to Whitehaven as a young boy Noble excelled at school. After leaving education he obtained a position at a well-respected firm, Spittall’s Wine and Spirit Merchants, which also had premises in Douglas, Isle of Man. In 1835 he (and his mother) moved to Douglas signifying the beginning of Noble’s illustrious and wealthy career. Working in the Douglas Spittall’s, Noble became manager within five years and by his twenty-fifth year had established his own rival business, a Wines, Spirits and Timber Merchants; he also had ties to property speculation, money lending and later on was the owner of a fleet of schooners.

In his early 40s Noble was reputed to be the richest man on the Island, yet still unmarried. In 1862 he married Rebecca Thompson (1818-1888). By 1865 Noble (and four other businessmen) had founded the Isle of Man Banking Company. In 1868 he paid £7,750 for the Villa Marina mansion on Douglas seafront, former residence of Francis Stainsby-Conant-Pigott (1810-1863), Lieutenant Governor of the Isle of Man (1860-1863). During his lifetime (and beyond) Noble was a public benefactor to the Island; his most notable development was the foundation and endowment of Noble’s Isle of Man Hospital on Crellin’s Hill, Douglas which opened in 1888; this building now forms part of the Manx Museum. 1888 also saw Noble invest a significant amount of money (£20,000) in the struggling Isle of Man Steam Packet Company, thus saving it from collapse. In 1900 the Isle of Man suffered a banking crisis; Dumbell’s Bank collapsed and ruined many investors and tradesmen businesses. To increase the credit of Douglas, Noble loaned £40,000 of his money to his own bank, restoring the confidence in the bank and its clients. Noble died on 2 May 1903 at Villa Marina. His memorial is in Braddan churchyard.

At the time of his death Noble was worth over £270,000 (more than £10 million in today's money). He held the mortgages on forty-two properties and had stocks and shares in forty-two companies, including the Isle of Man Banking Co., Douglas Light Co., Isle of Man Steam Packet Co., Great Laxey Mining Co., Snaefell Mining Co., Douglas Town Stock and Ramsey Town Stock. He had nearly £10,000 in cash at the bank. He owned thirty-three houses, twenty shops, thirteen gardens and twenty-nine plots of land. Noble’s will instructed to leave the majority of his wealth to charity and his estate was left to the disposal of Trustees, who distributed it out to various causes. The five original Trustees to whom probate of the will and codicils was granted were William Lefroy (1836-1909), DD Dean of Norwich, Alexander Hill (c.1862-1915), Manager of the Isle of Man Banking Company Ltd, Robert Clucas (c.1844-1924) Member of the House of Keys (MHK), Llewellyn Stanley Kneale (c.1864-1926), Advocate and Samuel Harris (1815-1905), High Bailiff of Douglas. The original Trust secretaries were John Hattersley Clarke (1868-1920), Noble’s agent and Alfred Kicks Tyson (1874-1946), advocate’s clerk. The Trustees gradually auctioned or sold Noble’s properties; the remainder were leased out or opened for public use, notably the Villa Marina was sold to Douglas Corporation and reopened as an entertainment complex. The Trustees invested in causes such as the Island’s public health, education, welfare, recreation and the Manx Church. Noble’s money provided the Island with a new hospital on Westmoreland Road, Douglas (1912) and the Ramsey Cottage Hospital (1907).

Other initiatives included scholarships at King William’s College, Castletown, and the University of Liverpool. Noble’s Trustees ensured money was left to the House of Industry, Douglas, with free dinners provided for the poor school children in Douglas. Recreational facilities were provided: Noble’s Park, Douglas, was opened in 1909 and Noble’s Baths, Douglas, provided bathing facilities to the community from 1908 until 1969 (free of charge to school children). Noble’s money enabled the construction of the Anglican Church of St Ninian’s, upper Douglas. Henry Bloom Noble had a major impact on Island life and his name and legacy lives on in Island institutions to this day.

Conditions Governing Access

Items MS 09196/114 & MS 09196/164 are closed for research until January 2025.

Advance notification of a research visit is advisable by emailing library@mnh.gov.im.

Other Finding Aids

A detailed finding aid is available for consultation in Manx National Heritage's Library & Archives Reading Room

Archivist's Note

The biographical information was gathered from the detailed finding aid, situated in Manx National Heritage's Library & Archives Reading Room. Further biographical information was gathered from Dollin Kelly's New Manx Worthies (2006: 346-348).

Fonds-level description created by Eleanor Williams (MNH Project Archivist), April 2016.

Separated Material

Separated material held by Manx National Heritage includes a pamphlet on the Isle of Man Convention for the Deepening of Spiritual Life. Reference number: M 35502.

Related Material

Related material held by Manx National Heritage include a biographical account of Bloom's life (reference number: MS 09627), papers connected to the Bloom and the Trust (reference numbers: MS 10115 & MS 10283) and the minutes of meetings of the Henry Bloom Noble Trustees 1941-1954, 1978-1991 (reference number: MS 11072).