125th anniversary of the first sitting of Tynwald in the Wedding Cake
20th December 2019 marks the 125th anniversary of the first sitting of the legislative use of the Tynwald Chamber. This now landmark building provided members of Tynwald with a newly designed chamber in a centralised location to conduct the Island's business.
The information on this page showcases the history of the building that is now home to Tynwald and its Branches, and the history of the iconic Wedding Cake.
The Wedding Cake building has stood at the top of Prospect Hill since 1855. Designed by Manx architect John Robinson, the building was built for the Bank of Mona and originally had a red exterior.
The collapse of the parent Glasgow Bank forced the sale of the building and it was purchased by the Government in December 1879 to provide a venue for Tynwald and its Branches to meet in Douglas.
The Legislative Council and the House of Keys began to hold sittings in the Wedding Cake in 1881 but Tynwald Court continued to meet in the Douglas Courthouse due to space. A Committee established to consider the question of a dedicated meeting place for Tynwald Court recommended in 1885 that a new building should be erected adjoining the “Wedding Cake” for this purpose.
Designed by James Cowle, the extension to the building created space for the Tynwald Court Chamber, a robing room for the Speaker and an entrance lobby. The layout of the new chamber comprised 24 seats for the Keys and a bench for the Council. In the centre of the Chamber a table was set for the Sword of State which must be present at every Tynwald sitting.
When the lobby was first constructed there were no connecting doors from it to the Keys Chamber. To move from the Tynwald Court Chamber to the Keys Chamber, Members had to go outside and re-enter by a separate entrance. The connecting doors marked for use by Members and the public were added in 1908.
This was one of a number of changes over the years as the building was adapted for use as a parliamentary chamber. The last major changes were made in 2003-2006 during refurbishment of the buildings. The Legislative Council area in the Tynwald Chamber was remodelled and an additional viewing gallery accessible without steps was installed above the President’s chair. All of the chambers were upgraded with modern technology to allow audio streaming of sittings and electronic voting.
The refurbishment also encompassed the former General Registry on Finch Road, which was mostly demolished in 2003, although the red brick façade still exists. The new Legislative Buildings were built to accommodate members of Tynwald and the Office of the Clerk of Tynwald. The new and refurbished Legislative Buildings complex cost £11 million and re-opened to the public in 2006.