If you’ve ever lived on the Isle of Man, or even just visited, there is a good chance that you have heard the name Noble, to be honest it’s kind of hard to miss.
Throughout the capital we have Noble’s Hospital, Noble’s Park, Henry Bloom Noble Primary School, Henry Bloom Noble Library, but who was Henry Bloom Noble?
First off he wasn’t a Manxman, HBN came from Cumbria and was born in June 1816. Originally employed by a wine and spirits merchant, he eventually went into business for himself and ran a timber yard. These ventures made him quite wealthy and allowed him to invest in…
The Steam Packet
Yes, HBN was once a director, shareholder and chairman of the Steam Packet. However, he fell out with the rest of the board over which types of ships to invest in and after a few other rows, he resigned from the board. He was later proved right about the ships.
During his time on the island, it became THE go to place for holidaymakers, the island was the Benidorm of its day. Sensing an opportunity to cash in, he moved into utilities and infrastructure, investing in the Douglas Gas Light Company and the Water Company. However it was the selling of the Water Company which was to cause significant tension because of…
The Isle of Man Bank
You see HBN was a founding member of the Isle of Man Bank. But when the Douglas Town Commissioners sought to buy the water company, he refused to accept a cheque drawn from Dumbell’s Bank, instead demanding gold or cash. While this was begrudgingly paid, he had seriously cheesed off some people.
All of this business had made Noble extremely rich, richer than Astronauts, as Homer Simpson would say. But he and his incredible wife Rebecca recognised that while he was extremely wealthy, many people were living in squalor and had no access to healthcare. So, having prevented a bid from the island’s Hospital Committee to build on land he owned, the couple announced that only would they donate the land for the building of a hospital, but they would pay for it too.
The land which the hospital was on was actually owned by Rebecca Noble, but she gave it to the people of Douglas and on what is now the Manx Museum, the first hospital was built. Alongside the construction of a nurses home, this cost over £10,000 (over £1,250,000 in today’s money). When a new hospital was needed, it was built on what is now the site of Henry Bloom Noble Primary School, which had been owned by… the Nobles.
Prior to his death in 1903, HBN established a trust in memory of his wife. The trust has provided countless amounts of money to the causes benefiting the people of Douglas and the wider island. The trust was responsible for buyi ng the land for Noble’s Park, it paid for a public swimming pool, contributed to the construction of St Ninian’s Church, Ramsey Cottage Hospital, the Douglas Soup Dispensary, accommodation for nurses and even Knockaloe Farm. Even Noble’s former house, the Villa Marina (no seriously) was sold by the trust for the benefit of the people of the island for a pittance to Douglas Corporation.
More recently the Henry Bloom Noble Healthcare Trust has become synonymous with supporting the medical needs of the Isle of Man. From a £1m MRI machine to contributing to the construction of the children’s wing at Isle of Man Hospice, which was then named after Rebecca.
It’s hard to conclude a piece about the Nobles. Before researching this, I didn’t know too much about Rebecca and how she was the driving force behind their philanthropy. But maybe there is something to learn from this couple. They were successful and clever business operators, but they looked at the world around them and sought to improve it and in a post Covid world, we’re going to need more people like the Nobles, to make better what is here better.