Search records

James Brown, reformer, journalist and founder of the Isle of Man Times (1815-1881)

Date made: 1882

Artist: Swynnerton, Joseph William

Description: A marble bust of James Brown, reformer, journalist and founder of the Isle of Man Times, by Joseph William Swynnerton of Douglas (1848-1910).

The flower depicted in Brown's button-hole would appear to be Lily of the Valley, which was associated with radicals and rebels in the European reform movements of the 1840s.

James Brown (1815-1881) was born in Liverpool on 2 August 1815. The son of a freed slave, in 1846 he came to the Isle of Man from Liverpool where he had worked as a printing compositor. He founded the Isle of Man Times in 1861 and from its second issue waged a campaign against the Island's Government to introduce reforms such as a popularly elected House of Keys. This campaign ultimately resulted in his imprisonment in Castle Rushen on 16 March 1864 for six months 'to purge his contempt', following his refusal to apologise to the House for his activities. Brown was released on 7 May 1864 and awarded £500 damages against the Keys for wrongful imprisonment.

His campaign in the Isle of Man is seen as having been highly instrumental in bringing about Government reform.

'Between March 1864 and July 1865 James Brown had made his most important contribution to democratic reform in the Island. By openly defying the House of Keys, defeating them in the Court of Queen’s Bench, winning his freedom after serving only seven-and-a-half weeks of a six months’ sentence, and then winning substantial damages for false imprisonment, he had fatally weakened the status and authority of the self-elected House.' (Fyson, Robert, Dr, 'The struggle for Manx democracy, 2016.)

Joseph William Swynnerton was a highly accomplished and much sought after Manx sculptor, who went on to study and live in Italy. On trips back to the Island he carved busts of many local dignitaries, a number of which are in Manx National Heritage’s collections.


Measurements: 6 foot 5 inch x 2 foot 1 inch x 1 foot 3 inch overall.

Materials: marble

Object name: bust & pedestal

Collection: Art Collection

ID number: 1958-0233

Subject tags : #artgallerywall


Optional, not displayed

Manx National Heritage (MNH) will always put you in control of the information we send you. Read our privacy policy