Isle of Wight

Isle of Wight

Infobox England county
name = Isle of Wight

motto = All this beauty is of God

status = Ceremonial & Non-metropolitan/Unitary county
origin =
region = South East England
arearank = Ranked 46th
area_km2 = 380
adminarearank =
adminarea_km2 =
adminhq = Newport
iso = GB-IOW
ons = 00MW
nuts3 = UKG11
poprank = Ranked English cerem counties|RNK=IOW
popestdate = English statistics year
pop = English cerem counties|POP=IOW140,000
density_km2 = English cerem counties|DEN=IOW368
adminpoprank = Ranked English admin counties|RNK=IOW
adminpop = English admin counties|POP=IOW
ethnicity [ [ Resident Population Estimates by Ethnic Group (Percentages)] ] : = 97.0% White
1.0% S.Asian
council = Conservative
exec = English county control|CTY=IOW
mps = *Andrew Turner (C)

The Isle of Wight is an English island and county in the English Channel between three and five miles (8 km) from the south coast of the English mainland. It is situated south of the county of Hampshire and is separated from mainland Britain by the Solent. Popular since Victorian times as a holiday resort, the Isle of Wight is known for its outstanding natural beauty and for its world-famous sailing based in Cowes.

The island has a rich history including its own brief status as a nominally independent kingdom in the fifteenth century. It was home to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and Queen Victoria built her much loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes. The island's maritime and industrial history encompasses boat building, sail making, the manufacture of flying boats, the world's first hovercraft and the testing and development of Britain's space rockets. It is home to the Isle of Wight International Jazz Festival, Bestival and the recently-revived Isle of Wight Festival, which, in 1970, was one of the largest rock music events ever held. [ [ Isle of Wight Festival history] ] The island has some exceptional wildlife and is also one of the richest fossil locations for dinosaurs in Europe.

It has in the past been part of Hampshire; however, it became an independent administrative county (although still sharing the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire) in 1890. In 1974 it was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan and ceremonial county with its own Lord Lieutenant and the name was adopted as a postal county. The island is the smallest ceremonial county in England at high tide (if the City of London is excluded), but its land area at low tide is larger than that of Rutland, normally thought of as Britain's smallest county. [Episode 10, Series E, QI] [ [ Glorious Isle has the Wight stuff]] With a single Member of Parliament and 132,731 permanent residents according to the 2001 census, it is also the most populated Parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom.


Early history

The Isle of Wight is first mentioned in writing in "Geography" by Claudius Ptolemaeus.

At the end of the Roman Empire the island of Vectis became a Jutish kingdom ruled by King Stuf and his successors until AD 661 when it was invaded by Wulfhere of Mercia and forcibly converted to Christianity at sword point. When he left for Mercia the islanders reverted to paganism.

In AD 685 it was invaded by Caedwalla of Wessex and can be considered to have become part of Wessex. Following the accession of West Saxon kings as kings of all England, it then became part of England. The island became part of the shire of Hampshire and was divided into hundreds as was the norm.

In 686, it became the last part of England to convert to Christianity. [ [ "Saxon Graves at Shalfleet"] , Isle of Wight History Centre, August, 2005] [ [ "England, A Narrative History", Peter N. Williams] ] [ [ "The English Accept Christianity"] , The Story of England, Samuel B. Harding]

The island suffered especially from the Vikings. Alfred the Great's navy defeated the Danes in 871 after they had "ravaged Devon and the Isle of Wight".

Middle ages

The Norman Conquest created the position of Lord of the Isle of Wight. Carisbrooke Priory and the fort of Carisbrooke Castle were founded. The island did not come under full control of the Crown until it was sold by the dying last Norman Lord, Lady Isabella de Fortibus, to Edward I in 1293.

The Lordship thereafter became a royal appointment, with a brief interruption when Henry de Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Warwick was in 1444 crowned King of the Isle of Wight [ [ William Camden, Britain, or, a Chorographicall Description of the most flourishing Kingdomes, England, Scotland, and Ireland (London, 1610)] ] , with King Henry VI assisting in person at the ceremony, placing the crown on his head. With no male heir, the regal title expired on the death of Henry de Beauchamp.

Henry VIII, who developed the Royal Navy and its permanent base at Portsmouth, fortified the island at Yarmouth, East and West Cowes, and Sandown. Much later, after the Spanish Armada in 1588, the threat of Spanish attacks remained and the outer fortifications of Carisbrooke Castle were built between 1597 and 1602.

Civil war

During the English Civil War King Charles fled to the Isle of Wight, believing he would receive sympathy from the governor, Robert Hammond. Hammond was appalled, and imprisoned the King in Carisbrooke Castle.

Queen Victoria

Queen Victoria made Osborne House on the Isle of Wight her summer home for many years and, as a result, it became a major holiday resort for fashionable Victorians including Alfred Lord Tennyson, Julia Margaret Cameron, Charles Dickens (who wrote much of David Copperfield there) and members of European royalty.

During her reign, in 1897, the world's first radio station [ [ Connected Earth: The origins of radio ] ] was set up by Marconi, at the Needles battery, at the western tip of the island.

Modern history

During the Second World War the island was frequently bombed. With its proximity to France the island also had a number of observation stations and transmitters, and was the starting-point for one of the earlier Operation Pluto pipelines to feed fuel to the Normandy landings.

The Needles battery was used as the site for testing and development of the Black Arrow and Black Knight space rockets, subsequently launched from Woomera, Australia.

The Isle of Wight Festival was a very large rock festival that took place near Afton Down, West Wight in 1970, following two smaller concerts in 1968 and 1969. The 1970 show was notable both for being one of the last public performances by Jimi Hendrix and for the number of attendees reaching, by many estimates, 600,000 [ [ Movies] ] . The Festival was revived in 2002 and is now an annual event.

Physical geography and wildlife

Isle of Wight is approximately diamond-shaped and covers an area of 380 km2 (147 sq mi). Slightly more than half of the island, mainly in the west of the island, is designated as the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The island has 258 km2 (99.6 sq mi) of farmland, 52 km2 (20 sq mi) of developed areas, and 92 km (57 mi) of coastline. The landscape of the island is remarkably diverse, leading to its oft-quoted description of "England in Miniature". The West Wight is predominantly rural, with dramatic coastlines dominated by the famous chalk downland ridge, running across the whole island and ending in The Needles stacks — perhaps the most photographed aspect of the Isle of Wight. The highest point on the island is St Boniface Down, at 241 m (791 ft), which is also a Marilyn.

The rest of the island landscape also has great diversity, with perhaps the most notable habitats being the soft cliffs and sea ledges, which are spectacular features as well as being very important for wildlife, and are internationally protected. The River Medina flows north into the Solent, whilst the other main river, the River Yar flows roughly north-east, emerging at Bembridge Harbour on the eastern end of the island. Confusingly, there is another entirely separate river at the western end also called the River Yar flowing the short distance from Freshwater Bay to a relatively large estuary at Yarmouth. Where distinguishing the two becomes necessary, each may be referred to as the "eastern" or "western" Yar.

The south coast of the island borders the English Channel. Without man's intervention the island may well have been split into three with the sea breaking through 1) at the west end of the island where a bank of pebbles separates Freshwater Bay from the marshy backwaters of the Western Yar east of Freshwater, and 2) at the east end of the island where a thin strip of land separates Sandown Bay from the marshy basin of the Eastern Yar, east of Sandown. Yarmouth itself was effectively an island with water on all sides and only connected to the rest of the island by a regularly breached neck of land immediately east of the town.

Island wildlife is remarkable, and it is one of the few places in England where the red squirrel is flourishing, with a stable population (Brownsea Island is another). Unlike most of England, no grey squirrels are to be found on the island [ [ Operation Squirrel] ] , nor are there any wild deer but, instead, rare and protected species, such as the dormouse and many rare bats, can be found. The Glanville Fritillary butterfly's distribution in the United Kingdom is largely restricted to the edges of the crumbling cliffs of the Isle of Wight.

A competition in 2002 named the Pyramidal Orchid as the Isle of Wight's county flower. [ Plantlife: County flowers] .

The island is known as one of the most important areas in Europe for finding dinosaur fossils. The eroding cliffs also assist hidden remains to become more visible.


Being one of the most southerly points of the UK, the Isle of Wight has a milder sub-climate than most other areas, which results in high numbers of holiday-makers, particularly along the south of the island. It also has a longer growing season than other areas in the UK. [ Isle of Wight Climate Statistics]

Industry and agriculture

The largest industry on the Isle of Wight is tourism, but the island has a strong agricultural heritage, including sheep and dairy farming and the growing of arable crops. Traditional agricultural commodities are more difficult to market off the island because of transport costs, but island farmers have managed successfully to exploit some specialist markets. The high price of these products overcomes the transport costs. One of the most successful agricultural sectors at present is the growing of crops under cover, particularly salad crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers. The Isle of Wight has a longer growing season than much of the United Kingdom and this also favours such crops. Garlic has been successfully grown in Newchurch for many years, and is even exported to France. This has led to the establishment of an annual Garlic Festival at Newchurch, which is one of the largest events of the island's annual calendar. The favourable climate has led to the success of vineyards, including one of the oldest in the British Isles, at Adgestone near Sandown. [ [ English Wine - Wine for Sale - Vineyard Tours, Isle of Wight ] ] Lavender is also grown for its oil. [ [ Isle of Wight lavender farm, lavender products, lavender plants, teas ] ] The largest sector of agriculture has been dairying, but due to low milk prices, and strict UK legislation for UK milk producers, the dairy industry has declined. There were nearly one-hundred and fifty dairy producers of various sizes in the mid-eighties, but this has now dwindled down to just twenty-four.

The making of sailcloth, boats and other connected maritime industry has long been associated with the island, although this has somewhat diminished in recent years. Cowes is still home to various small marine-related companies such as boat-builders.

Although they have reduced the extent of the plants and workforce, including the sale of the main site, GKN operates what was once the British Hovercraft Corporation a subsidiary of, and known latterly, when manufacturing focus changed, as Westland Aircraft. Prior to its purchase by Westland, it was the independent company known as Saunders-Roe. It remains one of the most notable historic firms, having produced many of the flying boats, and the world's first hovercraft.

The island's major manufacturing activity today is in composite materials, used by boat-builders and the wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, which has a wind turbine blade factory and testing facilities in Newport and East Cowes.

Bembridge Airfield is the home of Britten-Norman, manufacturers of the world-famous Islander and Trislander aircraft. This is shortly to become the site of the European assembly line for Cirrus light aircraft. The Norman Aeroplane Company is a smaller aircraft manufacturing company operating in Sandown. There are have been 3 other aircraft manufacturers that built planes on the island. [ [ A list of aircraft and airplane manufacturers as well as airfields on the Isle of Wight] ]

In 2005, Northern Petroleum began exploratory drilling for oil, with its Sandhills-2 borehole at Porchfield but ceased operations in October that year, after failing to find significant reserves.


There are three breweries on the island. Goddards Brewery in Ryde opened in 1993. [ [ about us ] ] David Yates, who was head brewer of Burts and Island Brewery, started brewing as Yates Brewery at the Inn at St Lawrence in 2000. [ [ Yates' Brewery ] ] Ventnor Brewery, under new management, is the latest incarnation of Burt's Brewery, which has been brewing on the island since the 1840s in Ventnor. [ [ Ventnor Brewery :: Since 1840 ] ] . Until the 1960s most pubs were owned by Mews Brewery sited in Newport near the old railway station, but it closed and the pubs taken over by Strongs and then by Whitbread. By some accounts Mews beer was apt to be rather cloudy and dark. They pioneered the use of cans in the 19th century for export to British India. The old brewery was derelict for many years but was then severely damaged in a spectacular fire


Tourism and heritage

The heritage of the island is a major asset, which has for many years kept its economy going. Holidays focused on natural heritage, including both wildlife and geology, are becoming a growing alternative to the traditional seaside resort holiday. The latter has been in decline in the United Kingdom domestic market, due to the increased affordability of air travel to alternative destinations.

Tourism is still the largest industry on the island. In 1999, the 130,000 island residents were host to 2.7 million visitors. Of these, 1.5 million stayed overnight, and 1.2 million visits were day visits. Only 150,000 of these visitors were international visitors. Between 1993 and 2000, visits increased at a rate of 3% per year, on average. [ [ A website with Isle of Wight statistics for investors] ]

At the turn of the nineteenth century the island had ten pleasure piers including two at Ryde and a "chain pier" at Seaview. The Victoria Pier in Cowes succeeded the earlier Royal Pier but was itself removed in 1960. The piers at Ryde, Seaview, Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor originally served a coastal steamer service that operated from Southsea on the mainland. The piers at Seaview, Shanklin, Ventnor and Alum Bay were all destroyed by storms during the last century. Today only the railway pier at Ryde and the piers at Sandown, Totland Bay (currently closed to the public) and Yarmouth survive. Blackgang Chine is arguably the oldest theme park in the UK, and one of the oldest in the world.

As well as more traditional tourist attractions, the island is often host to walking holidays [ [ Isle of Wight walking holidays - Wight Walks ] ] . or cycling holidays through the attractive scenery. Almost every town and village on the island plays host to hotels, hostels and camping sites. Out of the peak summer season, the island is still an important destination for coach tours from other parts of the United Kingdom and an annual walking festival has attracted considerable interest. The 67-mile Isle of Wight Coastal Path follows the coastline as far as possible, deviating onto roads where the route is impassable closer to the sea.

A major contribution to the local economy comes from sailing and marine-related tourism.


The Isle of Wight has a total of convert|489|mi|km of roadway. Major roads run between the main island towns, with smaller roads connecting villages. It is one of the few counties in the UK not to have a motorway, as the islands largest road is only a dual carriageway, running from Coppins Bridge in Newport, towards the north of Newport near the island’s hospital and prisons.

A comprehensive bus network, operated by Southern Vectis links most island settlements with Newport as the central hub.

The island's location convert|5|mi|km off the mainland means the most common form of transport is by boat. Car ferry and passenger services are run by Wightlink and Red Funnel as well as a hovercraft operated by Hovertravel. However, fixed links have also been proposed.

The island is home to the smallest train operating company in the United Kingdom's National Rail network, the Island Line, running a little under 14 kilometres (about 8.5 miles) from Ryde Pier Head to Shanklin.

There are currently two airfields for general aviation, Isle of Wight Airport at Sandown and Bembridge Airport.

The island has over 200 miles of cycle ways much of which can be enjoyed by families off road. Major Trails to note are 'The Sunshine Trail' which incorporates Sandown, Shanklin, Godshill and Wroxhall in a 12 mile circular route. 'The Troll Trail' Which leads from Cowes to Sandown or vice-versa (90% off road) approx 13 miles either way and 'Round the Island Cycle Route' which circumnavigates the island on a reported 62 mile ride. Cycles can be brought to the island by foot passengers on any of the car ferries. Hire cycles are also available [] .


All of the island telephone exchanges are broadband-enabled and in addition, some urban areas such as Cowes and Newport are covered by cable lines. Some areas, such as Arreton, have no broadband access in certain places.


The Isle of Wight has one local broadsheet newspaper, The Isle of Wight County Press. It discusses local issues and is published each Friday, or on the last working day if a public holiday falls on a Friday.

The island had a television station called Solent TV from 2002 until its closure on Thursday, 24th May, 2007.

The island has two native, commercial radio stations and has access to other nearby local stations based off the island. Since 1998, Isle of Wight Radio has broadcast on 107 and 102 FM, as well as on the internet, and on the AM band since 1990. In 2007, Angel Radio began broadcasting on 91.7 FM from studios in Cowes. [cite web |url= |title="History of Our Station" and "Gallery" |accessdate=2007-10-28 |format=Flash |work=Angel Radio Isle of Wight Website ]

Active local websites with coverage of island news include [ Ventnor Blog] and [ Island Pulse] .


The island geography, close to the densely populated south of England, led to it gaining three prisons: Albany, Camp Hill and Parkhurst which are located outside Newport on the main road to Cowes. Albany and Parkhurst were once among the few Category A prisons in the UK until they were downgraded in the 1990s. The downgrading of Parkhurst was precipitated by a major escape: three prisoners (two murderers and a blackmailer) made their way out of the prison on 3 January 1995 for four days of freedom before being recaptured. Parkhurst especially enjoyed notoriety as one of the toughest jails in the British Isles and "hosted" many notable inmates, including the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe and the Kray twins.

Camp Hill is located to the west of, and adjacent to, Albany and Parkhurst, on the very edge of Parkhurst Forest, having been converted first to a borstal and later to later a category C prison. It was originally on the site of an army camp (both Albany and Parkhurst were barracks), where there is a small estate of tree-lined roads with well-proportioned officers' quarters (with varying grandeur according to rank, but now privately owned), to the south and east.


There are sixty-nine Local Education Authority-maintained schools on the Isle of Wight, and two independent schools. As a rural community, many of these schools are small, with average numbers of pupils lower than in many urban areas. There are currently five high schools. However, there are plans to close at least one of the high schools. There is also the Isle of Wight College, which is located on the outskirts of Newport.

The island implements a middle school system.

Famous residents

Over the years, the island has had many well-known visitors. Many come over for health reasons due to the cool sea breeze and clean air. For example, Winston Churchill and Karl Marx were visitors to the island. Notable residents include:
* Future Roman Emperor Vespasian, 44CE
* Robert Hooke, a 17th century natural philosopher and polymath, is perhaps best known for his definition of Hooke's Law of Elasticity, but he also coined the term "cell" to define the basic unit of life and made valuable contributions in the fields of physics, astronomy and microscopy.
* Henry Sewell, first Prime Minister of New Zealand.
* Alfred Tennyson, who was Poet Laureate to Queen Victoria, lived at Freshwater and became Baron Tennyson of Aldworth in the County of Sussex and of Freshwater in the Isle of Wight.
* Tennyson's friend Julia Margaret Cameron, a renowned portrait and creative photographer, lived nearby at Dimbola Lodge which is now a museum dedicated to her work.
* Sir Christopher Cockerell, inventor of the hovercraft, lived in East Cowes while it was being developed by Saunders-Roe.
* Alan Titchmarsh, the renowned UK gardener, is High Sheriff of the Isle of Wight in 2008/9. [ [ High Sheriff's new Badge of Office - July 2007] , [ High Sheriff of the Isle of Wight website] .]
* Indie rock group The Bees is from the Isle of Wight.
* David Icke - Author
* Mimi Khalvati - Iranian poet was educated at Upper Chine School, near Shanklin
* Paul Rosenberg (murder)- racially motivated murder victim

Selected places of interest

* Alum Bay
* Appuldurcombe House
* Blackgang Chine
* Brading Roman Villa
* Carisbrooke Castle was imprisoned
* Dimbola Lodge
* Dinosaur Isle
* Fort Victoria
* Godshill Village, and Model Village
* Isle of Wight Steam Railway
* Isle of Wight Zoo, Yaverland
* Medina Theatre, home to the island's entertainment including music and performances.
* The Needles , which is near "The Old Battery" museum and Old Look-out Tower tea-room
* Osborne House had a country residence
* Quarr Abbey
* Robin Hill
* Botanic Gardens, Ventnor
* Yarmouth Castle

Notable media references

* The 1980s pop group Level 42 is from the Isle of Wight.
* The Northumbrian scholar, Bede, recorded the arrival of Christianity on the Isle of Wight in the year 686, when the population was massacred and replaced by Christians. [ [ arrival of Christianity] ]
* The Beatles' song "When I'm Sixty-Four", written by Paul McCartney, refers to renting a cottage on the Isle of Wight (if it's not too dear). [ [ Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club band ] ]
* The Isle of Wight is called "The Island" in some editions of Thomas Hardy's novels in his fictional Wessex.
* The Isle of Wight is the setting of Julian Barnes's novel "England, England".
* The island also features in John Wyndham's novel "The Day of the Triffids" and Simon Clark's sequel to it, "The Night of the Triffids".
* In the radio series "Nebulous", the Isle of Wight has been accidentally disintegrated by Professor Nebulous while he was trying to move it slightly to the left on Janril 57, 2069. [cite episode|title=Holofile 001: Genesis of the Aftermath|episodelink=List of Nebulous episodes#Third series|series=Nebulous|serieslink=Nebulous|airdate=2008-05-15|season=3|number=1]
* Bob Dylan recorded the songs "Like a Rolling Stone", "Quinn the Eskimo (The Mighty Quinn)", "Minstrel Boy", and "She Belongs to Me" for the album "Self Portrait" live on the Isle of Wight.
* The Isle of Wight is the setting in D. H. Lawrence's book "The Trespasser", filmed for TV in 1981 on location.
* In the 1966 novel "Colossus", the entire island is selected for the development of a new base by the supercomputer, Colossus.
* The Isle of Wight is the setting of Graham Masterton's book "Prey".
* Parts of "Frágiles" ("Fragile: A Ghost Story"), a 2005 movie starring Calista Flockhart, were filmed on the island.
*Karl Marx visited the Isle of Wight on numerous occasions while he was writing The Communist Manifesto.
* The Commodore 64 game 'Spirit of the Stones' by John Worsley was set on the Isle of Wight. [ [ The Lost Talismans of Spirit of the Stones ] ]
* In the radio panel game "Genius", someone proposed that in order to increase tourism to the Isle of Wight, it should be made symmetrical, even though it would involve destroying Ventnor. The idea was rejected. [cite episode|title=Matthew Wright|episodelink=Genius (radio series)#Series 3|series=Genius|serieslink=Genius (Radio series)|airdate=2007-10-29|season=3|number=5]

See also

*Isle of Wight gasification facility
*List of civil parishes on the Isle of Wight
*List of places on the Isle of Wight
*Isle of Wight Rifles


* Hansard, Wednesday 14 November 2001 column 850
* Isle of Wight County Press []

External links

* [ Isle of Wight Guide]

General Information:
* [ Isle of Wight Council]
* [ Isle of Wight Festival]
* [ The Isle of Wight Weather Station] Media:
* [ Isle of Wight County Press]
* [ Isle of Wight Radio]
* [ VentnorBlog]
* [ Wifi Hotspots (Some free) ]
* [ ]


* [ Isle of Wight Pictures]
* [ Isle of Wight Historic Postcards]
* [ Isle of Wight Photos]
* [ Old pictures of Newport]

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