More about Isle of Wight
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The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest island of England, located in the English Channel, 3-5 miles (5-8 km) off the south coast of the county of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by a strait called the Solent. The island is known for its outstanding natural beauty, its world-famous sailing based at the town of Cowes, and its resorts, which have been popular holiday destinations since the Victorian times.
The island has a rich history, including a brief status as an independent kingdom in the 15th century. Until 1995, in common with Jersey and Guernsey, the island had its own Governor - most notably Lord Mountbatten from 1969-1974, after which he became Lord Lieutenant until his assassination in 1979.
It was home to the poet Alfred Lord Tennyson, and to Queen Victoria, who 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 the largest rock music event ever held.(2) The island has some exceptional wildlife and is one of the richest locations of dinosaur fossils in Europe.
In the past, the Isle of Wight has been part of Hampshire. In 1890, it became an independent administrative county, though it continued to share the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire. In 1974, it was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan and ceremonial county, with its own Lord Lieutenant, and recognised as a postal county. With a single Member of Parliament and 132,731 permanent residents in 2001, it is also the most populous parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom.
It is easily accessible from Southsea by hovercraft. Several ferry services operate across the Solent: the route from Southampton to Cowes is 10 miles (16 km), Portsmouth to Ryde 5 miles (8 km), Portsmouth to Fishbourne 7 miles (11 km), and Lymington to Yarmouth 4 miles (6 km).
The Isle of Wight is first mentioned in writing in Geography by Claudius Ptolemaeus.
The Roman historian Suetonius mentions that the entire island was captured by the commander Vespasian, later to become emperor.
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 the country to convert to Christianity.(3)(4)(5)
The Island suffered especially from Viking predations. Alfred the Great's navy defeated the Danes in 871 after they had "ravaged Devon and the Isle of Wight".Memorial to Charles I at Carisbrooke Castle
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,(6) 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.
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. Charles had originally intended to flee to Jersey but had got lost in the New Forest and missed the boat.Osborne House and its grounds are now open to the public
During the Seven Years War, the Island was used as a staging post for British troops departing on expeditions against the French coast such as the Raid on Rochefort. During 1759 with a planned French invasion imminent, a large force of soldiers was kept there so they could be moved at speed to any destination on the Southern English Coast. The French called off their invasion following the Battle of Quiberon Bay. A later French invasion plan involved a landing on the Isle of Wight.(7)
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(8) was set up by Marconi, at The Needles Battery, at the western tip of the island.
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.(9) The Festival was revived in 2002 in a different format and is now an annual event.
The Isle of Wight is approximately diamond-shaped and covers an area of 380 km2. Slightly more than half of the Island, mainly in the west, is designated as the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The Island has 258 km2 of farmland, 52 km2 of developed areas, and 92 km of coastline. The landscape of the Island is remarkably diverse, leading to its oft-quoted description of "England in Miniature". 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 which is a Marilyn.The famous view at The Needles and Alum Bay.
The rest of the Island's 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 at 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. To distinguish them, they may be referred to as the Eastern and Western Yar.
The south coast of the Island borders the English Channel. Without man's intervention the sea might well have split the island into three: at the west end where a bank of pebbles separates Freshwater Bay from the marshy backwaters of the Western Yar east of Freshwater, and at the east end 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,(10) but there are occasional sightings of wild deer. 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.(11)
The island is known as one of the most important areas in Europe for dinosaur fossils. The eroding cliffs often reveal previously hidden remains.
Being one of the most southerly parts of the UK, the Isle of Wight has a milder sub-climate than most other areas, which makes it a popular holiday destination, particularly the resorts in the south east of the island. It also has a longer growing season than most other areas in the UK.(12)Jan Feb Mar Apr May June July Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Avg High (°C) 9 9 10 13 16 18 20 21 19 15 12 10 Avg Min (°C) 3 3 4 7 9 12 14 14 12 9 6 4 Mean (°C) 6 6 7 10 13 15 17 17 15 12 9 7 Avg Precip (mm) 89 61 66 48 56 53 41 56 66 79 84 89
The Isle of Wight is made up of a wide variety of different rock types ranging from Early Cretaceous times (around 127 million years ago) to the middle of the Palaeogene (around 30 million years ago). All the rocks found on the island are sedimentary, made up of mineral grains from previously existing rocks. These are all consolidated to form the rocks that can be seen on the island today, such as limestone, mudstone and sandstone. Rocks on the island are very rich in fossils and many of these can be seen exposed on the beaches as the cliffs erode.
Cretaceous rocks on the island, usually red, show that the climate was previously hot and dry. This provided suitable living conditions for dinosaurs. Dinosaur bones and footprints can be seen in and on the rocks exposed around the island's beaches, especially at Yaverland and Compton Bay. As a result, the isle has been nicknamed Dinosaur Island.
Along the northern coast of the island there is a rich source of fossilised shellfish, crocodiles, turtles and mammal bones. The youngest of these date back to around 30 million years ago.
The island is mainly made up of Tertiary clays, in most of the northern parts of the island, limestone, upper and lower greensands, wealden and chalk.View south, showing cliffs below Luccombe, from Shanklin Chine
The Isle of Wight is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county. Since the abolition of its two borough councils in 1995 and the restructuring of the county council as the Isle of Wight Council, it has been a unitary county. It also has a single Member of Parliament, and is by far the most populous constituency in the United Kingdom (more than 50% above the average of English constituencies).
As a constituency of the House of Commons, it is traditionally a battleground between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The current MP Andrew Turner is a Conservative, and his predecessor Dr Peter Brand was a Liberal Democrat.
The Isle of Wight Council election of 2009 was a victory for the Conservative Party, which took 24 of the council's 40 seats.(13)
There has been a minor regionalist movement, in the form of the Vectis National Party and Isle of Wight Party, but they attracted little support in elections.
In addition there are smaller towns along the coasts, particularly on the eastern side of the island. There are also a number of smaller villages. Some of these (for example, Godshill) also attract many tourists.
The accent of the Isle of Wight is somewhat stronger than, but similar to, the traditional dialect of Hampshire, featuring the dropping of some consonants and an emphasis on longer vowels. It is similar to the West Country dialects heard in SW England, but less removed in sound from the Estuary English of the SE. As with many other traditional southern English regional dialects and accents, a strong island accent is not now commonly heard, and, as speakers tend to be older, this decline is likely to continue.
The island also has its own local and regional words. Some words, including grockle (visitor, tourist - hence grockle-can, tour coach) and nipper/nips (a younger male person), are still commonly used and are shared with neighbouring areas of the mainland. A few are unique to the island, for example overner (a mainlander who has settled on the island), caulkhead (someone born on the island and born from long-established island stock) and 'somewhen' (a derivative of sometime, with similar meaning). Other words are more obscure and now used mainly for comic emphasis, such as mallishag (meaning "caterpillar") and nammit ("noon-meat", meaning food). Some other words are gurt meaning "great", and gallybagger ("scarecrow").(14)
There has been and still is some confusion between the identities of the Isle of Wight as a separate county and, as it once was, a part of the nearby county of Hampshire.(15) Prior to 1890 the Isle of Wight was normally regarded and was administered as a part of Hampshire. With the formation of the Isle of Wight County Council in 1890 the distinct identity became officially established - see also Politics of the Isle of Wight. In January 2009 the new Flag of the Isle of Wight, the first general flag for the county, was accepted by the Flag Institute.(16)
Cowes is a world-famous centre for sailing, playing host to several racing regattas. Cowes Week is the longest-running regular regatta in the world, with over 1,000 yachts and 8,500 competitors taking part in over 50 classes of yacht racing.(17) In 1851 the first America's Cup race took place around the island. Other major sailing events hosted in Cowes include the Fastnet race, the Round the Island Race,(18) the Admiral's Cup, and the Commodore's Cup.(19)
The Isle of Wight Marathon is the United Kingdom's oldest continuously held marathon, having been run every year since 1957.(20) The course starts in Ryde, passing through Newport, Shanklin and Sandown, before finishing back in Ryde. It is an undulating course with a total climb of 459 metres.
The island is home to the Isle of Wight Islanders speedway team, who compete in the sport's third division, the National League. The club was founded in 1996, with a first-night attendance of 1,740. The island is also home to the Wightlink Raiders, an ice hockey team based at Ryde Arena. They compete in the 1st Tier of the English National Ice Hockey League, the 3rd Division in the country. There is also an amateur team the Vectis Tigers of the 2nd Tier English National Ice Hockey League, and four youth teams including the Isle of Wight Wildcats, all based at Ryde Arena.
The Isle of Wight Hockey Club run three senior teams and a junior side, with the 1st XI competing in Hampshire's top division, just one below the regional leagues. The island also has a ladies team-the Vectis Ladies-which is a separate organisation from the IW Hockey Club. Ventnor Middle School on the Isle of Wight runs a successful hockey set-up, producing a number of players who have since gone on to play at high standards.
The now-disbanded Ryde Sports F.C. founded in 1888 and became one of the eight founder members of the Hampshire League in 1896. There are several other non-league clubs such as Newport (IW) F.C. There is an Isle of Wight Saturday Football League with three divisions, and a rugby union club,(21) plus various other sporting teams.(22) Beach football is particularly prevalent on the island and has several of the nation's premier clubs with almost all of the England Beach Soccer team made up from players from the island.
The Isle of Wight is the 39th official county in English cricket, and the Isle of Wight Cricket Board organise an internal cricket league between various local clubs, and Ventnor Cricket Club compete in the Southern Premier League, and have won the Second Division in several recent years. There is a new County Ground near Newport,(23)(24)(25) which held its first match on 6 September 2008.(26) The Board's intent is to enter a side in the Minor Counties tournaments in future seasons.
The Isle of Wight competes in the biennial Island Games, which it hosted in 1993. The Isle of Wight will host these games again in 2011.
The Isle of Wight is home to the Isle of Wight International Jazz Festival, the Isle of Wight Festival and the Bestival. The Isle of Wight is also the home of the band The Bees. Recently they have been having more national success and often perform at smaller concerts on the island. The band Trixie's Big Red Motorbike (popular in the early-to-mid 1980s) as well as Mark King of Level 42 also came from the Isle of Wight.
This is a chart of trend of regional gross value added by the Isle of Wight economy at current basic prices by the Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of pounds.(27)Year Regional Gross Value Added(28) Agriculture(29) Industry(30) Services(31) 1995 831 28 218 585 2000 1,202 27 375 800 2003 1,491 42 288 1,161
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.(32) Lavender is also grown for its oil.(33) 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.(34)
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.Breweries
There are three breweries on the island. Goddards Brewery in Ryde opened in 1993.(35) David Yates, who was head brewer of Burts and Island Brewery, started brewing as Yates Brewery at the Inn at St Lawrence in 2000.(36) 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.(37) 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
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 British seaside holiday, which went into decline in the second half of the 20th century, 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.(38)
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(39) 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 108 km 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.Transport Main article: Transport on the Isle of Wight A map of the island from 1945
The Isle of Wight has a total of 787 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, although there is a dual carriageway from Coppins Bridge in Newport towards the north of Newport near the island's hospital and prison.
A comprehensive bus network operated by Southern Vectis links most island settlements, with Newport as the central hub.
The island's location 8 km off the mainland means that longer-distance transport is by boat. Car ferry and passenger services are run by Wightlink and Red Funnel as well as a hovercraft operated by Hovertravel. Fixed links, in the forms of tunnels or bridges, have been proposed.
The island formerly had its own railway network of over 88 km, but only one line remains in regular use. The Island Line is part of the United Kingdom's National Rail network, running a little under 14 kilometres from Ryde to Shanklin. The line was opened by the Isle of Wight Railway in 1864, and from 1996 to 2007 was run by the smallest train operating company on the network, Island Line Trains. It is notable for utilising ex-London Underground rolling stock. Branching off the Island Line at Smallbrook Junction is the heritage Isle of Wight Steam Railway, which runs for 5.5 miles to the outskirts of Wootton.
There are currently two airfields for general aviation, Isle of Wight Airport at Sandown and Bembridge Airport.
The island has over 322 km of cycleways, much of which can be enjoyed by families off road. Major Trails are
A full list of routes are available here: Isle Cycle The site is constantly updated to add new routes.Communications
All the island telephone exchanges are broadband-enabled, although some areas, such as Arreton, have no broadband access. Some urban areas such as Cowes and Newport are also covered by cable lines.Media
The Isle of Wight's main local newspaper is the Isle of Wight County Press. It discusses local issues and is published each Friday, or on the previous working day if the Friday is a public holiday. In May 2008 the Isle of Wight Gazette was launched as a free newspaper supporting the local Earl Mountbatten Hospice.
The island had a television station called Solent TV from 2002 until its closure on Thursday, 24 May 2007.
The island has two local commercial radio stations and also falls within the coverage area of a number of local stations on the near mainland. Isle of Wight Radio has broadcast in the medium-wave band since 1990 and on 102 and 107 MHz FM since 1998, as well as streaming on the internet. In 2007, Angel Radio began broadcasting on 91.5 MHz from studios in Cowes.(40) On 1 February 2009, Wight FM began broadcasting as an internet radio station.
An active local websites with coverage of island news is Ventnor Blog.
The geography of the island, and its location near the densely populated south of England, led to it hosting three prisons: Albany, Camp Hill and Parkhurst, all located outside Newport near the main road to Cowes. Albany and Parkhurst were 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, New Zealand drug lord Terry Clark 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 a Category C prison. It was built on the site of an army camp (both Albany and Parkhurst were barracks): there is a small estate of tree-lined roads with well-proportioned officers' quarters (of varying grandeur according to rank, but now privately owned) to the south and east.
The management of all three prisons was merged into a single administration, under the name of HMP Isle of Wight in April 2009.
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 46 primary schools, 14 middle schools and five high schools. However, education reforms have led to plans for closures (for full details on these see Education reforms on the Isle of Wight). There is also the Isle of Wight College, which is located on the outskirts of Newport.
The island implements a middle school system.
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 have included:
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Coordinates: 50°40′51″N 1°16′51″W / 50.68083°N 1.28083°W / 50.68083: -1.28083