History of Shankers   Leave a comment

Population 8550 as of 1991 Census.

Up until the 1800s the Shanklin village was little more than a few fisherman’s cottages (where Pencil Cottage is now) with only 105 residents and had apparently changed little since the Doomsday book and remained a coastal farming and fishing community. Smuggling was rife with good hiding spots in the Chine. The cliff top promenades, such as Keats Green, were originally field edges set aside for patrols on horseback by customs officers.

Keats appeared briefly in 1817, then came back again, although not for very long and although he loved Shanklin he soon became ill and took flight, then died of tuberculosis soon after. He stayed at Keats Cottage in 1819 known then as Eglantine Cottage and was then recorded as Pomona Road not the High Street. The Chine was opened to the public in 1817 (the first paying tourist attraction on the Island) and at the same time the Fisherman’s Cottage was built and at that time was run as a hot brine bath. The Chine has been in the hands of the Popham family since 1705  and was part of the Shanklin Manor Estate whose Lordship can be directly traced back to the Doomsday book. Did you know that one of the earlier Pophams – Lord Chief Justice – presided over the trials of Sir Walter Raleigh and the Gunpowder plot gang.

With the increase in tourists even then the village started to grow and between 1824 – 1833 The Crab Inn, Holliers Hotel and Daish’s Hotel were built. Vine Cottage, now the Village Inn was a grocers, baker and general provisions store and the only shop in the village.

When Queen Vic arrived, after buying Osborne House in 1845, so did the test of the water. People were aware of the need for clean water, not only to drink, but also for health reasons and why would you go on holiday to somewhere that had inferior water than your own. In 1891 a beautiful wrought iron lift was erected by Sir George Newnes and held 40 people per car and had 2 cars. It was around this time that Shanklin became so popular as a holiday destination. The early 1900s are thought to be it’s hey day. If you think Vic came in 1845 and things really took off for visitors early 1900s that’s a lot of building in 50 years. The majority of housing on the Island is Victorian. It must have been like the Costa del Sol!! Probably without the cranes and the dodgy developers!

I digress. In a 1903 Guide to Shanklin and the Island it praises Shanklin’s pure spring water (it was ‘scrupulously tested’ by two different experts) and it’s ability to keep up with the demand, noting that in 1893 a reservoir was built to hold 585,360 gallons of water from the springs. Add to that the air on the Esplanade was described as being ‘a life giving element to the invalid’. Now why wouldn’t they want to come on holiday here? It goes on to describe it as ‘Queen Shanklin’ and Daish’s Hotel as one of the prettiest and most picturesque in South England.

Hinton’s Royal Spa Hotel on the Esplanade, by the lift was the place to be. It was often frequented by European Royals. It even had it’s own indoor ‘Winter Gardens’. It certainly looked splendid. It was sadly bombed during the second world war and is now the car park, but is available to buy should anyone also wish to refurbish the lift at the same time, which is part of the deal.

I’m going on a bit about the Victorians (1837 – 1901) because there was so much development during this time. They did construct for me my favourite thing about Shanklin from my childhood and that was the pier. Opened on August 18th 1890 they used to play water polo at the head of the pier. I bet they couldn’t envisage my sister and I dancing to Brown Girl in The Ring on the pier in the 80s wearing fluorescent spring ‘jewellery’. Oh come on we all did it in the 80s and I was only little. Very sadly during the storm of 1987, and I’ll never forget it, the pier was destroyed. It broke my heart.

The railways were also constructed during the Vic times and even then it only took 3 1/4 hours to get to London via the Ryde/Portsmouth steamer and train to Waterloo. Before the railway Shanklin was still quite remote and the road out quite treacherous. With the railways one could take a day trip to Sandown and from there go by railway to Newport, Freshwater and Cowes. There were 72 stations on the Island at one stage and many for places I’ve never even heard of!

The building next door to our guest house, which Mr OSGH thinks looks like an old tube station, was actually a meeting place for the Literary Institute in 1852, but it became too small. Francis White-Popham gave them a plot of land he owned, where a windmill had previously stood in the 17th century and was then a sand and gravel pit. The new Institute was built and opened in May 1879. In 1925 a fire badly damaging the Institute, but was later reconstructed, with the Theatre Foundation Stone being laid on 26th February 1933. During the war it was used as a dance hall and also by the Civil Defence. The Wartime Control Room remains at the moment, but plans are afoot to make it more useful to the theatre. The theatre was closed by the council who were running it until 2010 and was then very quickly taken over by a group of local residents and councillors named Shanklin Theatre Ltd. There is more to the theatre, but I’m trying to be brief so you keep reading. More will follow no doubt in a blog! The theatre is going from strength to strength, as you will see on my Events page and new fixed seating was unveiled in December 2011 enabling more ticket sales and bigger and better acts.

During WWII the Chine was used as an assault course by the Commandos with their HQ at Upper Chine School. 40 Commando trained there in preparation of their Dieppe Raid in 1942. The Pipeline Under the Ocean (PLUTO) also ran from the Chine, one of the great successes of the war – getting fuel to the allies. The idea was Lord Mounbatten’s who later became Governor of the Island from 1969 – 1974, then Lord Lieutenant until his death by the IRA in 1979.

In 1945 Vernon Cottage’s meadow was bought under compulsory purchase and turned into the car park and the current lawn they were left with! Charming. but probably necessary to accommodate all the visitors encouraged to come to our pretty village.

To be continued…

Posted February 22, 2012 by shanklinrocks

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