History of the IOW   Leave a comment

Before I begin let me just reiterate that I am not a historian, but I aim to bring you history in Layman’s terms. Island history for me is quite easily divided into sections before we delve any deeper and is easy to learn about in some form or other going all the way back to the Dinosaurs.

The Island is internationally recognised for it’s importance in dinosaur discoveries. Fossil hunts still take place today and anyone can join in. In fact Shanklin’s own Jurassic Jim has been fossil hunting for over 50 years, Dinosaur Isle is great for people of all ages to learn about archaeology on the Island.

Skip a few years and in came the Romans divided the Island from North to South and giving sections to their favourite ‘people’. They then all had  equal opportunities to harvest fairly on different types of soil, landscape and sea. How clever? I’m sure whoever was on the land (if anyone) at the times weren’t very happy. This is when the whole garlic palava started though, so us current residents have something to be thankful for and I guess they started the wine too. Again remains are still being excavated, but the best example is Brading Roman Villa.

Once the Romans disappeared, from what I can tell things went a little quiet for a while. There are significant periods where the Island appears in history ie Bonchurch old church in the Doomsday book, poor old Charles I who came here thinking he was amongst friends and got locked up at Carisbrooke and then marched back for his execution at Whitehall. (Feel free to fill in the gaps if you can).

There was quite a bit of seafaring stuff around 1800, (Mr OSGH will be interrogated for more info on this subject) just before that you had Turner painting everything that didn’t move at the end of 1700’s. Of course he came to the Island and you can see more about that and his sketch books for 2012 at Shanklin Chine.

Queen Victoria spent her summers at Osborne House with Albert, which if course meant it was fashionable, the health benefits of sea bathing being very popular and up sprung the seaside holiday. Fine examples of Victorian architecture are seen all over the Island, beautiful ‘villas’ (not your Spanish type), Captain’s houses with towers for the ladies to see her loved one’s return, shopping arcades (Ryde) and Shanklin lift, not the current concrete one clearly – think more Eiffel Tower/Santa Justa lift ie much more stylish! The Victorian’s presence is also still evident in the infrastructure such as the railways, which sprung up as fast as the industrial revolution would allow. Artists such as Lord Alfred Tennyson, Julia Margaret Cameron and Charles Dickens. They all came to make their mark. Edward Elgar even honeymooned at Alexandra Gardens in Ventnor in 1889. Queen Victoria also spent her last living days at Osborne House

Since then the Island has played a major strategic role for the South coast. The Needles Old Batteries were built 1861 – 1895 for coastal defences against France. Second World War evidence dotted all over the Island. There is even a war room at Shanklin Theatre! PLUTO (Pipeline Under the Ocean) was a pipeline under the channel to get fuel to the allies. A permanent exhibition can be seen at Shanklin Chine. Ryde Heritage Centre is also a great exhibition of the war. The Needles New Battery was then used from 1956 to 1971 to test the two space rocket engines Black Knight and Black Arrow. They were then shipped to Australia. If you go to the Battery it will tell you how long it took to ship them – it was a long time. But I can’t remember. I’ll have to go back!

Since then peace came to the Island in more than one way with the IOW Rock festival. I think some of them forgot to get their ferry back and are still here! Jimi Hendrix played his last performance at the festival in 1970. It was also the last of the 3 IOW until recently. At the time it was the largest event of it’s kind in the world with 600,000 – 700,000 people! It was bigger than Woodstock. The Isle of Wight has been back since 2002 and has seen some greats like The Who, David Bowie, Robert Plant, Neil Young, Paul McCartney (sounds like the 70s I know!) Rolling Stones, Sex Pistols, Police (getting younger), Kaiser Chiefs, Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Pulp. This year we seem to be going backwards again with Tom Petty and The Boss! Pearl Jam are a welcome reminder of my youth!

Posted February 16, 2012 by shanklinrocks

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