Isle of Wight

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Isle of Wight
An image of the Isle of Wight from the ISS[1]
Flag of the Isle of Wight
Motto: "All this beauty is of God"
The Isle of Wight in England
Isle of Wight shown within England
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Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Region South East
Established 1890
Preceded by Hampshire
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Martin White
High Sheriff Ron Holland
Area 384 km2 (148 sq mi)
 – Ranked 46th of 48
Population (mid-2014 est.) 138,400
 – Ranked 46th of 48
Density 364/km2 (940/sq mi)
Ethnicity 97.0% White
1.0% S. Asian[citation needed]
Unitary authority
Council Isle of Wight Council
Executive Conservative
Admin HQ Newport
Area 380.2 km2 (146.8 sq mi)
 – Ranked 106th of 326
Population 139,105
 – Ranked 148th of 326
Density 366/km2 (950/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2 GB-IOW
ONS code 00MW
GSS code E06000046
Member of Parliament Andrew Turner
Police Hampshire Constabulary
Time zone GMT (UTC)
– Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)

The Isle of Wight /ˈl əv ˈwt/ is a county and the largest and second most populous island of England. It is located in the English Channel, about 4 mi (6 km) off the coast of Hampshire and is separated from mainland Great Britain by the Solent. The island has several resorts which have been holiday destinations since Victorian times.

Until 1995, like Jersey and Guernsey, the island had a Governor.[n 1]

Home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes, the island has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat building, sail making, the manufacture of flying boats, the world's first hovercraft, and the testing and development of Britain's space rockets. The Isle hosts annual festivals including the Bestival and the Isle of Wight Festival, which, in 1970, was the largest rock music event ever held.[2] The island has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.

The Isle of Wight was part of Hampshire until 1890, when it became an independent administrative county. Until 1974 it continued to share its Lord Lieutenant with Hampshire, when it was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan ceremonial county which gave it its own Lord Lieutenant and was recognised as a postal county.

The quickest public transport link to the mainland is to and from Southsea (Portsmouth) by hovercraft, while five ferry services shuttle across the Solent.


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Neolithic Isle of Wight

There are theories that during the Neolithic era Bouldnor was an active seaport that supported trade with the Middle East as wheat was present here 8,000 years ago, hundreds of years before wheat was grown anywhere in Europe.[3][4][5]

Bronze and Iron Age Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight is first mentioned in writing in Geography by Ptolemy. Bronze Age Britain had large reserves of tin in the areas of Cornwall and Devon and tin is necessary to smelt bronze. At that time the sea level was much lower and carts of tin were brought across the Solent at low tide[6][7] for export, possibly on the Ferriby Boats. Anthony Snodgrass[8][9] suggests that a shortage of tin, as a part of the Bronze Age Collapse and trade disruptions in the Mediterranean around 1300 BC, forced metalworkers to seek an alternative to bronze. During Iron Age Britain,the Late Iron Age, the Isle of Wight would appear to have been occupied by the Celtic tribe, the Durotriges - as attested by finds of their coins, for example, the South Wight Hoard,[10] and the Shalfleet Hoard.[11] South eastern Britain experienced significant Continental immigration that is reflected in the genetic makeup of the current residents.[12] As the Iron Age began the value of tin likely dropped sharply and this likely greatly changed the economy of the Isle of Wight. Trade however continued as evidenced by the remarkable local abundance of European Iron Age coins.[13][14]

Roman Isle of Wight

Caesar reported that the Belgae took the Isle of Wight about 85 BC and named it Ictus (or Vectis).[15] The Roman historian Suetonius mentions that the entire island was captured by the commander Vespasian, who later became emperor. The remains of at least five Roman villas have been found on the island, including one near Gurnard which is submerged. First century exports were principally hides, slaves, hunting dogs, grain, cattle, silver, gold, and iron. Ferriby Boats and later Blackfriars Ships likely were important to the local economy.[citation needed]

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. When he left for Mercia the islanders reverted to paganism.[citation needed]

In AD 685 it was invaded by Caedwalla of Wessex and can be considered to have become part of Wessex. The resistance to the invasion was led by the local King Arwald and after he was defeated and slain, at Caedwalla's insistence, Wight became the last part of the English lands to convert to Christianity in AD 686.[16][17][18] After Alfred the Great (who reigned 871 - 899) made the West Saxon kings the kings of all England, it then became administratively part of England. The island became part of the shire of Hampshire and was divided into hundreds as was the norm. From this time 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".[citation needed]

Middle Ages

Carisbrooke Castle just outside Carisbrooke

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.[citation needed]

In 1374, the Castilian fleet, led by Fernán Sánchez de Tovar, the 1st Lord of Belves, sacked and burned the island.[citation needed]

The Lordship thereafter became a royal appointment. It is sometimes said that there was a brief interruption when Henry de Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Warwick was in 1444 crowned King of the Isle of Wight[19] with King Henry VI assisting in person at the ceremony, placing the crown on his head. With no male heir, the regal title supposedly expired on the death of Henry de Beauchamp in 1446. But there is no good evidence for this story, and it is considered baseless.[20][21]

The French landed an invasion force on the island on 21 July 1545 but were rapidly repulsed by local militia. English ships were engaged in battle with the French navy, and it was two days earlier, on 19 July, that the Mary Rose was sunk.[citation needed]

Henry VIII, who developed the Royal Navy and its permanent base at Portsmouth, fortified the island at Yarmouth, Cowes, East 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.[citation needed]

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. Charles had originally intended to flee to Jersey, but became lost in the New Forest and missed the boat.[citation needed]

Seven Years War

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Osborne House and its grounds are now open to the public
Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight, 1875 painting by Berthe Morisot.

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.[22]

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) as well as the French painter Berthe Morisot and members of European royalty.[citation needed]

Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on 22 January 1901, aged 81.

During her reign, the world's first radio station was set up by Marconi in 1897 at the Needles Battery, at the western tip of the island.[23][24]

Modern history

During the Second World War the island was frequently bombed. With its proximity to France the island had a number of observation stations and transmitters. It was the starting-point for one of the earlier Operation Pluto pipelines to feed fuel to the Normandy landings.[25]

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.[26]

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.[27] The festival was revived in 2002 in a different format and is now an annual event.[citation needed]

Jimi Hendrix statue outside Dimbola Lodge

Physical geography and wildlife

Isle of Wight Map

The Isle of Wight is roughly diamond-shaped and covers an area of 380 km2, nearly 150 sq.miles. 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 57 miles of coastline. The landscape of the island is diverse, leading to its oft-quoted description of "England in Miniature". West Wight is predominantly rural, with dramatic coastlines dominated by the chalk downland ridge, running across the whole island and ending in the Needles stacks—perhaps the most photographed place on the Isle of Wight. The south western quarter is commonly referred to as the Back of the Wight because it has a unique social and historical background. The highest point on the island is St Boniface Down, at 241 metres (791 ft),[28] which is a marilyn.

A view of 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 scenic features and important for wildlife, and are internationally protected. The River Medina flows north into the Solent, whilst the other main river, the Eastern Yar flows roughly north-east, emerging at Bembridge Harbour at the eastern end of the island. There is another river in the west of the island called the Western Yar, flowing the short distance from Freshwater Bay to a relatively large estuary at Yarmouth.[citation needed]

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, only connected to the rest of the island by a regularly breached neck of land immediately east of the town.[citation needed]

The Isle of Wight is one of the few places in England where the red squirrel is flourishing, with a stable population (Brownsea Island is another), and unlike most of England, no grey squirrels are to be found on the island.[29] There are occasional sightings of deer at large in the wild on the island[30][31][32][33] 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.[citation needed]

A competition in 2002 named the Pyramidal Orchid as the Isle of Wight's county flower.[34]

The island has one of the most important areas in Europe for dinosaur fossils. The eroding cliffs often reveal previously hidden remains particularly along the region known as the Back of the Wight.[citation needed]


The Isle of Wight has a milder sub-climate than other areas of the UK, which makes it a holiday destination, particularly the resorts in the south east of the island. It also has a longer growing season. The mean temperature is 13 degrees Celsius averaged over the year, and is 18 degrees in July and August. The microclimate of places such as Lower Ventnor is influenced by their sheltered position under the cliffs. The Isle of Wight is also sunnier than parts of the UK, with 1800–2100 hours of sunshine a year.[35] Some years have almost no snow in winter, and only a few days of hard frost.[citation needed]

Climate data for Isle of Wight
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 9
Average low °C (°F) 3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 89
[citation needed]


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Geological map
Blackgang Chine circa 1910

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). The northern half of the island is mainly made up of Tertiary clays, with the southern half formed of Cretaceous rocks (the chalk that forms the central east-west downs, as well as Upper and Lower Greensands and Wealden strata).

All the rocks found on the island are sedimentary – made up of mineral grains from previously existing rocks. These are 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. Lignitic coal is present in small quantities in seams on the cliffs and shore at Whitecliff Bay and fossilised molluscs have been found there.

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 geological structure is dominated by a large monocline which causes the marked change in age of strata from the northern younger Tertiary beds to the older Cretaceous beds of the south. This gives rise to a dip of almost 90 degrees in the chalk beds, seen best at the Needles.

About 10,000 years ago, the great ice sheets of the last Ice Age melted and the sea level rose. Probably about 7,000 years ago, the Isle of Wight became separated from the mainland.


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With a single Member of Parliament and 132,731 permanent residents in 2001, it is the most populous parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom (more than 50% above the average of English constituencies).[n 2][36] Parliament has passed Section 11, Clause 6(1) of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 to alter this.[n 3]

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.[citation needed]

As a constituency of the House of Commons, it is traditionally a battleground between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The current Member of Parliament Andrew Turner is a Conservative, and his predecessor Dr Peter Brand was a Liberal Democrat.[citation needed]

The Isle of Wight Council election of 2013 saw the Conservative Party lose the majority which they had held since 2005 to the Island Independents. Independent councillors currently hold 20 of the 40 seats in the council.[38]

There have been small regionalist movements: the Vectis National Party and the Isle of Wight Party; but they have attracted little support in elections.[citation needed]

Main towns

High Street of Newport, the county town.

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  • Newport, in the centre of the island, is the county town of the Isle of Wight and the island's main shopping area. Located next to the River Medina, Newport Quay was a busy port until the mid 19th century.
  • Ryde, the island's largest town with a population of around 30,000, is in the north east of the island. It is a Victorian town with the oldest seaside pier in England, pier and miles of beaches. Ryde is home to the ice hockey club Wightlink Raiders, who play in the third-tier English National Ice Hockey League.
  • Cowes is the location of the annual Cowes Week and an international sailing centre. It is the home of the record-setting sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur.
  • East Cowes is famous for Osborne House, Norris Castle and as the home from 1929 to 1964 of Saunders-Roe, the historic aircraft, flying boat, rocket and hovercraft company.
  • Sandown is a popular seaside resort. It is home to the Isle of Wight Zoo, the Dinosaur Isle geological museum and one of the island's two 18-hole golf courses.
  • Shanklin, just south of Sandown, attracts tourists with its high summer sunshine levels, sandy beaches, Shanklin Chine and the old village.
  • Ventnor, built on the steep slopes of St Boniface Down on the south coast of the island, leads down to a picturesque bay that attracts many tourists. Ventnor Haven is a small harbour built around a Victorian-style bandstand.
Graveyard on the grounds of the church in the town of Brading, Isle of Wight


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Language and dialect

The accent of the Isle of Wight is 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[clarification needed] 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.[citation needed]

The island has its own local and regional words. Some words, such as nipper/nips (a young 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 grockle (a tourist/visitor).Other words are more obscure and now used mainly for comic emphasis, such as mallishag (meaning "caterpillar"). Some other words are gurt meaning "large", nammit (a mid-morning snack) and gallybagger ("scarecrow").[39]


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. At least one mainstream newspaper article as recently as 2008 refers to the "Isle of Wight in Hampshire".[40] 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.[41] Denizens of the Isle of Wight are sometimes referred to as 'Vectensians', 'Vectians' or "caulkheads".[citation needed]



The Isle of Wight is well known for its cycling, with it reaching the top ten in Lonely Planet Best in Travel Guide (2010) for cycling locations. The island is also host to events such as the Isle of Wight Randonnée and the Isle of Wight Cycling Festival, which are hosted annually. There are cycling clubs such as Vectis Roads Cycling Club, which hosts mainly time trials on the island, including an annual 3 Day Time Trial Festival on a bank holiday weekend in May.[citation needed]


There are rowing clubs at Newport, Ryde and Shanklin.

In June 1998 a group of ladies from the Isle of Wight made history by becoming the first team of ladies to row around the island in a fixed seat Solent Galley. They completed their trip in 10 hours and twenty minutes. Their team photo is on show in Ryde Rowing Club.[citation needed]

Rowers from Ryde Rowing Club have rowed around the island on a number of other occasions the first being 1880. The 4s record was set 16 August 1995 at 7 hours and 57 minutes by a Ryde crew.[citation needed]

Two rowers from Southampton ARC (Chris Bennett and Roger Slaymaker) set the 2 man record in July 2003 at 8 hours and 34 minutes and in 2006 Gus McKechnie of Coalporters rowing club completed a clockwise row as part of a 4s crew making him the only person to have rowed around both ways.[citation needed]

The route around the island is some 60+ miles usually anti clockwise and involves even in good conditions a number of notable obstacles including the Needles Rocks and the overfalls at St Catherines point. Start and finish points were traditionally Ryde Rowing club however other start points have been chosen in recent years that give tidal advantages.[citation needed]


Boats in the marina during Cowes Week

Cowes is a 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.[42] 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,[43] the Admiral's Cup, and the Commodore's Cup.[44]


There are two main trampoline clubs on the island, in Freshwater and Newport, competing at regional, national and international grades.[citation needed]


The Isle of Wight Marathon is the United Kingdom's oldest continuously held marathon, having been run every year since 1957.[45] Since 2013 the course has started in Cowes, passing through Gurnard, Rew Street, Porchfield, Shalfleet, Yarmouth, Afton, Willmingham, Thorley, Wellow, Shalfleet, Porchfield, and Northwood before finishing back in Cowes. It is an undulating course with a total climb of 1,043 feet.


The island was home to the Isle of Wight Islanders speedway team until 2014, who competed in the sport's third division, the National League. The club was founded in 1996, with a first-night attendance of 1,740.[citation needed]

Ice hockey

The island is 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 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.[citation needed]


Following an amalgamation of the hockey clubs on the Isle of Wight in 2011, The Isle of Wight Hockey Club now runs two men's senior teams and two ladies' senior teams. These teams compete at a range of levels in the Hampshire open leagues. There is a junior set up who compete in competitions in the U12 and U14 age group.[citation needed]


The now-disbanded Ryde Sports F.C. founded in 1888 became one of the eight founder members of the Hampshire League in 1896. There are several 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,[46] plus various other sporting teams.[47] 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. Many of the stadiums are used when the island hosts the Island Games as it has done twice.[citation needed]


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. Ventnor Cricket Club compete in the Southern Premier League, and have won the Second Division several times in recent years. There is a new County Ground near Newport,[48][49][50] which held its first match on 6 September 2008.[51] As of November 2010, the Isle of Wight Cricket Board have been in discussion with the Minor Counties Cricket Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board regarding proposals to enter a side in the Minor Counties tournaments.[52] The island has recently produced some notable cricketers, such as Danny Briggs, who plays county cricket for Hampshire County Cricket Club and is a member of the England Lions. Hampshire have played a number of first-class matches on the island, at J Samuel White's Ground (originally built and owned by J. Samuel White Shipbuilders) and the Victoria Recreation Ground.[citation needed]

Island Games

The Isle of Wight competes in the biennial Island Games, which it hosted in 1993 and again in 2011 with events taking place across the island.[citation needed]

Motor Scooter

Riders and passengers waiting for the ferry after the Isle of Wight scooter rally in August 1983

The annual Isle of Wight International Scooter Rally convenes on August Bank Holiday, having begun in 1980. This gathering is one of the biggest scooter rallies in the world, now attracting between four to seven thousand participants.[53]


The crowd at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 is believed to have been 600,000

The Isle of Wight is home to the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival. In 1970, with Jimi Hendrix headlining, the festival attracted an audience of 700,000, despite the island itself having a population of roughly 100,000.[54] The Isle of Wight is the home of the band The Bees. They perform at smaller concerts on the island. The band Trixie's Big Red Motorbike[55] as well as three of the founding members of Level 42 (Mark King, Boon Gould and Phil Gould) came from the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight has hosted a one-day festival called 'Summer Madness'. It started in 2009 when Madness headlined it; in 2010 Paul Weller headlined. In January 2011 it was reported that the promoter of Summer Madness was insolvent. The Isle Of Wight is also home to 'Platform One: College Of Music', which offers a national BTEC diploma level 2 & level 3 in music and they're currently the only educational institute to offer a BA hons degree course (Commercial Music), as part of The University of Chichester.[citation needed]


This is a table of the trend in 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.[56]

Year Regional Gross Value added[57] Agriculture[58] Industry[59] Services[60]
1995 831 28 218 585
2000 1,202 27 375 800
2003 1,491 42 288 1,161

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 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.[61] Lavender is grown for its oil.[62] 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. Due to modern farming practices, the island has noted increased levels of pesticide poisoning in local farmers and other local residents living near crops and vineyards.[63]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

Bembridge Airfield is the home of Britten-Norman, manufacturers of the 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 three other aircraft manufacturers that built planes on the island.[64]

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.[citation needed]


There are three breweries on the island. Goddards Brewery in Ryde opened in 1993.[65] David Yates, who was head brewer of the Island Brewery, started brewing as Yates Brewery at the Inn at St Lawrence in 2000.[66] The Island Brewery, located in Shalfleet, was formed in 2010 by Tom Minshull to complement the existing family run drinks wholesale business.[citation needed]

Ventnor Brewery, which closed in 2009, was the last incarnation of Burt's Brewery, which had been brewing on the island since the 1840s in Ventnor.[67] 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 Strong's 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.[citation needed]


Tourism and heritage

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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.[citation needed]

Compton Chine, looking east towards Blackgang

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.[68]

At the turn of the 19th 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.[citation needed]

As well as more traditional tourist attractions, the island is often host to walking holidays[69] 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[70] has attracted considerable interest. The 67 miles (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.[citation needed]

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

Summer Camp at Camp Beaumont is an attraction at the old Bembridge School site.[citation needed]


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One of the Wightlink FastCats which provide a high-speed ferry service between Portsmouth and Ryde
A Southern Vectis bus at Newport Bus Station.

The Isle of Wight has a total of 489 miles (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.[citation needed]

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

The island's location 5 miles (8 km) off the mainland means that longer-distance transport involves a ferry journey. Car ferry and passenger services are run between the island and the mainland by Wightlink and Red Funnel as well as a hovercraft operated by Hovertravel. The question of a fixed link to the mainland — either a bridge or a tunnel — has been discussed regularly over many years, but no proposal has so far come to fruition.[citation needed]

The Island formerly had its own railway network of over 55 miles, 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 9 miles (14 km) 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 5½ miles (8.9 km) to the outskirts of Wootton.[citation needed]

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

The island has over 200 miles (322 km) of cycleways, much of which can be enjoyed by families off-road. Major Trails are [71]

  • The Sunshine Trail, which incorporates Sandown, Shanklin, Godshill, and Wroxall in a 12 miles (19 km) circular route
  • The Troll Trail between Cowes and Sandown (13 miles, 90% off road)
  • The Round the Island Cycle Route, which circumnavigates the island on a reported 62 mile ride


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.[citation needed]


The Isle of Wight's main local newspaper the Isle of Wight County Press, is published most Fridays.

Local, Commercial, Vectis Radio covers the Isle of Wight across the world as the islands online Radio Station; since 2010 Broadcasting from The Riverside Centre Newport.[72]

The island has one local commercial radio station 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 107.0 MHz (with three smaller transmitters on 102.0 MHz) FM since 1998, as well as streaming on the Internet.[citation needed]

The island's not-for-profit community radio station opened in 2007, Angel Radio began broadcasting on 91.5 MHz from studios in Cowes from a transmitter near Newport.[73] On 1 February 2009, Wight FM began broadcasting as an Internet radio station. It closed down six months later.[citation needed]

Online news sources for the Isle of Wight include On the Wight[74] and The Isle of Wight Chronicle.[75] The Chronicle was originally a best selling island paper in the 1950s.[citation needed]

The island has an online 24/7 breaking news source in the form of the Island Echo,[76] which was founded in May 2012.

The island has had community television stations in the past, first TV12 and then Solent TV from 2002 until its closure on 24 May 2007. iWight.TV is a local internet video news channel.[citation needed]

The Isle of Wight is part of the BBC South region and the ITV Meridian region.[citation needed]

Important broadcasting facilities on Isle of Wight are Chillerton Down transmitting station, whose mast is the tallest structure on Isle of Wight and Rowridge transmitting station.[citation needed]


Lua error in package.lua at line 80: module 'strict' not found. 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 United Kingdom and housed 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 onetime officers' quarters (now privately owned) to the south and east. Camp Hill closed as a prison in March 2013.

The management of all three prisons was merged into a single administration, under the name of HMP Isle of Wight in April 2009.


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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 primary schools, middle schools and high schools. However, education reforms have led to plans for closures (for full details on these see Education reforms on the Isle of Wight). The Isle of Wight College, is located on the outskirts of Newport.

From September 2010, there was a transition period from the "3-tier system" of primary, middle and high schools. Some schools have now closed their doors, such as Chale C.E. Primary School. Other schools have become "federated", such as Brading C.E. Primary School and St Helen's Primary School. Christ the King College started as a "middle school" but has now been converted into a secondary school and sixth form.

As of September 2011, there are 5 new secondary schools with an age range of 11 to 18 years which have replaced the island's High Schools (as a part of the previous 3-tier system).

Notable residents

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Notable residents have included:

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Places of interest

AP Icon.svg Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon.png Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon.svg Castle
Country Park Country Park
EH icon.svg English Heritage
Forestry commission logo.svg Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Drama-icon.svg Theatre
Zoo icon.jpg Zoo

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Overseas names

The Isle of Wight has given its names to many parts of former colonies, most notably Isle of Wight County in Virginia founded by settlers from the island in the 17th century. Its county seat is a town named Isle of Wight.

Other notable examples include:

Media references

See also


  1. As well as the former Princess Beatrice during World War II, most otherwise notable was Lord Mountbatten 1969-1974, after which he became Lord Lieutenant until his assassination in 1979.
  2. In 1832 the Act popularly referred to as the Great Reform Act or Reform Act of 1832 established a single MP for the Isle of Wight rather than six until that date, including four for the two rotten boroughs which made it per capita more over-represented than Cornwall which had at least five rotten boroughs.
  3. This states; "There shall be two constituencies in the Isle of Wight." For background debate see:[37]


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  10. The Isle of Wight Ingot Hoard [1] The Art Fund
  11. Leins,Ian; Joy, Jody; Basford, Frank [2], Portable Antiquities Scheme, Record ID: IOW-EAAFE2.
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  16. Saxon Graves at Shalfleet, Isle of Wight History Centre, August 2005 Archived 1 November 2006 at the Wayback Machine
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  18. The English Accept Christianity, The Story of England, Samuel B. Harding
  19. William Camden, Britain, or, a Chorographicall Description of the most flourishing Kingdomes, England, Scotland and Ireland (London, 1610)
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  21. of National Biography (New York: Macmillan, 1985) vol. 4, p. 28
  22. Longmate, Norman. Island Fortress: The Defence of Great Britain, 1603–1945. London, 2001. p.186-88
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  35. Isle of Wight Climate Statistics Archived February 14, 2012 at the Wayback Machine
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  47.[dead link]
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  49. Southern Premier Cricket League – Construction work underway on new island county ground[dead link]
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  56. published (pp.240–253) Archived February 21, 2015 at the Wayback Machine
  57. Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  58. includes hunting and forestry
  59. includes energy and construction
  60. includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured
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  67. Ventnor Brewery:: Since 1840 Archived October 5, 2008 at the Wayback Machine
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  71. Isle Cycle
  72. Vectis radio
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  79. William White (1878) History, Gazetter and Directory of the County of Hampshire. p 497
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  84. The Lost Talismans of Spirit of the Stones
  • Hansard, Wednesday 14 November 2001 column 850

External links