to Isle of Wight History Centre Archive of Monthly News Items
As previously featured in the History Centre

April-June 2007

April 2007
Anyone seeking a break from worthy historical tomes and turgid archaeology reports would have appreciated the film premier of  Timeline 01-2000. This was Island history with a difference, reinterpreted in a snappy, Pythonesque style.
Brading Haven dam breaks

King Charles at Carisbooke Castle
  The film had its first showing at the Medina Theatre on the 29th March. It was made by youngsters under the guidance of Chris Haines for the IW Youth and Community Service. The project was lottery funded and eighteen months in the making.
  It is loosely based on our own IW Timeline of History but manages to entertain and amuse by wisely avoiding any attempt at a true representation of events. Selected dates are each given an individual surreal treatment, drawn from a youthful imagination. The result is a fast-moving, slick experience.
  In spite of the irreverent nature of the movie, it is still likely to raise an interest in local history. Many who see it may well be introduced to some local events for the first time. Those making the film will have certainly learned much about our past in the process.
  One scene revealed that English Heritage refused them permission to film an item at Carisbrooke Castle unless they paid for the privilege: an illuminating contrast between their exuberant approach to history and the staid institutions that control it.
  The film is now released on DVD. To acquire a copy contact

May 2007
Buildings designed for a specific practical function stood little chance of surviving once they were no longer in use, generally being pulled down or left to ruin. The exceptions are underground structures, which were simply sealed up and forgotten, usually remaining well preserved. Two such examples have recently been accessed, on Brading Down and at Fort Victoria.
This set of underground chambers at Fort Victoria was built to house a steam generator system powering a carbon light for an experimental searchlight, established in 1888. The searchlight emplacement still exists fronting the foreshore. The underground chambers are set back in the wood and have been sealed up for many years. The Council Countryside Section recruited an experienced potholer to get inside and take photographs. It was disappointing to discover that all the equipment had been removed, but the layout of the rooms and corridors should indicate how the process operated. It may be possible to open up the site as part of Fort Victoria's educational facilities. chambers
reservoir  Built in 1907, this 20-metre diameter reservoir under Brading Down is a classic example of the superior construction methods employed in Edwardian utility buildings, typified by walls with over a metre of concrete sandwiched between the inner and outer brickwork. The pumping station was over a mile away and gauged the water level via a semaphore on top of the reservoir, operated by a float inside. It would be useful if this fine piece of engineering could be opened for public access. The owner hopes to achieve this by making it commercially viable, but much will depend on the attitude of our planning authority.

June 2007
Every so often someone queries an apparently prominent item with local historians only to discover it's a subject on which they know next to nothing. A recent enquiry about this hefty engine sitting in the woods at Priory Bay appears to be a case in point.

  The local historical association were not aware of its existence, nor were the present owners of the Priory. Although partly overgrown, the engine is a sizeable piece of machinery and difficult to miss. It is in its original location, within the remains of the building that once covered it.
  It would appear to be a gas engine and, as such, would have required nearby gas making plant with a regular coal supply. It carries the maker's name 'Ruston' and our own enquiries suggest this may indicate approximately when it was installed. Ruston amalgamated with Hornsby in 1918 which resulted in a name change. No housing structure is shown on the 1908 Ordnance Survey map, so it was probably installed between these dates. Similar engines had a wide variety of uses, from driving pumps to powering mills.
  An accompanying pump is still in place, now disconnected from a pipe that presumably served some higher point on the Priory Estate. Quite what it was pumping and for what purpose remains a mystery. There is no well nearby which leaves the most likely source as seawater. There doesn't seem to be many possible uses for seawater on the estate, other than perhaps a seawater bath. There is no clue in ownership as the published history of the Priory says little about occupation early in the century.
  Any local historians looking for a research task might find the story of this engine an interesting subject. It might even provide engineering enthusiasts with a useful restoration project.