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

January - March 2003

January 2003
It might seem obvious that properties called 'Old Kilns' would have kilns of some sort nearby. Yet a place so named at Brading has only just revealed the full extent of its associated works. Tucked away at the back of an outside store is the draw hole of a previously unrecorded lime kiln. A survey of the site revealed a complex containing another two kilns. This represents the largest lime burning operation yet discovered on the Island.
Brading Kiln
  Only one of the kilns is exposed, the others are now walled up. They are substantial brick structures built into a bank, arranged in a semicircle and facing a yard. The exposed kiln shows they were each fronted by an arched working area within the bank. Unlike the arbitrary situation of most known Island lime kilns, this site suggests investment in a well planned industrial operation.
  There is research evidence of an 18th century chalk pit on the site and there are nearby chalk buildings. The brickwork indicates the lime kilns were constructed around the mid 19th century. This period coincides with the accelerated development of Sandown so it's probable the works was a major source of lime mortar for local building. It is unknown how long it was in operation. By the 1860s cement mortar was becoming widely available, albeit often mistrusted by builders. The Isle of Wight Cement Company was established at Brading in 1884. Perhaps the single kiln still exposed remained in operation to meet the continuing demand for agricultural lime.
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February 2003
A Cowes shipbuilder who disappeared in the 1690's has been traced to the position of Master Shipbuilder to Russian Czar, Peter the Great. Uncovering details of this strange transition required the collaboration of researchers working on the Island, the mainland and Russia. The story of this collaboration is a classic example of the way Internet facilities have changed the face of historical research.
  The seeds of the discovery were sown when a mainland researcher traced a local shipbuilder to the 17th century shipyards of Russia. He made enquiries in Russia and discovered that another shipbuilder, Joseph Noy, had come from the Isle of Wight. He then contacted the IW History Centre to see if anyone here could throw any light on how British shipbuilders came to be in Russia and whether Noy was known. He was put in contact with an Island historian with an interest in early Cowes shipbuilding who revealed there had been a Joseph Nye at Cowes. Nye had disappeared after incurring some debt. The two researchers decided to join forces and make further enquiries in national archives. It emerged Peter the Great had visited London to acquire shipbuilders around the time Nye disappeared.
  To pursue it further they needed access to Russian archives. Fortunately there was a Russian website on the that nation's shipbuilding history which also had an English translation. They contacted the author who agreed to trace and translate relevant archive sources for them. In return they passed on information acquired in Britain. Between the three of them they gradually assembled the story of how Joseph Nye and other British shipbuilders had become part of Peter the Great's personal ambition to create a navy equal to that of Britain.
  The story of Joseph Noy is now published in Russian and English on a Russian web site. A decade ago the three collaborators would not even have been able to find each other, let alone pursue the subject. The Island's maritime heritage has left traces of its history scattered around the world. It is only now that Internet facilities have enabled local historians to access these resources.

March 2003
Such is the limited finance available to preserve the Island's Scheduled Monuments, the overgrown state of this rampart on Chillerton Down has recently been deemed 'acceptable' by English Heritage.

Chillerton Down
  The Chillerton earthwork is thought to be an unfinished Iron Age rampart on the neck of what would make an ideal promontory hill fort. The site was surveyed and recorded in the 1940s. It could be unique among Island earthworks in that it would appear to represent a particular event. There has been no evidence of a settlement on the site but the slender record of Island Iron Age occupation may have more to do with the scarcity of local archaeology than the scarcity of Pre-Roman peoples. Although on private land, the rampart can be approached on National Trust land and is visible from the highway (at least it would be if there was anything left to see).
  In reality it is regarded as of low priority compared with the current threat to prehistoric burial mounds on the Island. The damage to sites along the Tennyson Trail by off-road leisure vehicles has been well publicised but remains unresolved. English Heritage have also recently incurred the cost of protecting burial sites from the rigours of nature, covering mounds with wire netting to prevent rabbit burrows undermining the structure.
  Like many local features of more recent history, the Chillerton rampart suffers from a philosophy that rates such items on their national importance. It may be the Island's only suggestion of a prehistoric defence but within the body of English Iron Age earthworks it is of little relevance.
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