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

July - September 2001

July 2001
In the First World War many conscientious objectors were detained at Parkhurst Prison, during which time they were used as labour to build Sandown's eastern sea wall. While doing so it appears they left various graffiti in the concrete reflecting their ideology, largely unnoticed and gradually wearing away through the passing years.
In the paving on the sea wall
  The Parkhurst detainees built the concrete sea wall running from Fort Street onward. Most graffiti seems to be in the paving on top of the wall, although there may be some on the face now covered by the rising level of sand. Unfortunately much of the surface mortar has worn away leaving little more than a hint of lettering. Also some of the sections have been rebuilt. In the Autumn a project will be launched to record as much of the graffiti as possible before it becomes completely illegible.
  There were around 16,000 conscientious objectors in the First World War, held at various locations throughout the country. In 1921 most of the papers pertaining to objectors were destroyed as government policy. Consequently there is little record as to who they were or how they spent their time, other than the recollections within local districts. While conscientious objectors were frequently branded as unpatriotic shirkers, the Sandown graffiti may reveal strongly held beliefs.
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August 2001
A complete amphora vessel discovered at Brading has recently been handed to the Island's County Archaeology Unit for identification and recording
   The vessel was discovered within one metre below ground level during the construction of an extension to a house in Brading. The Archaeology Unit have identified it as 'Carrot' amphora of the 17th century, originating from Merida, south west Spain.
   It is 150mm in diameter and 350mm high. It was made in three stages: the body and base were wheel-thrown separately from the neck and rim, and then joined. After it was completed some damage occurred to the upper body but this was subsequently repaired. Olives and olive oil were exported from this region to Britain in amphorae during Roman times. The fabric of this 17th century amphora is very similar to those of the Roman period.
   How it arrived in Brading will probably remain a mystery. The original contents could only have been a product for the wealthy. The Oglander family would have been able to import such exotic foods at this time but there is also the possibility that it might be lost or discarded from someone's collection at a later date.
   STOP PRESS: Since this news item went online an alert reader has reported an interesting entry in John Oglander's accounts of 1623 showing a payment for "3 Jarrs of Olives"

September 2001
In 1888 an experimental 'sea-saw' searchlight was established at Fort Victoria in an early use of electricity by the military. The engine room powering the searchlight is underground, access to it blocked with debris. For reasons of safety the council now have to completely fill and seal this access.
An artistic impression of the searchlight
  Little is known about the steam engine and generator in the engine room. The unit is an important early example of its technology and local enthusiasts are keen to record details of the machinery before it's buried for good. A local archaeology organisation has approached the council to see if they would be prepared to clear the debris to allow inspection of the equipment before any further action is taken.
  The searchlight emplacement can still be seen fronting the beach on the western side of the fort. The engine room is sited underground in the woods behind the fort, presumably to protect it from enemy fire. The searchlight's 'sea-saw' action consisted of a light source on the lower end of a swinging arm directed at a reflecting mirror on the upper end of the arm, which could swivel to direct the beam. In its day this was state-of-the-art experimental technology, designed to pick up any enemy craft slipping through the Needles Passage at night
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