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

July - September 2002

July 2002
Earlier in the year the destiny of this prominent Cowes landmark became an issue when the site developed an uncertain future. There were calls for statutory protection for the crane as reminder of Cowes' shipbuilding heritage. There are now moves in that direction but long term preservation is fraught with difficulty.
  The Cowes hammerhead crane is one of the earliest of its kind. It was erected for J.S.White & Co in 1912. This cantilever crane design developed from the beginning of the 20th century and examples gradually grew in size to dominate many shipyards around the world. Most hammerhead cranes were built on the Clyde and research is currently underway to ascertain precisely where the Island's crane fits into the chronology of early development. It is possible Cowes was not its first home.
  There are already five cantilever cranes listed on the Clyde under the auspices of Historic Scotland, dating from 1907 to 1926. Some feel English Heritage look less kindly on this type of structure. Listing would only apply to a working crane. If it became redundant protection would be more problematic as it may then have to be classified as a Scheduled Monument and subject to a programme of conservation. In the 1990s attempts to re-locate a redundant hammerhead on the Tyne failed in the courts.
  The Island's industrial heritage has faired badly under the 'chocolate box' approach of local planners and conservationists. The crane is a powerful reminder of the eminence of J.S.White and the extensive shipbuilding which once dominated the Medina, but it will require concerted effort to preserve it.

August 2002
  Following the villa's successful application for a Lottery Funded cover building and visitors centre, English Heritage and the County Archaeology Unit required an evaluation to determine any archaeological deposits which might be disturbed by the new building. Accordingly exciting new information has been revealed on the pre-Roman landscape of the villa site.
trench excavation
  Brading Roman Villa is dated between the 2nd to 4th Centuries AD, but it sits within a much wider archaeological landscape which includes Bronze Age burial mounds and the earthwork remains of an extensive field system on Brading Down.
  Local archaeologist Kevin Trott, assisted by local students and members of the Island archaeology societies, excavated 12 trenches with interesting results. To the south of the main villa house the evaluation revealed prehistoric occupation surfaces which were being used by Iron Age inhabitants. The surfaces contained Vectis Ware pottery dated to between the late Iron Age and AD 70. A number of intriguing "scratch marks" were also recorded in the base of the excavated trench and they have been tentatively identified as "ard marks". That is the marks scratched into the base of the plough soil when ploughing with a prehistoric plough called an "ard".
  This is the first time archaeological evidence of the Iron Age occupation has been recorded in this part of the villa site and it ties in with evidence of a late Iron Age farmstead with round houses and a possible pottery kiln which were found when the car park area was excavated in 1995. Gradually, our picture of the Iron Age occupation of this corner of the Island is being pieced together and it will be interesting to see how much our knowledge will change over the next ten years or so.

September 2002
Earlier this year much publicity surrounded the council's purchase of over a hundred recently discovered 18th century watercolours, most of which feature Island scenes. They are now the subject of a series of exhibitions at Newport Guildhall Museum, making a valuable contribution to our knowledge of town, lifestyle and fashion on Georgian Isle of Wight
  Most of the works are by the renowned artist Thomas Rowlandson (1756-1827) and his brother-in-law Samuel Howitt. About half of them relate to a tour of the Island in 1791 with the rest dated to the late 1790s. They are in excellent condition and the pen and watercolour technique captures both atmosphere and fine detail. Historians have been interested in the recognisable features of towns and villages while some of the unknown aspects will prompt new research.
  As there is insufficient space at the Guildhall to show the entire collection, it is to be displayed in four separate exhibitions. The first is under way and finishes on October 27. The other three are on November 2 to January 26, February 1 to April 30 and May 3 to July 27. For the longer term, plans are afoot to restructure the upper floor at the Guildhall to house the entire collection.