to Isle of Wight History CentreSelected Items
from the
Isle of Wight Council Heritage Collections

The council displays as many historic artefacts as it can within its various museum and exhibition facilities, but this can only represent a small proportion of its wide ranging collections. This page will detail some objects of interest which might otherwise remain unseen. A new item will be added each month.

Details supplied by the Museum Service.  Photographs - © Isle of Wight Council Heritage Service

Contact the Museum Service for further information:
Corina Westwood 01983 823433 or John Fletcher 01983 814871
Isle of Wight Council Museum Service

  March 2017
Hand Coloured Drawing

This hand coloured drawing depicts the medieval wall painting of the Life of St Christopher that is located above the north door of St Peter's Church, Shorwell.

The saint is shown bearing the Christ Child across a river. Other scenes from his life appear on the left and right, including the attempted martyrdom of the saint with arrows, one of which flies back to pierce the King of Lycia in the eye.

Also depicted are some accurately painted 15th century ships, a boat with oarsmen, a man seated on bank fishing and various fishes.

The artist of the drawing is unknown and it is not dated.

Public Donation.


Repainted in places, the Shorwell painting has been dated to around c. 1470.

  February 2017
Mew Langton

One of the biggest breweries on the Island was established by the Mew family in Newport, centrally placed to serve most of the Island. Later, Mew-Langton’s became famous for their canned IPA.

Photograph - detail
The detail from this photograph shows the sailing ketch Swift. It is being loaded with
barrels at W.B Mew Langton & Co, Newport Quay, circa 1880.

Metal Tray
This metal drinks’ tray promotes Mew’s Ales and Stouts and features a yellow outline map of the Isle of Wight. The Mew family were brewers at Newport from the early 17th century.

Brass name plaque
A name plaque inscribed W.B Mew Langton & Co., Ltd. The plaque comes from one of the boats that transported Mew Langton’s beer across the Solent to Lymington.

Mews Nut Ale bottle
From the brewery of W.B Mew Langton & Co Ltd, Royal Brewery, Newport, Isle of Wight.

  January 2017
Medieval Seal Matrix

The intaglio - Goddess Victory
The impression

Medieval Seal Matrix

A seal matrix was used to make a mark in hot wax to seal letters and documents. The letter could not be opened without breaking the seal. The seal usually identified who the letter was from.

This seal matrix was found near Arreton, Isle of Wight by a local metal detectorist in 2006. The find was reported to Frank Basford (Finds Liaison Officer of the Portable Antiquities Scheme) and declared as Treasure.

The seal matrix is over seven hundred years old, dating from the late thirteenth to early fourteenth century.

The seal matrix reads SIGILL WALTERI DE LONGEDVNE (Seal of Walter of Longdown). The seal matrix may have belonged to a wealthy Medieval Islander but unfortunately there are many Longdowns in the south of England so we cannot accurately state whereabouts Walter came from. (Longdown is a common name for a long chalk down).

The case and surround of the seal matrix is made of silver. The matrix would have been worn around the neck.

The Intaglio (Carved Gem)

Walter of Longdown chose a very fine intaglio for the centre of his seal matrix. The red jasper gem was engraved in the Roman Period around the first century AD. The intaglio would have come originally from Italy or the East but where Walter obtained it from will probably remain a mystery. Roman intaglios of this high quality are very rare.

The intaglio shows the Goddess Victory standing on a globe. (Victory was a Roman goddess who would crown the victorious with a wreath made from leaves). She is winged and holds a wreath in her right hand and a palm-branch in her left. In front of her there are three stars and a crescent moon, which represent eternity.

The carving probably represents the eternity of Imperial Victory. The goddess Victory was very popular with the Roman army. The engraving could represent how the Roman Empire believed they would be victorious and rule the world forever!

Similar images have been found in the Temple of Sulis Minerva at Bath.

Walter of Longdown was probably a wealthy, well-educated man of the Middle Ages. He would most probably have been aware of the Roman meaning of the engraving. However he could have easily re-interpreted the figure as an angel and the stars as the heavens glorifying in the birth of Jesus Christ.

The seal matrix was purchased by the Isle of Wight Council Heritage Service in 2007 with assistance from The Art Fund and the MLA/V&A Purchase Grant Fund.

  December 2016
King's Chest and Tuck Stick
King's Chest

The King's Chest or Armada Chest was used to store monies and valuables collected by HM Customs.

These chests were issued to Customs Houses as a protective measure since it was not unknown for smugglers to burn down a Customs House. Chests of this type were in use from the 1790s until quite recently.

(The King's Chest can be seen in Cowes Maritime Museum and is on loan from Cowes Customs House.)

Tuck Stick

This steel stick with its hazel wood handle was used by Customs men for probing material while searching for smuggled goods (for example bottles of brandy hidden in woollen bales).When fitted inside the hazel wood sheath it resembles a walking stick.

(The Tuck Stick is on loan from Cowes Customs House.)

East and West Cowes quickly became busy trading ports. The visiting ships often had to pay a tax depending on the contents of their cargoes.

  November 2016
Model of hydroplane powerboat: Bluebird K3.
Bluebird K3 is a hydroplane powerboat commissioned in 1937 by Sir Malcolm Campbell, to compete for the world water speed record.

The boat was designed by Fred Cooper and built by Saunders Roe at East Cowes on the Isle of Wight.

K3 set three world water speed records. On 1 September 1937, at Lake Maggiore on the border between Switzerland and Italy, she set a record of 126.32 mph. The next day she improved this to 129.5 mph.

The following year the 130 barrier was broken, when on 17 August 1938 at Lake Hallwyl in Switzerland Bluebird K3 reached 130.91 mph (210.63 km/h).

The name "K3" was derived from its Lloyd's unlimited rating, and was carried in a prominent circular badge on the forward hull.


  October 2016
The Yarmouth Roads wreck

This historic wreck was first discovered off Yarmouth in 1983. She was found during an archaeological survey.

When archaeologists found three pewter plates associated with the wreckage, they were able to date the site to the 16th century. It was soon realised that this was an important discovery and was designated as a 'Protected Wreck Site'.

Archaeologists of the Isle of Wight Maritime Heritage Project carried out the underwater investigation between 1984 and 1989. Excavations established that the ship was once a thirty metre long merchant carrack, and possibly of Spanish origin.

The project researched into the possible identity of the wreck. Many hours were spent visiting archives and studying documents, in search of written records of a 16th century ship being lost off Yarmouth. Eventually, a reference to a Spanish ship was found in the High Court of Admiralty Records.

In 1567 the 'Santa Lucia', a Spanish carrack, was sailing to Flanders with a cargo of wool. The ship 'by fortune perished and was lost in the seas thwart of Yarmouthe in the Isle of Wight'. Reports stated that the cargo had been salvaged. However, an impressive variety of artifacts were excavated from the site. Is this the Yarmouth Roads Wreck?

Photographs show objects found at the site of The Yarmouth Roads wreck.

The fired clay bowl of a clay pipe

A copper alloy spoon

A cast bronze mortar with unusual handles around the side

This small Italian jug has an unusual rim and pouring spout

Stone cannon ball

Pewter plate

Wooden combs

Fired Clay Brick - probably from the brick oven in the ship's galley (kitchen)

  September 2016
Portrait Miniatures by an unknown artist

Sir James Willoughby Gordon (1772 - 1851)         Lady Isabella Julia Levina Gordon (d 1867)

Early 19th Century

General Sir James Willoughby Gordon was secretary to the noble 'Duke of York' who had ten thousand men. He lived at "Northcourt", near Shorwell, Isle of Wight, with his wife Isabella Julia Levina (Bennett), whom he married in 1805.

Sir James loved carving and created the large number of carved poppy heads added to the original seventeenth century pews of Shorwell church.

Lady Isabella was an accomplished artist, a pupil of Turner; she subsequently studied under David Cox and probably Thomas Girtin. Her watercolours include paintings of Northcourt.


  August 2016
Metal Price Signs from Duffett's shop, Ryde

These painted metal signs come from Duffett's who had shops in Garfield Road, Bennett Street and 6, High Street, Ryde.

An advert in Kelly's Directory 1904 reveals Duffett's were merchants for coal and coke, corn hay and straw, flour, oatmeal, bird seed and dog biscuits.


  July 2016
Sand Painting - Carisbrooke Castle

During the Victorian period Alum Bay sand paintings were popular tourist souvenirs from the Isle of Wight.

Sand pictures first became popular on the Isle of Wight around 1840 when an important centre for their production was established at Newport.

Local artists had 21 different coloured sands available from the cliffs at Alum Bay and produced views of the Island and its attractions. They featured local beauty spots, sea views, historic houses and local churches.

Hawkers sat at the entrance to Carisbrooke Castle and sold these paintings to visitors. The County Archives have a reference to a blind man selling these pictures in the late 1870s.

The art of 'painting' with coloured sand or 'marmortinto' was carried out from the early part of the eighteenth century. Unfortunately, the secret methods the artists used died with them.


  June 2016
Model - Thrust 2 land speed record car

On Tuesday 4 October 1983, Thrust 2, driven by Richard Noble, broke the World Land Speed Record.

The record speed was 633.468 miles per hour (1,019.4 kilometres per hour).

This remarkable vehicle was designed and built at the Ranalagh Works at Wootton Creek, Isle of Wight, by a team of highly skilled and devoted Island based engineers.

This model of Thrust 2 was made by team member Brian Ball.

At the rear of the model is a plastic box containing mud from the Black Rock Desert, Nevada, USA. The mud was taken from the car after its record-breaking attempt.

In 1974, Richard Noble founded Project Thrust and started building Thrust 1, the first British jet car. Unfortunately, this car crashed when a wheel bearing failed during a high-speed run at RAF Fairford, Gloucestershire (March 1977). It was sold for scrap the very same day. Undaunted, that evening he began work on Thrust 2.

Richard brought in outside help to construct Thrust 2. John Ackroyd, the designer, joined him and slowly a team of 25 dedicated people was formed. They managed to secure £1.7 m worth of sponsorship in cash or kind from some 200 British companies.

Thrust 2 consisted of a tubular space-frame chassis containing a single Rolls-Royce Avon jet engine. The engine came from an English Electric Lightning fighter aircraft.

The car first ran in 1980 and on 24th Sept 1980, obtained the British land-speed record of 248.87 mph at RAF Greenham Common, Berkshire.

On the 4th October 1983, Richard Noble and Thrust 2 broke the world land speed record. On the vast expanse of the Black Rock Desert in Nevada, he averaged a speed of 633.468mph (breaking the previous record of 622.407mph set in a rocket car in 1970 by Gary Gabelich).

  May 2016
Silk poster - Theatre Royal - Ryde - 6 Nov 1857

The Theatre Royal stood in St. Thomas Square, Ryde.

The original Theatre Royal was present by the early years of the 19th century and the re-built theatre was opened on Boxing Day night 26 December 1871, under the proprietorship of a Mr W. Brown. Reports told of a beautiful ornate auditorium capable of seating some 1,000 people.

The theatre saw the actress Miss Ellen Terry (1847-1928) make her debut as Puck in "A Midsummer Night's Dream."

Destroyed by fire on the night of Monday 19 May 1961, the theatre remained in ruins for many years until it was eventually demolished in 1981. Today the site is occupied by a branch of the Nat West Bank.

The silk poster advertises the production of "The Little Treasure" a fashionable petite comedy followed by "Harlequin and the Mistletoe Bough" a comic pantomime written and adapted expressly for the Theatre Royal.

The tale of The Mistletoe Bough is a ghost story that dates back to the 18th century, and was traditionally recited at Christmas time as a ballad.

The story tells how a new bride, playing a game of hide-and-seek during her wedding breakfast, hides in an attic chest and is unable to escape. She was not discovered and suffocated. The body was allegedly found many years later in the locked chest and by that time was just a skeleton in a wedding dress.

The leading actress for these productions was Mrs. C. P. Plunkett.

The evening was "by the desire and under the immediate patronage of Lady Elizabeth Clifford" who was the wife of Sir Augustus Clifford of Westfield House, Ryde, who were some of the leading figures in the town at the time.


  April 2016
Pocket Compass & Sundial

An 18th/19th Century pocket compass and sundial housed in a circular leather covered case.

The compass was owned by Mr Thomas White (1773-1859).

In 1803, Thomas White, an established shipbuilder from Broadstairs in Kent, relocated to Cowes, Isle of Wight. White acquired Nye's yard and eventually took over yards on both sides of the River Medina at West and East Cowes.

Over the following years, Thomas and his sons ran various shipyards both individually and in partnership. It was not until 1860 that all of their yards were combined under the name 'J Samuel White'.