Isle of Wight Industrial Archaeology Society

Until the late 16th century, the area where Quay Arts Centre and the Riverside centre are today were marshy wetlands known variously as the Woas, Oase or ooze. Covered at high tide with brackish water, these areas became marshy soft mudlands at low tide possibly fringed with reeds. It is recorded that the town inhabitants used the Little London marsh area for mooring and mending their boats. Indeed the limits of the River Medina or Newport River (as it was then known) corresponded with the town boundaries and so the marshy margins on both sides of the river were within the town boundary, while the valuable dry fields above were owned by various other landowners. At a later date, when the Town corporation reclaimed these areas, small strips of valuable dry ground was added to the Town's lands on the Whippingham parish and the Carisbrooke parish sides [east side of river Medina, and north of the Lukely Brook/Medina River junction respectively].

The original east bank of the River Medina ran along a line between the bottom of Newport cemetery and the Jubilee Stores. [modern map of area for reference]. It then continued through the Seaclose Quay car park, past the electricity sub-station and along the side track at the foot of Hillside that runs round the back of the Riverside Centre. The bank then ran along the back of the Centre through the car park round the west and southside of the subway and then followed the modern alignment of the river. The original west bank of the river followed the line of East Street along Sea Street past the foot of Quay street and continued along Sea Street until it crossed Holyrood Street. On the Little London side, the border of the river followed a natural bank that ran along the foot of the fields that ran down to the river. The river bank here represented the Town boundary and explains why this boundary follows such a strange alignment in this area with part on the Carisbrooke parish side and part on the Whippingham parish side. The triangular region between the quay bridge, Coppins Bridge roundabout and Hillside became an area of mudland, that was exposed at low tide. At high tide, this was originally covered with water but gradually this area developed into a boggy marsh bordering the east side of the river on the site of the present Riverside Centre and quay as more alluvium was deposited.

During the time of Isabella de Fortibus, Newport was granted the freehold of the land belonging to the town. This included the bed of the Newport River [Medina River] up to high water mark and thus explains why the Town owned the marsh and a strip of land bordering the river in Carisbrooke parish, which became known later as Little London and today is occupied with the Quay Arts Centre and the pub called The Bargeman's Rest.

At some point before the mid 16th century, the Town had an embankment built round this area, creating some very marshy pasture. A bridge was constructed across the river from the town side to this embankment roughly where the Medina way adjoins the Council car park. This bridge allowed Newport inhabitants to cross over and dump their soil and rubbish into the marshy area within the embankment. This became one of the three official dumping grounds within the town. Richard James was the lessee of this Oase meadow in Elizabeth's reign, which passed on to the March family in the early 17th century. In the Royal Survey of 1559, the official status of this tipping ground was recognised:
"The Town hath a parcel of meadow ground, sometime called The Woes on the eastward part of the river, in occupation of Richard James, except for a footway there for the inhabitants of Newport to lay dust and soil on the premises where the tenant shall appoint".

John Speed's 1611 map of Newport showing the Quay area. The bridge across to the marsh embankment is marked with a red arrow.

Above: Map showing field names.
In a 1567 "Rental of Newport Town Lands", Richard James paid the town a rent of 4d. for "ye medoe called ye Oes", listed under "The towne lands in Key Streete & Shishpoole [Old Ledger Book NBC/45/2]. This was the standard rent paid for this plot for many years to come. In 1584, at the Court Leet, Richard James was instructed "to make a sufficient hedge or ffence upon the banke againste Peter Woodford [i.e. Peter Woodford's close called Key or Quay Close in Fairlee] before the next Lawe daie sub pena vis. viiid." [NBC/45/21]
Key Close [Quay Close] was the field between Hillside and Snook's Hill, now occupied with the Social Services Offices and the top car park of the Riverside Centre.

In the 1592 Borough Book of Newport, a detailed look at the Town lands was recorded. The marsh was still held by Richard James and was described as:

"Itm a pece of ground called the Oase sometyme hath ben overflowne wth the sea & nowe woone & inclosed wth a banke by the Towne wch bancke beginneth at a ground called coule crafte and for compasinge about up to the key close & bounded as followeth that is to saye the haven in the North west the River wch cometh from fourde myll in the South coule craft close in the este". [NBC/45/22]

The remains of a bank, although somewhat degraded, on the alignment of the old boundary between the marsh and Quay Close, are still evident today, although now with a paling fence instead of a hedge.

Quay Close as it is today.

In the early 17th century, the marsh was leased to the March family, an overner family of substantial merchants who set up in Newport but eventually came to have substantial holdings throughout the Island but especially in the Newport and Cowes areas. The Newport Terrar Book [a book detailing the Town's properties and their rents] shows that the marsh is still being used as one of the town's official dumping grounds:

No. 37
A peece of ground measured lying betweene Sea Street & the river wth the storehouse theron and a peece of meadow ground sometime called the woes on the eastward pt of the River (except a footeway for the inhabitants of Newport to lay dust and soile on the premisses where Mr. March shall appoint) Letten to Mr. David March by Indenture dated the second day of June in the yeare of our Lord 1624 ffor 99 yeares begining at Lady daie last past before the said date At the yearlie rent of for the ground and storehouse theron Rent viiid. Burgage iiiid.
& for ye meadowe Rent iiiid. [No burgage]
In 1676, John Hopkins is leasing the marsh [NBC/45/101], which he held till 1681. In 1688, a Mr. James Grant has taken over. [NBC/45/2 & NBC/45/16B] On 18 October 1695, Grant asked for the lease to be made out in the name of Richard French, carpenter, of Snooks Hill. [NBC/45/16B f.333] It is possible that this Richard French is the builder of the mill on the marsh, for the next lease in 1703, made out to John Redstone mentions a mill along with the marsh [1703 Dec. 17, NBC/45/16B]. By 1710, a small close adjoining the east side of the marsh has become Mill Close due to its proximity to the mill.
" And also that close or parrock of land called Mill Close near Newport, but in the parish of Whippingham (1 acre) upon the river running from Fordbridge towards Newport Quay on the west part, Key Close on east part, the marsh belonging to the Mayor, Aldermen and Chief Burgesses of the town of Newport on North side, and the highway from Newport to Whippingham and the last mentioned messuage or tenement on the south side Also Key Close, parish of Whippingham, near the Key of the town of Newport (7 acres) bounded with Colcroft Close, being pasture, part of Cosham Farm on the north, the lane leading from Newport to Whippingham on the east part, the Marsh aforesaid on north and north west parts and the said parrock, called Mill close, on west part, which said pieces of ground were heretofore in occupation of Jone Harvey, widow, of Newport, and afterwards of John Howe of Newport, basket maker"
[9 Dec. 1710 Marriage Settlement of John King, baker and Sarah Harris of Newport, widow, JER/MISC/40]
Various maps and charts throughout the 18th century show the mill on Newport marsh.

Chart by Jacques Bellin, 1762.

Chart by William Heather, 1797.

1794 map by Burns.
On the above maps, the mill is marked at the north east end of the marsh where the entrance to Seaclose car park is today. It's almost certain that a building, which appeared on a 1758 plan in the same position, marked the position of the mill. On the right is shown a copy of part of a plan of the Encampment near Newport in the Isle of Wight 1758 & 1759 [BL Add 15532]. It clearly shows the mill pond that belonged to the mill on what had early been the town marsh dumping ground. The small bridge, that is shown on Speed's map to allow the Newport inhabitants access to the marsh in order to dump their waste, has now been removed.

On 5 December 1723, the Mayor and Burgesses of Newport leased to John Redstone
"a storehouse in Sea Street, having the river descending from Foord Bridge to the haven on the north-east side, and also their piece of meadow ground, sometime called the ooze, lying on the eastward part of the said river running down from Foord Bridge and adjoining the south part of the haven, with the corn water mill lately erected, and all the banks, sluices and appurtenances to the same belonging, except a convenient footway for the King's subjects upon the bank adjoining the said haven".
Here specific mention is made of sluices, suggesting a tide mill as sluice gates were required to allow water in at high tide but then trap it in the mill pond once it was full.

Left: The site of the mill can be located in the area where the white car is parked and slightly to its right.

The Terrar Book of the Estates belonging to the Corporation of the Borough of Newport [NBC/45/103] shows that John Redstone is still leasing this property in 1749:

Sea Street
A Storehouse and Backside with the Marsh and Corn Water Mill and appurtenances granted to Mr. John Redstone for 51 years from Michas 1738.
Rent Money
ffor the Storehouse       3s. 2d.
ffor the Mill       4d.

The mill was in existence for almost one hundred years: it seems to have ceased to exist by 1792, as it is not shown on the 1792 Ordnance Survey map, but a small cottage is shown at the southern end of the marsh. This cottage was also marked on the tithe map of 1845 for Whippingham parish. The mill banks were still extant and these can be seen in two late 18th century paintings of the area, one by an Horatio Dennett, and the other by Joseph Turner [see below]. In the Turner drawing, two people can be seen walking on the mill bank. In the Dennett picture, the embankment seems to be in a decaying state, allowing a view of its structure. It seems to be very similar in construction to the Newtown marsh walls, consisting of a row of wooden stakes driven into the soft river bed mud, with an embankment of clay formed over the top of or on the inside of them. This bank is shown in a somewhat eroded condition with the wooden stakes clearly visible and large pools of water still remaining within the mill pond.

1792 Ordnance Survey map, the boundary hedge between the marsh and Quay Close.
Tithe map for Whippingham parish, 1845.
Field number 891 was Quay Close and the landowner was Thomas King, who was leasing it to Richard Whitmarsh & others.

Drawing by Joseph Turner of Newport in 1795. [Finberg XXIV]

Above: Drawing of the cottage at the southern end of the marsh, taken from the watercolour painting [shown below] by Mr. Horatio Dennett of Newport harbour area at the end of the 18th century.

Left: A painting of Newport harbour and quay by J. King in 1813.

The marsh has now been reclaimed and converted to pasture; three horses can be seen grazing and running. The public right of way round the edge of the pasture, on what was the embankment, can also clearly be seen. Also visible is a boundary feature running across the pasture towards the left, that corresponds closely to the boundary bank between the marsh and Quay Close, the remains of which are still extant today. In the foreground is a thatched building which was situated at the top of the Hillside allotment gardens: this building is marked on the 1793 Ordnance Survey map, and there is evidence in poor rate books to show that this was the site of a brickyard that operated in the early 19th century.

In 1851, Newport Corporation authorised the improvement of the River Medina and for £15,000 undertook to have parts of the river dredged as well as certain parts of the banks near Newport straightened and fortified with quays. This included the improving of the marsh, with quay walls and infilling behind. Part of the site was then leased to Sir A. W. Hilary, of London, in order to construct a gas works on the site of the present Riverside Centre. This new company, The Newport (I.W.) Gas Company, provided much cheaper gas than its older rival, The Newport Gas Light Company, whose premises were situated at Pan Bridge. R.J. Eldridge notes that the "Newport Gas Light Company were so affected by this that their £50 shares fell in value to £4, and in the end Sir A. W. Hilary and his partners purchased the old company's undertaking" [Newport in Bygone Days, R.J. Eldridge. Isle of Wight County Press 1952].

1862 map, showing the gas works shortly after it had been constructed on the marsh. Also note how the river at the north end of the site extends to a point where the electricity sub-station is sited at the foot of Hillside.

1909 map, showing the area of the river that had been reclaimed between Newport cemetery and the gas works {Riverside Centre]. Quay Close has now disappeared under housing and a new gas holder.

Move pointer over the map for a purple line rollover
of the ancient bank limits of the River Medina.

The Quay area as it is today [2006]

Created: Nov. 2006. E-mail: