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

April - June 2017

April 2017
Restrictions on the usage and development within harbours are governed by a number of Parliamentary Acts, dating from the 19th century. The council's draft proposal to apply for a Harbour Revision Order (HRO) is designed to give them new powers to exercise complete control over developments in Newport Harbour. Many feel they might use these powers to encourage a property complex that will change the historical nature of the harbour and destroy its present environment.
Newport Harbour
  Over many decades, the council have previously sought to overcome the legal restrictions surrounding the use of the harbour and its properties. The main restriction has been a limitation whereby harbour properties cannot be leased to third parties for terms longer than three years. The council have unlawfully exceeded this limitation in the past and this has subsequently put the council and their tenants in difficult situations.
  There has also been controversy as to whether they had the right to dispose of harbour property. The disposal of the Jubilee Stores and development of the Premier Inn were progressed without full consideration of the legal implications The council are now retrospectively claiming they had rights over harbour property once it no longer had pertinent harbour use. They seek to formally establish this principle in Article 15 of their proposed HRO, which gives them the power to " . . . dispose of, lease or grant the use or occupation of, or any right or interest in or over, any land, works, buildings, machinery, equipment or other property forming part of the harbour premises . . ."
  HROs are not uncommon. The government's Marine Management Organisation (MMO) will grant a local authority powers to vary the existing legislation covering a particular harbour if it is assessed as justifiable. The council have been in pre-application talks with the MMO and have carried out an informal public consultation. The HRO proposal is wide ranging and detailed but naturally makes no reference to the intended plans that might lay behind it. There can be little doubt the council intend to use the harbour as part of its plan to promote a regeneration of business activity. The fear is that unsympathetic development would result in the east side of the quay losing its place as a tranquil, historical environment, wherein its daily use retains the concept of a functioning harbour. At some stage there will have to be a formal consultation in which the council's presentation should address public concerns. A major public protest could result in a Public Inquiry.
   The Newport Harbour Action Group (NHAG) has been monitoring the council's harbour politics since 2008 and have been responsible for highlighting the past abuse of powers. Their aim is to see a traditional harbour environment maintained. They are currently challenging the HRO on a number of fronts, not least the council's interpretation of the area that constitutes the harbour estate. They are also claiming the HRO should be linked to a clearly defined Harbour Conservation Area that would be protected from unsuitable development. This might in include tourist centre showing the history of the harbour. NHAG are currently in a dialogue with councillors on these issues, although it would seem the councillors now wish to hold the matter in abeyance until after the May elections.

May 2017
The National Mapping Programme, developed by Historic England, is designed to analyse existing aerial photographs to record historic sites and landscapes across England and accurately map them. When the process was applied to two sections of the Island, it unexpectedly identified over 500 previously unrecorded features. Considering this rather striking outcome, it is perhaps surprising the report passed with limited publicity.
  The areas chosen to review were Arreton Valley and the Thorley Wellow Plain. The study was intially instigated as part of an assessment of the Island's past aggregate resources, carried out by Cornwall Council. Ultimately the aggregate aspect seems to have taken a back seat when the extensive number of crop mark and profile features began to emerge, dating from neolithic to the 20th century.
  The Island's archaeology service have recorded their own data from aerial photographs over the years and have built up a substantial database, itemised on the Historic Environment Record. Some of the discoveries made by the mapping project were already hinted at or partially recorded on the local record. However the mapping programme had access to a considerable range of photographs that were not available locally.
  A total of 2524 aerial photographs were consulted during the project. These came from a variety of sources, including private collections, Ordnance Survey and military reconnaissance. The photos dated from the 1920s. Most of these aerial surveys were instigated for reasons unconnected with archaeological research but have incidentally proved of value. Perhaps the most important of these are RAF surveys carried out in the 1940s and 1960s, as they capture many images subsequently subdued or lost through cultivation. This is particularly true of 20th century features arising from the two World Wars. There are two types of aerial photograph reviewed: vertical photos typically capture crop marks, while images taken from oblique angles can reveal subtle surface profiles, particularly when recorded at low sunlight.
   The detailed mapping of the prehistoric/Roman field systems has proved particularly enlightening. Most of those that had been observed before were only recorded as points, and their extent had not been accurately mapped. Since the Island mapping project was completed, Lidar data has been made freely available, so both datasets can be refined this is particularly useful where the earthworks extend into woodland.

The areas covered by the mapping project, showing distribution of all monuments now recorded. Prior to the mapping project, the Isle of Wight Historic Environment Record contained 1287 archaeological sites within the two project areas. The mapping project created 819 monument records, of which 533 were for sites previously unrecorded.

This site on Bowcombe Down had previously been recorded as an enclosure of unknown date, revealed in a 1989 photograph. Detail in these photos from the 1940s and 1930s can identify the site as a probable First World War command post.

A Bronze Age barrow cemetery comprising five near contiguous barrows to the east of Cheverton Down. Only the western barrow with the central robber pit was recorded prior to the mapping project.

An example showing the advantage of photos taken in low sunlight, in this case capturing low earthwork banks of a field system and enclosure at Cheverton Down.

June 2017
The deteriorating state of this Grade II listed structure has been the subject of concern for Newport residents over a number of years. Recent events have forced some repairs but the general condition remains unchanged.
St Cross Mill
   Evidence of decay is externally visible in the rotting window frames and the general appearance. This has naturally been of concern to those interested in the preservation of Newport's remaining historical structures. The matter rather came to a head last winter when two windows fell out onto the footpath and the roof lost some slates. This raised safety issues and has resulted in the council pressing the owner for some essential repairs.
  The council's Conservation Department have been in a protracted dialogue with the mill's owner over a long period but have only been marginally successful in encouraging repairs. Some work has been undertaken internally but it may not have been authorised by the council. They have the option of issuing a Repairs Notice but are apparently reluctant to go down that route. The site has at various times been up for sale and it seems the council have soft-pedalled on the issue in the hope a new owner would acquire the property, committed to repairs. The asking price has fallen over the years and is now at 125,000, with the property described as being in need of complete redevelopment. It remains to be seen how long the council are prepared to wait for a buyer before they resort to legal enforcement.
  St Cross mill is listed as being of early 19th century construction. It is thought to be on the site of the mill of the 12th century St Cross Priory and it is claimed the cellar has stonework from its monastic origins. John Speed's 1611 Newport plan shows a mill on the site. There is a small section of brickwork indicating an earlier building. All that now remains of mill mechanics is the iron water wheel, less its paddles, and the drive up to the crown wheel.
  When offered for sale in 1806, the mill was included as part of Newport's well established and substantial starch manufacturing business. If, as seems likely, the product was corn starch, the mill was probably used for wet milling, an integral part of the operation.
  By 1860 St Cross mill had embarked on the process of bone crushing, to produce fertilizer. This would have required a secondary plant powering hammers or rollers. Bone crushing could be a rather unhygienic process, perhaps necessitating that any milling was limited to animal feed.
  By the end of the century much of the Island's stone milling was concentrated on animal feed, so it's not surprising the last miller, Fisk and Fisher, was a supplier of the product. Mew Langton acquired St Cross Mill in 1939, presumably for use as a storage depot.