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

April - June 2019

April 2019
Our news item of July 2018 covered a challenge to the Grade II listing claim that the engines in the pavilion at Brown golf course were installed for the WWII PLUTO operation. A recent Freedom of Information request has confirmed that Historic England cannot provide a single piece of documented evidence to support their listing, other than a pair of aerial photographs.
   This just leaves supporters of the listing with their claim the evidence lies within the pavilion's extension. The pavilion was established in the 1930s and the extension was necessary to house the two Ruston engines. Local enthusiasts suggest features of the extension show it must have been a military operation, built in 1944 to house the engines which they say served as a back-up power for the PLUTO pumps.
  Historic England claim their theory is substantiated by two aerial photos, one dated 1941 which shows the pavilion without the extension and one dated 1946 which shows it with the extension. These photos have now been released via an FOI application. It was immediately apparent this claim is based on a misreading of the 1941 image.
Browns Pavilion
  Above is the 1941 aerial photo. From a distance, a cursory viewing might conclude it shows the pavilion before the extension was added. However, when enlarged, it is perfectly clear the pavilion already includes the extension (outlined). The photos on both dates show exactly the same structure, which is as it remains today. There can be no doubt the pavilion's extension and its existing engine installations were in place before the war and had nothing to do with the PLUTO operation.
  It is the final nail in the coffin of a listing that relied entirely on contrived speculation. A delist application had already demonstrated that Browns installed the Ruston engines as part of their own development. A published history of the Kennedy family and their development of Browns states "Also in 1936 an Engine House was built from which to generate d/c electricity, alternating current had not yet reached this Culver Road outpost at this time."
  Historic England rejected the delist application in order to protect reputations. They could only make their case by distorting evidence that showed the pavilion powered Browns' own facilities before the war and well into living memory. They also found it necessary to ignore a raft of official PLUTO records from The National Archives.
  The heritage section of the Department of Culture, Media and Sport decided to close ranks and defend Historic England from any suggestion of a planned misrepresentation. To that end, they compiled a review which relied on the same deceptions, at one point advising their minister the technically impossible was possible. A full report will soon be published detailing how the DCMS review comprised a range of comments designed to evade primary source evidence.
  It seems there is no longer any process that can reverse the listing now the Secretary of State, Jeremy Wright, has unwittingly signed it off. Nevertheless it might achieve some fame as the nation's only Grade II listing without a single piece of supporting evidence, perhaps becoming known as 'Jeremy's Folly'.

  The report on the DCMS review is now published here

May 2019
The internet has greatly increased the opportunity to explain and identify discovered items that might have at one time remained obscure. Nevertheless artefacts still occasionally turn up which prove difficult to place.

metal plate
  The above metal plate is about 15cm wide and was clearly at one time attached to something. Discovered in Brighstone, it looks like the kind of item that should be relatively common and easy to identify. Yet its image has been circulated to numerous organisations without anybody being able to establish its purpose. The council's Heritage Service have also failed to identify it, in spite of the Museum Service circulating it to their own range of contacts.
  There have been plenty of suggested possibilities: everything from early vehicle numbers, through to post boxes and prison cell numbers, but nobody has been able to point to another example. The crown image on the plate suggests it will be something to do with central government but internet searches have pulled up hundreds of images without success. We would be grateful to anybody who can supply the answer.

pile    The iron clad piece of timber at left was photographed lying around somewhere in West Wight last year. Its purpose remained a mystery for many months, in spite of enquiries with heritage institutions.
   The mystery was finally solved when something similar turned up during an archaeological project in the Nelson Dockyard in Antigua, reported on the Net. It is almost certainly the sawn off end of an iron-tipped timber pile, as used in support of a dock or pier. It seems the iron tip was an occasional feature of timber piles at one time.
   It has been suggested there might be a local connection with Yarmouth pier, which had its piles replaced in the past. Totland Bay pier also has some timber piles.

June 2019
Whatever developments have taken place on Newport's old town quay, its underlying walls remain as a reminder of its origin. An application for listed building planning consent is currently in place for a programme of renovation to address their poor condition..
   The historic walls are located at the northern end of Quay Street and extend around the former warehouses which now comprise the Quay Arts Centre and the converted warehouses which back onto the Lugley Brook and the River Medina. Some sections support listed buildings but the harbour walls appear to be a separate listing. Other sections have seen later development. There are no precise dates for the old walls and not all sections were necessarily built a the same point in time. They have been listed on the assumption they are 18th century, or perhaps earlier.
  There will be general repairs to all the harbour walls but the listed sections will have to be treated in line with guidelines for preserving Grade II listed structures. In order to match existing material, a lime based hydraulic mortar will be mixed for repointing and replacing the stonework and brickwork. Where necessary, a concrete will be also be developed from lime mortar. It is important that the repairs respond to their environment in the same manner as the original materials.

harbour wall
harbour wall
  Photo at top shows where the old wall goes around the Quay Arts Centre and under the redeveloped warehouses opposite.
  Above left is an example of where the stonework is showing its age. Early brickwork has also suffered, with some complete voids.
  Anybody who has visited the harbour at low tide will have seen the debris lying on the river bed, as per the photo at right. It is thought some of this will have come from the walls and an attempt will be made to recover as much as possible, so the original material can be used in the repair work.