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

April - June 2002

April 2002
The 'Isle of Wight Doughnut' recipe has recently featured in articles and correspondence in the local press, prompting a resurgence of claims that the Island invented the doughnut. More cautious observers fear the only thing being cooked up is an Island myth.
  Food history is a notoriously difficult subject. Recipes can travel haphazardly so trying to ascertain where a given food originated is often a futile exercise. The Island's claim to the doughnut rests mainly on two pieces of 19th century evidence: publication of the 'Isle of Wight Doughnut' recipe and a paragraph in a book, The Queen's Isle, in which the author says "...doughnuts are peculiar to the Island...". This evidence certainly suggests the Island was the first place in Britain to experience something called a doughnut, but does it show the recipe was independently developed here?
  Some people point out the Island doughnut recipe is virtually identical to the Dutch oliebollen. American food historians claim Dutch settlers introduced the oliebollen to America in the 17th century, long before the doughnut was recorded here. Could the common name 'doughnut' arise independently both sides of the Atlantic? Others are even more sceptical, claiming the doughnut is too simple a product to have been 'invented'. They suggest it merely arose out of using up odd pieces of spare dough, perhaps as a variation on the medieval 'fritter'. The doughnut may be as old as dough itself.
  Anybody who has sampled the Island doughnut recipe will know it lacks the soft 'doughy' texture of the retail version. Today's retail doughnuts are probably made from a commercial mix but many can remember the considerable range of doughnuts once available from Island bakers. It is the 'doughy' doughnut that can now be found in bakeries from Argentina to Austria. Some feel an investigation into the source of this product would provide more interesting research.

May 2002
In the 1990s a coastal survey of the Wootton-Quarr area produced some of the most exciting archaeology of recent years, revealing over 150 sites and structures dating from Neolithic to post medieval. Since then the County Archaeology Unit has kept a watching brief on the area to record any new evidence revealed by eroding sands, most recently a Neolithic trackway.
The original coastal survey identified a number of timber constructions including trackways and fish traps. In the last few weeks archaeologists have been recording an intertidal trackway similar to those previously documented. Like the others, this one is thought to be Neolithic although later in the period. The remains of the trackway suggest it was constructed of parallel lines of vertical timbers supporting a platform. It is thought it would have originally been running over saltmarsh but appears to be leading out into an inlet. The precise purpose of these trackways remains a mystery.
fish trap Earlier in the year work was carried out sampling a substantial V-shaped fish weir, radiocarbon dated as Saxon. The weir's two arms were constructed using posts and hurdles, the remains extending to 66 and 128 metres. At the apex an oval pound made of wattling trapped the fish on the falling tide. The ongoing sampling work is designed to establish the range of trees used and the tools and methods employed during construction.

June 2002
The two paintings are of Newport and Cowes, created in pen and wash and dated c1650. Recently discovered in an Austrian library, they are the earliest known paintings of Island scenes. Prints were shown for the first time at the History Week Exhibition at Newport

Detail from the paintings
  The artist is Lambert Doomer (1624-1700), a respected Dutch landscape draughtsman. He was a student of Rembrandt and was noted for his accurate depictions in watercolour and pen and ink. Doomer is regarded as one of the major interpreters of Dutch landscape but he also created topographical scenes encountered during his travels abroad.
  The Newport painting is a view from the north clearly detailing the timber framed buildings, with Carisbrooke Castle in the distance. The other painting features West Cowes fort and what appears to be two Dutch ships at anchor, one of which possibly transported the artist.
  The paintings were discovered by the IW Industrial Archaeology Society during their research into Dutch influence on the development of Cowes during the 17th and 18th centuries. The Society has reached agreement with the Austrian library to publish the paintings.