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

April - June 2022

April 2022
The explosion of interest in history arising though Facebook sites has developed independent of traditional historical services. In its latest Guildhall Exhibition, the Island's Heritage Service acknowledges the style and photographic content offered by social media and seeks to follow it to entice users from their deskbound activity.
   There can be no doubt the Facebook sites have revealed a sizable community interested in the recent past. Some of the content might be seen as comforting nostalgia rather than pertinent history, but there is no denying the wealth of interesting photos drawn from people's personal memorabilia. These might otherwise never have reached the public domain and have added to a view of the Island in its development from the late 19th century.
   Like most museums, past exhibitions at the Guildhall have concentrated on artefacts rather than two dimensional images. In contrast, this latest event concentrates on a photographic record of Newport's past. Two free open mornings were well attended, with some visitors bringing their own examples. There are plans to take portable exhibitions to other locations, notably schools.
   It will be interesting to see how the exhibition develops. It coincides with the national launch of Historic England From the Air, covering a century of aerial photography. Any increase in a community interest in heritage must be welcomed, although a concentration on the photographic age might create an imbalance in the historical record.

Medina railway
Newport photos from the Guildhall Exhibition

May 2022
It must sometimes seem as if everybody is against the proposed development. Nevertheless, if the latest planning application is accepted, it may prove rewarding for those interested in Puckpool's heritage, as it will almost certainly result in some archaeological investigation..
   The development calls for 50 properties in a historically sensitive area that has yielded evidence of both Roman and medieval activity.
   A number of Roman artifacts have been identified within the surrounding area. Numerous Roman pottery sherds have been recovered over the years, including Samian Ware. A possible pottery kiln has also been identified. Within the site itself, Roman coins of various periods have been found, including one in mint condition. These finds suggest the possibility of some sort of Roman occupation.
   Puckpool's medieval heritage is founded in the Domesday Book (Chochepon), whereas Ryde is not recorded. Assets dating to the medieval and Post-medieval periods are located within the area. These include a fish weir post alignment and structural evidence of the long gone Barnsley Harbour, which was noted during the medieval period as being of significant capacity.
   If the planning application is passed, the County Archaeology Service will be insisting on significant archaeological investigation before any development can be started. It will likely involve a geophysical survey, followed by a programme of test trenches.

June 2022
This modest brick structure on Rew Down was Grade II listed back in 2015. It received little publicity and there is nothing on it to suggest its origin to passing walkers. Natural Enterprise and Gift to Nature are responsible for the stewardship of that part of Rew Down. Now they are aware of the Y-station, it seems likely there will be a determined approach to publicising it.
y station
   A chain of Y-stations were established to listen in on German VHF radio transmissions. They comprised both fixed receiving stations and/or with Direction Finding (D/F) capabilities. Ventnor had both. The Y-station operators were critical in intercepting enemy transmissions, identifying the locations of enemy ships and passing this information back to their home station. Coded messages went to Bletchley Park (known as Station X) to be deciphered and translated. The Royal Navy Y-stations were highly likely to have been responsible for intercepts which resulted in the breaking of the Naval Enigma code.
   The Royal Navy stations were operated by Special Duties Wrens, usually a supervisor and two operators. At Ventnor the headquarters was at The Heights on Whitwell Road, also operated by Wrens. Research by Ventnor and District Local History Society has uncovered more about the women called on to make this important wartime contribution.
   Gift to Nature has a record of making the most of any historical features on land under their stewardship. Hopefully this will at least result in the Y-station being identified on site, with additional published research.
   A more ambitious project would be to build and install the missing central section, as shown in the WWII photo top right. This would be a challenge, although it appears to be a largely timber structure. It would establish a wartime feature of which there is no other example anywhere.