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

January - March 2017

January 2017
Different elements covering the Island's famous shipbuilder will likely coincide to bring its history to the forefront. The Museum Service have launched two new exhibitions featuring the shipyard and these will probably be running alongside the crucial planning decision that will determine the future of the shipbuilder's structures at the Medina Yard.
   The J.S. White exhibition at the Newport Guildhall features models, photos, paintings and artefacts covering the company's famous past. It is open until the end of March.
   The exhibition at the Cowes Maritime Museum in Cowes library is a display of the adverts produced by J.S. White, covering their range of products. These include everything from naval ships and lifeboats to air conditioners and ice-cream making machines. This too will be open until the end of March. Admission is free.
   The outcome of the Medina Yard planning application is expected early in the new year. The council are probably keen to see the site developed but public comments have been dominated with objections, mostly highlighting the loss of industrial opportunities and deep water harbour facilities
  If phase one of the development goes ahead, some of the great industrial sheds will come down and historic gantry cranes and electrics will be lost. It will be important to record details of these, so there will be a buildings survey covering their structure and internal features before they are dismantled.
  The hammerhead crane will be refurbished if the development is approved, otherwise its long term future must be in doubt. Historic England would like to see the crane returned to an operating state, as opposed to it being permanently inoperable as planned. The council say they don't have a view on whether it operates and are leaving the decision up to the developer. Historic England are meeting with the developer to press their case and discuss the options.
J S White
A model of the West Cowes side of the J.S. White shipyard complex, as it was
in 1950, now on display at the Newport Guildhall Exhibition.

February 2017
Following our December 2016 news item challenging claims that Browns pavilion had a PLUTO connection, questions have been raised about the continuing assertion that the PLUTO Control Centre was located in the basement of the Grand Hotel. This would appear to be another Sandown myth.
Grand Hotel
   Nobody knows how this story arose but it seems to be widely accepted, together with a claim the Control Centre is still intact under the ground floor and is just waiting to be exposed. Not only is there no hard evidence to support the idea, there is not even any evidence the Grand Hotel has a basement.
  Since it became vacant, a number of people have been surreptitiously exploring the premises but have been unable to locate any sign of a basement. The matter was addressed in the hotel's planning application, where it was stated "A recent inspection of the building has been carried out by members of the planning and conservation departments who agree that there is no evidence to support the presence of a basement in the building." It might also be worth noting a basement would not be very practical for a property sitting almost at sea level.
   There can be little doubt the Control Centre was in the hotel but the evidence is that it was located in one of the main rooms. Records at The National Archives show they provided bomb blast protection by building a wall across the windows. They camouflaged the wall by painting it to resemble stone. In the absence of any further documentation, that would seem to be the top and bottom of the matter.
   Supporters of Browns pavilion continue to claim a PLUTO involvement in spite of evidence to the contrary. Their reasoning now seems to rely solely on the pavilion having had alterations to provide additional power, which they attribute to a wartime involvement. Others point out the pavilion powered Browns for over 30 years, during which time their own demand inevitably increased as their two facilities evolved to meet developing tourist opportunities.
  The council have supported and encouraged the PLUTO claim and are happy with it being used to attract public money to renovate the pavilion. They too have no evidence but their case is that it is Grade II listed and Historic England don't make mistakes. Meanwhile Historic England have accepted the site needs to be re-evaluated and have encouraged an application to de-list it, which has now been entered.
  Some might feel Sandown deserves better than having much of its PLUTO history pickled in rumour and speculation. The subject needs some serious research. Shanklin is fortunate that its own PLUTO past has been given comprehensive treatment:

March 2017
The preservation of structures covering the the Island's industrial past has often been an uphill struggle. However, there are favourable developments in two areas that, at one time, seemed unlikely to be resolved.
industrial archaeology
   The long standing issue of Newport Power Station (above left) is in the process of being settled. Planning permission was granted for the conversion of the building to flats and the site is being now gutted in preparation for the work. A previous planning appeal was turned down by the Planning Inspector on the grounds that preserving just the prominent tripartite facade failed to properly represent the industrial architecture of the power station. This was taken to mean preservation should at least include the imposing turbine hall. Under this subsequent application, most of the turbine hall will be demolished but with one section retained on view within the complex.
   The overall industrial elegance of the hall will be lost, so it's probably not quite what the the previous ruling had in mind. Nevertheless the current plan is probably the only likely alternative to it remaining derelict. It must also be said that the Planning Inspector's enthusiasm for the power station came from a different culture and was not matched by the concern of Islanders. Neither planning application had much by way of public objections.
   The 19th Century Dodnor Cement Kiln (above right) has also been recognised as a heritage asset by the council and established on the Local List. Unfortunately the council's own Countryside Section failed to protect it and allowed it to become seriously overgrown and suffer root ingress. The stewardship of the site has now been taken over by Gift to Nature and they are considering a plan to clear the site and bring it back into public display. The kiln was part of the cement works at a time when the owners, Charles Francis, Son and Co. Ltd, were innovators in cement technology. It is thought to be a rare early example of the chamber kiln concept.
  Gift to Nature have already held an open day to view a partly cleared section and it proved of considerable interest. They are now in the early stages of formulating an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund for a complete overhaul of the site. This would create a visitor centre around the exhibited kiln, including displays and information covering the hundred year history of the cement works.