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

January - March 2002

January 2002
A little piece of received Island history has a medieval chapel called St Urian's nestling beside its manor of Wolverton, now both long gone and buried under Centurion's Copse, near Bembridge. A settled part of our past safely recorded in many earnest publications. Safe, that is, until a keen young researcher decides to trace your actual 'Saint Urian'.
  His initial search of religious records fails to produce a single reference to a saint of that name. Soon more researchers are desperately scouring Europe for Saint Urian, without success.
  Attention then turns to the source of the name St Urian. As with much of Island history, it seems to start in the 17th century with Sir John Oglander, for it is he who writes "there they had theyre Chappell pt whereof I have sene standinge, Called Centurions Chappell". So does this mean the first mention of Centurion's has been subsequently interpreted by historians as St Urian's? Not quite, because more research reveals Oglander later refers to the same chapel as St Uries.
  Elsewhere feverish enquiries have uncovered an earlier 16th century reference to the chapel as "the free Chaple of Seynt Uryth in Bymbrydge". So now we have Saint Uryth, considered a firm favourite because such a saint did actually exist. But wait! There's an even earlier reference, this time to "capella S Urie" (Remember Saint Uries?). By now a number of French saints are being offered up as possible sources from which Saint Urian derived. One candidate was the Breton Saint Jurianus who died in 749. Another possibility was Saint Taurin from Evreux in Normandy. Saint Laurian is also heavily promoted, born in Hungary but martyred in Bourges in 544.
  Our exhausted researchers finally adjourn to a local pub and much debate ensues as to which of the numerous options might have been the chapel's original saint. Overhearing this, an old man in the corner intervenes with the recollection that a WW2 bomb had dropped on the supposed site of the chapel and, in the crater that should have exposed the chapel's foundations, there was nothing to be seen.
Site location map

February 2002
Brighstone Forest was planted between the wars and subsequently hid an area of open downland rich in ancient earthworks. No detailed survey of the area had been done since WW2 when a number of Bronze Age burial mounds were recorded. In the last two months the County Archaeology Unit in conjunction with English Heritage have surveyed the area, paying particular attention to an early field system.
  Such surveys in woodland are now made easier using the Differential Global Positioning System but signals are only reliable when the leaves have fallen. Computer rectified Luftwaffe photographs were also used as an aid in some sections.
  The area of field system within Brighstone Forest consists of several contiguous co-axial fields. These fields are defined by earthwork banks up to two metres in height, making this the best preserved field system known on the Isle of Wight. The DGPS survey has enabled an accurate plan to be drawn. This plan reveals that the average area of each field is 0.6 hectares. The fields are mainly rectangular rather than square in shape. They appear to correspond in size and shape with the 'long fields' identified in the field system on Martin Down, Hampshire which is cited an example of a 'long field' system that may be Romano-British in date. The field system in Brighstone Forest appears quite similar to that on Martin Down but cannot be accurately dated since no archaeological material has been recovered from the field banks. The nearest known Romano-British occupation site is Rock Roman Villa near Brighstone, approximately 1.5 km distant, at the base of the southern chalk scarp
  Other earthworks identified during the survey include lynchets, former field boundary banks, parish boundaries, old trackways, a partial enclosure and a pillow mound, as well as banks, mounds, ditches and depressions of uncertain function. Some of these newly discovered monuments, including the field system, have now been recommended for Scheduling within the scope of the English Heritage Monument Protection Programme. The area now has 28 Bronze Age burial mounds recorded.

March 2002
The Island's only known paper mill was established near Carisbrooke early in the century. In spite of several efforts over the years very little about the mill has ever been discovered.
Last month surprising new evidence came to light.

  Little is known of the mill other than it was owned by an Isaac Tipps who was recorded as a papermaker at the time of his marriage in 1711. Nothing was known about the type of product produced or how long the mill functioned, although it was anecdotally said to be short lived. Our own report suggested the most likely output from a modest paper mill was coarse wrapping paper.
  Last month a researcher recording 18th cent Newport documents noticed some of the sheets carried a watermark with the initials "IT". Most of the other sheets had watermarks showing elaborate designs or shields, probably representing Hampshire mills. No known mainland mill seems to provide for the initials IT. Given the sheets fall within the period 1714-1719 it seems reasonable to speculate that this paper is the product of Isaac Tipps from his paper mill at Clatterford.
  In the early 18th century writing paper would not have been a common commodity on the Island, available only to certain social classes and for the recording of commerce and essential borough and parish minutes. This new evidence suggests Isaac Tipps was capable of producing quality writing paper equal to that of mainland mills. Whilst the dates are not necessarily indicative of the actual period of production, they nevertheless suggest the mill was not quite as short lived as previously assumed.