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

Janauary - March 2022

  January 2022
There can be few Island buildings that have seen their future reviewed so often as Newport Guildhall and its Island History Museum. The most recent group to have a go is the council's Regeneration Team, with the aim of a multi-million pound restoration and repurposing programme to bring the building back into full use.
    In 2012 the council decided to sell the Guildhall off to private enterprise. They were taken aback at the public outrage and had little option but to withdraw the idea
   They then had another go, with plan to build a new record office into the Guildhall, thus killing two birds with one stone and provide a one stop heritage centre. It is was never entirely practical but it met with public approval and a proposal was raised at a cost of £7m, half of which would come from lottery funding. Like all other record office proposals, it was doomed to fail at the budget..
   The latest review of the Guidlhall had been preceded by a report on the building's current state of repair. It turns out the structure needs a good deal of attention to bring it up to standard, at a cost of around £2m. Given the council have an obligation to maintain the Grade II* building in good condition, much of this work would presumably be required irrespective of future plans.
   The Regeneration Team will now seek public consultation as to the future of the Guidlhall, including the museum. There have been public consultations on heritage issues before. The problem is not that those with an interest in the subject lack a view, it is that there are not enough of them to justify ambitious expenditure. Heritage is simply not high enough in the public's expenditure criteria to get measures through the budget, particularly where the council has such critical cost issues over crucial areas. There may be options for some modest changes but high expectations are probably misplaced.

February 2022
The heritage minister from the Department of Culture Media and Sport (DCMS) was forced to defend a charge of corruption in their review that left the discredited 'PLUTO' claim of Browns' engine house as the nation's most unfortunate Grade II Listing. The issue has developed to a point where DCMS is under threat of legal action from the Information Commissioner.
    At the heart of the issue is Historic England's inability to delist a Grade II listing on its own volition. It must be generated by an application from the public. Having rejected a delist application for the engine house, their motive of preserving the status quo to protect reputations was challenged in an appeal to DCMS.
   In their review DCMS decided to support Historic England, but like them, could only do so by completely ignoring the delist evidence. A full report on each element of their deception was published online and they were challenged to confront it via local MP, Bob Seely..
   By the time the DCMS minister responded there was little doubt amongst the wider community that the engine house listing was completely invalid, with no PLUTO connection whatsoever. The minister adopted the bizarre response of defending her department's review while at the same time inviting yet another delist application, presumably with the intention of allowing them to abandoning the listing.
   The confusing DCMS approach prompted a Freedom of Information request asking for copies of their internal documents. The DCMS response was to decline the request on the grounds they needed to test whether the information requested was in the public interest. Thereafter they made no further reply.
   The Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) intervened, instructing DCMS to provide the documents within a given period. Now DCMS have failed to meet that deadline, ICO have threatened them with legal action, including "written certification of this fact to the High Court pursuant to section 54 of the Act and may be dealt with as a contempt of court".
   This extraordinary outcome arising from a modest Grade II listing arose because the high profile and long standing local commitment of charity funding, council support and promotion by local historians led Historic England to refuse a delist application rather than rock the boat. The protection of reputations took precedence over basic evidence.

March 2022
Using archaeology, military records, archive sources, local media and personal experiences, a group of reports have revealed the story of Golden Hill Fort and the unique military 'hut town' constructed on the surrounding land
Golden Hill Fort
   We reported on the archaeology underway in March 2021. The Golden Hill Country Park project has been generated by Natural Enterprise and managed by Gift to Nature. The project was funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
  The WW1 archaeology is now complete and detailed in an interim report from the project archaeologist, Dr Ruth Waller. The excavations by volunteers sought to uncover the remains of concrete bases that formed part of the surrounding military 'town', concentrated on communal facilities, such as mess hall, ablution facilities and shower block. These features will be retained for viewing by park visitors.
  The most remarkable feature of the project is the Social History Report and its appendices. This community project is the result of research into every aspect of life within this military establishment. The records cover the history of the fort and military encampment for the the period 1869 to 1945, providing details of troop movements, sporting events, social events, crimes and accidents throughout that period. Until the hut town was built in 1915, the troops were encamped under canvas and then in various properties in the village, where they were recorded in the 1881 and subsequent censuses. The appendices have full details of the census.
  The inclusion of personal recollections of troops adds colour to the huge range of archive material. These documents will prove an invaluable research source for military historians and family history enthusiasts.
Shower block
The excavated base of a WWI shower block. To be retained for public viewing.

Preliminary Archaeology Report
Social History Report Volume 1
Social History Report Volume 2 Appendices