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

July - September 2000

July 2000

Research among the archives of 18th century Newport Corporation has revealed the site of a previously unrecorded water mill. The evidence suggests it was a tide mill, bringing the total number of known Island tide mills to seven.
  A lease dated 1728 makes reference to the mill and it appears on a map later in the century. It was set up on Borough land in an area which now approximates to the site of the Riverside Cafe. There was no harbour wall at this time but the river was banked. The precise position of the mill remains uncertain. The impracticality of a Medina dam at that point and the absence a useful stream suggests it was a tide mill.
  There were two tide mills further down the River Medina. Others were at St Helens, Wootton, Yarmouth and Afton. The rivers, creeks and estuaries along the Island's northern coast were particularly suited to tide mills, so there were doubtless others further back in time.
  Tide mills operated by allowing water to flow into large mill ponds, controlled by lock-type gates or flap valves. Once the tide had ebbed water was let out through sluice gates to drive the wheel. The tidal flow limited working periods but this did not deter their use and they were widely distributed by the 12th century.

August 2000
At 13 years of age Robert Hooke left the Island to eventually become one of the great scientific minds of the 17th century. He never returned here but retained connections. Emerging from these connections is the tragic story of the Scientist, the Mayor, the Governor and Grace.
  Researchers from different fields have recently pooled evidence to bring together a series of events in London and the Island which culminated with the suicide of John Hooke, Mayor of Newport and brother of Robert Hooke. Why did an apparent pillar of society take his life? A number of situations have now been revealed, any one of which may have brought poor John Hooke to the edge.
  Was it the burden of the huge debt he owed to brother Robert? And what does this debt say of the crippling expense of being a Mayor in 1670's Newport?
  Having placed the upbringing of his daughter, Grace, in the care of Robert in London, did he discover his brother had been having regular sex with her? And had the debt to his brother obliged him to tolerate this unsavoury situation?
  Perhaps Newport gossip that he was an ineffective and parsimonious Mayor brought unbearable shame. Did his brother's fame push a grocer of modest means into a status he couldn't sustain?
  Shortly before his suicide, Grace began courting the powerful Island governor, Sir Robert Holmes. Why was John Hooke among the last to hear of this? Was he aware Holmes had made his daughter pregnant? Had Holmes already indicated his intention to keep the child but abandon the mother?
  And what of Grace: an innocent plaything or scheming beauty? Investigation into these sleazy events is, as yet, incomplete. The History Centre has exclusive access to this research. Expect a web site in due course, laying out the evidence and telling the full story.
Full story is now here

September 2000
The 'Seaclean' project has kept archaeologists pretty busy as numerous finds have been uncovered in miles of excavation. One recent discovery is this brick-built lime kiln.

lime kiln
  Located on Heathfield Farm, it was initially felt the kiln could have been associated with Prince Albert's 'model' Alverstone brickworks a few hundred yards away. However, examination of the bricks suggests they are a little earlier than the mid 19th century Alverstone site.
  It seems more likely the kiln was built to produce lime for farmland. Acid soils usually result in poor crop yields so liming to neutralise acidity is frequently essential. This practice dates back hundreds of years with each farm often providing its own local kiln. Between 1790 and 1810 there was a huge growth in cultivated farmland resulting in a big increase in lime kilns. This kiln may well fall within that period. The preserved lower half of the kiln shows it to be of the 'flare' type and the bricks are laid using the surrounding clay, rather than mortar. The raw material source was probably Shide chalk quarry.
Site location map