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

July - September 2017

July 2017
The jib of the Cowes hammerhead had to be manually repositioned to enable additional scaffolding to be erected, so that previously unseen sections of it could be closely examined. As a result, further deterioration has been exposed and a second phase of the Urgent Works Notice is now being undertaken.
Cowes hammerhead crane
   The above photos show the crane with the repositioned jib and just one example of a number of points where serious corrosion has been identified. A survey of the repairs required has been completed and work is now underway. Once this section is finished, the jib will have to be turned 180 degrees to give access to the ballast box at the rear. It is thought the project will not be completed until the end of September.
  Work now being undertaken is part of the Urgent Works Notice served by the council, intended to leave the crane structurally sound. Historic England are organising and financing the work but the situation is complicated because they are simultaneously engaging in talks with the developer on the proposed complete renovation of the crane, linked to the Medina Yard development plan. The developer plans to renovate the crane but render it inoperable. Historic England, along with The Cowes Hammerhead Crane Trust, would like to see the crane returned to an operating state.
  The matter is further complicated because the developer's crane renovation falls under a Listed Building Consent application, which is independent of the main Medina Yard planning application. Strictly speaking they are separate matters but the crane is clearly linked to the development, inasmuch as the developer will not renovate the crane unless he gets approval for the main development.
  The outstanding question of the crane adds to the complexity of the whole Medina Yard development project. There is still no indication of when a planning recommendation might be forthcoming. Theoretically, a Medina Yard planning recommendation could go ahead while issues surrounding the crane's renovation are still outstanding, but the council have declined to say whether this might be a consideration. It is possible both applications will be revised and re-submitted.

August 2017
There has been much recent publicity covering the dispute between Robin Hill and the owners of the nearby landfill site, over Robin Hill's proposed tourist development. Meanwhile a less high profile dispute has also been simmering away on the question of archaeological requirements within the development.
  Any development within the vicinity of a Roman Villa is certain to be subject to particular scrutiny. The scheduled monument status of the Robin Hill villa also covers an area surrounding its location. The villa was last excavated in the 1970s, before being backfilled.
  The proposed plan for 19 tree houses and 23 lodges is outside the villa's scheduled monument site. However the villa was most likely the centre of a rural estate, so there could be other features in the surrounding area. Perhaps more importantly, there may be evidence of Iron Age occupation that preceded the villa. It would not be unusual to find a Roman Villa had effectively been the continuation of a relatively prosperous Iron Age farmstead. Such a settlement could be on the site of the proposed development. An Iron Age gold quarter coin had previously been found within the development area, suggesting a fairly high status presence.
  Developers are frequently less than enthusiastic about archaeological demands within planning, not least because they have to bear the cost. The disagreement surrounds the timing of archaeological involvement in the development. Historic England say there should be a field evaluation prior to planning consideration. This would probably mean a geophysical survey of the site, and if any potential features emerged, some exploratory excavations. Robin Hill say a field evaluation should only take place after planning permission has been granted, in which case the results would not effect the planning decision. They further complain Historic England have not even bothered to visit the site, and had they wanted to discuss a field evaluation, they should have done so at the early stages of pre-planning. Historic England say they would have been involved earlier but nobody notified them of the potential planning application.
   Robin Hill generated a Heritage Statement in 2015 which highlighted the high prospect of Roman/Iron Age archaeology and advised them to contact Historic England. The planning application was submitted in February 2016 but Historic England claim they were not notified of the application until March 2017, and then by the council's planning archaeologist. Quite why the council themselves delayed notifying Historic England is not clear.
   It remains to be seen when a field evaluation will take place and what form it will take. At the very least, any planning permission will be granted on condition there is a watching brief. This will require an archaeologist to be on hand during construction excavations, empowered to stop the work and investigate any features that come to light.

September 2017
The issue has become on of the Island's most intriguing historical disputes. The debate is on whether the diesel engines in the pavilion at Browns Golf Course were installed as a backup to run Sandown's WWII PLUTO pumps, or were installed by Browns years before to power their own operations and had nothing to do with PLUTO. Contributions on both sides of the argument have increased as they give evidence for Historic England's re-evaluation of their original Grade II listing.
  The plant in the pavilion consists of two Ruston diesel engines and a small Lister diesel, together with their generators. It is thought the Rustons have a maximum output of 34 and 60 hp. The Grade II listing was on the basis the two Rustons were installed in 1944 solely for the purpose of providing a power backup for the mains supply to PLUTO centrifugal pump motors, and therefore an integral part of the critical wartime operation. No documentary evidence was provided and it is unknown where the idea originated.
  The Grade II listing was established in 2006 and remained accepted for years, enabling much local enthusiasm for renovation of the site and attracting council support. The listing was challenged after a historian accessed the official PLUTO records held at the National Archives. These contemporary records cover virtually every aspect of the PLUTO operation, including regular progress reports. The records provide much detail on the dedicated 3,300 volt mains power supply but make no reference to any power backup facilities at Sandown, Shanklin or Dungeness. A 1943 report on the suitability of the Sandown site noted that Browns generated their own electricity and would thus not detract from the mains power required for the PLUTO motors. The records show 60 American Caterpillar diesel engines were acquired for use throughout the PLUTO project, with no reference to Ruston engines. These and other factors provided the basis for a de-list application.
  The advocates of the PLUTO theory support the original basis for the Grade II listing and claim their own subsequent research provides additional evidence to verify the concept. In particular, they say the gauges on the engines show a run time of just 20 days, thus supporting the theory that, not only did the Rustons not exist before 1944, they were not operated thereafter, being exclusively used for PLUTO.
  One aspect of the issue that appears to have been overlooked until recently is that the pavilion was still powering Browns' facilities in the 1960s and therefore well within the recollection of many Sandown residents. One resident has responded to a YouTube video of the pavilion:
  This was the power station for Browns Ice Cream factory, the Canoe Lake cafe and Golf cafe. I visited it several times in the late 1960s or early 1970s when it was still in use. Your video shows the smaller main generator set, there was a smaller still Lister generator in the middle room, and a larger Ruston set in the other main room. The little Lister allowed the air compressors which started the big engines to build up pressure at the start of the day, before the main engines were started.
  I don't believe that this installation had much to do with the PLUTO operation, it pre-dated PLUTO and would have been too small really, around 50kW, to run the fuel pumping station.
  It's a shame to see it in this state, it was always very well maintained and clean when in use, but great to see that it's still there! I wonder who owns it now, and if they have any plans for it?
   The fact that the Rustons were powering Browns' facilities after the war is not evidence they were doing the same job before the war, but the alternative is to assume the little Lister diesel alone powered everything.
  One of the strangest aspects of the issue concerns the serial numbers applied to each of the Ruston engines. Ruston's archives can relate this number to the date the engine was shipped to the customer. It is the definitive evidence. The machine plates have long since gone missing but it was Ruston's normal practice to also stamp the number on the body of the engine. It is a mystery why these numbers have not been investigated.