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

July - September 2022

July 2022
Having failed in its claim that Sandown's history was not a matter of public interest, the Department of Culture Media and Sport now refuses to meet an FOI request on the grounds of ministerial confidentiality.
    This is the latest development where DCMS are trying to avoid supplying internal documents that will reveal their inept review of the invalid Grade II listing of the engine house at Browns Golf Course.
   The FOI stemmed from the DCMS minister at the time, Caroline Dinenage, inviting yet another delist application. This would enable them to delist the engine house without further embarrassing investigation. No delist application was forthcoming. Instead an FOI was raised..
   The minister's advisors were almost certainly the same individuals who had been responsible for the corrupt delist review and were naturally against releasing documents. As is doubtless frequently the case within government departments, Ms Dinenage was too spineless to defy the interest of her advisors.
   DCMS are now claiming releasing the documents would be "Prejudice to the effective conduct of public affairs . . .. We also consider that releasing this information would be likely to inhibit the free and frank exchange of views for the purposes of deliberation. We believe that to release the email chains would have a ‘chilling effect’ on officials and may impact future discussions." This logic would appear to rule out meeting the vast majority of FOI requests. A casual observer could be forgiven for thinking the issue is a matter of national security, rather than a modest Grade II listing, established under the remit of transparency.
   Devious civil servants and a compliant minister have combined to determine a farcical Grade II Iisting will remain in place for public ridicule.

August 2022
Planning applications frequently attract archaeological investigation based on existing evidence suggesting past activity on the site. A proposed development in Freshwater has established the need for an archaeological survey in spite of the site having no such evidence at all.
Freshwater field
   The outline planning application is for a residential development comprising of 127 dwellings. The site is all arable land and there is no evidence it has ever been anything else. There are no lumps or bumps and no record of significant finds. Aerial photography has revealed no crop marks.
   In spite of what appears to be a barren site, the County Archaeology Service are insisting there must be a full archaeology survey before any development can proceed. This will probably involve geophysical surveys and test trenches.
   Their logic is that the site has plenty of historic evidence in the surrounding district, enough to hold out the possibility of prehistoric or Romano British occupation on the site
   We have to hope the archaeology is fruitful but we have been here before. In 2005 farmland at Pan was the site for the planned Pan Estate. The Archaeology Service generated a huge community archaeology project involving scores of trenches. It yielded nothing of interest. It had never been anything more than farmland.

September 2022
The Prangnell family brickworks at Elmsworth, Newtown is one of the Island's most iconic heritage sites, incorporating a unique social history with an important industrial complex. It has been included for protection in the Island's Local List. However, since the National Trust took responsibility for the site, its preservation seems to have been ignored.
   The little decorative cottage where the Prangnell family lived and from which they ran their famous brickmaking operation can be seen in the above photos. On the left in 2004 and on the right in 2019, overgrown after years of NT adopted ownership. Clearly site preservation has been ignored.
   When they took ownership of the site NT said they would maintain the cottage but allow the kiln to its fate.The cosy relationship between the council's Heritage Service and NT presumably explains why they were allowed to ignore protection of the Island's most illustrious brick kiln.
   NT have a sorry experience with industrial heritage. When a local society offered complete renovation of a limekiln on NT land, their response was "not much could be gained from excavating it." NT appear to combine a cultural blind spot with a contempt for public preference.