St Helens, Isle of Wight
St Helens Old Church
St Helens shown within the Isle of Wight
|OS grid reference|
|Civil parish||St Helens|
|Unitary authority||Isle of Wight|
|Ceremonial county||Isle of Wight|
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Fire||Isle of Wight|
|Ambulance||Isle of Wight|
|EU Parliament||South East England|
|UK Parliament||Isle of Wight|
St Helens is a village and civil parish located on the eastern side of the Isle of Wight. The village is based around village greens. This is claimed to be the largest in England but some say the village green is the second largest. The greens are often used for cricket matches during the summer and football in the winter and also include a children's playground. The local pub is the Vine. The village also has two restaurants, Ganders on the upper side of the green and St Helens Restaurant on the south.
The village is a short distance from the coast, with about a ten-minute walk to St Helens Duver, which was once the location of the island's first golf course. It is now a popular beach for tourists during the summer season and is protected by the National Trust.
The origins of St Helens seems to revolve around the Cluniac Priory and the monastic church, built circa 1080. In 1340 a French raid landed at St Helens but was repulsed by Sir Theobald Russell. In 1346 Edward III set sail from St Helens to invade Normandy.
After the alien priories were suppressed by Henry V in 1414 the old church became the parish church. The original church eventually became unsafe, and a new church was built further inland. In 1720 a great wave destroyed the old church. At this time the entrance to the harbour was near to the church, being moved due to attempts at reclamation of the harbour which was unsuccessful due to locals removing building materials. The church was undermined by the quarrying of stone from the beach, which accounts for the large dressed blocks leading along the beach to Priory Bay. The entrance was defended by a small gun battery, which has been lost to the sea. The tower still stands to this day; the seaward side is painted as a sea mark. It is believed that Admiral Lord Nelson's last view of England was of the St Helen's seamark - HMS Victory had anchored nearby to collect drinking water, before setting sail for Cádiz and participation in the Battle of Trafalgar.
Dressed stones from the walls of the destroyed church, which were soft sandstone, were found to be good for scrubbing the decks of wooden planked warships - hence the terms 'Holystone' and 'holystoning the decks'.
St Helens is still host to a number of families who have been residents for over 300 years. Common St Helens names include Attrill, Bennett, Burden, Dyer, Henley, Jacobs, Phillips, Toogood and Wade.
The village is located on the coast, with St Helens Duver nearby at the mouth of the harbour. The area features a sand-dune complex where the first golf course on the island was located, and where there is now a popular sheltered beach, cafe and beach huts. The Duver is no longer a golf course and is maintained by the National Trust, who also offer limited self-catering accommodation for holiday-makers in the area. A promenade stretches along the beach, with the sand dunes at the rear. During the summer season the beach is litter picked, with large amounts of seaweed removed and given to local farmers for composting. In 1997, the beach was given a Seaside Award Flag.
St Helens' built environment is set around large village greens, which are often claimed to make up the second largest green in England. The greens are split up in some areas to allow for roads, with housing and other development to the north and south sides of the greens.
St Helen's Church is the village's Anglican parish church located just outside the main village. It was first built in 1717 but then rebuilt in 1831. The present church is a stone structure with brick dressings, and consists of an aisleless nave, with transepts, a chancel and west tower with one bell.
The village has two restaurants. The Ganders is set on the upper side of the village green, Dan's Kitchen is on the south side. In addition to the two restaurants, the village's pub is the Vine Inn; situated opposite the village green, it is over 100 years old. Until the late 1960s it was adjoined by a rival pub, the "Sailor's Home".
The village's only school is known as St Helen's Primary School, with 61 pupils currently on roll making it one of the smallest on the island. For much of 2008 it looked likely that the school would be closed following education reforms to move the island to a two-tier education system. The village protested with signs displayed across the village stating "We love St Helens Primary School". However in March 2009 the school was saved from closure.
The village also has a newsagent, post office and grocery store, bookshop and garage. The Baywatch Café is located on the seafront and the Priory Bay Hotel close by.
- Jeremy Irons - film actor and Oscar and double-Emmy winner
- Sophie Dawes, Baronne de Feuchères, "adventuress" best known as a mistress of Louis Henry II, Prince of Condé
- Alfred Toogood - Professional golfer who lived at Eddington Road and played at the Royal Links Club
- "English Parishes & Welsh Communities N&C 2004". www.statistics.gov.uk. Retrieved 2007-05-03.
- "The Castle - St Helens - Local area". www.sthelenscastle.co.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- "Southern Vectis bus routes". Southern Vectis. Retrieved 2009-12-20.
- "St Helens Beach". Isle of Wight Tourism. Retrieved 2009-06-11.[dead link]
- "River Yar Trail - Source to the Sea". WightCAM. Retrieved 2009-06-11.
- "St Helens - The Vine Inn". www.wightwash.org.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- "EduWight - St Helens Primary School". www.eduwight.gov.uk. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
- "Two primary schools poised for reprieve". Isle of Wight County Press. Retrieved 2009-04-13.
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