||This article includes a list of references, but its sources remain unclear because it has insufficient inline citations. (June 2015)|
The village lies south of Forest Road (A3054), joining to the larger settlement of Carisbrooke. It is approximately 1.25 miles (2.01 km) west of Newport and chiefly lies along a 1 mile (1.6 km) stretch, either side of Gunville Road (B3323). It encompasses Fox Place, Alvington Manor View, Bramleys, Gunville Crescent, Spring Walk, Pineview Drive, Taylor Road, Gunville West, Chapel Close, Broadwood Lane, Park Close, Forest Hills, Arthur Moody Drive, Ash Lane, Ash Close and The Hollows.
There has been some argument as to where the dividing line between Carisbrooke and Gunville actually lies. For the purposes of this page, it has been taken as the point where Priory Road, Carisbrooke becomes Gunville Road, at the junction with School Lane. This was the view held in a County Council meeting of 2009. However, in the olden days, many people treated the starting point of Gunville as the old railway bridge, half a mile further to the North, where Taylor Road now joins to Gunville Road. However, this railway bridge and its track has long been demolished, after the railway itself closed in 1953, leaving nothing to visually separate the two villages.
In the past, the centre of the Island was made up of a number of small and distinct villages, such as Newport, Carisbrooke, Gunville, Clatterford, Shide, New Village, Barton's Village, Bellecroft, Pan, Hunny-Hill and Fairlee. As time went on, Newport and Carisbrooke have largely engulfed and absorbed all of these villages except for Gunville, although even for Gunville there have had to be concerted efforts to keep the name on the map, with many people preferring to refer to it as a part of Carisbrooke. Nowadays, the Newport conurbation has become so large, that there is no physical break whatsoever between, Newport, Carisbrooke and Gunville, with the only separation being the old historical boundaries.
There is some argument as to how Gunville derived its name. One version is that it was named after William de Gundeville who is known to have lived in the area in 1292. Another is that its name comes from Victorian times, when the area was used to store ammunition, and that the name was derived from "Gun Village". However, in an 1884 edition of the Isle of Wight County Press, it is stated that in the early 1800s, a James Lambert owned a house which was close to Forest Road. This house was occupied by officers of the nearby Parkhurst Barracks (renamed Albany Barracks shortly after completion) and that there were two small cannons in the grounds at the front of the house. Because of this, the house became known as 'Gun Villa' and the hamlet which sprang up soon afterwards came to become known as Gunville.
This story is also an indication that there was not a settlement of any size here until sometime after 1800, with the Methodist Church being built in 1848. In 1897, after decades of negotiations, a new road was proposed from Gunville Lane and through Priory Meadow into Carisbrooke, effectively joining Gunville to Carisbrooke by what we now call Gunville Road. Prior to this, Gunville would have been isolated and only accessible from Forest Road to the North. The new road was thought to be a great improvement, as the original access the other-way through Gunville Lane was considered "very narrow and hilly" and that the new road would "cut off a very ugly corner". The land, which was part of his Priory Estate, was donated by Mr Tankerville Chamberlayne MP of Southampton, well-known as a generous public benefactor and for donating many pieces of land around the country. It may well be that this new road started around the area of the old Gunville bridge and joined on to Priory Road; and was the reason why many older people consider that Gunville starts at the Gunville bridge area, rather than Priory Road.
As the land around Gunville was at one time owned by Tankerville Chamberlayne, could it also be that the name Gunville could have partly been derived from his christian name of Tankerville? This is probably just a coincidence, as being born in 1843, the name of Gunville had almost certainly been already coined by the time that he succeeded his father in 1876.
The privately owned Gunville Lake is on the west side of Gunville Road and is the oldest fishery owned by the Isle of Wight Freshwater Angling Association (IWFAA). This freshwater section of the Isle of Wight Angling Society was formed in 1956, indicating that this was the first time that formal fishing competitions were organised at the lake. Gunville Lake covers an area of 4.5 acres, with thirty swims fishable and has been described as one of the finest freshwater fishing spots in the south of England. In 2001, there was a major exercise to clear the lake of unwanted vegetation and to improve land drainage. Gunville Lake is a mixed fishery, popular with carp specialists, with some fish reaching almost 30lb in weight. The lake contains carp, bream, tench, rudd, common roach, perch, pike and eel.
The lake formed part of the old brickworks (now demolished), which made bricks for the nearby Albany Barracks. In around 1933, part of the brickworks were abandoned when workmen struck an underground stream, causing it to fill with water to a depth of thirty feet in places. It is rumoured that the engine that was used to pull clay to the foundry still lies at the bottom of the lake. In the years leading up to around 1946, the size and depth of the lake reduced drastically, as the site was being used as a rubbish tip by the Newport Corporation (local council). Later in 1957, it was the spoil from excavations for a nearby school that were jeopardising the lake. It might have been lost forever with the continual tipping there, but thankfully, the council relinquished their tipping rights in 1968. By that time, the lake had shrunk to only around 50 yards across and to only around three feet deep in places. The Council said that although they sympathised with the local anglers, they were giving up their tipping rights with reluctance, as they were unable to find an alternative site.
Gunville Lake used to be known as Coker's Pond, but after the IWFAA took over the site in 1969 and cleared the pond to a depth exceeding five feet, it could officially then be classified as a lake. The success in transforming the lake from the old rubbish tip into a beautiful fishery was attributed to the "single-minded zeal of the Association Secretary, Bill Kingswell".
Tragedy struck the lake in 1957, when a 14-year-old schoolboy drowned whilst swimming with a friend. After disappearing in the water, he was later found by a combined police and Fire Brigade search in 18 feet of water, about 9 feet from the bank.
Gunville Stream is one of the four main tributaries of the River Medina, the others being Parkhurst Stream, Pan Stream and Lukely Brook. Gunville Stream is approximately a mile and a half long. Its source is to the north west of Gunville and it flows under the bridge in the dip of Gunville Road, just to the north of Ash Lane and The Hollows. Continuing on, it flows into Lukely Brook, near the bottom of Hunnyhill road in Newport, which in turn feeds into the River Medina. Little is known about the history of the stream, however there are some concerns for its future, with the ongoing development of the Gunville and Newport land through which it flows.
Gunville Trading Estate
This small retail estate on Taylor Road was built on the route of the old Freshwater to Newport railway line, which was closed in 1953. See below.
Towards the North, on the far side of Forest Road is Parkhurst Forest.
To the West is farmland, although in 2015, two planning applications for new housing estates have been submitted, with one more even larger development being planned. If passed, the three estates will merge in with Alvington Manor Road, Forest Hills and Ash Lane.
To the South, Gunville Road becomes Priory Road at the junction with School Lane, as it merges into the town of Carisbrooke. Whilst not strictly within the bounds of Gunville, the Waverley Inn serves as Gunville's local pub. The other noteworthy business just outside the boundary on Priory Road is Dave Death Motorcycles. Close by is also St. Mary's Church, Carisbrooke.
To the East, there are further housing estates, which are part of the Carisbrooke district. Carisbrooke College (formerly Carisbrooke High School) also lays in this direction.
Gunville Brickworks (demolished)
A major part of the early history of Gunville involves Gunville Brickworks, of which nothing now remains. There were many Brickworks on the Island, many of them owned by the Pritchett dynasty, originally from Richard's Castle, Hereford. William Pritchett came to the Island after a 1770 Act of Parliament ordered a Workhouse to be built in Parkhurst Forest for around one thousand paupers. The Pritchett family won the contract in 1791 to supply the bricks and tiles to the Parkhurst Institute and set up a brickyard at Macintosh Hill, Parkhurst. The Institute, otherwise known as The House of Industry, was created to take in paupers from every parish of the island. Within its walls was also a lunatic asylum, hospital, school and chapel.
In 1793, following the completion of the workhouse, Pritchett moved on to supplying the bricks and tiles to build Parkhurst Barracks. The barracks were built to help counter the Napoleonic threat and were designed to accommodate up to 2,000 foreign soldiers in a 150 acre site that was difficult for desertion. Pritchett built a further brick yard in Kitbridge to supply this vast project. In 1800, another yard was opened at Bierley and more followed at Newbridge, Wellow, Ningwood, Tapnell, Gurnard, Cowes, Northwood, Sandford, Rookley and Gunville. Although earlier brickworks are known to have existed in the next-door Alvington Manor area, the site at Gunville seems to have been opened by the Pritchett's in 1906. It was said to be capable of making three million bricks a year.
There were a number of clay pits at the brickyard, with a 1906 Geologist's field trip stating that "one pit showed a good section of Bracklesham Clays in a vertical position, with a peculiar drag over of the upper part of the pit, giving an appearance of a reversed dip, probably due to the steep slope of the hill. In another pit was seen the upper part of the Osborne Clays and the lower part of the Bembridge Limestone". Indeed, one of the pits eventually flooded, resulting in the formation of Gunville Lake (see above).
A tragic accident happened here in 1906, when an 18-year-old worker was killed. His clothes became entangled in an overhead revolving shaft, which was spinning at 100 revolutions a minute. Having been dragged around by the machine, he was rushed to hospital, but sadly died of multiple injuries.
The brickworks in Gunville were eventually bought in the 1920s by Samuel Saunders of Saunders-Roe, based at Columbine Works, East Cowes. Saunders added a pottery in 1926, renaming the business to the 'Carisbrooke Brick, Tile and Pottery Works'. Pottery was made using red local clay and was usually simple in design. The business was later expanded and renamed to Isle of Wight Handcraft Pottery, with the produce carrying a unique double ‘S’ mark on their base, identifying the owner Sam Saunders. Examples of this pottery are held at the nearby Carisbrooke Castle museum. The pottery side of the business was closed in 1938, when the pottery manager was caught stealing from the company.
At the moment, it is unclear when exactly the brickworks closed down. It was certainly trading up to 1953, when the Pritchett family re-opened another factory at Hillis Yard, Gurnard. But with the closure in 1953 of the railway line (see below) which was used to transport its wares, it seems likely that the brickyard would have been forced to close around the same time. By 1955, the site was being used as a machinery depot by the Ministry of Agriculture. Certainly by 1957, the site seems to have completely closed, with the Gunville Brickworks being proposed as a possible dumping ground for the excavations for a new school.
The last remaining part of Gunville Brickworks was the imposing 100 foot high chimney, which was demolished in July 1981 to make way for a new low-cost housing development at Alvington Manor View. The privilege of blowing it up was given as a prize in a fund-raising competition organised by Newport Round Table, whose fund-raising chairman was managing director of Quadet Construction, who were to build the estate. The lucky prize winner, who was a three year old girl, also received £50. The winning ticket was drawn by Mr Stephen Ross MP from 13,000 entries with the £1,000 raised going towards sending an Island team for the first time to the Mini Olympics for the disabled in Lowestoft, later in the year.
The brickworks at Rookley was the last one left on the Island, closing in 1974.
Steam Railway (demolished)
The main railway line from Freshwater to Newport ran through Gunville, with work on the 12 mile stretch starting in 1886 and completed in 1888. The line progressed eastward through Yarmouth, north of Thorley, Wellow, Newbridge and Calbourne, Gunville and to Newport. Apart from the main stations at Freshwater and Yarmouth, there were miniature stations at Ningwood, Calbourne & Shalfleet, and Carisbrooke. There was also Watchingwell station, which was originally reserved for only the private use of Sir John Barrington Simeon MP, the owner of Swainston Manor. However, it was eventually opened up for public use as well. There was also a railway siding at Gunville Brickworks to collect the finished goods for transportation.
British Railways finally closed the line in 1953, before the widespread nationwide closures of 1966, which resulted from the Beeching Report. The reason for the closure of the Freshwater to Newport line was simply that it never made very much money, with its original owners, the Isle of Wight Central Railway being actually made bankrupt in 1923. The line was then absorbed by the Southern Railway, who continued to operate it until its 1953 closure.
The line passed under Gunville Road through a bridge, where Taylor Road is now. It continued on in an easterly direction through Carisbrooke and into Newport. Nowadays, there are no signs left of this railway, which ran straight through the centre of Gunville.
John Dennett, rocket inventor
John Dennett, together with his son Horatio, form one of the most noteworthy families of the Gunville area, from the very early days of the village. Whilst little is known about John's early life, he was born on 25 September 1780, with his family established in the Carisbrooke area. At one time, he described himself as being an engineer and surveyor of "New Village, in the Isle of Wight". New Village, was a "street of genteel and comfortable houses" laying between Newport and Carisbrooke, the name now being virtually forgotten, as the two larger towns inevitably absorbed all of the smaller villages around them.
It is thought likely that Dennett started making military rockets and mortars for use in the Napoleonic wars, but what he became famous for was the development of life-saving rockets, for use at sea. Fired with a line attached, a strong rope could then be hauled from ship-to-shore or ship-to-ship, establishing a means of bringing survivors of stricken vessels to safety. By 1826, he was experimenting with these rockets, with his designs capable of carrying a line more than 300 yards, even against strong winds. This then made them very successful, as it is thought to be a much greater distance than the majority of shipwrecks were from the shore. Over the years, he refined and perfected these rockets.
In 1832, a Dennett rocket was used to rescue 19 seamen at Atherfield on the island, from the wreck of the 400 ton vessel Bainbridge, laying stricken on rocks. Four unsuccessful attempts had been made to throw a line over the ship, failing due to the great distance. However, a Dennett's rocket was then used, saving the day and earning John Dennett national media coverage. Over the succeeding years, his rockets were used in many more rescues, all around the British coast.
John Dennett died in 1852, leaving his son Horatio to carry on the family business. As well as working on rockets, Horatio was also working in 1878 as a brick manufacturer in Carisbrooke, showing that he too, was working in the Gunville area, probably around the site of the Alvington and Gunville Brickworks. Workshops for the manufacture of the rockets were said to have been very close-by, in the Gunville Lane area, although their exact location is unknown.
Horatio died in 1897 and is buried next to his father in the cemetery at St Mary's Church, Carisbrooke. There ends the story of two relatively unknown, but very influential local men who were responsible for the development of life-saving equipment that is still in use today; and for saving the lives of many, many people.
- Isle of Wight County Press dated 27 December 1884, Page 3
- Isle of Wight County Press dated 16 March 1957, Page 13
- Isle of Wight County Press dated 15 June 1957, Page 7
- Isle of Wight County Press dated 24 January 1953, Page 2
- Isle of Wight County Press dated 24 January 1953, Page 2
- Isle of Wight County Press dated 3 November 1906, Page 7
- Isle of Wight County Press dated 24 July 1981, Page 36
- The Isle of Wight County Press dated 27 December 1884.
- Bardon Vectis - An outline of the history of quarrying and brick making on the Isle of Wight until 1939.
- John Dennett, Isle of Wight Rocket Man
- Proceedings of the Geologists' Association, Volume the Nineteenth, 1906.
- Brannon's Picture of The Isle of Wight, George Brannon, 1843.