Isle of Wight

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Isle of Wight
An image of the Isle of Wight from the ISS[1]
Flag of the Isle of Wight
Motto: "All this beauty is of God"
The Isle of Wight in England
Isle of Wight in England
Coordinates: 50°40′N 1°16′W / 50.667°N 1.267°W / 50.667; -1.267Coordinates: 50°40′N 1°16′W / 50.667°N 1.267°W / 50.667; -1.267
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Country England
Region South East
Established 1890
Preceded by Hampshire
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Martin White
High Sheriff Ron Holland
Area 384 km2 (148 sq mi)
 • Ranked 46th of 48
Population (mid-2014 est.) 138,400
 • Ranked 46th of 48
Density 364/km2 (940/sq mi)
Ethnicity 97.0% White
1.0% S. Asian[citation needed]
Unitary authority
Council Isle of Wight Council
Executive Conservative
Admin HQ Newport
Area 380.2 km2 (146.8 sq mi)
 • Ranked 106th of 326
Population 139,105
 • Ranked 148th of 326
Density 366/km2 (950/sq mi)
ISO 3166-2 GB-IOW
ONS code 00MW
GSS code E06000046
Member of Parliament Andrew Turner
Police Hampshire Constabulary
Time zone GMT (UTC)
 • Summer (DST) BST (UTC+1)

The Isle of Wight /ˈl əv ˈwt/ is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is located in the English Channel, about 4 mi (6 km) off the coast of Hampshire, separated from the mainland by the Solent. The island has several resorts that have been holiday destinations since Victorian times.

Until 1995, like Jersey and Guernsey, the island had a governor.[n 1]

Home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes, the island has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat building, sail making, the manufacture of flying boats, the world's first hovercraft, and the testing and development of Britain's space rockets. The island hosts annual festivals including the Bestival and the Isle of Wight Festival, which, in 1970, was the largest rock music event ever held.[2] The island has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.

The Isle of Wight was owned by a Norman family until 1293[3] and was earlier a kingdom in its own right. It was part of Hampshire until 1890 when it became an independent administrative county. It shared a Lord Lieutenant with Hampshire until 1974, when it was reconstituted as a non-metropolitan ceremonial county, giving it its own Lord Lieutenant. Apart from a shared police force, there is now no formal administrative link between the Isle of Wight and Hampshire. In the 1970s, there was a political movement seeking the status of Crown Dependency.

The quickest public transport link to the mainland is to and from Southsea (Portsmouth) by hovercraft, while five ferry services shuttle across the Solent from Southampton, Lymington and Portsmouth.



There are theories that, during the Neolithic era, Bouldnor was a busy seaport that supported trade with the Middle East, as wheat was present there 8,000 years ago, hundreds of years before wheat was grown anywhere in Europe.[4][5][6]

Bronze and Iron Age[edit]

The Isle of Wight is first mentioned in writing in Geography by Ptolemy. Bronze Age Britain had large reserves of tin in the areas of Cornwall and Devon and tin is necessary to smelt bronze. At that time the sea level was much lower and carts of tin were brought across the Solent at low tide[7][8] for export, possibly on the Ferriby Boats. Anthony Snodgrass[9][10] suggests that a shortage of tin, as a part of the Bronze Age collapse and trade disruptions in the Mediterranean around 1300 BC, forced metalworkers to seek an alternative to bronze. During the Late Iron Age of Britain the Isle of Wight would appear to have been occupied by the Celtic Durotriges tribe – as attested by finds of their coins, for example, the South Wight Hoard,[11] and the Shalfleet Hoard.[12] Southeastern Britain experienced significant immigration from the continent that is reflected in the genetic makeup of the current residents.[13] As the Iron Age began the value of tin likely dropped sharply and this likely greatly changed the economy of the Isle of Wight. Trade however continued as evidenced by the remarkable local abundance of European Iron Age coins.[14][15]

Roman period[edit]

Caesar reported that the Belgae took the Isle of Wight about 85 BC and named it Ictus (or Vectis).[16] The Roman historian Suetonius mentions that the entire island was captured by the commander Vespasian, who later became emperor.

The remains of at least five Roman villas have been found on the island, including one near Gurnard which is submerged.[citation needed]

Jutish and Saxon era[edit]

Main article: Wihtwara

In 685 it was invaded by Cædwalla of Wessex and can be considered to have become part of the Kingdom of Wessex. The resistance to the invasion was led by the local King Arwald and after he was defeated and slain, at Cædwalla's insistence, the island became the last part of the English lands to convert to Christianity in 686.[17][18][19]

After Alfred the Great (who reigned 871–899) made the West Saxon kings the kings of all England, it then became administratively part of England. The island became part of the shire of Hampshire and was divided into hundreds as was the norm. From this time the island suffered especially from Viking predations. Alfred the Great's navy defeated the Danes in 871 after they had "ravaged Devon and the Isle of Wight".[citation needed]

Later middle ages[edit]

The Norman conquest of England created the position of Lord of the Isle of Wight. Carisbrooke Priory and the fort of Carisbrooke Castle were founded. The island did not come under full control of the Crown until it was sold by the dying last Norman lord, Isabel de Forz, suo jure 8th Countess of Devon, to Edward I of England in 1293.[citation needed]

In 1374, the fleet of the Crown of Castile, led by Fernando Sánchez de Tovar, sacked and burned the island.[citation needed]

The Lordship thereafter became a royal appointment. It is sometimes said that there was a brief interruption when Henry Beauchamp, 1st Duke of Warwick was in 1444 crowned King of the Isle of Wight[20] with King Henry VI assisting in person at the ceremony, placing the crown on his head. With no male heir, the regal title supposedly expired on the death of the Duke in 1446. But there is no good evidence for this story, and it is considered baseless.[21][22]

The French invasion of the Isle of Wight of 21 July 1545 was rapidly repulsed by local militia. English ships were engaged in battle with the French navy, and it was two days earlier, on 19 July, that the Mary Rose was sunk.[citation needed]

Early modern period[edit]

Henry VIII, who developed the Royal Navy and its permanent base at Portsmouth, fortified the island at Yarmouth, Cowes, East Cowes, and Sandown.

During the English Civil War King Charles fled to the Isle of Wight, believing he would receive sympathy from the governor, Robert Hammond. Hammond imprisoned the king in Carisbrooke Castle.[citation needed]

Osborne House and its grounds are now open to the public.
Eugene Manet on the Isle of Wight, 1875 painting by Berthe Morisot.

During the Seven Years' War, the island was used as a staging post for British troops departing on expeditions against the French coast such as the Raid on Rochefort. During 1759 with a planned French invasion imminent, a large force of soldiers was kept there so they could be moved at speed to any destination on the Southern English coast. The French called off their invasion following the Battle of Quiberon Bay. A later French invasion plan involved a landing on the Isle of Wight.[23]

Modern history[edit]

Queen Victoria made Osborne House on the Isle of Wight her summer home for many years and, as a result, it became a major holiday resort for fashionable Victorians including Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Julia Margaret Cameron, and Charles Dickens (who wrote much of David Copperfield there), as well as the French painter Berthe Morisot and members of European royalty.[citation needed] Queen Victoria died at Osborne House on 22 January 1901, aged 81.

During her reign, the world's first radio station was set up by Marconi in 1897 at the Needles Battery, at the western tip of the island.[24][25]

During the Second World War the island was frequently bombed. With its proximity to France the island had a number of observation stations and transmitters. It was the starting-point for one of the earlier Operation Pluto pipelines to feed fuel to the Normandy landings.[26]

The Needles battery was used as the site for testing and development of the Black Arrow and Black Knight space rockets, subsequently launched from Woomera, Australia.[27]

Statue of Jimi Hendrix outside Dimbola Lodge

The Isle of Wight Festival was a very large rock festival that took place near Afton Down, West Wight in 1970, following two smaller concerts in 1968 and 1969. The 1970 show was notable both for being one of the last public performances by Jimi Hendrix and for the number of attendees reaching, by many estimates, 600,000.[28] The festival was revived in 2002 in a different format and is now an annual event.[citation needed]

Physical geography and wildlife[edit]

Ordnance Survey map of the island.

The Isle of Wight is roughly rhombus-shaped and covers an area of 150 sq mi (380 km2). Slightly more than half of the island, mainly in the west, is designated as the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The island has 100 sq mi (258 km2) of farmland, 20 sq mi (52 km2) of developed areas, and 57 miles (92 km) of coastline. The landscape of the island is diverse, leading to its oft-quoted description of "England in miniature". West Wight is predominantly rural, with dramatic coastlines dominated by the chalk downland ridge, running across the whole island and ending in the Needles stacks—perhaps the most photographed place on the Isle of Wight.[citation needed] The southwestern quarter is commonly referred to as the Back of the Wight because it has a unique social and historical background. The highest point on the island is St Boniface Down, at 791 feet (241 m),[29] which is a marilyn.

A view of the Needles and Alum Bay.

The rest of the island's landscape also has great diversity, with perhaps the most notable habitats being the soft cliffs and sea ledges, which are scenic features and important for wildlife, and are internationally protected. The River Medina flows north into the Solent, whilst the other main river, the Eastern Yar, flows roughly northeast, emerging at Bembridge Harbour at the eastern end of the island. There is another river in the west of the island called the Western Yar, flowing the short distance from Freshwater Bay to a relatively large estuary at Yarmouth.[citation needed]

The south coast of the island borders the English Channel. Without human intervention the sea might well have split the island into three; at the west end where a bank of pebbles separates Freshwater Bay from the marshy backwaters of the Western Yar east of Freshwater, and at the east end where a thin strip of land separates Sandown Bay from the marshy basin of the Eastern Yar, east of Sandown. Yarmouth itself was effectively an island, only connected to the rest of the island by a regularly breached neck of land immediately east of the town.[citation needed]

The Isle of Wight is one of the few places in England where the red squirrel is flourishing, with a stable population (Brownsea Island is another), and unlike most of England, no grey squirrels are to be found on the island.[30] There are occasional sightings of deer at large in the wild on the island.[31][32][33][34] Rare and protected species such as the dormouse and many rare bats can be found. The Glanville fritillary butterfly's distribution in the United Kingdom is largely restricted to the edges of the crumbling cliffs of the Isle of Wight.[citation needed]

A competition in 2002 named the pyramidal orchid as the Isle of Wight's county flower.[35]

The island has one of the most important areas in Europe for dinosaur fossils. The eroding cliffs often reveal previously hidden remains particularly along the region known as the Back of the Wight.[citation needed]


Like the rest of the UK, the Isle of Wight has a predominantly oceanic climate. The Isle of Wight has a milder subclimate than other areas of the UK, which makes it a holiday destination, particularly the resorts in the southeast of the island. It also has a longer growing season. The mean temperature is 13 °C (55 °F) averaged over the year, and is 18 °C (64 °F) in July and August. The microclimate of places such as Lower Ventnor is influenced by their sheltered position under the cliffs. The Isle of Wight is also sunnier than parts of the UK, with 1,800–2,100 hours of sunshine a year.[36] Some years have almost no snow in winter, and only a few days of hard frost.[citation needed]

Climate data for Isle of Wight
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 9
Average low °C (°F) 3
Average precipitation mm (inches) 89
[citation needed]


Geological map of the island.
Blackgang Chine, circa 1910.

The Isle of Wight is made up of a wide variety of different rock types dating from early Cretaceous times (around 127 million years ago) to the middle of the Palaeogene (around 30 million years ago). The northern half of the island is mainly made up of Tertiary clays, with the southern half formed of Cretaceous rocks (the chalk that forms the central east–west downs, as well as Upper and Lower Greensands and Wealden strata).[37] These strata continue west from the island across the Solent into Dorset, forming the basin of Poole Harbour (Tertiary strata) and the Isle of Purbeck (Cretaceous strata) respectively. The chalky ridges of Wight and Purbeck were a single formation before they were breached by waters from the River Frome during the last ice age, forming the Solent and turning Wight into an island. The Needles, along with Old Harry Rocks on Purbeck, represent the edges of this breach.

All the rocks found on the island are sedimentary such as limestones, mudstones and sandstones. Rocks on the island are very rich in fossils and many of these can be seen exposed on the beaches as the cliffs erode. Lignitic coal is present in small quantities in seams on the cliffs and shore at Whitecliff Bay and fossilised molluscs have been found there.

Dinosaur bones and fossilised footprints can be seen in and on the rocks exposed around the island's beaches, especially at Yaverland and Compton Bay. As a result, the island has been nicknamed "Dinosaur Island".

Along the northern coast of the island there is a rich source of fossilised molluscs, crocodiles, turtles and mammal bones. The youngest of these date back to around 30 million years ago.

The geological structure is dominated by a large monocline which causes the marked change in age of strata from the northern younger Tertiary beds to the older Cretaceous beds of the south. This gives rise to a dip of almost 90 degrees in the chalk beds, seen best at the Needles.

The area was affected by sea level changes during the repeated Quaternary glaciations. Probably about 125,000 years ago, during the Ipswichian interglacial, the Isle of Wight became separated from the mainland.[38]


With a single Member of Parliament and 132,731 permanent residents in 2001, it is the most populous parliamentary constituency in the United Kingdom (more than 50% above the average of English constituencies).[n 2][39] Parliament passed Section 11, Clause 6(1) of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2011 to alter this as part of the Sixth Periodic Review of Westminster constituencies,[n 3] but this review was deferred to no earlier than October 2018 by the Electoral Registration and Administration Act 2013, meaning the single constituency remained for the 2015 general election.

The Isle of Wight is a ceremonial and non-metropolitan county. Since the abolition of its two borough councils in 1995 and the restructuring of the county council as the Isle of Wight Council, it has been a unitary county.[citation needed]

As a constituency of the House of Commons, it is traditionally a battleground between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. The Member of Parliament since 2001, Andrew Turner, is a Conservative, and while predecessor Dr Peter Brand was a Liberal Democrat.[citation needed]

The Isle of Wight Council election of 2013 saw the Conservatives lose the majority which they had held since 2005 to the Island Independents. Independent councillors currently hold 20 of the 40 seats in the council.[41]

There have been small regionalist movements: the Vectis National Party and the Isle of Wight Party; but they have attracted little support in elections.[citation needed]

Main towns[edit]

High Street in Newport, the county town.
  • Newport, in the centre of the island, is the county town of the Isle of Wight with a population of about 25,000[42] and the island's main shopping area. Located next to the River Medina, Newport Quay was a busy port until the mid-19th century.
  • Ryde, the island's largest town with a population of about 30,000, is in the northeast of the island. It is a Victorian town with the oldest seaside pier in England and miles of beaches. Ryde is home to the ice hockey club Wightlink Raiders, who play in the third-tier English National Ice Hockey League.
  • Cowes is the location of the annual Cowes Week and an international sailing centre. It is the home of the record-setting sailor Dame Ellen MacArthur.
  • East Cowes is famous for Osborne House, Norris Castle and as the home from 1929 to 1964 of Saunders-Roe, the historic aircraft, flying boat, rocket and hovercraft company.
  • Sandown is a popular seaside resort. It is home to the Isle of Wight Zoo, the Dinosaur Isle geological museum and one of the island's two 18-hole golf courses.
  • Shanklin, just south of Sandown, attracts tourists with its high summer sunshine levels, sandy beaches, Shanklin Chine and the old village.
  • Ventnor, built on the steep slopes of St Boniface Down on the south coast of the island, leads down to a picturesque bay that attracts many tourists. Ventnor Haven is a small harbour built around a Victorian-style bandstand.
Graveyard on the grounds of the church in the town of Brading.


Language and dialect[edit]

The accent of the Isle of Wight is similar to the traditional dialect of Hampshire, featuring the dropping of some consonants and an emphasis on longer vowels. It is similar to the West Country dialects heard in South West England, but less removed in sound[clarification needed] from the Estuary English of the South East.[citation needed]

The island has its own local and regional words. Some words, such as nipper/nips (a young male person), are still commonly used and are shared with neighbouring areas of the mainland. A few are unique to the island, for example overner (a mainlander who has settled on the island) and caulkhead (someone born on the island and born from long-established island stock). Other words are more obscure and now used mainly for comic emphasis, such as mallishag (meaning "caterpillar"). Some other words are gurt meaning "large", nammit (a mid-morning snack) and gallybagger ("scarecrow").[43]


There has been and still is some confusion between the identities of the Isle of Wight as a separate county and, as it once was, a part of the nearby county of Hampshire. At least one mainstream newspaper article as recently as 2008 refers to the "Isle of Wight in Hampshire".[44] Prior to 1890, the Isle of Wight was normally regarded and was administered as a part of Hampshire. With the formation of the Isle of Wight County Council in 1890, the distinct identity became officially established (see also Politics of the Isle of Wight). It remained a part of the ceremonial county of Hampshire until the local government reforms of 1974, when it became a full ceremonial county with its own Lord Lieutenant.[citation needed]

In January 2009, the new Flag of the Isle of Wight, the first general flag for the county, was accepted by the Flag Institute.[45] Denizens of the Isle of Wight are sometimes referred to as 'Vectensians', 'Vectians', or "caulkheads".[46]



The Isle of Wight is well known for its cycling, with it reaching the top ten in Lonely Planet's Best in Travel Guide (2010) for cycling locations. The island is also host to events such as the Isle of Wight Randonnée and the Isle of Wight Cycling Festival, which are hosted annually. There are cycling clubs such as Vectis Roads Cycling Club, which hosts mainly time trials on the island, including an annual three-day Time Trial Festival on a bank holiday weekend in May.[citation needed]


There are rowing clubs at Newport, Ryde and Shanklin.

In June 1998 a group of ladies from the Isle of Wight made history by becoming the first team of ladies to row around the island in a fixed seat Solent Galley. They completed their trip in 10 hours 20 minutes. Their team photo is on show in Ryde Rowing Club.[citation needed]

Rowers from Ryde Rowing Club have rowed around the island on a number of other occasions the first being 1880. The fours record was set 16 August 1995 at 7 hours 57 minutes by a Ryde crew.[citation needed]

Two rowers from Southampton ARC (Chris Bennett and Roger Slaymaker) set the two-man record in July 2003 at 8 hours 34 minutes, and in 2006 Gus McKechnie of Coalporters Rowing Club completed a clockwise row as part of a fours crew making him the only person to have rowed around both ways.[citation needed]

The route around the island is some 60 miles (97 km), usually rowed anticlockwise, and even in good conditions involves a number of notable obstacles including the Needles and the overfalls at St Catherine's Point. Start and finish points were traditionally at Ryde Rowing Club however other start points have been chosen in recent years that give tidal advantages.[citation needed]


Boats in the marina during Cowes Week.

Cowes is a centre for sailing, playing host to several racing regattas. Cowes Week is the longest-running regular regatta in the world, with over 1,000 yachts and 8,500 competitors taking part in over 50 classes of yacht racing.[47] In 1851 the first America's Cup race took place around the island. Other major sailing events hosted in Cowes include the Fastnet race, the Round the Island Race,[48] the Admiral's Cup, and the Commodore's Cup.[49]


There are two main trampoline clubs on the island, in Freshwater and Newport, competing at regional, national and international grades.[citation needed]


The Isle of Wight Marathon is the United Kingdom's oldest continuously held marathon, having been run every year since 1957.[50] Since 2013 the course has started in Cowes, passing through Gurnard, Rew Street, Porchfield, Shalfleet, Yarmouth, Afton, Willmingham, Thorley, Wellow, Shalfleet, Porchfield, and Northwood before finishing back in Cowes. It is an undulating course with a total climb of 1,043 feet (318 m).


The island is home to the Wightlink Warriors speedway team, who compete in the sport's third division, the National League. The club was founded in 1996 as the Isle of Wight Islanders, with a first-night attendance of 1,740, and reformed in 2016 as the Warriors after closing in 2014.[citation needed]

Ice hockey[edit]

The island is home to the Wightlink Raiders, an ice hockey team based at Ryde Arena. They compete in the first tier of the English National Ice Hockey League, the third division in the country. There is an amateur team, the Vectis Tigers of the second-tier English National Ice Hockey League, and four youth teams including the Isle of Wight Wildcats, all based at Ryde Arena.[citation needed]


Following an amalgamation of the hockey clubs on the Isle of Wight in 2011, the Isle of Wight Hockey Club now runs two men's senior teams and two ladies' senior teams. These teams compete at a range of levels in the Hampshire open leagues. There is a junior set up who compete in competitions in the U12 and U14 age group.[citation needed]


The now-disbanded Ryde Sports F.C. founded in 1888 became one of the eight founder members of the Hampshire League in 1896. There are several non-league clubs such as Newport (IW) F.C. There is an Isle of Wight Saturday Football League with three divisions, and a rugby union club,[51] plus various other sporting teams.[52] Beach football is particularly prevalent on the island and has several of the nation's premier clubs with almost all of the England Beach Soccer team made up from players from the island. Many of the stadiums are used when the island hosts the Island Games as it has done in 1993 and 2011.[citation needed]


The Isle of Wight is the 39th official county in English county cricket, and the Isle of Wight Cricket Board organises an internal cricket league between various local clubs. Ventnor Cricket Club compete in the Southern Premier League, and have won the Second Division several times in recent years. There is a new County Ground near Newport,[53][54][55] which held its first match on 6 September 2008.[56] As of November 2010, the Isle of Wight Cricket Board have been in discussion with the Minor Counties Cricket Association and the England and Wales Cricket Board regarding proposals to enter a side in the Minor Counties tournaments.[57] The island has recently produced some notable cricketers, such as Danny Briggs, who plays county cricket for Hampshire County Cricket Club and is a member of the England Lions. Hampshire have played a number of first-class matches on the island, at J Samuel White's Ground (originally built and owned by J. Samuel White Shipbuilders) and the Victoria Recreation Ground.[citation needed]

Island Games[edit]

The Isle of Wight competes in the biennial Island Games, which it hosted in 1993 and again in 2011 with events taking place across the island.[citation needed]

Motor scooter[edit]

Riders and passengers waiting for the ferry after the Isle of Wight scooter rally in August 1983.

The annual Isle of Wight International Scooter Rally convenes on the August Bank Holiday, having begun in 1980. This gathering is one of the biggest scooter rallies in the world, now attracting between four and seven thousand participants.[58]


The crowd at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 is believed to have been 600,000.

The Isle of Wight is home to the Isle of Wight Festival and Bestival. In 1970, with Jimi Hendrix headlining, the festival attracted an audience of 700,000, despite the island itself having a population of roughly 100,000.[59] The Isle of Wight is the home of the band The Bees. They perform at smaller concerts on the island. The band Trixie's Big Red Motorbike[60] as well as three of the founding members of Level 42 (Mark King, Boon Gould and Phil Gould) came from the Isle of Wight. The Isle of Wight has hosted a one-day festival called 'Summer Madness'. It started in 2009 when Madness headlined it; in 2010 Paul Weller headlined. In January 2011 it was reported that the promoter of Summer Madness was insolvent. The island is also home to the Platform One College of Music, which offers a national BTEC diploma at levels 2 and 3 in music accredited by Chichester College.[citation needed]


This is a table of the trend in regional gross value added by the Isle of Wight economy at current basic prices by the Office for National Statistics with figures in millions of pounds.[61]

Year Regional gross value added[62] Agriculture[63] Industry[64] Services[65]
1995 831 28 218 585
2000 1,202 27 375 800
2003 1,491 42 288 1,161

Industry and agriculture[edit]

The largest industry on the Isle of Wight is tourism, but the island has a strong agricultural heritage, including sheep and dairy farming and the growing of arable crops. Traditional agricultural commodities are more difficult to market off the island because of transport costs, but island farmers have managed successfully to exploit some specialist markets. The high price of these products overcomes the transport costs. One of the most successful agricultural sectors at present is the growing of crops under cover, particularly salad crops, including tomatoes and cucumbers. Due to its warmer climate the Isle of Wight has a longer growing season than much of the United Kingdom and this favours such crops. Garlic has been successfully grown in Newchurch for many years, and is even exported to France. This has led to the establishment of an annual Garlic Festival at Newchurch, which is one of the largest events of the island's annual calendar. The favourable climate has led to the success of vineyards, including one of the oldest in the British Isles, at Adgestone near Sandown.[66] Lavender is grown for its oil.[67] The largest sector of agriculture has been dairying, but due to low milk prices, and strict UK legislation for UK milk producers, the dairy industry has declined. There were nearly 150 dairy producers of various sizes in the mid-1980s, but this has now dwindled to just 24. Due to modern farming practices, the island has noted increased levels of pesticide poisoning in local farmers and other local residents living near crops and vineyards.[68]

The making of sailcloth, boat building and other connected maritime industry has long been associated with the island, although this has somewhat diminished in recent years. Cowes is still home to various small maritime companies such as boat-builders.[citation needed]

Although they have reduced the extent of the plants and workforce, including the sale of the main site, GKN operates what was once the British Hovercraft Corporation a subsidiary of, and known latterly, when manufacturing focus changed, as Westland Aircraft. Prior to its purchase by Westland, it was the independent company known as Saunders-Roe. It remains one of the most notable historic firms, having produced many of the flying boats, and the world's first hovercraft.[citation needed]

A manufacturing activity is in composite materials, used by boat-builders and the wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, which has a wind turbine blade factory and testing facilities in West Medina Mills and East Cowes.[69]

Bembridge Airfield is the home of Britten-Norman, manufacturers of the Islander and Trislander aircraft. This is shortly to become the site of the European assembly line for Cirrus light aircraft. The Norman Aeroplane Company is a smaller aircraft manufacturing company operating in Sandown. There have been three other aircraft manufacturers that built planes on the island.[70]

In 2005, Northern Petroleum began exploratory drilling for oil at its Sandhills-2 borehole at Porchfield, but ceased operations in October that year after failing to find significant reserves.[citation needed]


There are three breweries on the island. Goddards Brewery in Ryde opened in 1993.[71] David Yates, who was head brewer of the Island Brewery, started brewing as Yates Brewery at the Inn at St Lawrence in 2000.[72] The Island Brewery, located in Shalfleet, was formed in 2010 by Tom Minshull to complement the existing family-run drinks wholesale business.[citation needed]

Ventnor Brewery, which closed in 2009, was the last incarnation of Burt's Brewery, which had been brewing on the island since the 1840s in Ventnor.[73] Until the 1960s most pubs were owned by Mews Brewery, situated in Newport near the old railway station, but it closed and the pubs taken over by Strong's and then by Whitbread. By some accounts Mews beer was apt to be rather cloudy and dark. They pioneered the use of screw top cans in the 19th century for export to British India.[74] The old brewery was derelict for many years but was then severely damaged in a large fire.[citation needed]


Tourism and heritage[edit]

The heritage of the island is a major asset, which has for many years kept its economy going. Holidays focused on natural heritage, including both wildlife and geology, are becoming a growing alternative to the traditional British seaside holiday, which went into decline in the second half of the 20th century, due to the increased affordability of air travel to alternative destinations.[citation needed]

Compton Chine, looking east towards Blackgang.

Tourism is still the largest industry on the island. In 1999, the 130,000 island residents were host to 2.7 million visitors. Of these, 1.5 million stayed overnight, and 1.2 million visits were day visits. Only 150,000 of these visitors were international visitors. Between 1993 and 2000, visits increased at a rate of 3% per year, on average.[75]

At the turn of the 19th century the island had ten pleasure piers including two at Ryde and a "chain pier" at Seaview. The Victoria Pier in Cowes succeeded the earlier Royal Pier but was itself removed in 1960. The piers at Ryde, Seaview, Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor originally served a coastal steamer service that operated from Southsea on the mainland. The piers at Seaview, Shanklin, Ventnor and Alum Bay were all destroyed by storms during the 20th century. Today only the railway pier at Ryde and the piers at Sandown, Totland Bay (currently closed to the public) and Yarmouth survive. Blackgang Chine is arguably the oldest theme park in the UK, and one of the oldest in the world.[citation needed]

As well as more traditional tourist attractions, the island is often host to walking holidays[76] or cycling holidays through the attractive scenery. Almost every town and village on the island plays host to hotels, hostels and camping sites. Out of the peak summer season, the island is still an important destination for coach tours from other parts of the United Kingdom and an annual walking festival[77] has attracted considerable interest. The 67 miles (108 km) Isle of Wight Coastal Path follows the coastline as far as possible, deviating onto roads where the route is impassable closer to the sea.[citation needed]

A major contribution to the local economy comes from sailing and marine-related tourism.[citation needed]

Summer Camp at Camp Beaumont is an attraction at the old Bembridge School site.[citation needed]


One of the Wightlink FastCats which provide a high-speed ferry service between Portsmouth and Ryde.
A Southern Vectis bus at Newport bus station.

The Isle of Wight has a total of 489 miles (787 km) of roadway. Major roads run between the main island towns, with smaller roads connecting villages. It is one of the few counties in the UK not to have a motorway, although there is a dual carriageway from Coppins Bridge in Newport towards the north of Newport near the island's hospital and prison.[citation needed]

A comprehensive bus network operated by Southern Vectis links most island settlements, with Newport as the central hub.[citation needed]

The island's location 5 miles (8 km) off the mainland means that longer-distance transport involves a ferry journey. Car ferry and passenger services are run between the island and the mainland by Wightlink and Red Funnel as well as a hovercraft operated by Hovertravel.

The Island formerly had its own railway network of over 55 miles (89 km), but only one line remains in regular use. The Island Line is part of the United Kingdom's National Rail network, running a little under 9 miles (14 km) from Shanklin to Ryde Pier Head, where there is a connecting ferry service to Portsmouth Harbour station on the mainland network. The line was opened by the Isle of Wight Railway in 1864, and from 1996 to 2007 was run by the smallest train operating company on the network, Island Line Trains. It is notable for utilising ex-London Underground rolling stock, due to the small size of its tunnels. Branching off the Island Line at Smallbrook Junction is the heritage Isle of Wight Steam Railway, which runs for 5 12 miles (8.9 km) to the outskirts of Wootton on the former line to Newport.[citation needed]

There are currently two airfields for general aviation, Isle of Wight Airport at Sandown and Bembridge Airport.

The island has over 200 miles (322 km) of cycleways, much of which can be enjoyed by families off-road. Major Trails are [78]

  • The Sunshine Trail, which incorporates Sandown, Shanklin, Godshill, and Wroxall in a 12 miles (19 km) circular route
  • The Troll Trail between Cowes and Sandown (13 miles [21 km], 90% offroad)
  • The Round the Island Cycle Route, which circumnavigates the island on a 62-mile (100 km) ride


The Isle of Wight's main local newspaper the Isle of Wight County Press, is published most Fridays.

The island has one local commercial radio station: Isle of Wight Radio has broadcast in the medium-wave band since 1990 and on 107.0 MHz (with three smaller transmitters on 102.0 MHz) FM since 1998, as well as streaming on the Internet.[citation needed] The island also falls within the coverage area of a number of local stations on the near mainland, including the local BBC station BBC Radio Solent broadcast from Southampton.

The island's not-for-profit community radio station Angel Radio opened in 2007, Angel Radio began broadcasting on 91.5 MHz from studios in Cowes from a transmitter near Newport.[79][80]

On 1 February 2009, Wight FM began broadcasting as an Internet radio station. It closed down six months later.[citation needed] Local online radio station Vectis Radio has broadcast since 2010 Broadcasting from the Riverside Centre, Newport.[81]

Online news sources for the Isle of Wight include On the Wight[82] and The Isle of Wight Chronicle.[83] The Chronicle was originally a best selling island paper in the 1950s.[citation needed]

The island has an online 24/7 breaking news source in the form of the Island Echo,[84] which was founded in May 2012.

The island has had community television stations in the past, first TV12 and then Solent TV from 2002 until its closure on 24 May 2007. is a local internet video news channel.[citation needed]

The Isle of Wight is part of the BBC South region and the ITV Meridian region.[citation needed]

Important broadcasting facilities on Isle of Wight are Chillerton Down transmitting station, whose mast is the tallest structure on Isle of Wight, and Rowridge transmitting station, which broadcasts the main television signal for the island as well as most of Hampshire and parts of Dorset and West Sussex.[citation needed]


The geography of the island, and its location near the densely populated south of England, led to it hosting three prisons: Albany, Camp Hill and Parkhurst, all located outside Newport near the main road to Cowes. Albany and Parkhurst were among the few Category A prisons in the UK until they were downgraded in the 1990s. The downgrading of Parkhurst was precipitated by a major escape: three prisoners (two murderers and a blackmailer) made their way out of the prison on 3 January 1995 for four days of freedom before being recaptured. Parkhurst especially enjoyed notoriety as one of the toughest jails in the United Kingdom and housed many notable inmates, including the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, New Zealand drug lord Terry Clark and the Kray twins.

Camp Hill is located to the west of, and adjacent to, Albany and Parkhurst, on the very edge of Parkhurst Forest, having been converted first to a borstal and later to a Category C prison. It was built on the site of an army camp (both Albany and Parkhurst were barracks); there is a small estate of tree-lined roads with onetime officers' quarters (now privately owned) to the south and east. Camp Hill closed as a prison in March 2013.

The management of all three prisons was merged into a single administration, under the name of HMP Isle of Wight in April 2009.


There are sixty-nine Local Education Authority-maintained schools on the Isle of Wight, and two independent schools. As a rural community, many of these schools are small, with average numbers of pupils lower than in many urban areas. There are currently primary schools, middle schools and high schools. However, education reforms have led to plans for closures (for full details on these see Education reforms on the Isle of Wight). The Isle of Wight College, is located on the outskirts of Newport.

From September 2010, there was a transition period from the three-tier system of primary, middle and high schools to the two-tier system more common in England. Some schools have now closed their doors, such as Chale C.E. Primary School. Other schools have become "federated", such as Brading C.E. Primary School and St Helen's Primary School. Christ the King College started as a "middle school" but has now been converted into a secondary school and sixth form.

As of September 2011, there are 5 new secondary schools with an age range of 11 to 18 years which have replaced the island's high schools (as a part of the previous three-tier system).

Notable residents[edit]

Notable residents have included:

Places of interest[edit]

AP Icon.svg Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
Accessible open space Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon.png Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon.svg Castle
Country Park Country Park
EH icon.svg English Heritage
Forestry commission logo.svg Forestry Commission
Heritage railway Heritage railway
Historic house Historic House
Museum (free)
Museum (free/not free)
National Trust National Trust
Drama-icon.svg Theatre
Zoo icon.jpg Zoo

Overseas names[edit]

The Isle of Wight has given its names to many parts of former colonies, most notably Isle of Wight County in Virginia founded by settlers from the island in the 17th century. Its county seat is a town named Isle of Wight.

Other notable examples include:

Media references[edit]


  • The film Something to Hide (1972; US title Shattered), starring Peter Finch was filmed near Cowes. There is a scene on the Red Funnel ferry.
  • The British film That'll Be the Day (1973) starring David Essex and Ringo Starr included scenes shot in Ryde (notably Cross Street), Sandown (school), Shanklin (beach) and Wootton Bridge (fairground).
  • Mrs. Brown (1997), with Dame Judi Dench and Billy Connolly, was filmed at Osborne and Chale.
  • The film Fragile (2005), starring Calista Flockhart, is based on the Isle of Wight.



  • The Isle of Wight is the setting of Julian Barnes's novel England, England.
  • The Northumbrian scholar, Bede, recorded the arrival of Christianity on the Isle of Wight in the year 686, when the population was massacred and replaced by Christians.[91]
  • The Isle of Wight is called The Island in some editions of Thomas Hardy's novels in his fictional Wessex.
  • In D. F. Jones' novel Colossus (1966), the entire island is selected for the development of a new base by the supercomputer, Colossus.
  • The Isle of Wight is the setting in D.H. Lawrence's book The Trespasser, filmed for television in 1981 on location.
  • Karl Marx visited the Isle of Wight on numerous occasions while he was writing the Communist Manifesto.
  • The Isle of Wight is the setting of Graham Masterton's book Prey.
  • It was mentioned in J.K. Rowling's first Harry Potter book, which refers to Uncle Vernon's sister Marge, who was on holiday on the island and got sick after eating a funny whelk.
  • The Isle of Wight is a major historical element in of Daniel O'Malley's book series The Rook (2012) & it's sequel, Stiletto (2016). The major antagonists attempt an invasion of the Isle of Wight in the 1600s, the effects of which continue to color perceptions of the Crown's secret supernatural agency, the Checquy Group into the 21st Century.
  • In S.M. Stirling's alternate history novel The Protector's War (2005), in which all high energy technology ceased to function, the Isle of Wight became the refuge of the British monarchy and government. After the holocaust that followed, the island was the base for re-population of England and the European mainland whose populations had perished except for cannibals and savages.
  • In Frank Tayell's post-apocalyptic novel, Surviving the Evacuation Book One: London (2013), the Isle of Wight and the Isle of Man are two of the coastline destinations to which the British government evacuates survivors, guided by the mistaken impression that such sites would be defensible against the zombie hordes and could indefinitely sustain large populations.[92]
  • The island features in John Wyndham's novel The Day of the Triffids and Simon Clark's sequel to it, The Night of the Triffids.



  • There is a running joke in radio sitcom The Navy Lark involving Sub-Lieutenant Phillips's inability to navigate and subsequently tail "the Isle of Wight ferry".


See also[edit]


  1. ^ As well as the former Princess Beatrice during World War II, most otherwise notable was Lord Mountbatten in 1969–1974, after which he became Lord Lieutenant until his assassination in 1979.
  2. ^ In 1832 the Act popularly referred to as the Great Reform Act or Reform Act of 1832 established a single MP for the Isle of Wight rather than six until that date, including four for the two rotten boroughs which made it per capita more over-represented than Cornwall which had at least five rotten boroughs.
  3. ^ This states; "There shall be two constituencies in the Isle of Wight." For background debate see:[40]


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  • Hansard, Wednesday 14 November 2001 column 850

External links[edit]