The Isle of Wight Society

August 2018

By Helena Hewston

The cry of some birds is called a mew.  When royal hawks were kept for hunting they were confined, whilst  moulting, in Mews. In the same building horses were often stabled and labourers housed.  There are several mews on the Island but the street maps name just three. These are at Fairlee, Staplers and near Sainsbury's in Newport. Nowadays we think of Mews as being a confined stable converted to a dwelling. Often described as an upmarket bijou residence.

The accommodation for horses can vary from an open style shelter, in a field, to purpose built multi-stalled constructions in a yard. The newest equestrian centre on the Island boasts of stables around a square which gives a general view of the area and has a romantic look to it,  Another style which is under cover, as in a barn, is where the boxes or stalls are along one or both sides of a walk way. It is also popular and very functional. It is possible to stable horses in the winter months in barns, like cattle in deep litter, without divisions, but this is unusual on the Island.

In the days before the car it was usual to provide not only for the horse  but also for the harnesses and tack, carts and traps, and the carriages and coaches that were in use. There are some clear examples around the Island that are recognisable internally as having belonged to those times e.g.  at Gatcombe House, Barton Manor, Osborne Manor and its farms. These now make suitable restaurant, event and shopping venues.

Its not difficult to recognise old stabling where the building is now used to garage a car. These are usually brick built with higher and wider doorways, of a single story with pitched roofs and gabling  North Court Manor, however, has a large stable block. It housed horses below with accommodation above and is finished with a cupola and a clock.

Of similar style are the old coach houses which lend their name to domestic dwellings. Another architectural feature is the stable door which can look in place in both old and new styles of building.

The stables in our towns have long gone but the entrances to coaching inns can be discerned as at Read's Posting Establishment close to The Guild Hall, in Newport. A walk around the Quay and older part of Newport reveals entrance gaps where now different businesses have located.

The floor of an individual stable has changed from the earth floor to one with cobbles and now concrete. Drainage channels in a barn arrangement being vital.  Hill Farm Stables at Freshwater has a typical Victorian structure and layout. Dividing walls need to be sturdy and  metal fencing on top of the walls has returned in fashion to allow for more companionship and lines of sight.  Re-generating our farm structures is a way of conserving the past and enhancing the environment on which we rely for the specialness of the Isle of Wight. 

[Go Back]

Isle of Wight Society
East Cowes Heritage Centre, 8 Clarence Road
East Cowes, PO32 6EP

Tel: +44 (0) 1983 280310

Website design by Netguides