The Isle of Wight Society

March 2021

We would all like a holiday this summer. With the European countries being slow to vaccinate, surely the Island should be top of the Nation’s holiday venues as it was in the 19th and 20th Centuries.

It was the “lockdown” on Continental travel caused by the Napoleonic Wars in the early 1800s that led visitors to travel over the Solent sea to visit the picturesque Island.    The guide book produced by William Cooke in 1808 extolled the beauties of the Island and its sea bathing.

"Godshill is not remarkable for anything except the church." Cooke 1808!

The best places for sea bathing, according to Cooke, were Ryde and Cowes, where new building was taking place to accommodate visitors.  Those who wanted to travel further to explore the Island generally found accommodation in Newport, and were able to hire carriages.  Five or six days would be needed to travel around the Island, “though the roads are very indifferent, and in some parts absolutely impassable for carriages, except in the finest weather!”

The visitor is recommended to see towering sea cliffs, the Needles, and the Undercliff.  Shanklin Chine is given three pages of flowery description.  From the foot of that Chine can be seen the sweep of cornfield topped cliffs to Sandown Bay and Culver beyond. 

Rapid expansion of the small villages of Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor, Totland and Freshwater, did not come until the arrival of the Railways.  Rail passengers could travel to Ventnor in 1866, Freshwater in 1889.  The land between the stations and the sea soon was covered with late Victorian mansions, which the well-to-do could lease.  The Totland area has a more Edwardian style of building.

One of Ventnor's Victorian buildings collapsed in 2017.