Isle of Wight facts for kids
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An image of the Isle of Wight from the ISS
|Motto: "All this beauty is of God"|
Isle of Wight in England
|Sovereign state||United Kingdom|
|Lord Lieutenant||Martin White|
|High Sheriff||Robin Courage MBE|
|Area||384 km2 (148 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||46th of 48|
|Population (2005 est.)||140,000|
|• Ranked||46th of 48|
|Density||368/km2 (950/sq mi)|
|Ethnicity||97.3% White, 1.1% Asian, 0.2% Black, 0.1% Other, 1.2% Mixed|
|Council||Isle of Wight Council|
|Area||380.2 km2 (146.8 sq mi)|
|• Ranked||106th of 326|
|• Ranked||of 326|
|Density||[convert: needs a number]|
|Member of Parliament||Andrew Turner|
|Time zone||GMT (UTC)|
|• Summer (DST)||BST (UTC+1)|
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is located in the English Channel, about 4 miles (6 km) off the coast of Hampshire, separated by the Solent. The island has resorts that have been holiday destinations since Victorian times, and is known for its mild climate, coastal scenery, and verdant landscape of fields, downland and chines.
The island has been 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. It has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat building, sail making, the manufacture of flying boats, the hovercraft, and Britain's space rockets. The island hosts annual music festivals including the Isle of Wight Festival, which, in 1970, was the largest rock music event ever held. It has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.
The Isle was owned by a Norman family until 1293 and was earlier a kingdom in its own right. The island has played an important part in the defence of the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, and been near the front-line of conflicts through the ages, including the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Britain. Rural for most of its history, its Victorian fashionability and the growing affordability of holidays led to significant urban development during the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. The island was part of Hampshire until 1890 when it became its own administrative county, but continued to share the Lord Lieutenant until 1974 when it became a ceremonial county. Apart from a shared police force, there is now no administrative link with Hampshire, although a combined local authority with Portsmouth and Southampton is being considered. Until 1995 the island had a governor.
Formation and early history
During the Ice Age, sea levels were lower and the Solent was part of a river flowing south east from current day Poole Harbour towards mid-Channel. As sea levels rose, the river valley became flooded, and the chalk ridge line west of the Needles breached to form the island.
The first inhabitants are assumed to have been hunter-gatherers migrating by land during the Paleolithic or Old Stone Age period, as the ice age began to recede. From the Neolithic era onwards, there are indications that the island had wide trading links, with a port at Bouldnor, evidence of Bronze Age tin trading, and finds of Late Iron Age coins.
Caesar reported that the Belgae took the Isle of Wight in about 85 BC and gave its name as Vectis. The Roman historian Suetonius mentions that the island was captured by the commander Vespasian. The Romans built no towns or roads on the island, but the remains of at least seven Roman villas have been found, indicating the prosperity of local agriculture.
During the Dark Ages the island was settled by Jutes as the pagan kingdom of Wihtwara under King Arwald. In 685 it was invaded by Caedwalla, who tried to replace the inhabitants with his own followers. In 686 Arwald was defeated and the island became the last part of English lands to be converted to Christianity, added to Wessex and then becoming part of England under Alfred the Great, included within the shire of Hampshire.
It suffered especially from Viking raids, and was often used as a winter base by Viking raiders when they were unable to reach Normandy. Later, both Earl Tostig and his brother Harold Godwinson (who became King Harold II) held manors on the island.
The Norman Conquest of 1066 created the position of Lord of the Isle of Wight, the island being given by William the Conqueror to his kinsman William FitzOsbern. Carisbrooke Priory and the fort of Carisbrooke Castle were then founded. Allegiance was sworn to FitzOsbern rather than the king; the Lordship was subsequently granted to the de Redvers family by Henry I, after his succession in 1100.
For nearly 200 years the island was a semi-independent feudal fiefdom, with the de Redvers family ruling from Carisbrooke. The final private owner was the Countess Isabella de Fortibus, who, on her deathbed in 1293, was persuaded to sell it to Edward I. Thereafter the island was under control of the English crown and its Lordship a royal appointment.
The island continued to be attacked from the continent, raided in 1374 by the fleet of Castile, and in 1377 by French raiders who burned several towns, including Newtown, and laid siege to Carisbrooke Castle before they were defeated.
Early modern period
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 stationed there. The French called off their invasion following the Battle of Quiberon Bay.
In the 1860s, what remains in real terms the most expensive ever government spending project saw fortifications built on the island and in the Solent, as well as elsewhere along the south coast, including the Palmerston Forts, The Needles Battery and Fort Victoria, because of fears about possible French invasion.
Queen Victoria spent childhood holidays on the island and became fond of it. When Queen she made Osborne House her winter home, and so the island became a fashionable holiday resort, including for 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. Until then, the island had been rural, with most people employed in farming, fishing or boat-building. The boom in tourism, spurred by growing wealth and leisure time, and by Victoria's example, led to significant urban development of the island's coastal resorts.
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. In 1898 the first paid telegram (called a 'Marconigram' at the time) was sent from this station, and the island is now the home of the National Wireless Museum, near Ryde.
During the Second World War the island was frequently bombed. With its proximity to German-occupied France, the island hosted observation stations and transmitters, as well as the RAF radar station at Ventnor. It was the starting-point for one of the earlier Operation Pluto pipelines to feed fuel to Europe after the Normandy landings.
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 as one of the last public performances by Jimi Hendrix and for the number of attendees, reaching by some estimates 600,000. The festival was revived in 2002 in a different format, and is now an annual event.
The Isle of Wight is situated between the Solent and the English Channel, is roughly rhomboid in shape, and covers an area of 150 sq mi (380 km2). Slightly more than half, 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. Its landscapes are diverse, leading to its oft-quoted description as "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. The southwestern quarter is commonly referred to as the Back of the Wight, and has a unique character. The highest point on the island is St Boniface Down in the south east, which at 791 feet (241 m) is a marilyn. The most notable habitats on the rest of the island are probably the soft cliffs and sea ledges, which are scenic features, important for wildlife, and internationally protected.
The island has three principal rivers. The River Medina flows north into the Solent, the Eastern Yar flows roughly northeast to Bembridge Harbour, and the Western Yar flows the short distance from Freshwater Bay to a relatively large estuary at Yarmouth. 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 Eastern Yar basin.
The Undercliff between St Catherine's Point and Bonchurch is the largest area of landslip morphology in western Europe.
The north coast is unusual in having four high tides each day, with a double high tide every twelve and a half hours. This arises because the western Solent is narrower than the eastern; the initial tide of water flowing from the west starts to ebb before the stronger flow around the south of the island returns through the eastern Solent to create a second high water.
The Isle of Wight is made up of a variety of rock types dating from early Cretaceous (around 127 million years ago) to the middle of the Palaeogene (around 30 million years ago). The geological structure is dominated by a large monocline which causes a 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 northern half of the island is mainly composed of clays, with the southern half formed of the chalk of the central east–west downs, as well as Upper and Lower Greensands and Wealden strata. These strata continue west from the island across the Solent into Dorset, forming the basin of Poole Harbour (Tertiary) and the Isle of Purbeck (Cretaceous) 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. They are rich in fossils; many can be seen exposed on beaches as the cliffs erode. Lignitic coal is present in small quantities within seams, and can be seen on the cliffs and shore at Whitecliff Bay. Fossilised molluscs have been found there, and also on the northern coast along with fossilised crocodiles, turtles and mammal bones; the youngest date back to around 30 million years ago.
The island is one of the most important areas in Europe for dinosaur fossils. The eroding cliffs often reveal previously hidden remains, particularly along the Back of the Wight. 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".
The area was affected by sea level changes during the repeated Quaternary glaciations. The island probably became separated from the mainland about 125,000 years ago, during the Ipswichian interglacial.
Like the rest of the UK, the island has an oceanic climate, but is somewhat milder and sunnier, which makes it a holiday destination. It also has a longer growing season. Lower Ventnor and the neighbouring UnderCliff have a particular microclimate, because of their sheltered position south of the downs. The island enjoys 1,800–2,100 hours of sunshine a year. Some years have almost no snow in winter, and only a few days of hard frost. The island is in Hardiness zone 9.
|Climate data for Shanklin|
|Average high °C (°F)||8.1
|Average low °C (°F)||3.5
|Precipitation mm (inches)||90.8
|Avg. precipitation days (≥ 1.0)||13.1||9.8||10.4||9.1||8.2||7.6||6.9||7.4||8.9||12.7||12.7||12.9||119.7|
|Source: Met Office Climate Averages, Shanklin, 1981-2010|
The Isle of Wight is one of the few places in England where the red squirrel is still flourishing; no grey squirrels are to be found. There are occasional sightings of wild deer, and there is a colony of wild goats on Ventnor's downs. Protected species such as the dormouse and rare bats can be found. The Glanville fritillary butterfly's distribution in the United Kingdom is largely restricted to the edges of the island's crumbling cliffs.
A competition in 2002 named the pyramidal orchid as the Isle of Wight's county flower.
- Newport is the centrally located county town, with a population of about 25,000 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 largest town with a population of about 30,000, is in the northeast. It is Victorian with the oldest seaside pier in England and miles of sandy and pebble beaches.
- Cowes hosts the annual Cowes Week and is an international sailing centre.
- 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.
Language and dialect
The local accent 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 pronounced.
The island has its own local and regional words. Some, 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 and caulkhead (see below). Others are more obscure and now used mainly for comic emphasis, such as mallishag (meaning "caterpillar"), gurt meaning "large", nammit (a mid-morning snack) and gallybagger ("scarecrow", and now the name of a local cheese).
There remains occasional confusion between the Isle of Wight as a county and its former position within Hampshire. The island was regarded and administered as a part of Hampshire until 1890, when its distinct identity was recognised with the formation of Isle of Wight County Council (see also Politics of the Isle of Wight). However, it remained a part of Hampshire until the local government reforms of 1974 when it became a full ceremonial county with its own Lord Lieutenant.
In January 2009, the first general flag for the county was accepted by the Flag Institute.
Island residents are sometimes referred to as 'Vectensians', 'Vectians' or, if born on the island, "caulkheads". One theory is that this last comes from the once prevalent local industry of caulking or sealing wooden boats; the term became attached to islanders either because they were so employed, or as a derisory term for perceived unintelligent labourers from elsewhere. The term 'overner' is used for island residents originating from the mainland (an abbreviated form of 'overlander', which is an archaic term for 'outsider' still found in parts of Australia).
To promote the island's identity and culture, the High Sheriff Robin Courage founded an Isle of Wight Day; the first was held on Saturday 24 September 2016.
The island is said to be the most haunted in the world, sometimes referred to as 'Ghost Island'. Notable claimed hauntings include God's Providence House in Newport (now a tea room), Appuldurcombe House, and the remains of Knighton Gorges.
The island is home to the Isle of Wight Festival and, up to 2016, Bestival. In 1970, the festival headlined by Jimi Hendrix attracted an audience of 700,000, seven times the local population at the time. It is the home of the band The Bees, which performs at smaller local concerts. Trixie's Big Red Motorbike as well as three of the founding members of Level 42 (Mark King, Boon Gould and Phil Gould) came from the island. It has also hosted a one-day festival called 'Summer Madness', which started in 2009 headlined by Madness; in 2010 Paul Weller headlined. In January 2011 it was reported that the promoter of Summer Madness was insolvent.
Places of interest
|Owned by the National Trust|
|Owned by English Heritage|
|Owned by the Forestry Commission|
|A Country Park|
|An Accessible open space|
|Museum (charges entry fee)|
- Alum Bay
- Appuldurcombe House
- Amazon World Zoo
- Bembridge Lifeboat Station
- Blackgang Chine
- Brading Roman Villa
- Carisbrooke Castle
- Classic Boat Museum, East Cowes
- Dimbola Lodge
- Dinosaur Isle
- Fort Victoria
- Godshill village and model village
- Isle of Wight Bus & Coach Museum
- Isle of Wight Steam Railway
- Isle of Wight Zoo, Yaverland
- Medina Theatre
- The Needles
- Osborne House
- Quarr Abbey
- Robin Hill
- Botanic Gardens, Ventnor
- Yarmouth Castle
The Isle of Wight has given 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:
- Isle of Wight - an island off Maryland, USA
- Dunnose Head, West Falkland
- Ventnor, Cowes on Philip Island, Victoria, Australia
- Carisbrook, Victoria, Australia
- Carisbrook, a former stadium in Dunedin, New Zealand
- Ryde, New South Wales, Australia
- Shanklin, Sandown, New Hampshire, USA
- Ventnor City, New Jersey, USA
- Gardiners Island, New York, USA shown as "Isle of Wight" on some of the older maps.
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