Browse Local History Articles from 2021
A – F
Air Crashes on Saint Boniface Down [first published 27 May 2021]
There are few events as shocking as air crashes, especially when they result in fatalities. Two such crashes occurred on St. Boniface Down in 1947 and 1962, and whilst they were separated by fifteen years, they both shared the same common causes – low cloud, dense fog and pilot error.
Read the article here: Air Crashes on Saint Boniface Down
Air Pageant at St Lawrence 1911 [first published 1 July 2021]
On 6th July 1911, hundreds of spectators assembled in the evening in a meadow at Home Farm, St. Lawrence, to watch a Bristol bi-plane, piloted by Mr Pixie and Mr. England, land there. The pair had left Shoreham airport at 7.15 p.m. and it took just an hour to reach the south coast of the Island.
Read the article here: Air pageant at St Lawrence, 1911
Algernon Charles Swinburne – novelist, poet and writer [first published 6 May 2021]
Algernon Charles Swinburne was an English poet and critic and was famous in Victorian England for the innovation and versification of his poetry and infamous for his violent attacks on Victorian morality. He spent his early years on the Island and is buried in St. Boniface churchyard, Bonchurch.
Read the article here: Algernon Charles Swinburne – novelist, poet and writer
Cookery Class – but not always for the girls! [first published 4 February 2021]
In the 1940s, as part of a reversal of gender stereotypes that was described by the Mercury as pioneering, boys at Ventnor Senior School were being taught cookery and girls were being instructed in woodwork.
Read the article here: Cookery Class
A cat that caused a fire – Gibbs and Sons [first published 12 Aug 2021]
On Friday 29th January 1954, during the lunchtime closing hour, a fire was started on the premises at 53 High Street, Ventnor, when the cat knocked over a small electric fire behind the shop counter. There was nobody in the shop at the time and few people in the street, so it was a while before an alarm was given out.
Read the article here: A Cat That Caused a Fire – Gibbs & Son
Cream Teas at Ailsa Craig’s [first published 3o Sept 2021]
In its day, Ailsa Craig’s Tea Garden (opposite Ventnor Station in Southgrove Road) was run by Gwen Newnham and family and was a very popular stop-over for walkers and train travellers alike. It was a very busy establishment until the demise of the railway, eventually closing in the mid 1970s.
Read the article here: Cream Teas at Ailsa Craig’s
F J J Macey of Albert Street School [first published 22 July 2021]
Frederick Joseph James Macey was Headmaster at Albert Street School for 33 years, from 1898 to 1931. With a starting salary of just £125 p.a. with house, coal and gas provided, he arrived in Ventnor after vacating the post of Headmaster of St. Luke’s Boy’s School in Southampton. His first allotted task from the School Managers was to apply a firm hand as discipline had become lax!
Read the article here: F.J.J. Macey of Albert Street School
Government Surplus Clothing in Ventnor in the late 1940s [first published 2 Dec 2021]
Seventy-five years ago in Ventnor there were far lower consumer incomes and higher degrees of relative poverty. Combined with a function of clothes rationing that had started on June 1st 1941 and remained in place until March 15th 1949, people had largely to ‘make do and mend’. In the late 1940s a glimmer of light appeared on clothes rationing with Government Surplus Clothing being made available to retailers to sell without the need for coupons and by December 1947 there was a dedicated Government Surplus Store on Grove Road.
Read the article here: Government Surplus Clothing in Ventnor in the late-1940s
‘Here we go Loopy Lou’ and ‘Little Miss Muffet’: in school more than a century ago [first published 22 April 2021]
Betty Acford (née Macey) started at Albert Street School around 1915. The curriculum included learning her letters using slates, doing sums by counting the buttons on her boots and Bible stories read by the teacher Miss Pitcher, who also drew pictures of nursery rhymes on a large board.
Read the article here: ‘Here we go Loopy Lou’ and ‘Little Miss Muffet’: in school more than a century ago
Horace Grant – Ventnor’s own ‘Steptoe’ [first published 29 April 2021]
Every town and village has its characters and Ventnor is no exception to this. Older members of the Lowtherville community will remember Horace Grant (affectionately known as ‘Dido’) touring the Ventnor area on his horse and cart collecting anything people no longer needed.
Read the article here: Horace Grant – Ventnor’s Own Steptoe
Lowtherville Shops – part one [first published 10 June 2021]
Upper Ventnor – or as it was known in the early days, Lowtherville, has changed beyond all recognition in the last 70 or 80 years, not least of all the shopping habits of the residents and the shops they would regularly use. In the early years after WW2 most people did not have cars which meant that they needed to shop locally for their groceries, etc. and, fortunately, the area was well served by a large selection of retail establishments.
Read the article here: Lowtherville Shops – part one
Lowtherville Shops – part two [first published 17 June 2021]
Continuing the story of the large selection of retail shops that provided for Upper Ventnor – or as it was known in the early days, Lowtherville. The only establishments and premises that remain today are The Fish & Chip Shop, The Social Club, The Convenience Store and the Ladies Hairdressers, all the others have either closed or disappeared.
Read the article here: Lowtherville Shops – part two
MacFisheries [first published 29 July 2021]
MacFisheries was a national chain of shops that had become commonplace across much of the country by the 1930s. Ventnor’s shop was at 27, High Street and in the 1930s was managed by Alf Farrant.
Read the article here: MacFisheries
Marjorie Mackett [first published 2 Sept 2021]
During the Second World War, the Undercliff area played host to women from all over the country, not just the Island, serving in the armed forces. Indeed, some Island-born women who served in the forces were posted to establishments at different places on the mainland. One such individual was Marjorie Mackett, born in Ventnor and a pupil at St. Boniface School. In 1942, she signed up to join the WAAFs (Women’s Auxiliary Air Force), where she served at RAF Boscombe Down in Wiltshire and later the top secret spy installation at RAF Medmenham.
Read the article here: Marjorie Mackett
Nash’s Garage – 1 Pier Street [first published 21 January 2021]
Before 1971, the site currently occupied by the Co-op supermarket was for many years the home of Nash’s Garage.
Read the article here: Nash’s Garage, 1 Pier Street
The Old Church of St Lawrence [first published 15 April 2021]
The Old Church of St Lawrence was built by the d’Aula family and when completed in the 12th Century had the honour for many years to be one of the smallest churches in the land. Indeed, to this day, it remains the smallest to be built as a Parish church.
Read the article here: The Old Church of St Lawrence
Obie Dyer’s blacksmith’s shop, Pound Lane [first published 21 Oct 2021]
Austin (Obie) Dyer was born in late 1890, son of Ventnor blacksmith, James Dyer. Renowned as a craftsman in iron and steel, he was also an all-round sportsman, playing for Ventnor Football and Cricket Clubs as well as being an expert at billiards and snooker.
Read the article here: Obie Dyer’s blacksmith’s shop, Pound Lane
Old Tyme Music Hall [first published 23 Sept 2021]
In the 1970 summer season, the Winter Gardens played host to the Island’s top bands, had a resident DJ, organised regular dances (‘ballroom as well as pop’) and a programme of ‘Old Tyme Music Hall’.
Read the article here: Old Tyme Music Hall
Miss Pardo, Head Teacher at St. Wilfrid’s School, 1896 to 1934 [first published 25 Nov 2021]
Ellen Mary Ann Pardo, born in Portsmouth, was appointed certificated teacher at St. Wilfrid’s Roman Catholic School from the date of its first opening: 7th September 1896. Miss Pardo, as she was always known, spent 38 years at the School before retiring in 1934. She died in 1955 in her mid-eighties.
Read the article here: Miss Pardo, Head Teacher at St. Wilfrid’s School, 1896 to 1934
Passage to Tasmania [first published 8 Dec 2021]
Post-war Ventnor, like the rest of Britain, was a tough place to live. If you had a large, growing family the future would have seemed bleak, however, there was a possibility of escape under the ‘Assisted Passage’ emigration scheme to Australia, and on 3rd December 1949 Tom Hardingtook the opportunity to start a new life in Tasmania with his wife Marian and six children, along with his wife’s mother.
Read the article here: Passage to Tasmania
Pier Street after a snowstorm [first published 16 Dec 2021]
The winter of 1947 was severe. The first snows fell in the last week of January, which marked the start of some six weeks of exceptionally harsh weather that affected much of North-West Europe. In early February, Ventnor residents awoke to one of the heaviest snowfalls of recent years. In more exposed parts, there were drifts six to eight feet deep, with much of the road out to Wroxall impassable.
Read the article here: Pier Street after a snowstorm
Poplar Cottage Church Street [first published 15 July 2021]
Poplar Cottage once stood on the site of Ventnor’s former main Post Office, now Ventnor Exchange. It was for some fifty-five years the home of John Thomas who was a carrier operating between Ventnor and Newport.
Read the article here: Poplar Cottage, Church Street
Rayner’s Temperance Family and Commercial Hotel – part one [first published 11 Nov 2021]
Rayner’s Hotel was the enterprise of Henry Edward Rayner and his wife Caroline, both of them Ventnor-born. Situated on the north side of Victoria Street in Ventnor in the 1890s, the Hotel stood on the site later occupied by Leslie’s Motors. Henry began working life as a dairyman and ‘cow keeper’, but later became a lodging house keeper and then a hotel proprietor.
Read the article here: Rayner’s Temperance, Family and Commercial Hotel – part one
Rayner’s Temperance Family and Commercial Hotel – part two [first published 18 Nov 2021]
Continuing the story of Rayner’s Hotel in Victoria Street, there were several changes of ownership, especially during the inter-war years when, like others in Ventnor, it struggled to fill its rooms. Finally, in April 1944, the hotel, now renamed the Victoria Hotel, was badly damaged by bombs. For some years the site lay to waste, a mass of undergrowth and rubble, until 1952 when Nash’s Garage opened a filling station there.
Read the article here: Rayner’s Temperance, Family and Commercial Hotel – part two
Riviera Boarding House [first published 18 March 2021]
‘Riviera’ was a boarding house in Ventnor, dating from the 1840s. Previously known as ‘Marine Villa’ it played host to the Russian poet Count Alexei Tolstoy, his new wife and his young family, in the early 1860s.
Read the article here: Riviera Boarding House
Ron Bunnett bank clerk [first published 19 Aug 2021]
Ron Bunnett joined the National Provincial Bank in September 1939, aged 15 and straight from leaving school. His first role was as a temporary clerk at the Taunton branch on a wage of £1 a week, but in February 1951 at the age of 26, he was assigned to Ventnor on an annual salary of £345. Ron took digs at Magdalene in St Alban’s Gardens with a daily commute via St Alban’s steps, all 83 of them!
Read the article here: Ron Bunnett Bank Clerk
Rose Cottage: a piece of old Ventnor [first published 1 April 2021]
In February 1932 one of the oldest and most picturesque of the town’s landmarks at 17-19 Ventnor High Street was demolished, the site acquired by the Isle of Wight Electric Light Company for new showrooms. Rose Cottage, over 100 years old, used to stand opposite Vale Cottage, both houses originally owned by the Palmer family.
Read the article here: Rose Cottage: a piece of old Ventnor
Rousells Building Contractors [first published 26 Aug 2021]
The town of Ventnor grew very rapidly over the second half of the nineteenth century and building trades grew likewise. One successful business was that of James Rousell & Son, established around 1880 and continuing until mid-way through the Second World War. Rousell were responsible for the construction of the new St Alban’s Church as well as the new National Provincial Bank on High Street.
Read the article here: James Rousell & Son Building Contractors
Running Races [first published 8 July 2021]
In the early years of the 20th Century, running races always drew a large crowd in Ventnor, regardless of the distance and the number of competitors. In 1910 there were just 10 young men preparing to sprint up the High Street.
Read the article here: Running Races
The Royal National Hospital: a patient’s story – part one [first published 25 February 2021]
Among the Ventnor Heritage Centre’s archives is an eleven-page account of June Farnworth aged 20 and her five-month stay at the Royal National Hospital as a TB patient.
Read the article here: The Royal National Hospital; a patient’s story – part one
The Royal National Hospital: a patient’s story – part two [first published 4 March 2021]
June Farnworth was admitted to the Hospital in February 1949, aged 20, direct from Guy’s Hospital in London where, for some seven months, she had been under treatment for TB on an ordinary medical ward.
Read the article here: The Royal National Hospital: a patient’s story – part two
St. Boniface Old Church – Bonchurch [first published 18 February 2021]
The old church of St. Boniface in Bonchurch, regarded as of Saxon origin, was restored in the Norman style shortly after the Norman Conquest by a party of monks from Lyre Abbey, with completion and consecration taking place in 1070.
Read the article here: St Boniface Old Church – Bonchurch
St Margaret’s Church & School, Lowtherville [first published 14 Oct 2021]
The Mission Church and School was one of the first buildings in Lowtherville Road. Officially ‘Lowtherville National School’, it opened on May 28th 1883 with 28 pupils whose ages ranged from four to seven. In 1951 Lowtherville County Infants School was opened in Newport Road and St Margaret’s shut for good in 1970.
Read the article here: Saint Margaret’s Church and School Lowtherville
Sharpe’s Annual Outing [first published 11 March 2021]
Alfred James Sharpe established a drapery and furnishing store on Ventnor High Street in 1893. An astute businessman, he was also a generous participant in the life of the town. He believed in rewarding hard-working staff, and regularly organised a summer outing for the shop staff.
Read the article here: Sharpe’s Annual Outing
Steephill from the air [first published 3 June 2021]
During the late Victorian period, Steephill Castle was renowned for the luxuriance of its gardens and often hosted Royalty. However, by the late 1930s the gardens had become shadows of what they once were, the estate was no longer in the ownership of wealthy entrepreneurs and after being used as a school during the Second World War and then a hotel, it slowly became derelict before being demolished in the 1960s.
Read the article here: Steephill from the air
The story behind one of the names on Ventnor War Memorial [first published 28 Oct 2021]
Joseph Hector McDonald Beavis, known as Hector, was the son of Frank & Edith Beavis (nee Slaughter) of Morey’s Cottage, Steephill, Ventnor, and later 2 Wrekin Cottage, Lowtherville Road. Hector enlisted in the Merchant Navy aged 15, and was serving on the Glenart Castle, a hospital ship when it was sunk by an enemy submarine in the Bristol Channel on 26th February 1918, with the loss of many of those on board including Hector.
Read the article here: The story behind one of the names on Ventnor War Memorial
T.H. Mulliner, Oil and Colorman, China and Glass Depot [first published 8 April 2021]
In Ventnor a hundred years or so ago, there were probably twice as many shops as can be seen now, lining the High Street where the main shoppers’ car park is found and continuing along both sides of the higher reaches of the High Street and into Trinity Road. Tom Mulliner’s business was located at 2 Down View (later 10 Trinity Rd), on the south side a few doors beyond the junction with Madeira Road.
Read the article here: T.H. Mulliner, Oil and Colorman, China and Glass Depot
Tiger Tea – Part one [first published 9 Sept 2021]
Situated at 15 & 17, Pier Street, part of Regent Parade, the Tiger Tea Stores was established in the mid-1880s by Joseph Sanders, an expert tea taster and blender. Tiger Tea was a choice blend of rich Indian and Ceylon teas, sold at one shilling and ten pence per pound weight (a little less than 10 pence in today’s money). It was much called for in Ventnor and the Undercliff, as well as across the Island.
Read the article here: Tiger Tea – Part One
Tiger Tea – Part two [first published 16 Sept 2021]
Continuing the story of the Tiger Tea Stores run by Joseph ‘Tiger’ Sanders. Born in Derby in 1860, when he was 26 doctors gave him just five years to live, so he came south to Ventnor for his health. He died on the Island in December 1952, aged 93, the Isle of Wight Mercury recording in its obituary how this proved a ‘wonderful testimony to the health-giving qualities of Ventnor’s climate’.
Read the article here: Tiger Tea – Part Two
Ventnor Fire Brigade 1847 to 1923 [first published 7 January 2021]
As Ventnor grew rapidly from a mill and a few other buildings to hundreds of properties during the early 19th century, a severe fire at the Mill in 1847 prompted the creation of a local fire brigade.
Read the article here: Ventnor Fire Brigade – 1847 to 1923
Ventnor Fire Brigade 1924 to 1947 [first published 14 January 2021]
The second part of the story of Ventnor’s fire brigade spans the years 1924 to 1947
Read the article here: Ventnor Fire Brigade – 1924 to 1947
Ventnor High Street in 1972 [first published 7 Oct 2021]
Whilst parts of the town had suffered considerable bomb damage during the war, buildings along the north side of the High Street had survived relatively unscathed. This was all to change in 1972, with wholesale demolition of the remaining buildings on the North side extending from the bottom of Spring Hill eastward for close on 50 metres.
Read the article here: Ventnor High Street in 1972
Ventnor’s Old Parsonage or Vicarage [first published 4 Nov 2021]
Ventnor’s old Vicarage stood on the site of the present Winter Gardens in Ventnor, erected in the late 1830s, around the same time as St. Catherine’s Church. An impressive structure, it was not without its issues, with the rear foundations repeatedly being undermined by water seeping from the mill-pond and from the stream that fed the mill and the nearby waterfall.
Read the article here: Ventnor’s Old Parsonage or Vicarage
Undercliff Isolation Hospital [first published 11 February 2021]
Discussions concerning a proposed Isolation Hospital for Ventnor were started in 1892 and a site was finally chosen at the top of Lowtherville Road and the hospital opened in November 1904.
Read the article here: Ventnor & the Undercliff Isolation Hospital
Ventnor West station in 1950 [first published 25 March 2021]
By the summer of 1950, steps were already being taken towards the withdrawal of services from Ventnor West station, although final closure of the branch didn’t happen until 13th September 1952.
Read the article here: Ventnor West station in 1950
W J Dyer – Baker, Confectioner and General Store, Whitwell [first published 5 Aug 2021]
William J Dyer’s shop was in Whitwell High Street opposite the White Horse Public House. Known by the locals as ‘Twisty’, Bill was a Master Baker with his bakery situated at the rear of the shop. As well as bread and confectionery, it was possible to purchase almost all items that you would find in a general village store, including his own line of picture postcards, published under the title of ‘W J Dyer – hygienic baker’!
Read the article here: W J Dyer – Baker, Confectioner and General Store, Whitwell
W J Nigh – part one [first published 13 May 2021]
William James Nigh, ‘Billy’ as always known among friends, was a native of Ventnor and in 1903 founded the wholesale stationery and picture postcard business that continues trading under his name today.
Read the article here: W J Nigh – part one
W J Nigh – part two [first published 20 May 2021]
Continuing the story of W J (Billy) Nigh, including his service in the Royal Hampshire Regiment in the Second World War where he was taken prisoner in North Africa after the four-day battle of Tebourba against German forces in December 1942.
Read the article here: W J Nigh – part two
The White Lion, Niton [first published in 24 June 2021]
The White Lion has a history that goes back at least to the first half of the 18th Century and has always been a favourite among Island visitors as well as local clubs and societies. Charabanc tours from Ventnor would always stop there for refreshments, whilst soldiers acting as messengers for the Revenue Department were billeted at the Inn
Read the article here: The White Lion, Niton
Youth Hostelling around the Undercliff [first published 28 January 2021]
In the 1930s ‘The Hermitage’ on St. Catherine’s Down near Whitwell found a new lease of life as the Island’s first Youth Hostel, run by William and Anne Whillier from Brightstone.
Read the article here: Youth Hostelling around the Undercliff