NEWPORT

 

All Roads lead to Newport, well it certainly seems this way as the 'Capital of the Isle of Wight' is more or less in the dead centre of the island and with its tidal harbour situated on the River Medina most traffic has to go via the town to cross the island.

There were Romans here as the remains of a villa were found in 1926 which is believed to date from the 3rd century when it was destroyed, but it has well preserved baths and some of the rooms have been restored. The next inhabitants were the Normans who used Carisbrooke Castle to control the island, and the monks for the Abbey of Tiron in Normandy built the Priory of St Cross which was in Lukely Brook and stayed for a few centuries and which is now swallowed up in modern development as a part of Holyrood Street.

The town really took on and though there remains no trace of the older buildings most being destroyed in French and Spanish invasion of 1377 and one of the oldest buildings in the town that remains today is the Old Grammar School built in 1612.

Carisbrooke Castle is built on a Saxon site and the Norman castle was built by Baldwin de Redvers and then built a village around it that was gradually incorporated into Newport. Badlwin was the son of Richard de Redvers to whom Henry I gave the  Island to in 1100. The family who developed the town and which led to the roads being planned in the grid style, they also gave it the name of New Port and it was in 1180 that it received its charter.

The parish church of St Thomas sits in the square of the same name, it was originally the church of St. Thomas a' Beckett and was a chapel of Carisbrooke. The old church was here until 18544 when the new building replaced it. During construction a grave was found and identified as being the grave of Princess Elizabeth the daughter of Charles I who died at Carisbrooke and Victoria who was on the throne at the time ordered that a beautiful memorial be built.

Near the church is the old Cod's Providence House, now converted to a restaurant, and it got its through the original owners that lived on this site was unaffected by the Black Death, or the plague, and most of those that died of the plague, were buried in the towns old archery butts and also on the edge of the town which now forms Bitten Park.

Today Newport is the business capital but there are still a few attractive thigs left to see for example the Guildhall which was built in the 19th century has a statue of Judge Fleming sat in a chair, which has a carving showing the trial of Guy Fawkes whose trial Fleming presided over.

The Guildhall

This was built by Jon Nash, balconies have been added on two sides and a clock tower. There are two elaborate silver maces inside but a long pair of poles with gloves at the end of each are the strangest treasure, they were made in 1821 and used to be hung  from a balcony to notify revellers at fair time that they may dance in the streets!

The King held court in the panelled room, that was here with the old town hall which was replaced by the Guildhall,

Photo courtesy IOWCAM

The king stayed at the old Grammar school and when the king negotiated with 15 of his commissioners this ended with the Treaty of Newport. It was from this school that the king was eventually arrested and taken over the water to Hurst Castle.

The church of St Thomas
Photo courtesy IOWCAM

The town has quite a few famous names associated with it, Prince Albert laid the foundation stone of the church, Canning, Preston and the Duke of Wellington all represented the town at Parliament. Keats lived while trying to recover from the disease which later killed him, John Milne 'The Earthquake Man' lived and died while working at Shide and was buried at Barton.

THE FERGUSON GANG:
The old town hall mentioned above was neglected for years and soon became a ruin, but it was saved by  band of mysterious behefactors who put it under the care of the National Trust. This mysterious band were known as the Ferguson Gang and were a rather strange group of good citizens comprising of both men and women who did good work.

One of the gang wore a mask and went unter the name of Kate O;Brien and she crept into the office of the National Trust one day in 1934 and unseen placed, a pile of money totalling 500 and a document sealed with blood and full of spelling mistakes, on the desk of the secretary, with instructions to use the money to help save the town hall.