Isle of Wight - Framed Picture - 12" x 16"
The Isle of Wight is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is in the English Channel, about 2 miles off the coast of Hampshire, separated by the Solent.
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. Historically part of Hampshire, the island became a separate administrative county in 1890.
The Isle of Wight is first mentioned in writing in Geography by Ptolemy.
Commencing in the year 449AD (according the Anglo Saxon Chronicles) the 5th and 6th Century saw groups of Germanic speaking peoples from Northern Europe crossing the channel and setting up home.
Julius Caesar reported that the Belgae took the Isle of Wight in about 85 BC, and recognised the culture of this general region as "Belgic", but made no reference to 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.
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.
Under Henry VIII, who developed the Royal Navy and its Portsmouth base, the island was fortified at Yarmouth, Cowes, East Cowes, and Sandown.
The French invasion on 21 July 1545 (famous for the sinking of the Mary Rose on the 19th) was repulsed by local militia.
During the English Civil War, King Charles fled to the Isle of Wight, believing he would receive sympathy from the governor Robert Hammond, but Hammond imprisoned the king in Carisbrooke Castle.
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.
The future 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.
The world's first radio station was set up by Marconi in 1897, at the western tip of the island. In 1898 the first paid wireless telegram (called a "Marconigram") was sent from this station, and the island is now the home of the National Wireless Museum.
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 Needles Battery was used to develop and test the Black Arrow and Black Knight space rockets, which were subsequently launched from Woomera, Australia.