Buildings of interest on the
Isle Of Wight
Ryde Pier is an early 19th century pier serving
the town of Ryde, on the Isle of Wight, off the south coast of England.
Before the pier was built, passengers to Ryde had the uncomfortable
experience of coming ashore on the back of a porter and then, dependant
on the state of the tide, having to walk anything up to half a mile
across wet sand before reaching the town. The need for a pier was
obvious, not least if the town was to attract the wealthy and
fashionable visitors who were beginning to patronise other seaside
resorts across England.
Designed by John Kent of Southampton, the foundation stone of Ryde Pier
was laid on 29th June 1813. The completed pier opened on 26th July 1814,
and was, as it still is, a timber-planked promenade. The structure was
originally wholly timber, and measured 527m. By 1833, extensions took
the overall length to 681m. A second 'tramway' pier was built next to
the first pier, opening on 29th August 1864. Horse-drawn trams took
passengers from the pier head to the esplanade. Later, the trams were
powered by electric winches.
On 12th July 1880 a third pier was opened, alongside the first two,
providing a direct steam railway link to the pier-head. In 1895 a
concert pavilion was constructed at the pier-head and over the next
sixteen years the original wooden piles were replaced in cast iron. It
was at Ryde Pier that the Empress Eugénie landed from Sir John
Burgoyne's yacht " The Gazelle" after her flight from Paris in 1870.
The pier head was remodelled in the 1930s using concrete, and during the
Second World War the pier was used for military purposes, with various
modifications made to accommodate this.
The tramway pier closed in 1969 and was partially dismantled. This left
a gap which still exists between the railway and promenade piers, in
which the rotting iron piles of the tramway pier are very plainly
visible. The pier was made a Grade II listed building in 1976. In the
early 1980s a modern waiting area, including some of the original
buildings, replaced the original Victorian waiting rooms at the
Today the pier is still a major gateway for passenger traffic to and
from the Isle of Wight, with the Island Line train running from the pier
head, via Ryde Esplanade down to the eastern side of the island. The
Wightlink catamaran runs regularly between Ryde and Portsmouth.
Unusually, it is possible to drive down the pier, and there is car
parking on the large pier head.
Fort Albert is a tower fort nestling under the cliffs west of Fort
Victoria on the Isle of Wight, England. It was also known as Cliff End
Fort Albert, with Hurst Castle in the backgroundIt was completed by
1856, but like the American Third System forts it resembles in
miniature, it would have suffered badly from rifled gunfire, so the
Royal Commission enhanced it with batteries on the cliffs above. The
fort is in private ownership and not open to the public, and indeed
there is no public access even to the cliff tops which overlook it. It
is most easily viewed from the sea, or from Hurst Castle.
The fort itself has been converted into private flats, and the battery,
which is in declining condition due to neglect and coastal erosion, is
part of a chalet estate.
Golden Hill Fort was a defensible barracks built as part of the
Palmerston defences by the 1859 Royal Commission on the Defence of the
United Kingdom to provide manpower to man the defences at the western
end of the Isle of Wight, England. The Fort is a local landmark which is
in a very prominent position overlooking much of the land looking south
towards Afton Down. Whilst operational, the area was kept clear of
vegetation to allow views out to the Solent. The name Golden Hill refers
not to the spectacular golden display of gorse but to an historic
The building, which is a Grade 1 Listed Building, is now in private
ownership and not open to the public. It is derelict and has been unused
for many years, although conversion to residential use is now underway
and should be complete in early 2006.
The view of the country park and beyond, the West Wight, from Golden
Hill FortThe surrounding land is managed as a country park by the Isle
of Wight Council, and is an open grassland with bridleways, viewpoints
and a small car park.
The soil types on which it stands are complex and support a wide range
of plants, including the chalk loving yellow-wort and dwarf thistle,
dyer’s greenweed, a feature of neutral soils and gorse which is
associated with more acid soils. These attract a good range of
butterflies. The habitats vary and there is a transition between open
grassland, scrub and woodland.
St Helens Fort was built between 1867 and 1880 as a result of the Royal
Commission, in the Solent close in to the Isle of Wight to protect the
St Helens Road anchorage, it suffered badly from subsidence which forced
many changes to the plans, ending up with 2 10" eighteen ton RML guns to
landward and 1 12.5" thirty-eight ton RML to seaward.
The fort is now in private hands and not open to the public.
The Nab Tower is the only one completed of six towers planned for
anti-submarine protection in the Straits of Dover in WWI. It was sunk
over the Nab rocks east of the Isle of Wight to replace a lightship
after the war, and is a well known landmark for sailors in the Solent.
The Medieval Quarr Abbey 1132-1902
The ancient Quarr Abbey was founded in 1132 by Baldwin de Redvers, Earl
of Devon and fourth lord of the Isle of Wight. The name Quarr comes from
`quarry', because there used to be a stone quarry in the neighbourhood,
and so the original title of the monastery was the Abbey of our Lady of
the Quarry. Stone from the quarry was used in the Middle Ages for both
ecclesiatical and military buildings, for example for parts of the Tower
of London. The founder was buried in the Abbey and his remains and those
of his wife, Princess Cicely, daughter of King Edward IV, still lie on
the site of the medieval monastery. Little now remains of the buildings
of the abbey, which was suppressed by Henry VIII in 1536. The greater
part of the abbey was demolished and its stone used for fortifications
at the nearby towns of Cowes and Yarmouth. One of the three abbey bells
is preserved in the belfry of the nearby Anglican parish church,
originally built by the monks of Quarr Abbey for their lay dependents.
Stone was also used to build Quarr Abbey House.
The Quarr Abbey House of the early 20th century was one of a series of
fine houses built along the north coast of the Isle of Wight. It was a
residence of the Cochrane family, one member of which was the daring
Admiral Lord Cochrane (1775-1860), "le loup des mers" ("the sea wolf")
famous for his part in the liberation of Chile, Peru and Brazil from
colonial dominion and whose life and exploits inspired the fiction of
novelists Captain Marryat, C.S. Forester, Patrick O'Brian and Bernard
Cornwell. His nephew Admiral Sir Thomas John Cochrane (1779-1872) lived
at Quarr Abbey House and his daughter Minna was lady-in-waiting to
Princess Beatrice, youngest daughter of Queen Victoria. Thus it came
about that it was at Quarr Abbey House that Princess Beatrice spent her
honeymoon after her marriage to Prince Henry of Battenberg on July 23,
1885 at St. Mildred's Church, Whippingham on the Isle of Wight, where
Henry was sadly to be interred only a few months later, in what became
known as the Battenberg Chapel . Queen Victoria visited Quarr Abbey
House and the Prince of Wales, later Edward VII, and the German Kaiser
William II watched the sailing boats from the balcony of the House
during the annual Cowes Week Regatta. Only ten days before her death,
Queen Victoria recorded in her diary that Minna Cochrane and her
daughter Beatrice had played duets to her. After the Queen's death at
Osborne House, the Cochrane family and others ceased to frequent the
island so assiduously. Quarr Abbey House was left in the hands of a
caretaker and put on the market.
The Exile of Solesmes
Throughout the nineteenth century there were laws in force in France to
the effect that religious orders were not allowed except by special law,
but the application varied with the changes of government. A major
crisis came in 1880, when congregations were ordered to apply for
authorization with three months. Although at first brutally applied to
men's communities, protests meant that gradually these measures became a
dead letter the congregations were re-constituted. However, on July 1,
1901, the regime of tolerance towards religious communities came to an
end with the passing of a new law.
Immediately after the passing of the legislation, Abbot Paul Delatte
(1848-1937) of the Benedictine abbey of Solesmes sent a monk to England
to look for a house to shelter the community. In fact the founder of
Solesmes, Prosper Guéranger, had had thought of England as a possible
place of refuge should the community have to go into exile. Moreover,
since 1896, at the invitation of the former Empress Eugénie, the
Solesmes Benedictines had taken over as a priory the former
Premonstratensian house of Farnborough Abbey, which sheltered the tomb
of Napoleon III.
In this new emergency, several places were considered as a possible
refuge. Farnborough was far too small. Other possibilities included the
ancient abbey of Battle near Hastings on the Kent coast of England.
However, the Solesmes monks were in urgent need of a home and the
transactions at Battle Abbey would have been lengthy and the expense
beyond their limited means.
A New Home at Appuldurcombe House
Finally, at the end of July attention was drawn to a suitable `large
house on the Isle of Wight which seems to meet the requirements of the
monks', Appuldurcombe House near Wroxall on the Isle of Wight. The house
was viewed and accepted, and a lease contract was signed on August 19,
1901. A former monastic site, the construction of the house had been
begun in 1701 by Sir Robert Worsley on the site of a Tudor manor house
and completed much later (1773) by Sir Richard Worsley, who from 1787
also established there what was to become a well-known art collection.
On the death of Sir Richard in 1805, the estate passed to his niece, who
was married to the second Baron and first Earl of Yarborough. The family
connection with the house ended in 1855, when the estate was sold off by
her son, the second Earl of Yarborough.
The monks wasted no time in beginning their transfer from Solesmes to
the Isle of Wight and on Saturday September 21, 1901 practically the
entire community of Solesmes reached Appuldurcombe.
Already by September 1904 the community at Appuldurcombe was considering
that it might prove necessary to seek another home. They had been at
Appuldurcombe for three years, and the lease must have been renewed
about this time for another four years. Nevertheless, they had begun to
look around for another property, probably because they were already
aware of the unreasonable attitude of the landlord, who refused to
undertake any repairs, so that the community would have the alternative
of continuing to renew the lease on a property which they would have to
keep in repair themselves, or buying it outright in a state of
The Acquisition of Quarr Abbey House
The lease on Appuldurcombe, initiated in 1901, had to be renewed or
terminated at the end of three years, four years or seven years. The
second period would come to an end in 1908 and if the intention was to
abandon the lease, notice had to be given on January 1, 1908. To abandon
the lease obviously meant that new accommodation would have to be found.
Consequently on Saturday January 5, 1907 the estate agents Wallis
Riddett were contacted and serious consideration began to be given to
the possibility of acquiring Quarr Abbey House and its estate which had
featured in their portfolio of properties since 1902.
A New Abbey Built
The first monks arrived at Quarr Abbey House from Appuldurcombe on June
25, 1907 to prepare the way by making ready the grounds and the
beginnings of a kitchen garden. They also put up fencing round the
property, establish a chicken farm and prepare an orchard.
One of the monks, Dom Paul Bellot aged 31, was an architect and it fell
to him to design and draw up the plans for the new abbey, some distance
from the ruins of the medieval monastery, on the site of Quarr Abbey
House. Under the direction of the monk-architect, 300 builders from the
Isle of Wight, accustomed only to building dwelling-houses, raised a
building whose design and workmanship is admired by all who visit the
Abbey. The building of the refectory and three sides of the cloister
began immediately in 1907 and was completed within less than a year. The
rest of the monks came from Appuldurcombe and in April 1911 work began
on the Abbey church and was completed in an amazingly short time, so
that it was consecrated in the following year, on October 12, 1912.
In 1922, after the the First World War and the many changes it brought
with it, the community of Solesmes returned to France. A small community
of monks was left at Quarr, which became an independent house, first as
a priory, and then from 1937 as an abbey. Gradually English monks were
recruited to the community, so that today the community has no French