Your guide to West Wight
Here in our quiet corner of the Isle of Wight you’ll find a range of interesting community activities.
West Wight residents associations
West Wight parishes and towns
Freshwater was originally made up of five tuns, Saxon farms: Norton, Easton, Weston, Middleton and Sutton, now Freshwater Bay the gateway to the sea and known in the past as Freshwater Gate.
The local economy is based mainly on agriculture and tourism with a small number of manufacturing and service companies. The village has four banks and a post office. There are two small supermarkets and the Co-op on the site of the former railway station at the foot of Hooke Hill. The railway came to Freshwater in 1888 with a line through Yarmouth to Newport. The scenic route of the railway beside the river Yar is now a popular bridleway and cycle path.
The scientist Robert Hooke was born in Freshwater in 1635. His father was the curate at Freshwater church. Robert Hooke was educated at Westminster School and Christ Church, Oxford. He is credited with the invention of the watch spring, the development of microscopes and, in collaboration with Sir Christopher Wren, he designed many new buildings in London after the Great Fire in 1666.
Today Freshwater has a population of almost 5,400. There is a library, a sports centre with a gymnasium and swimming pool, a skate park and a large recreation ground. The medical centre in the middle of the village is modern and well equipped.
Brighstone village nestles inland from Grange Chine and the National Trust beaches of Compton Bay. The historic centre is a conservation area with attractive thatched cottages and an interesting 12th-century church in a picturesque setting. There are other beautiful churches nearby at Mottistone and Brook. Brighstone’s village museum and library are situated in a row of traditional cottages. The museum depicts Isle of Wight village life in the 19th century.
Nearby, Mottistone Manor is set in a sheltered valley with a magical garden (National Trust) full of surprises that include shrub-filled banks, hidden pathways and colourful herbaceous borders. The manor house is Elizabethan but the 20th-century garden has a Mediterranean-style planting scheme to take advantage of its south-facing location. Other surprises include a young olive grove, a small organic kitchen garden and a traditional tea garden.
The parish of Calbourne includes the West Wight villages of Calbourne, Newtown and Porchfield .
Newtown, originally Francheville or Freetown, is now a hamlet . In medieval times it was a thriving borough. The large natural harbour is a national nature reserve owned and managed by the National Trust. Porchfield has a popular pub.
Chale is situated at the southernmost tip of Isle of Wight. It is an area steeped in history with a remote coastline that has seen dramatic shipwrecks and smuggling in days gone by. Historically, local people have lived off the land eking out a meagre living supplemented with anything that the sea brought to them.
The storm lashed coast has been the graveyard of many tall ships. Many houses and inns in and around Chale have stout oak beams that once formed the hulls of oceangoing vessels. The people of Chale are proud of their community and the rugged beauty of the rural surroundings.
The ancient parish of Shalfleet includes the scattered villages of Bouldnor, Wellow, Ningwood, Newbridge, Hamstead, and Cranmore. The shallow stream that gives the village its name, the Caul Bourne, passes through Shalfleet on its way to Newtown Creek. The village still has just one main street with traffic lights on a narrow bridge. The church is dedicated to St Michael the Archangel. The Baptist church in Wellow was founded in 1801. There were several Methodist churches as well, though they have all closed.
Shalfleet Mill, driven by a waterwheel, is mentioned in the Domesday Book. The bakery still produced bread in the 1920s. Three manor houses in the Shalfleet area were mentioned in the book: Shalfleet, Ningwood and Hamstead. The village of Newbridge in the civil parish of Shalfleet has a rich history of agriculture, Methodism, milling and quarrying.
Shorwell, pronounces Shorel by older residents, was one of Queen Victoria’s favourite places on the Island. It has developed around St Peter’s church and three historic Isle of Wight manor houses.
St Peter’s was remodelled in 1440 with a tower and a mural showing scenes from the life of St Christopher. The north chapel dates from the 12th century.
The oldest of the three manors, Westcourt, dates back to about 1500. Grade-one listed Wolverton was started in the late 16th Century and replaced an earlier moated house, one of the original Domesday Manors. Northcourt, built in 1615, is the largest manor house on the Island. There are more than 20 houses and cottages in the parish that are grade-two listed and of historic interest. The Crown Inn, a proper old-fashioned village pub, dates from the late 18th century. Although 100 years ago Shorwell was only a very small village it boasted two pubs, two blacksmiths, a shop, post office and school. Today the parish covers an area between Rowborough Down in the north, Whale Chine in the south, Billingham in the east and Yafford in the west. Two long-distance paths, the Worsley and Shepherd’s trails, pass through the parish.
Totland takes its name from tout land or look-out. The most westerly parish on the Isle of Wight includes the world-famous Needles rocks and the colourful sands of Alum Bay. There are excellent beaches at Totland Bay and Colwell Bay.