On the 10th January 1896, the Right Honourable Emily Gwendoline Wellesley, Dowager Countess Cowley, widow of William Henry Wellesley, 2nd Earl Cowley [1834-1895] and her only daughter, Eva Cecilia Margaret Wellesley, purchased two parcels of land at Woodside on the North coast of the island, from George Lindsay Holford, for £1800. On the larger plot containing about 9 acres she had the house called Bodwen built with lovely views of the Solent.
The house was essentially built as a summer residence, the drawing room and study located to maximize the sea views. A tower and large ballroom were added in the period 1897 to 1908. The gardens were landscaped with ponds, fountains and stone furniture. The North West of the garden being laid out with a rock garden and herbaceous borders. A lawn stretching from the house was so large that ponies were used to pull the grass mowers, it lead to a hazel coppice and then on to the beach. In the South West corner was a walled kitchen garden and greenhouse containing a large cherry frame, the grounds provided employment for many of the local villagers.
Lady Cowley owned one of the first cars on the island, this being open topped with a canvas hood. Mr Cooper, her chauffeur, was a bearded man with sandy hair and wore a peaked cap. She also owned a steamboat and the boathouse was later built on the second parcel of land. The house had one of the first telephones in the village of Wootton.
Lady Cowley died in 1932, and in 1937 the house was sold to Richard Bird Cheverton. He in turn leased it to a Mrs Leon Owen whose husband had died.
Note:- It is said that Mrs Owen’s husband was the son of the governess to the King of Siam’s children, made famous in the film “The King and I”, and he became the King’s financial adviser.
In 1943 the house was taken over by the Army as part of the country’s preparations for “D” day. Army vehicles of all kinds including tanks were parked in the grounds and along the road under the trees. Woodside Road as we know it today was surfaced to allow Army lorries to bring supplies from the nearby Wootton Hard.
It is believed that Mrs Owen died on the mainland and in 1943 Mr Cheverton sold the house to Mr. Leonard Parker Mew, a member of the island family brewing family. The house was de-requisitioned by the army and occupied by Mr Mew in 1947, his hobby was wine making, and so he filled the greenhouses with vines.
Between 1965 and 1970 three parcels of land along the Southeast corner of the estate were sold off, on these the ‘Laurels’, Lane End and ‘Outlook’ were built.
On the 9th October 1980 Mr Mew died, and in December 1981 the house sold to its present owners Peter & Jean Foister.
Note:- Evidence of the Army occupation can still be seen, the bad scarring by army boots of the stairway which leads to the servants quarters and the graffiti in that area, these traces have never been redecorated. The large mirror in the hall that conceals the entrance to the servant’s quarters still survives.This page was last edited on: 4th March, 2015 06:16:09