Fairlee House, Fairlee Road, Newport. Circ 1780-1962.
As the house does not exist today and there are very few signs of its existence one could be forgiven for asking so what, and were was it. The physical location was in the grounds of the current arboretum adjacent to Medina High. The house and some land was acquired by the then Medina Borough Council around 1936 from Major Busk and remained so until the land was sold in 1975 to Isle of Wight Council for the building of Medina High School. In 1962 an inspection by Mr. Shubert [building inspector], of the house revealed extensive dry rot within the building, making it un-economical to repair, after demolition in 1963, very little is left to remind people of its existence. Within the arboretum one can see the remains of a red brick wall which formed part of the garden and the original stone steps in the pathways through the arboretum [visible in a picture of the house].
So how have I become involved in researching and writing and article about a now forgotten house? It goes back 1982 when I was a student at Medina High School, one afternoon the teacher split the class into groups and gave each group a task which had to be completed within two hours. My friend and I were given the task of visiting the two local churchyards St Pauls and Newport, and finding 14 interesting gravestone inscriptions and present the information to the class.
Firstly we went into the nearby St Pauls graveyard, and it was a question of where to start, on a lot of the headstones the writing was illegible due to weathering. We spotted a person working nearby and asked him if he could help us. In response, he asked if we had heard of Fairlee House which once stood on the site of our school, no was our response. He said that he believed the house was built around 1780 by John White [1774-1830] of Upcerne in Dorset. It would appear that the White family never sold the house and it was rented out until the house and estate was auctioned off in 1929. He then pointed out the graves of Munter McDonald [son of Thomas Beckinsale] and his wife Ann Catherine. He said we should also research the archway at the entrance to the graveyard which had been erected by a member of the Beckensale family. We return to school and presented our discovery to our fellow classmates.
Later I decided to carry out further research of my own and visited the Isle of Wight County Records office, Newport Library and Newport Borough Council Offices, in each place a little more of the house history was discovered. I obtained a copy of an 1834 copy of an engraving by Brannon of Fairlee House. I was fortunate in obtaining a copy of the house plans from British Hovercraft which are shown in this article.
Over the years many different people lived in the house including Richard Oglander. In 1871 a solicitor from Salisbury called Thomas Beckinsale came to the island and rented the house [details of the family can be found in this article], on his death his son, also a solicitor, lived there until his death in 1927 and the final sale of the estate.
For almost 30 years my old school notes have languished in a drawer and I decided that the old house should be remembered. These notes are a collection facts rather a complete history because the house did not achieve a "status".
Joanne Murphy February 2015.
Source: IWCP 29 October 1949This page was last edited on: 4th March, 2015 06:17:12