Page Four

Signal Posts

In the closing paragraph of his "History of the Isle of Wight", J. Albin states :—
The importance of early intelligence of the operations of the channel and other cruising fleets and squadrons being very great, government have this year (1795) established signal posts on Freshwater downs, which are seen distinctly at St. Catherine's, and there repeated so as to communicate advises to Wroxall and from thence to Shanklin; which last repeat them, so as to be seen from Ashey down, from whence they are seen at Spithead and Portsmouth. By this means,the appearance of an enemy is known in less than half an hour, with an account of their number, force, etc. The establishment of each post consists of a lieutenant and midshipman, and two men to keep a look out, and to make and repeat the signals. This measure, it must be manifest, has the promising prospect to be of much utility."

In the above passage Mr. Albin states that "government" established the various signal posts on the Island, and as Lord Bolton was Governor and Vice Admiral of the Wight at that time (the period of the Napoleonic Wars), this speedy means of communication must have been introduced whilst he was governing the Island. The presence of the lofty tower at Fernhill is therefore not without significance for the purpose of receiving and conveying signals, and Tomkin's "Tour of the Isle of Wight", dated 1796, describes a 'Druid's Temple' in the grounds of Fernhill "from which is taken a view of Wootton River looking southward with Ashey down and the signal station in the distance".

I have noticed with regret the disparaging remarks made by some nineteenth century historians regarding the architecture of Fernhill. Although I must admit to knowing absolutely nothing about architecture, to my mind the main structure of the house appears to have been particularly beautiful, and the church like appearance so often ridiculed was perhaps due to it being necessary to incorporate the lofty tower, thus allowing Lord Bolton to be warned as speedily as possible of the approach of enemy forces.

I therefore truly believe that as well as providing Lord Bolton with a beautiful home amidst superb scenery, Fernhill with its stragetic position at Wootton afforded him instant communication to all parts of the Island, thus helping him to play his part in guarding against invasion.

In 1804, Lord Bolton sold Fernhill to Samuel Shute, Esq., and died at Hackwood Park, Nr. Basingstoke, on the 30th July, 1807, at the age of 60, whilst still Governor or of the Island He was buried at Old Basing, and his widow who died on the 14th December, 1814, was buried there also.

On succeeding to the title, Lord Bolton's son, `William, vacated his seat in Parliament for Yarmouth in the Isle of Wight. Sir John Orde, Lord Bolton' s brother, was. then nominated and represented Yarmouth until his death on the 19th February, 1824.

Samuel Shute, Esq. and his family

Samuel Shute purchased Fernhill in 1804. Although he was an extremely wealthy landowner he was not, of course, so much in the public eye as Lord Bolton, and if it had not been for a particularly informative box of documents deposited by his Solicitors with the Isle of Wight Records Office, which I was allowed to examine, very little would to light concerning the Shute family's occupation of Fernhill at that time, apart from an entry in Burke's "Landed Gentry", 1808 William Cooke's description of Fernhill in have, come is "New Picture of the Isle of Wight," 1808, and two memorial tablets in St. Edmund's Church at Wootton.

Samuel Shute was the son of Stephen Shute, Esq. of Shute, Crediton, Devon. His, mother's maiden name was Elizabeth Deane of Tamworth, Co. Somerset, and he married Henrietta Margaretta Gwynn of Upham, Hants, on the 16th of November, 1785.

There were two daughters of the marriage, Jane Helena and Harriett, and a son, Thomas Deane Shute. There is little doubt that these children had kind and generous parents, for even at the time of their wedding an agreement was drawn up, setting aside a substantial sum to be divided equally among any children they might have; the appropriate share to be paid either when they married or came of age.

Sadly their mother died on the 26th of October, 1795, only ten years after the marriage, and it must have been a heavy burden for their father to be left with three such young children and endure his great loss as well. However, a few years later, Samuel Shute married Ann Ricketts, and by her had four daughters named Isabella, Emily, Matilda and Anne Elizabeth. From this it will be seen that when Samuel Shute purchased Fernhill it became the delightful home of two elegant young ladies, a teenage son and heir, and four little girls who must have loved to romp and play in the house and gardens. I feel sure that Fernhill really care into its own at that time.

Unhappily, however, their father died an the 21st of April, 18006, just two years after he had bought Fernhill. He was only 51-years of age and it seems a pity that he was not destined to enjoy living there for any length of time. He is buried in St. Edmund's Church, Wootton, where there is a memorial tablet erected to his memory and of his two wives.

Samuel Shute left his wife and daughters substantial legacies, and as at the time of his death his son, Thomas Deane Shute, was not of age, Fernhill was in the occupation of Mrs. Shute until 1813. She took the opportunity of "highly embellishing"'and bringing Fernhill to a "state of extreme elegance" during that time, and in this respect I give below a passage from William Cooke's "New Picture of the Isle of Wight, 1808", which speaks for itself:–

1808 Fernhill, Seat of Mrs. Shute

On a commanding eminence above Wootton this mansion presents its elegant structure and embellished grounds to crown a landscape which boasts of a display of striking beauties. The deep recess of the northern shore betwixt Cowes and Ryde, whose banks are wooded to the very water's edge, has the spacious inlet called Fishbourne Creek, where the tide flows a considerable distance up the country, horded on the eastern side by the beautiful wood of Firestone, which extends along nearly its whole course, and terminates its progress towards the high land that descends from Ashey down. In one only part, where the road approaches Wootton Bridge, does the wood for a short space disappear, and this is adorned by the mansion of Kite Hill, the residence of Major Popham, and the scattered rural habitations of the village beneath. Passing the long causeway, under which the tide makes its way, and on its return works the considerable mill adjoining; the remainder of the village adorns the other bank, and the road ascends the long rise of Fernhill, and passes close by its lofty tower.