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Fishbourne and Quarr

Historically these two places on the northeast coastline of the Isle of Wight have been linked since Neolithic times. With archaeological research carried out between 1989 and 1994, lying in soft sediments and peats between high and low water mark. On exceptionally low tides, wooden trackways of Neolithic date can be observed at the low water mark. Slightly inshore Stone Age implements of flint tools have been found. Where Roman and medieval ships had delivered cargoes to these shores, delicate materials like leather, wood and rope along with all types of pottery have been found.

Human activity in changing environment

From 4000 BC the Island had become separated from the mainland as sea levels rose, by a distance of as much as 2-4 kilometres from its present position. Remains of wooden fish traps have been discovered in the silts. Around 3000 BC the demise of the oak forest on the Wootton-Quarr coastline can be seen with the poisoning of tree roots.

By Roman times the sea level had risen about 2 meters below that of today. Discovery of the remains of two salt drying kilns have been found below the high water level. To operate effectively it would have been essential for these kilns to be sited above high water.

By around 800 AD large quantities of stout wooden stakes were constructed along the Quarr coastline, one kilometre long parallel to the shore. Study of these has revealed that a workforce of skilled and unskilled workers had constructed structures such as fish weir, capable of feeding a growing coastal community.

At the mouth of Wootton Creek lies Young's Slipway. In Saxon times a 'sea pond' was constructed here with the aid of wooden hurdles. This may have been the 'pond, in the arm of the sea at Wodyton' that the monks of Quarr Abbey mention in a document from AD 1304. This area was then known as Fishouse. [See also separate article under Woodytown]


The hamlet at the mouth of Wootton Creek doubtless represents the place called Fisseburne [1267], Fishbourn or Fishhouse, upon the coast, which the Abbot of Quarr in 1365-6 had a licence to inclose with a crenellated wall. He was also permitted to build castles and fortalices there. Fishborn Creek [1769] 'The fish stream, or the stream where fish are caught' OE fisc + burna. Name originally referred to what is now called Wootton Creek, nearby on east side of the entrance was a place called 'Fisshehous' the fish house, recorded from 14th century until 1844.

The creek is a small scenic waterway used by a wide variety of pleasure craft, fishing boats and small commercial vessels. It is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, a Site of Special Scientific Interest and it has an area also of Wetland of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat, as defined by the Ramsar Convention and Special Protection area by the EC Wild Birds Directive.

In the post medieval period a notable shipbuilding industry grew up, and by the early nineteenth century large ships were being constructed here. A lease dated October 1813 to James and Daniel List, shipbuilders, includes a plan of the shipyard, together with a painting of a 36-gun man-of-war, the 'Magicienne', being launched from Fishbourne in 1812.

Picture of Launch of the Magicienne at Fishbourne
Launch of the Magicienne at Fishbourne

In 1824 Lord Yarborough signed an indenture with Daniel List of Fishbourne for a second vessel a 351-ton yacht. She was an early example of a fine-lined clipper and was the flagship of the Royal Yacht Squadron, based at Cowes, "the pride of the club's fleet" for some ten years. Completed in 1826 at a cost 25,000 pounds or about 225,000 pounds in today money (1956), she was towed to Cowes for fitting out, and named 'Falcon'.

Picture of The Falcon built at at Fishbourne
The Falcon built at at Fishbourne

Lord Yarborough sold her in 1836 to Baring Bros., for 5,000 pounds, who used her as one of the earliest China tea clippers, before selling her on in 1840 to Jardine, Mathieson & Co., China Trading House. Falcon disappeared in the mid 1850's.

In 1886 the shipyard constructed a 191-ton yacht 'Mamgu'.

Other well-known characters of the area included Jim and Don Young, who carried on the tradition of boatbuilding.

Mr. Frank Young, who owned the foreshore from a point west of the "Coastguard Cottages" along the frontage of the ferry terminal, the R.V.Y.C. headquarters as far as a point some hundred yards above the shingle bank.

During World War Two, Ranelagh Yacht Yard, produced with the help of 500 craftsmen small navel craft, dinghies, air-sea rescue vessels, fast motor boats, pontoons, assault craft and the like for His Majesty's Government.

Time and Tide - An archaeological survey of Wootton-Quarr Coast. - Isle of Wight Council & English Heritage - 1997
W. Page The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight, vol. 5, p.151, ed. 1912, London: Constable
P G Stone Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight, vol.1, p.32, 1891
Harbours of the Solent. John Scott Hughes. London 1956
Isle of Wight County Records Office, Newport - ifh 57 pages 28/29
Peter Gawn. 5754 Ebbtide Street. Box 2541. SECHELT B.C. Canada VON 3AO

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:29

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Wootton Walk leaflet

If you are visiting the Isle of Wight you may be interested in our Wootton Walks leaflets which include a large scale route map.

These leaflets enable you, in a series of five walks, to explore some of our village’s history and beautiful surroundings. Enjoy your walk.

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