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Historical Manors of the Isle of Wight

Lecture Given 29th October 1912 in Newport

A lecture was given on Tuesday 29th to a well attended meeting of Castlehold [Newport] Literary and Debating Society by Miss Hearns, the title being “ Historical Manors of The Isle of Wight”. The lecture opened with a description of events that happened in 1066 when William of Normandy crossed the English Channel and invaded England. He divided the country up into lordships and manors and awarded them to his knights. Vectis was given to William Fitz Osborne who sub divided the island under two deputies William Fitz Azor and William Fitz Stur.

In the Doomsday survey which was compiled by the order of William the First in 1086 the island appears to consist of 43 manors, which were described as consisting of plough-lands, fisheries and salteries or woods. These manors generally had a hall or mansion where the Lord of the Manor lived, below is a description of a few of these Manors; -

Manor of Nunwell

This held a prominent place, being in the parish of Brading and belonging to the Oglander family. Richard de Oglandras was the marshal of William of Normandy army and later accompanied William Fitz Osborne when the island was invaded. The beautiful park of Nunwell was known for its fine oaks and had many of the larges ones on the island. Today only a small portion of the house retains it original structure. The mansion is hidden from public view, and a verse written by Longfellow supports his; -

Somewhat back from the village street.
Stands the old-fashioned country seat,
And from its station in the hall,
An ancient timepiece say it all,
For ever-never,
Never-for ever.

The old grandfather clock disappeared from Nunwell and was later offered for sale at an auction in the North of England. The new owner discovered the old inscription and contacted the late Lady Oglander who purchased the clock and brought it back to Nunwell and restored it back to its original place in the hall.

Sir William Oglander’s gift to the poor of Brading in 1608 included an unusual custom. Twelve small loaves of bread were brought into the church every Sunday morning and placed on the tomb of his grandfather. The tomb divided chancel from the south aisle and at the end of the service the bread was given to 12 poor widows, I believe the gift now takes a different form. Much reference is made to the impact that the Oglander family has had on the history of the Isle of Wight over the centuries, with special mention being made of the versatile Sir John Oglander, who was famous for his “Memoirs” and his devotion to Charles the First.

Ashey Manor

Located at the foot of Ashey Down, from the time of Edward I until Henry VIII, there was a religious house, which was connected to the Abbey of Wherewell near Andover, Hampshire. The abbey was founded by Queen Elfrida in memory of her stepson Edward the Martyr who was murdered. Ashey enjoyed the privileges of a Court Leet, and it was recorded that in the reign of Elizabeth, a poor widow named Agnes Porter, was brought before the court of the Lord of the Manor charged with witchcraft. She was found guilty and sentenced to death by burning on Ashey Down, the sentence was carried out.

Manor of Knighton

The manor consists of the village of Newchurch and its history is made up of knightly deeds and some ghostly visitations. Editors note; - No further information was quoted in the article but exhibits were shown at the lecture.

Manor of Arreton

This was reported to be a wealthy estate in the time of Edward the Confessor and became one of the earliest endowments of Quarr Abbey. At the dissolution of the monasteries it remained in the hands of the crown for a few years, but in the reign of James I. the estate was purchased by Mr. Livinius Bennett. It is believed that he built the manor house, which is currently occupied by Mr. Cawley Way. The porch is a later addition and it is just possible to make out the date 1693 cut into the stonework. The manor was later sold to Thomas, Lord Culpepper who was the captain of the Isle of Wight in 1660-67. His daughter and heiress married Lord Fairfax of Leeds Castle, Kent and the manor of Arreton passed into the Wykeham-Martin family, who still own the estate.

Picture of Arreton Manor c1985
Arreton Manor circa 1985

The manor was famous for its rare carving and the fine old English barn, which has been the site of many festival gatherings. Reference was made to the old yew tree in the churchyard, it was bought in 1740 by Thomas Sibley from Wacklands and planted in the churchyard by Grace Jolliffe has memorial tree. She is buried in the shade of the tree together with many of her descendents. Hale and Wacklands were noted for their beautiful yew trees, and the manor of Hale was held in early times by a fee-fife of one hundred stick to be paid annually by the Lord of the Manor for the use of the archers.


The pictures village of Gatcombe the “gate of the valley” has been associated with some notable events in history. In the reign of Edward the Confessor it was part of the possessions of Stur who was the major -domo in the palace of King Hardicanute. The church was dedicated to St Olaf or St Olive who was the patron saint of Norway. He was canonised in 1164 and as Olaf was a great friend of Earl Tostig, it is probable that the church is of Saxon foundations. At the time of the Norman conquest, Gatcombe passed into the hands of the Norman baron, William Fitz Stur, at that time it appears to have been cultivated holding including a water mill, which continues to this day. The lecturer at this point mentioned other manors on the island such as Sheat which was mentioned in the Doomsday Book; Appuldurcombe another stately manor; Stenbury once owned by Peter de Heynes the brave knight who in 1377 slew the French commander while the French were attacking Carisbrooke Castle; Calbourne or Swainston a most important domain in former times stretching from shore to shore and Shorewell which “abounded with well known manors” sure as Limerston and Wolverton which was reported to be the most magnificent manor on the whole island.

Descriptions of some “Old Time Customs” was given

In early times the month of October was a time to gather in provisions for the server winters, which were common before the lands were drained. Pigs which often weighed over 30 score [300 lb] were killed and salted, hams were smoked in the chimneys. Poultry was salted down, and fish was caught and dried ready for when it was needed.

Nut brown October ale was brewed in coppers, wild fruit was collected and made into wines and stored ready for use, utensils in olden days were made from pewter or wood. China or crockery-ware was only used by the better off people on special occasion. Around 1830 the “dog cart” was often seen in the Isle of Wight selling Staffordshire pottery to those that could afford to buy. The “carts” were like little trolleys, which were drawn by six to eight dogs.

Arreton Main Street was so narrow that the family coach or carriage took up the whole width of the road and the groom rode ahead to warn people to get out of the way. Cock fighting was common throughout the island and the Fighting Cocks in Arreton was a favourite resort on Sunday afternoon, when birds could win or lose a fortune for their owners.

The old custom of “shroving” has almost been forgotten, but until the middle of the last century it was the fashion for the poor children of the village on Shrove Tuesday to go from house to house and sing the “shroving” song. The mistress of the manor house was generally prepared for the visit and distributed cakes, buns or doughnuts to the children.

Another custom was the “gooding” which took place on Good Friday. Old women, each with a strong bag under her arm would go to the houses of the well to do and receive at each place, a pint of more of flour, so that every family was able to have a loaf of white bread on Easter Sunday, these old women were called “Goodies”.

The great festivals of the church were well attended by all the devout in pre-reformation times and the richness and beauty of many ecclesiastical vestments can be visualised by reading old documents and studying illustrations. In Arreton Church there are twelve richly ornamented capes or mantles. These exquisitely embroidered vestments were the work of nuns and many wealth people were only too willing to contribute as atonement for their errors of their ways. In many churches on the island, the service would not start until the squire or similar had taken their place.

Source: Isle of Wight County Press 2nd November 1912

This page was last edited on: 26th January, 2022 17:50:39

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