Wight Life


Drawn and written by A W R Caws

The Buddle Inn, Niton Undercliff

Drawing of the bar Buddle Inn, Niton

THE ROAD FROM VENTNOR, running more or less parallel to the coast towards Blackgang, passes through what is probably some of this picture-postcard Island's most delightful scenery.

The area, called in earlier times 'Under Wath', is now known as the Undercliff. Bounded on the landward side by high land cliffs, the craggy rocks and woodland on the seaward side offers a fine view of the English Channel.

About five miles out from Ventnor, approaching St Catherine's Point, at the southernmost tip of the Island, one comes upon 'The Buddle Inn', situated in Niton Undercliff and overlooking the famous lighthouse on the beach below. The unusual name of this old inn has been the subject of much speculation and argument. One popular theory suggests that it is derived from an old English word 'Bothele', meaning a dwelling. The building can be traced back to 1776 when the lease of what was then known as 'Bundle Place' was sold by the Lord of the Manor. A document of 1830 refers to it as 'Little Buddle or Bundle'.

Between 1830 and 1859, it must have become an inn as it is thus referred to for the first time in a will of 1859 as 'The Buddle Inn'.

It is curious that within living memory the Buddle has had no inn sign, and although one is mentioned in an old document, no record of what it consisted of has ever been brought to light.

The interior of the inn has in the smaller bar a quite unique feature, for here the slender trunks of two small trees stretch from floor to timber-beamed ceiling, giving the impression that the room was erected round them. Another feature catching the eye upon entry is the enormous fireplace built into the wall on one side of the lounge bar.

This massive recess is overflowing with a great assortment of articles ranging from a beautiful old spinning wheel to brass and other metal pieces in great variety. Over this fireplace two fine sporting guns are suspended.

The stone-walled garden in front of the inn has a collection of models of well-known Island buildings, including Carisbrooke Castle and the nearby lighthouse. Mine host of this friendly pub, the bright cheerful atmosphere of which attracts many Island residents as well as countless holiday visitors, is Gilbert Bailey. A true Isle-of-Wighter, born in Shanklin and educated in Ryde, he began his working days a short time before the start of the last war as a collector with the Inland Revenue.

Enlisting in 1938 as a Territorial, he served in France with the Princess Beatrice's Isle of Wight Rifles and, like yours truly, became in the dark days of 1940, a 'Dunkirk Harrier'.

Drawing of the bar Buddle Inn, Niton

After the evacuation, he had a spell of service in this country before being posted overseas again, this time to India as a Warrant Officer in charge of a trooping camp in Dulali.

Returning to civvy street at the end of hostilities, Gilbert was employed for twenty-nine years as an Administrative Officer with the old I W Electric Light and Power Company, and worked in generating stations on both the Island and mainland. He resigned from this position to go into 'the trade' and has been in it ever since. His first post, which he occupied for six years, was as manager of 'The Smugglers' Barn', a well-known harbourside pub at Bembridge. A period of eleven years followed at 'The Falcon Hotel' in Swanmore Road, Ryde. During 1967, in a transfer made by the brewers, he took up his present position at 'The Buddle'. In the seven years he has been there a number of additional services have been introduced, particularly in the catering.

A grill room, about which I have heard many favourable comments, is now open throughout the year, and a comprehensive service of both hot and cold snacks is available mornings and evenings in the bars of this justly popular Island inn.