Norris Castle

Norris Castle is located on the Isle of Wight and can be seen from the Solent standing on the northeast point of East Cowes. It was designed by the famous architect James Wyatt for Lord Henry Seymour. The estate adjoins the neighbouring Osborne House, country home to Queen Victoria, which also includes the nine-hole Osborne Golf Club. On the other side of Norris Castle sits the Spring Hill estate, bought by William Goodrich in 1794. Norris Castle was built in 1799 and sits in 225 acres of land, with a mile of waterfront.[1] The Castle is a Grade I listed building.

In October 2016, the parks and gardens at Norris Castle were also upgraded by Historic England to Grade I, making them the Isle of Wight's only Grade I listed landscape. This change in status was achieved as a result of the new owners working in partnership with Historic England. The landscape at Norris Castle is thought to have been designed in 1799 by Humphry Repton, one of England’s greatest landscape designers, and it includes one of the best examples of a castellated walled garden anywhere in England.[2]

Despite its grandeur, the castle's condition has suffered dramatically over recent years, with the huge cost of trying to keep it maintained.[3] Again in October 2016, Historic England confirmed that its Heritage at Risk register includes not only Norris Castle itself, but its lands and outbuildings as well. They particularly noted the 'failure in the external walling of Norris Castle' and the 'immediate risk of further rapid deterioration to Norris Castle Farm'.[4]

In 2014, part of one of the outbuildings (The Boathouse) was vandalised when eight foot high graffiti was daubed across one of its sides.[5]

At the present time, the castle is closed to the public, awaiting restoration.

Coordinates: 50°45′47″N 1°16′14″W / 50.763056°N 1.270556°W

Norris Castle
Norris Castle - East Cowes - - 545339
Norris Castle from the sea
Norris Castle is located in Isle of Wight
Norris Castle
Location within Isle of Wight
General information
Architectural styleNorman/Georgian Style
LocationIsle of Wight
Town or cityEast Cowes
CountryUnited Kingdom
Coordinates50°45′47″N 1°16′14″W / 50.763056°N 1.270556°W
Construction started1795
ClientLord Henry Seymour
Design and construction
ArchitectJames Wyatt


Norris Castle has a galleted facade with crenellations, but all of this is for show, as the castle has no defensive fortifications. The building's original function was as a residence. The main castle has 15 bedrooms, a grand hall, a circular drawing room and extensive cellars.[6]

The estate includes a two-bedroom Lodge Cottage, four-bedroom Farmhouse, three-bedroom Farmhouse Cottage and a two-bedroom Landing House.[7] James Wyatt also designed the farmyard buildings that are further inland, which have a similar design to the castle itself.

There are also extensive traditional farm buildings and stabling, a walled garden, a modern two-bedroom farm building and parkland and woodland.


Lord Henry Seymour (1795 - 1830)

The first owner and builder of Norris Castle was the politician, Lord Henry Seymour, who bought the estate in 1795, at the age of 49. Having retired, he spent the rest of his life building and improving the Norris Castle estate. It is said that it cost £195,000 to originally build. He had a reputation for both eccentricity and benevolence. His personal habits were also said to be those of extreme simplicity and frugality.[8]

There is an account of a visit by J and H Oldershaw to the island in 1826 and their reminiscences of Lord Seymour. They described him as an eccentric character and an old retired bachelor, who by accounts had not left the island for 20 or 30 years. They said that his normal attire of blue jacket and trousers, together with hobnailed boots, made him look more like a labourer, for which he was frequently mistaken. He would often work in hedges and ditches with his men and would even go into town in his dung cart. He would also play jokes on his visitors by pretending to be a labourer, whilst showing them around the estate. He was even known to accept money from them, which he would give to his servants, saying "Here you are. I have got you something today!".[9]

After completing his work on the estate, Lord Seymour opened the castle up to the public, to allow them to share its charm and magnificent views. After his death in 1830 at the age of 84, the castle remained closed to the public for over 140 years, when it was opened up again in 1975.[10]

In August 1830, the Dauphiness and Duchess De Berri, accompanying the expatriated King of France, visited Norris Castle. The king had abdicated on 2 August and left France for England on 16 August, when it seemed that their safety was in jeopardy from angry mobs of French citizens. One of their first ports of call was Cowes and East Cowes. The Princesses were said to be charmed by the scenery of the island, although they complained of their 'stinted' lodgings at the Fountain Hotel. They did however, indicate that they would like to take up residence at Norris Castle.[11]

Lord George Seymour (1830 - 1839)

Following the death of Lord Henry Seymour, the estate passed to his brother, Lord George Seymour, who was 67 at the time. George Seymour was a politician who represented Orford between 1784 and 1790[12] and Totnes between 1796 and 1801.[13]

He kept the Castle for nine years, before selling it in 1839 to Robert Bell.[14]

Mr Robert Bell (1839 - 1880)

Mr Robert Bell was a newspaper tycoon, who owned amongst others, the Weekly Dispatch, which he founded in 1801.[15] In 1928 the newspaper was renamed to the Sunday Dispatch, which in turn was merged with the Sunday Express in 1961.

One of the accomplishments of Mr Bell, was that it was he who built the mile long sea wall, which both protects the estate's coastline and also gives a view of the castle. The cost of building the wall was said to be over £20,000.[16]

In 1940, a pair of silver 7-light candelabra engraved with the inscription "Presented by Her Royal Highness the Duchess of Kent to Robert Bell, Esq., Norris Castle, 1859" was sold at Christies for £40 11s. 6d.[17]

Norris Castle was sold to the Duke of Bedford by Robert Bell in 1880.[18]

The Duke and Duchess of Bedford (1880 - 1897)

In 1880, Elizabeth Russell, the Duchess of Bedford was appointed Mistress of the Robes to Queen Victoria. So that they could be near Osborne, her husband, Francis Russell, the Duke of Bedford bought Norris Castle in 1880.[19]

In July 1890, Viscount Cantelupe and his bride spent their honeymoon at Norris Castle, as guests of the Duke and Duchess. The Viscount was killed at sea in 1915, whilst on active service during the First World War.[20]

The Duke of Bedford died in 1891, at the age of 71, in Eaton Square, London. He committed suicide by shooting himself, when said to be in a state of temporary insanity, whilst suffering from pneumonia.[21] The Duchess died in 1897, at the age of 78, in Latimer House, Buckinghamshire.[22]

Lord Ampthill (1897 - 1903)

Following the death of the Duchess of Bedford, the estate was inherited by the late Duke of Bedford's nephew, the 28 year old Sir Arthur Oliver Villiers Russell GCSI GCIE JP DL, who was the 2nd Baron Ampthill. He immediately declared that he wished to sell the estate and the aging Queen Victoria again considered buying it.[23] This of course never happened.

Lord Ampthill served as the Governor of Madras from October 1900 to February 1906 and acted as the Viceroy of India from April to December 1904.

In 1898, it was reported that a peacock belonging to Lord Ampthill had been shot and stolen from the Norris Castle estate.[24]

In July 1899, it was reported that he let out Norris Castle for the summer to the eccentric Philadelphia millionaire A J Drexel, for the yachting season.[25] At around the same time, Lord Ampthill put Norris Castle up for sale.[26] Drexel was a frequent visitor to Cowes and berthed his 'palatial' steam yacht Margarita there for a long time.[27] The Margarita was 323 feet in length, being at the time, the largest steam yacht built on the Clyde, Glasgow. She weighed over 1800 tons.[28]

Whilst still awaiting sale, the castle was later occupied for a while by Lady Dudley[29] and also by Captain John Orr-Ewing and his wife Ellen Clarissa Kennard.[30] John, a captain in the 4th Dragoon Guards and a noted yachtsman, was the son of Sir Archibald Orr-Ewing.[31] Ellen was a noted singer, who 'gracefully performed' the opening ceremony of an Egyptian themed fund raising event at Victoria Hall, Cowes, in 1902. She was accompanied by their daughter Jean.[32]

In January 1903, it was reported that Lord Ampthill had sold the castle to a syndicate, although it was said that Captain and Mrs Orr-Ewing would be staying on for a time.[33] This was proved to be the case, as in March 1903, the Orr-Ewings hosted what was thought to be the first fox hunt held at Norris castle. The hunt covered a lot of ground, as they chased a fox from Whippingham Station to Staplers.[34]

The 'Syndicate' (1903 - 1908)

At the time of the sale, it was reported that Lord Ampthill was probably wise to sell the castle at that time, as it was indicated that Norris Castle had started to fall into a state of disrepair. It was predicted that over the next few years there would be rapid development of the estate, by the building company that had taken over ownership.[35]

In March 1904, there was an extensive burglary at Norris Castle, at a time when Captain Orr-Ewing was away from home. Mrs Orr-Ewing was awakened in the early hours of the morning by hearing a noise downstairs. On going downstairs, she discovered that the house had been burgled, but the perpetrators had already fled the scene. Entry had been gained by breaking ground-floor windows and articles of considerable value had been taken. These included Captain Orr-Ewing's silver yachting trophies inscribed with Nyama (the name of his yacht), two hammer-less guns in a leather case, inscribed with the monogram "Sir W Orr-Ewing", silver boxes, a gilt clock and articles of clothing.[36] A week later, much of the stolen articles were recovered when they were found abandoned in the estate's grounds.[37] The Orr-Ewing's moved out of Norris Castle shortly after.

In July 1904, it was reported that the castle was occupied for a time by the American businessman, John Morgan Richards and his wife. Their daughter, Pearl Mary Craigie, was a famous novelist, who wrote under the pseudonym John Oliver Hobbes.[38] By 1906, when their daughter died suddenly of heart failure at the age of 39, they were living at Steephill, Isle of Wight.[39]

In July 1904, Norris Castle was put up for sale again, by auction. The estate was described as a "grand opportunity for development into a seaside resort with practically every house overlooking the world-renowned yacht anchorage and Solent, through which the shipping of the world passes."[40] However, the castle failed to sell and was withdrawn from the auction when the bidding only reached £38,000.[41]

In February 1906, it was proposed that the Norris Castle estate be turned into a golf club, to rival any in the world. It was thought that there was much to commend a venture that would bring both the yachting world and golfing world together at Cowes; and that the course would be particularly attractive to those that sail. It was said that having no golf course in Cowes, was a serious handicap for any fashionable seaside resort. It was proposed that Norris Castle itself be used as a 'Dormy house' for the club. The famous golfer, James Paxton, had already designed a 5700-yard, eighteen-hole course, which could be extended, if needed. It was suggested that there would be a landing stage for yachtsmen and even perhaps a large pier to take railway steamers.[42] History shows that the club was never built at Norris Castle, However, since 1892, there had been a two-hole course at the nearby Osborne House estate, which was enlarged to nine holes in 1904.[43]

In July 1907, it was stated that Norris Castle had been unoccupied for several years and that it was doubted that it was in a state capable of occupation.[44] At that time, it was also described as 'empty and dismantled'.[45]

Norris Castle was put up for auction again in August 1907, but was withdrawn from sale when the bidding only reached £28,000.[46]

Messrs Alfred and Benjamin Densham (1908 - 1909)

It is likely that the Densham family only owned the castle for a short time around 1908/09. They were the brothers Alfred and Benjamin Densham, together with Alfred's eldest son Leigh.[47][48]

Alfred Densham was of Bourton Hall, Totnes and Benjamin Densham was of Bramley Croft, Hindhead, which was said to be a 'splendid house'.[49] They were two of the proprietors of the Mazawattee Tea Company, which was one of the most important and most advertised tea firms in England during the late 19th century. It was stated that in February 1909, an application was to be put before the Newport licensing authorities for an alcohol license for Norris Castle, which was to be converted into a residential hotel.[50] At one time, there were also rumours that the estate was to be developed for housing.[51]

However, in August 1909, it was indicated that Leigh Densham had taken over ownership of the castle.[52] Leigh was Alfred Densham's eldest son,[53] who was obviously a man of many talents. He was a keen yachtsman, who often competed at Cowes. Leigh Densham was at one time in partnership with Charles Sibbick, of Thetis Road, Cowes, Isle of Wight, in the business Charles Sibbick & Co, yacht designers and builders. However, the partnership was dissolved in 1899.[54] In 1901, Captain John Orr-Ewing had a 36-foot yacht, named simply 'D', built for him by Charles Sibbick.[55]

Leigh Densham was also involved in many amateur dramatic productions, often in a leading role.[56] In 1895, he appeared in the title role at the Theatre Royal, Bournemouth, in an amateur production by a company under his own stage management.[57] A keen horseman and fox hunter, he was at one time Master of the Ashburton Harriers, which hunted in Dartmouth.[58] He also went on to be master of the Dart Vale Harriers.[59] In October 1902, he fell from his horse whilst jumping hurdles when out hunting. His horse rolled over him, leaving him with a broken collar bone.[60]

In August 1909, the grounds of Norris Castle were opened up for the public to view a grand Naval Review. It was said that for this much appreciated concession, the public were indebted to Mr Leigh Densham, the owner of the fine old mansion and grounds.[61]

Leigh Densham ultimately sold the castle in October 1909.[62]

Sir Horatio Davies K.C.M.G, MP (1909 - 1912)

Lieutenant Colonel Sir Horatio David Davies KCMG, MP bought Norris Castle in October 1909, at the age of 61. He was an Alderman of the city of London, became the Sheriff of London and Middlesex in 1887 and Lord Mayor of London in 1897. He was also a former owner of Crosby Hall.[63]

Shortly after buying Norris, Davies held a grand auction in the castle, selling a lot of its contents, which came to some 500 lots. This included furniture used by Queen Victoria when she resided at the castle before her marriage. An antique shaped fire-screen with gilded frame and needlework panel, worked on by the Queen when she was a girl, sold for £5 15s. A full-size billiard table was also sold for £32.[64]

Sir Horatio Davies unfortunately died only three years after purchasing the castle, in 1912.

Sir Richard Burbidge (1914 - 1917)

Following the death of Horatio Davies, the estate was then bought by the 65 year old Sir Richard Burbidge, who had also recently bought the adjoining Osborne Cottage from Princess Henry of Battenberg, youngest child of Queen Victoria.[65] Burbidge said that he would continue to live in Osborne Cottage, but intended to let out the castle.[66] In 1915, he was sworn in as a Justice of the peace at the London Sessions.[67] He went on to become 1st Baronet of Littleton Park.

Burbidge was the Managing Director of Harrods at the time. By 1916, he had increased its profits from £16,000 to £200,000 per year.

Following the outbreak of the First World War, the estate was used to billet Canadian troops and their horses. Most of the men were encamped in tents, except for a few officers who had quarters in the castle itself. It is said that there are some unusual yellow daisies in the Norris fields, which are supposed to have come from seeds from the imported Canadian hay.[68]

Sir Richard died in 1917.

Major Arthur Birkbeck (1917 - 1955)

The estate passed to Major Arthur Birkbeck, who held the castle until his death in 1945. His wife, Florence, then retained Norris Castle until her death, sometime between 1952 and 1955.[69] Arthur Birkbeck was a major in the 2nd South Midland Brigade, Royal Field Artillery. He resigned his commission and was granted permission to retain his rank and to wear the prescribed uniform in 1911.[70]

In 1926, four men were charged at the County Petty Sessions with causing damage to growing daffodils at Norris Castle, by picking them. However, the benevolent Major Birkbeck said that he forgave them and wanted to withdraw the summons. He also very generously gave them jobs at the castle. The Chairman of the Bench discharged the defendants, saying that he had brought the case as a deterrent to others and said that any future case would have to be dealt with severely.[71]

A similar case arose in 1927, when three men were charged with causing willful damage to growing grass, by treading it down. They said that they did not believe that they were doing damage, as they were following a path. They were each fined 2s. 6d., and ordered to pay 8d. damages.[72]

In November 1927, Major Birkbeck applied for a slaughter-house license at the castle. Although the estate grounds proved to be satisfactory, the application was deferred to a later date.[73]

In 1932, Major Birkbeck presented to the Cowes and East Cowes Councils a proposal to build an 'opening bridge' over the River Medina, on or near the site of the Chain Ferry. The scheme, which was estimated to cost around £35,000, was rejected by the Harbour Commissioners on the grounds that it would cause a probable obstruction to navigation.[74]

During the Second World War, the castle was used as a barracks for army troops.[75]

In 1947, there was a daring robbery at Norris Castle, in which the elderly Florence Birkbeck suffered a fractured jaw when she was brutally coshed on the head by one of possibly three robbers. She was alone in the house during the evening, with her sister Mary Elizabeth Law. The robbers wore masks and forced their way into the castle saying "This is a hold up", demanding money and jewellery. They had already cut the castle's telephone lines. Mrs Law was in her bathroom, washing her hair, but the robbers dragged her by her hair downstairs to join Mrs Birkbeck. A scuffle then took place, which resulted in Mrs Birkbeck being coshed. The robbers then took three valuable rings from Mrs Blrkbeck's fingers and from two safes, they took about £100 and more jewellery. They were then interrupted by the arrival of Mr C Cassell, the estate bailiff and made their escape, but left behind in their hurry, a dark brown trilby hat, bearing a London maker's name. One had a southern accent and the other a Cockney accent. Due to her injury, Mrs Birkbeck had to remain in the Frank James Hospital for some time afterwards.[76]

Following the death of Mrs Birkbeck, an auction was held at the castle in July 1955, for the whole of their furniture and effects. At the same time, the castle itself was put up for sale, either for private sale or for auction at a later date.[77] In due course, the castle went to auction in September 1955. The advertisement stated that if the estate didn't sell as a whole, then it would be offered as a number of lots. These included Norris Castle and 34 acres, Norris Castle Farm and 102 acres, Norris Castle Wood and 50 acres, Queen Victoria's Tea House, The Lodges, Four Cottages, New Barn Lodge, some work-shops, the gravel pit and some enclosures suitable for residences.[78]

On 5 November 1955, it was announced that the Norris Castle estate had been sold to an 'Island lady' who at the time, did not want her identity disclosed.[79]

Mrs Catherine Annie Briscoe George (1955 - 1961)

In fact, in May 1956, it was reported that the estate had indeed been broken up and sold as nineteen separate lots. It was also announced that planning permission had already been granted for Norris Castle itself to be converted into a hotel, although there was some doubt whether the plan would be pursued.[80] Following the sale, Norris Castle was reduced from its original 228 acres to occupying only 34 acres. It later became apparent that the new owner was Mrs Catherine Annie Briscoe George.[81][82]

When she bought the castle, it was in a very poor state of repair, following its wartime army occupation. However, Mrs Briscoe George, and later her daughter, worked tirelessly to restore the castle.[83]

She was the widow of Albert Joseph George and the younger daughter of John Jonathan Briscoe and Agnes Ralph Briscoe. Catherine's elder daughter, Veronica, married Viscount Selby in 1933. Catherine Briscoe George also owned a number of other properties, including Blackburne House, Mayfair and Bridge House, Starbotton, Yorkshire.

Mrs Briscoe George died in March 1963, at the age of 85.[84]

Mrs Joan Denyer Lacon, later Coventry (1961 - 2016)

In March 1961, the Norris Castle estate passed to Mrs Briscoe George's daughter, Joan Lacon and her husband, Commander Reginald Lacon, RN (retired). He fought in the Second World War, and he was mentioned in dispatches four times. He gained the rank of Commander and was decorated with the award of the Distinguished Service Cross (D.S.C.) and bar in 1941.

Within a week of taking over ownership, there was a great fire at the castle, which completely burnt out one of the bedrooms. Seven other downstairs rooms were damaged by the heat and the smoke. The damage was put at around £2,000. Firemen were called out at 9.30 a.m. and used breathing apparatus, because of the dense smoke. The castle had been unoccupied at the time and the fire was discovered when Mrs Lacon arrived to take up residence there.[85]

In 1975, the Lacons opened the castle to the public for the first time in over 140 years. The reason for this was to help pay for the huge cost of keeping Norris Castle maintained. By this time, the Commander and Mrs Lacon also managed to reunite the castle with its original lands, sold off as nineteen separate lots, when it was auctioned in 1955. This brought the size of the estate back to 225 acres.[86] The Lacons put in a huge amount of work into the estate, saying that "What the public will see, represents years and years of self-sacrifice. We do it because we love the place. We have had a lot of fun doing it, but we have done it on a shoestring". The public opening ceremony was conducted by jockey and best-selling author Dick Francis.[87]

Work that still needed doing by that time was that the building's original and extensive roof needed renewing, the lengthy potholed driveway needed resurfacing, the mile-long crumbling sea wall needed renewing, the massive complex of farm and stable buildings needed restoration and an extensive tree-planting programme was required, to offset the ravages of beech and Dutch elm disease.[88]

The Commander and Mrs Lacon were divorced in 1976 and Mrs Lacon went on to marry Major Digby Coventry in 1991. He also fought in the Second World War and was also mentioned in dispatches. He gained the rank of Major in the Royal Artillery and was decorated with the award of the Belgian Croix de Guerre, avec palme. He was also decorated with the award of the Chevalier, Order of Leopold of Belgium, with palm.[89]

When Joan Coventry died in 2006, Major Coventry continued to occupy the castle until his death in September 2014.[89]

Messrs Eamon O'Connor and Edward Wellington (2016 - )

In February 2016, Norris Castle was bought for £4.7 million, with the intention that it be renovated and opened as a luxury hotel. The owning company is Uavend (Norris Castle) LTD, operated by Eamon O'Connor and his business partner, Edward Wellington. The selling agent set a guide price of £1 million, with the proviso that the estate would need millions spent to restore it.[90]

At the current time, the project is in its planning and consultation stages.[91]


Name derivation

The name 'Norris' is derived from the name of an early landowner, named Richard Le Norey, who held the estate during the reign of King Edward I. But the story of Norris Castle really originates centuries later in 1795, when the Norris farmland was bought by Lord Henry Seymour. Shortly afterwards, he commissioned James Wyatt to build him a new residence there. Wyatt designed and built the house in the style of a castle between 1795 and 1805, using locally mined stone. In the 200 years since it was built, the building remains virtually unaltered.[92]

Visiting royalty

The Prince Regent and First Gentleman of Europe, later King George IV visited the castle in 1819 as the guest of Lord Henry Seymour. The king was on the island to make use of his yacht. Lord Seymour's personal habits were said to be those of extreme simplicity and frugality, but he nether-the-less held a banquet for the king which was said to be 'splendid in the extreme and attended with circumstances of unusual conviviality'.[93]

In August 1831, the Duchess of Kent, with her 12-year-old daughter the Heiress Presumptive Princess Victoria, who indeed went on to become the future Queen Victoria, also resided at the castle for quite some time. The young princess was said to have been able to live a life of unaccustomed freedom, walking her dog and riding her pony. She was also said to frequently enjoy country rambles and listening to the stories of the sailors and the coastguardsmen, as she lingered about the shore.[94]

On their arrival to the island, the royals were welcomed with great ceremony in Newport. A huge flag, entirely made of lace, was suspended from the Newport Toll-gate, with the words "Welcome, welcome to our Isle." The flag was made at Broadlands House, the Newport lace factory; and the Broadlands House band was also there playing music amongst the cheering crowds. A grand reception was later held in Newport Town Hall, where the royals were welcomed by the Mayor, Alderman and Chief Burgesses of Newport. Afterwards, they were due to visit the nearby Carisbrooke Castle, but due to rain, they returned to Norris Castle.[95]

The two royals also visited Norris Castle again in 1833.[96] The old copper bath that Queen Victoria used as a child is still there, although for quite some time in the 1970s it was out in the courtyard, being used as a rainwater butt.[97]

Queen Victoria visited the castle yet again in 1843, as a guest of Robert Bell, accompanied by her husband, Prince Albert. The royal couple disembarked, quite unexpectedly, from the Royal Barge captained by Lord Adolphus FitzClarence at the Coastguard Station, East Cowes. They then were shown into a carriage and taken to her 'favourite Norris Castle', where she went straight to her former apartments and joyously told the Prince Consort that "this was my room, and this was mine also".[98]

Not long afterwards, in 1844, Queen Victoria tried to buy the property from the then owner, Robert Bell, who was a newspaper tycoon. However, she baulked at his asking-price and bought the nearby Osborne House estate instead.[99] However, Queen Victoria went on to become a frequent visitor to Norris Castle, particularly after 1880, when it was under the ownership of the Duchess of Bedford, her Mistress of the Robes. She would always delight in remembering her earlier visits as a child. In 1845, Queen Victoria used the castle as lodgings for William II the King of the Netherlands.[100]

In 1881, The Duke and Duchess of Bedford lent Norris Castle to Prince Christian of Schleswig-Holstein, the Danish-born German Prince; and his wife, Princess Helena of the United Kingdom. She was the fifth child of Queen Victoria.[101]

In June 1903, Princess Henry of Battenberg took lunch with Captain and Mrs Orr-Ewing at Norris Castle, before opening the new Frank James Memorial Hospital at East Cowes.[102]

The German Kaiser Wilhelm II and his wife Augusta Victoria of Schleswig-Holstein were also frequent visitors. So much so that Wilhelm had his own bath-cum-shower installed, which still remains today.[103] The German Emperor Frederick III and his wife, the Empress[104] were also frequent guests. The Empress was Queen Victoria's eldest child.

In August 1935, Her Majesty Queen Mary visited Norris Castle, whilst her husband, King George V was 'deriving the maximum pleasure from his favourite sport of racing on the Britannia'. Queen Mary was received by Major and Mrs Birkbeck and shown around the castle. She inspected the rooms previously used by the late Queen Victoria and the ex-Emperor of Germany and was deeply interested by the many improvements that Major Birkbeck had made to the castle. She also walked through the beautiful gardens.[105]

The Great Fire

In 1889, there was a 'great fire' at Norris Castle. The superintendent of the Cowes Fire Brigade said that it was the most serious fire that they had had to contend with for some years. He also said that there was some additional interest and honour lent to the occasion, as royalty were present for some considerable time watching the brigade at work.[106] The bill that was presented by the Fire Brigade for attending the fire was put at £48 18s 6d.[107]

TV Appearances

Norris Castle was used extensively in the filming of Doctor Who and the Sea Devils in October 1971. In those episodes, The Doctor was played by Jon Pertwee, with Katy Manning playing his companion Jo. The episodes featured other Isle of Wight locations as well, including No Mans Land Fort.[108]

The Norris Castle ferries

As part of their fleet of 'Castle' series ferries operating to and from the Isle of Wight, Red Funnel had three ferries named Norris Castle, the latter two being car ferries.

The ML Norris Castle I, was a passenger motor launch, which operated across the River Medina between 1938 and 1939. It was built by the Cowes boatbuilder, Clare Lallow and launched in July 1938. During the Second World War, it was requisitioned by the Admiralty for service in the Mediterranean and never returned. After the war, Red Funnel never resumed the river service.

The MV Norris Castle II, was built in 1942 (acquired 1947) and operated as a car ferry until 1962. She was 180 feet long and displaced 473 tonnes. Norris was originally designed as an LCT 828 landing craft for the D-day Normandy landings. As she could load from both the front and side, she was used on the Southampton to East Cowes service. In 1962, she was sold to a service in the Greek Islands.[109]

The MV Norris Castle III, was built in 1968 and operated as a car ferry until 1994. Mrs Joan Lacon named the ship, owner of the real Norris Castle at the time.[110] During the ship's service, she was converted to a Roll-on/roll-off ferry with mezzanine decks. She was 191 feet long and displaced 734 tonnes. In gale-force winds in 1981, when turning in the River Medina, she was blown on to the Cowes floating bridge, but there was no real damage done to either vessel. On the arrival of MV Red Osprey in 1994, she was sold to Jadrolinija for service in Croatia.[111] she was renamed to Lovrjenac, but was scrapped in 2008.


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  12. ^ House of Commons: Ochil to Oxford University
  13. ^ House of Commons: Tipperary South to Tyrone West
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  23. ^ Shield's Daily Gazette dated 5 August 1897, Page 3
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  27. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 31 December 1904, Page 5
  28. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 5 May 1900, Page 6
  29. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 25 August 1900, Page 5
  30. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 3 January 1903, Page 5
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  32. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 15 March 1902, Page 2
  33. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 3 January 1903, Page 5
  34. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 21 March 1903, Page 8
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  36. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 5 March 1904, Page 5
  37. ^ Bournemouth Daily Echo dated 14 March 1904, Page 3
  38. ^ Hampshire Advertiser dated 2 July 1904, Page 7
  39. ^ Arbroath Herald and Advertiser for the Montrose Burghs dated 23 August 1906, Page 3
  40. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 9 July 1904, Page 4
  41. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 6 August 1904, Page 5
  42. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 3 February 1906, Page 6
  43. ^
  44. ^ Leeds Mercury dated 8 November 1907, Page 4
  45. ^ Irish Times dated 11 November 1907, Page 4
  46. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 3 August 1907, Page 8
  47. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 23 January 1909, Page 4
  48. ^ Norris Castle Heritage Assessment by Ettwein Bridges, Architects
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  50. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 23 January 1909, Page 4
  51. ^ Norris Castle Heritage Assessment by Ettwein Bridges, Architects
  52. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 7 August 1909, Page 7
  53. ^ West Somerset Free Press dated 21 October 1899, Page 5
  54. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 21 July 1900, Page 5
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  56. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 27 February 1897, Page 7
  57. ^ The Era, dated 2 March 1895, Page 11
  58. ^ Western Times dated 10 October 1900, Page 2
  59. ^ Western Times dated 9 April 1902, Page 7
  60. ^ Exeter and Plymouth Gazette dated 28 October 1902, Page 10
  61. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 7 August 1909, Page 7
  62. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 23 October 1909, Page 5
  63. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 23 October 1909, Page 5
  64. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 20 November 1909, Page 8
  65. ^ Birmingham Mail dated 20 July 1914, Page 7
  66. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 25 July 2014, Page 4
  67. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 10 July 1915, Page 5
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  69. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 1 November 1952, Page 6
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  71. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 20 March 1926, Page 9
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  73. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 26 November 1927, Page 10
  74. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 16 April 1932, Page 11
  75. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 17 May 1975, Page 14
  76. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 13 December 1947, Page 5
  77. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 30 July 1955, Page 12
  78. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 24 September 1955, Page 16
  79. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 5 November 1955, Page 7
  80. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 26 May 1956, Page 7
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  82. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 6 April 1963, Page 10
  83. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 17 May 1975, Page 14
  84. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 6 April 1963, Page 10
  85. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 11 March 1961, Page 9
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  87. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 17 May 1975, Page 14
  88. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 17 May 1975, Page 14
  89. ^ a b "Major Digby Colquitt Coventry". The Peerage. Retrieved 20 March 2019.
  90. ^
  91. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 10 February 2017, Page 1
  92. ^ The Norris Castle Estate, document prepared by Spence Willard and Knight Frank, 2016
  93. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 18 February 1939, Page 11
  94. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 26 January 1901, Page 5
  95. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 29 December 1894, Page 3
  96. ^ The Norris Castle Estate, document prepared by Spence Willard and Knight Frank, 2016
  97. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 17 May 1975, Page 14
  98. ^ The Illustrated London News dated 9 September 1943, Page 172
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  100. ^
  101. ^ Western Times dated 18 June 1881
  102. ^ The Hampshire Advertiser, dated 27 June 1903, Page 8
  103. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 17 May 1975, Page 14
  104. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 23 October 1909, Page 5
  105. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 5 August 1935, Page 5
  106. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 4 April 1891, Page 9
  107. ^ Hampshire Telegraph dated 3 August 1889, Page 7
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  109. ^
  110. ^ Isle of Wight County Press dated 4 November 1994, Page 17
  111. ^

External links

Barton Manor

The history of Barton Manor (originally from the Old English, burc-tun; alternates: Burton, Burtone, Berton, Barton) spans over 900 years and was first mentioned in the Domesday Book of 1086. It is a Jacobean manor house in Whippingham, on the Isle of Wight. While it retains two 17th century elevations, other frontages were renovated, as was the interior in the 19th century. Two medieval lancet windows originated at a former Augustinian priory. Barton is the most northerly of all the Island manor houses.

East Cowes

East Cowes is a town and civil parish to the north of the Isle of Wight, on the east bank of the River Medina next to its neighbour on the west bank, Cowes.

The two towns are connected by the Cowes Floating Bridge, a chain ferry operated by the Isle of Wight Council.

East Cowes is the site of Norris Castle, and Osborne House, the former summer residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Prince had a major influence on the architecture of the area, for example on the building of St Mildred's Church in nearby Whippingham, which features distinctive turrets imitating those found on a German castle.

East Cowes Castle

East Cowes Castle, located in East Cowes, was the home of architect John Nash between its completion and his death in 1835. Nash himself was the designer of the site, and began construction as early as 1798. It was completed in 1800 and was said to have been built at unlimited expense. Nash was finally interred in the grounds.

The structure gained renown for its complex castellation, its gothic-style turrets and towers, which were built in the style of the period of Edward VI, and for the notable individuals who came to be Nash's guests there, including the Prince Regent, who went on to become King George IV and J.M.W. Turner, who painted a picture of the location.

On Nash's death, the estate was sold to the Earl of Shannon who added a lodge at the south of the estate. It was then briefly held by the politician, George Tudor, before being acquired by the Viscount Gort family, who held it until 1934.

The castle was requisitioned by the War Office during the Second World War, under whose use the condition of the building suffered greatly; and due to subsequent neglect and deterioration, the castle was finally demolished in 1963. The castle's gatehouse, North Lodge and an original icehouse survive and the castle's clock remains on display at the Carisbrooke Castle Museum.

Over the next thirty years, housing developments were built over the estate. The estate used to cover the area now bordered by Old Road, New Barn Road, York Avenue and Castle Street.Although East Cowes Castle no longer exists, there is an exact copy of the original castle called Lough Cooter Castle, near Gort, County Galway. For the circumstances concerning its creation, see the paragraph below.

Frederick III, German Emperor

Frederick III (German: Friedrich III.; 18 October 1831 – 15 June 1888) was German Emperor and King of Prussia for ninety-nine days in 1888, the Year of the Three Emperors. Known informally as "Fritz", he was the only son of Emperor Wilhelm I and was raised in his family's tradition of military service. Although celebrated as a young man for his leadership and successes during the Second Schleswig, Austro-Prussian and Franco-Prussian wars, he nevertheless professed a hatred of warfare and was praised by friends and enemies alike for his humane conduct. Following the unification of Germany in 1871 his father, then King of Prussia, became the German Emperor. Upon Wilhelm's death at the age of ninety on 9 March 1888, the thrones passed to Frederick, who had by then been German Crown Prince for seventeen years and Crown Prince of Prussia for twenty-seven years. Frederick was suffering from cancer of the larynx when he died, aged fifty-six, following unsuccessful medical treatments for his condition.

Frederick married Victoria, Princess Royal, eldest daughter of Queen Victoria of the United Kingdom. The couple were well-matched; their shared liberal ideology led them to seek greater representation for commoners in the government. Frederick, in spite of his conservative militaristic family background, had developed liberal tendencies as a result of his ties with Britain and his studies at the University of Bonn. As the Crown Prince, he often opposed the conservative Chancellor Otto von Bismarck, particularly in speaking out against Bismarck's policy of uniting Germany through force, and in urging that the power of the Chancellorship be curbed. Liberals in both Germany and Britain hoped that as emperor, Frederick III would move to liberalize the German Empire.

Frederick and Victoria were great admirers of Prince Albert, Queen Victoria's husband. They planned to rule as consorts, like Albert and Queen Victoria, and to reform what they saw as flaws in the executive branch that Bismarck had created for himself. The office of Chancellor, responsible to the Emperor, would be replaced with a British-style cabinet, with ministers responsible to the Reichstag. Government policy would be based on the consensus of the cabinet. Frederick "described the Imperial Constitution as ingeniously contrived chaos." According to Michael Balfour:

The Crown Prince and Princess shared the outlook of the Progressive Party, and Bismarck was haunted by the fear that should the old Emperor die—and he was now in his seventies—they would call on one of the Progressive leaders to become Chancellor. He sought to guard against such a turn by keeping the Crown Prince from a position of any influence and by using foul means as well as fair to make him unpopular.

However, Frederick's illness prevented him from effectively establishing policies and measures to achieve this, and such moves as he was able to make were later abandoned by his son and successor, Wilhelm II. The timing of Frederick's death and the length of his reign are important topics among historians. His premature demise is considered a potential turning point in German history; and whether or not he would have made the Empire more liberal if he had lived longer is still discussed.

Gilbert Sackville, 8th Earl De La Warr

Major Gilbert George Reginald Sackville, 8th Earl De La Warr JP, DL (22 March 1869 – 16 December 1915), styled The Honourable Gilbert Sackville until 1890 and Viscount Cantelupe between 1890 and 1896, was a British landowner, politician and soldier.

Grade I listed buildings on the Isle of Wight

There are over 9,300 Grade I listed buildings in England. This page is a list of these buildings in the county of Isle of Wight.

In the United Kingdom, the term listed building refers to a building or other structure officially designated as being of special architectural, historical, or cultural significance; Grade I structures are those considered to be "buildings of exceptional interest". Listing was begun by a provision in the Town and Country Planning Act 1947. Once listed, strict limitations are imposed on the modifications allowed to a building's structure or fittings. In England, the authority for listing under the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 rests with English Heritage, a non-departmental public body sponsored by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport; local authorities have a responsibility to regulate and enforce the planning regulations.

Hampstead Norris Castle

Hampstead Norris Castle was a Norman castle in the village of Hampstead Norris, Berkshire, England.

Isle of Wight

The Isle of Wight (; also referred to informally as The Island or abbreviated to IoW) is a county and the largest and second-most populous island in England. It is in the English Channel, between 2 and 5 miles off the coast of Hampshire, separated by the Solent. The island has resorts that have been holiday destinations since Victorian times, and is known for its mild climate, coastal scenery, and verdant landscape of fields, downland and chines. The island is designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.

The island has been home to the poets Swinburne and Tennyson and to Queen Victoria, who built her much-loved summer residence and final home Osborne House at East Cowes. It has a maritime and industrial tradition including boat-building, sail-making, the manufacture of flying boats, the hovercraft, and Britain's space rockets. The island hosts annual music festivals including the Isle of Wight Festival, which in 1970 was the largest rock music event ever held. It has well-conserved wildlife and some of the richest cliffs and quarries for dinosaur fossils in Europe.

The isle was owned by a Norman family until 1293 and was earlier a kingdom in its own right. In common with the Crown dependencies, the British Crown was then represented on the island by the Governor of the Isle of Wight until 1995. The island has played an important part in the defence of the ports of Southampton and Portsmouth, and been near the front-line of conflicts through the ages, including the Spanish Armada and the Battle of Britain. Rural for most of its history, its Victorian fashionability and the growing affordability of holidays led to significant urban development during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Historically part of Hampshire, the island became a separate administrative county in 1890. It continued to share the Lord Lieutenant of Hampshire until 1974, when it was made its own ceremonial county. Apart from a shared police force, there is now no administrative link with Hampshire, although a combined local authority with Portsmouth and Southampton was considered, this is now unlikely to proceed.The quickest public transport link to the mainland is the hovercraft from Ryde to Southsea; three vehicle ferry and two catamaran services cross the Solent to Southampton, Lymington and Portsmouth.

Isle of Wight ferry services

There are currently three different ferry companies that operate vessels carrying passengers and, on certain routes, vehicles across the Solent, the stretch of sea that separates the Isle of Wight from mainland England. These are Wightlink, Red Funnel and Hovertravel.

James Wyatt

James Wyatt (3 August 1746 – 4 September 1813) was an English architect, a rival of Robert Adam in the neoclassical style and neo-Gothic style.

List of castles in England

This list of castles in England is not a list of every building and site that has "castle" as part of its name, nor does it list only buildings that conform to a strict definition of a castle as a medieval fortified residence. It is not a list of every castle ever built in England, many of which have vanished without trace, but is primarily a list of buildings and remains that have survived. In almost every case the buildings that survive are either ruined, or have been altered over the centuries. For several reasons, whether a given site is that of a medieval castle has not been taken to be a sufficient criterion for determining whether or not that site should be included in the list.

Castles that have vanished or whose remains are barely visible are not listed, except for some important or well-known buildings and sites. Fortifications from before the medieval period are not listed, nor are architectural follies. In other respects it is difficult to identify clear and consistent boundaries between two sets of buildings, comprising those that indisputably belong in a list of castles and those that do not. The criteria adopted for inclusion in the list include such factors as: how much survives from the medieval period; how strongly fortified the building was; how castle-like the surviving building is; whether the building has been given the title of "castle"; how certain it is that a medieval castle stood on the site, or that the surviving remains are those of a medieval castle; how well-known or interesting the building is; and whether including or excluding a building helps make the list, in some measure, more consistent.

In order to establish a list that is as far as possible comprehensive as well as consistent, it is necessary to establish its boundaries. Before the list itself, a discussion of its scope includes lengthy lists of buildings excluded from the main lists for various reasons. The Castellarium Anglicanum, an authoritative index of castles in England and Wales published in 1983, lists over 1,500 castle sites in England. Many of these castles have vanished or left almost no trace. The present list includes more than 800 medieval castles of which there are visible remains, with over 300 having substantial surviving stone or brick remains.

List of country houses in the United Kingdom

This is intended to be as full a list as possible of country houses, castles, palaces, other stately homes, and manor houses in the United Kingdom and the Channel Islands; any architecturally notable building which has served as a residence for a significant family or a notable figure in history. The list includes smaller castles, abbeys and priories that were converted into a private residence, and also buildings now within urban areas which retain some of their original character, whether now with or without extensive gardens.

List of shipwrecks in January 1842

The list of shipwrecks in January 1842 includes some ships sunk, foundered, grounded, or otherwise lost during January 1842.

Lord Henry Seymour (politician)

Lord Henry Seymour (15 December 1746 – 5 February 1830) was a British politician, the second son of Francis Seymour-Conway, 1st Marquess of Hertford. He was known as Hon. Henry Seymour-Conway until 1793, when his father was created a marquess; he then became Lord Henry Seymour-Conway, but dropped the surname of Conway after his father's death in 1794.

Seymour-Conway was educated at Eton and Hertford College, Oxford, and took his MA from Merton College in 1767. He was first elected to the House of Commons in 1766 as Member for Coventry. He generally, though not always, voted with his uncle and namesake Henry Seymour Conway. After the 1768 election, when he and Andrew Archer defeated a challenge by Walter Waring, he was a consistent supporter of the Grafton and then the North governments.Due to a falling-out between his father, the Earl of Hertford, and the Corporation of Coventry, Seymour-Conway did not stand as a candidate there at the 1774 election. He was instead returned by the North administration at Midhurst, which was a Treasury borough that year. In 1776, he was also returned to the Parliament of Ireland for Antrim County, which he represented until 1783. As his re-election in Midhurst did not appear to be sustainable in the 1780 election, he stood successfully at Downton. In the 1784 election, Seymour-Conway and Robert Shafto faced off against Hon. Edward Bouverie and William Scott, and, a double return being made, the case came before the House of Commons. Seymour-Conway chose not to stand in the ensuing by-election; his brother William took his place and won the by-election. During this period, he was for some time a captain in the Warwickshire Militia, and befriended the poet George Crabbe while quartered at Aldeburgh. On 11 February 1793, he was promoted major.The election of 1784 marked Henry's retirement from politics. In 1790, he and his brother Robert were jointly granted, for life, the sinecures of joint prothonotary, clerk of the crown, filazer, and keeper of the declarations of the King's Bench in Ireland. By 1816, these offices brought an income of more than £10,000 a year (equivalent to £751,875 as of 2018) . He was also craner and wharfinger of the Port of Dublin, a sinecure abolished in 1830.

He spent the rest of his life in the improvement of his estate at Norris Castle, in the Isle of Wight, where he experimented with the use of seaweed as a fertiliser. He had a reputation for both eccentricity and benevolence when he died, unmarried, in 1830. There is a memorial to him in St. Mildred's Church, Whippingham. He left Norris Castle to his youngest brother Lord George Seymour, who sold it to newspaperman Robert Bell in 1839.

MS Sis

Sis is a car / passenger ferry owned and operated by Jadrolinija in Croatia, where she operates between Zadar and the island of Ugljan. The vessel was previously known as Netley Castle when operated by Red Funnel on services to the Isle of Wight in the UK.

Osborne House

Osborne House is a former royal residence in East Cowes, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom. The house was built between 1845 and 1851 for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert as a summer home and rural retreat. Prince Albert designed the house himself in the style of an Italian Renaissance palazzo. The builder was Thomas Cubitt, the London architect and builder whose company built the main facade of Buckingham Palace for the royal couple in 1847. An earlier smaller house on the site was demolished to make way for a new and far larger house, though the original entrance portico survives as the main gateway to the walled garden.

Queen Victoria died at Osborne House in January 1901. Following her death, the house became surplus to royal requirements and was given to the state, with a few rooms being retained as a private museum to Queen Victoria. From 1903 until 1921 it was used as a junior officer training college for the Royal Navy, known as the Royal Naval College, Osborne. In 1998 training programmes consolidated at the Britannia Royal Naval College, now at Dartmouth, thus vacating Osborne House. The House is now open to the public for tours.

Red Funnel

Red Funnel, formally the Southampton Isle of Wight and South of England Royal Mail Steam Packet Company Limited, is a ferry company that carries passengers, vehicles and freight on routes between the English mainland and the Isle of Wight. High-speed foot passenger catamarans, known as Red Jets, run between Southampton and Cowes, while vehicle ferries run between Southampton and East Cowes.

Red Funnel's main competitor is Wightlink whose services operate from Portsmouth to Fishbourne and Ryde, and from Lymington to Yarmouth. The other major Solent ferry company, Hovertravel, operates between Southsea and Ryde. Both provide a frequent service to the Isle of Wight, but neither normally serve Southampton, Cowes or East Cowes.

Spring Hill, East Cowes

Spring Hill, East Cowes is an estate on the Isle of Wight, England, the centre-piece of which is the large landmark manor house of the same name. It was to become the family home of the Shedden family. The estate is ideally placed, having sweeping views over The Solent. It currently occupies 22 acres, although in years gone by, it was much bigger, probably amounting to around 100 acres. However, even today, it still encompasses Spring Hill House, a farmhouse, farm cottage, a gatehouse, one other large residence and around half a dozen fields. From the 1800s, East Cowes contained four prominent estates, with Spring Hill being amongst the first of them to be built. Spring Hill lay between East Cowes Castle and Norris Castle, with Osborne House, the country estate of Queen Victoria, close by.

Spring Hill estate was purchased in 1794 by the wealthy William Goodrich, partner in a Bristol shipping business with his brother-in-law, Robert Shedden. The business traded in tobacco and sugar and at the time, East Cowes was the main customs post for importing tobacco and rice into Great Britain from America, making the Isle of Wight a useful base for him. William Goodrich and his wife, Catherine Cole, moved into Spring Hill in 1794. Their daughter Mary and her husband George Shedden, soon moved to the Isle of Wight as well, living in the nearby Slatwoods estate, in Old Road, East Cowes.

Spring Hill House was rebuilt in 1863, by Goodrich’s grandson, William George Shedden. The house now encompasses 15,380 square feet and has some 30 bedrooms. In 1947, Spring Hill was purchased by the Congregation of Holy Cross, who used it as a convent until 2016, when it was sold to Uavend (East Cowes) LTD, a development company.


Ventnor () is a seaside resort and civil parish established in the Victorian era on the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight, England, eleven miles (18 km) from Newport. It is situated south of St Boniface Down, and built on steep slopes leading down to the sea. The higher part is referred to as Upper Ventnor (officially Lowtherville); the lower part, where most amenities are located, is known as Ventnor. Ventnor is sometimes taken to include the nearby and older settlements of St Lawrence and Bonchurch, which are covered by its town council. The population of the parish in 2016 was about 5,800.

Ventnor became extremely fashionable as both a health and holiday resort in the late 19th century, described as the 'English Mediterranean' and 'Mayfair by the Sea'. Medical advances during the early twentieth century reduced its role as a health resort and, like other British seaside resorts, its summer holiday trade suffered the changing nature of travel during the latter part of that century.

Its relatively sheltered location beneath the hilly chalk downland produces a microclimate with more sunny days and fewer frosts than the rest of the island. This allows many species of subtropical plant to flourish; Ventnor Botanic Garden is particularly notable. Ventnor retains a strongly Victorian character, has an active arts scene, and is regaining popularity as a place to visit.


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