Parishes: Northwood

A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5. Originally published by Victoria County History, London, 1912.

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, 'Parishes: Northwood', in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912) pp. 268-271. British History Online [accessed 20 May 2024].

. "Parishes: Northwood", in A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912) 268-271. British History Online, accessed May 20, 2024,

. "Parishes: Northwood", A History of the County of Hampshire: Volume 5, (London, 1912). 268-271. British History Online. Web. 20 May 2024,

In this section


Northewode (xiii cent.).

Northwood is a parish and village midway between Newport and Cowes, and now includes Pallance Gate. In 1894 the parish was extended to include a part of the parish of St. Nicholas. (fn. 1) The soil is for the most part loam, while the subsoil is of clay and gravel. The parish contains 4,333 acres, of which 878 acres are arable, 2,612 acres are permanent grass and 419 acres woodlands. There are also 292 acres of foreshore, 2 of land covered by water and 78 by tidal water. Cowes contains 576 acres, of which 2 acres are arable and 166 permanent grass. There are also 35 acres of foreshore and 5 acres of land covered by water. (fn. 2) There is a station on the Isle of Wight Central railway at the cement works, available for Northwood, and the pumping station of the Cowes Waterworks is situated at Broadfields within the parish. The Associated Portland Cement Manufacturers have large works on the Medina at the West Medina Mills, and there are brickworks at Hillis belonging to Messrs. Pritchett. There existed a confraternity of Brothers and Sisters of St. John Baptist (fn. 3) in a building, later called the Church House, which was standing in 1690. It was founded c. 1500 and dissolved in 1536. An old glebe barn, with a date stone 'Restored 1742,' was pulled down in 1901. There is a Council school (mixed), built in 1855 and enlarged in 1906. The rectory-house lies to the east of the church and dates from the 18th century. (fn. 4)

The parish has a long seaboard as the north-west boundary, which includes the bays of Thorness and Gurnard, the latter the landing-place of Charles II in 1671. Gurnard (fn. 5) is a small village, mostly consisting of villas with a number of artisans' dwellings. There are a coastguard station here and a Council school, erected in 1863.

Northwood Park, the property of Mr. E. Granville Ward, was occupied from 1902 to 1906 by a community of Benedictine nuns, who have since moved to Appley, near Ryde (q.v.). The house, which is properly in Cowes, was built in 1837, on the site of a former residence called Belle View, by Mr. George H. Ward, uncle to the present owner, and is a somewhat stately stone building of classic detail, to which a wing has been since added.

At Hurstake on the Medina there was in the 18th century a flourishing shipyard, but by the end of the century it had fallen to decay. (fn. 6)

Cowes was taken out of Northwood and constituted a separate parish under the Local Government Act of 1894. (fn. 7) It is a thriving seaport town, daily increasing inland to the south, and is a terminus of the Isle of Wight Central railway and the main entrance to the Isle of Wight from Southampton. A steam ferry and launch service connect it with East Cowes. The town affairs are regulated under the Local Government Act of 1894 by an urban district council, who have acquired control of the water supply and gasworks. There is a steamboat pier and landingstage, and the Victoria Promenade Pier was built by the urban district council in 1901. There are wharves and storehouses along the Medina. The principal industries are the shipbuilding business of John Samuel White & Co., Ltd., the brass and iron foundry of Messrs. William White, the ropery of Messrs. Henry Bannister & Co. and the well-known sail-making establishment of Messrs. Ratsey & Lapthorn. A recreation ground of 9 acres was presented to the town by Mr. W. G. Ward in 1859.

The main or High Street of Cowes is a narrow, winding, old-fashioned road, widening as it approaches the shore at the north end, and finally terminating in the Parade, the principal sea-front of the town. At the end of the Parade is the Royal Yacht Squadron (fn. 8) Club House, converted to its present use in 1858, and beyond is the 'Green,' made over to the town authorities in 1864 by Mr. George R. Stephenson. The well-known annual regatta is held here the first week in August. (fn. 9) The oldest inn is the 'Fountain,' by the landing-pier, dating from the 18th century. The Gloucester Hotel, by the Parade, was the former home of the Royal Yacht Squadron, and probably owes its name to the visit of the Duke of Gloucester and his sister the Princess Sophia in 1811. The Royal Marine Hotel, also on the Parade, was certainly in existence at the beginning of the 19th century. (fn. 10) A public cemetery, about half a mile south of the town, was opened in 1855, and is under a joint burial board composed of members from Cowes and Northwood.

Besides Northwood Park, the principal residences are Egypt House, (fn. 11) the property of Mr. E. Granville Ward, and Nubia House, the home of Sir Godfrey Baring, late M.P. for the Island.

The name Cowes dates from the beginning of the 16th century, before which time the port—if port it could be called—was higher up the river at Shamblers. (fn. 12) In 1512 the fleet under Sir Edward Haward victualled at Cowes (the Cowe) on its way to Guienne, (fn. 13) so it is evident the place did not take its name from the defensive work, which was certainly not built before 1539. (fn. 14) Leland speaks of forts both at East and West Cowes, (fn. 15) but the former had become a ruin by the 17th century. (fn. 16) The latter, however, was kept up and added to, and had, in addition to the gun platform and magazine, apartments for the captain and gunners, and at the end of the 18th century mounted eleven nine-pounders. (fn. 17)

The inhabitants of this part of Northwood parish seem to have been seafarers and traders, or at any rate smugglers, as early as the 14th century. In July 1395 Thomas Shepherd received a 'pardon of the forfeitures and imprisonment incurred by him because he and two of the ferrymen sold two sacks of wool to men of a skiff from Harflete, carried the said wool as far as le Soland and there delivered the same, taking money.' (fn. 18) At another time he 'sold wool without custom . . . with the clerks of the chapel of the Earl of Salisbury, and at another time with a skiff from Harflete belonging to Janin Boset of Harflue.' (fn. 19)

The merchants' houses and stores were principally at East Cowes, where most of the business was transacted; but West Cowes in the 18th century became a shipbuilding centre, contributing many first-class battleships to the English navy. (fn. 20) By the year 1780 it was 'the place of greatest consideration in the parish of Northwood,' (fn. 21) and though the town was indifferently built, with very narrow streets, the inhabitants managed to be 'in general, genteel and polite although not troublesomely ceremonious.' (fn. 22)

In 1795 there were 2,000 inhabitants and the town had a good trade in provisions to the fleets riding in the roads waiting for a wind or a convoy. While the lower part of Cowes was crowded with seamen's cottages and business premises, the upper part on the hill slope was occupied by villas, chiefly of retired naval men. (fn. 23)

By the 19th century the tide of prosperity began to flow from East to West Cowe, which became a favourite bathing and boating resort, patronized by Royalty. The town now grew rapidly, and in 1816 an Act was passed for 'lighting, cleansing and otherwise improving the town of West Cowes . . . and for establishing a market within the said town.' (fn. 24)

The advent of the Royal Yacht Squadron, and the consequent popularity of racing, put a seal on West Cowes. It became fashionable and has remained so ever since—the hub of the yachting world.

There are two halls for entertainments—the Foresters' Hall in Sun Hill and another in Bridge Road, each capable of seating over 500 people.

There are Council schools in Cross Street (infants), and a mixed school has been lately erected in the same street; boys' and infants' in York Street; non-provided (boys and girls) in Cross Street.


There is no mention of a manor of NORTHWOOD in Domesday Book, and it seems probable that then, as in the 13th century, the greater part of the land in the parish formed a member of the manor of Bowcombe in Carisbrooke (fn. 25) (q.v.). In the 17th century this land came to be regarded as a separate manor, but it continued to follow the descent of Bowcombe (fn. 26) until the latter half of the 18th century, when it was presumably sold to the Wards, whose representative, Mr. Edmund Granville Ward, is the present lord of the manor.

There was a small holding in Northwood possibly, as Mr. Stone suggests from research he has made, to be identified with Shamlord (q.v.). It was held, together with other property, under the manor of Bowcombe by a branch of the Trenchard family at least as early as 1338. (fn. 27) In 1560 Richard Trenchard, who seems to have been the grandson of John Trenchard of Chessell in Shalfleet, died seised of this property, which he had held 'in socage by fealty and rent of 25s. yearly, suit at court and finding one man and one woman yearly to mow the corn of the farmer of Bowcombe for one day.' He was succeeded by his son William. (fn. 28)

There were also lands in Northwood which formed a member of the manor of Alvington in Carisbrooke and were held in the reign of Henry III by William de St. Martin. (fn. 29) They afterwards belonged to Sir Stephen Popham (fn. 30) and descended to Sir Nicholas Wadham in the early part of the 16th century, at which time they were regarded as a separate manor; they continued, however, to follow the descent of Alvington (q.v.).

In the reign of Henry VIII there was in the parish much woodland which belonged before the Dissolution to the Prior and convent of Christchurch Twyneham, (fn. 31) who had perhaps bought it from the abbey of St. Mary, Romsey, to which it belonged in the 13th century. (fn. 32) In 1280 this abbey had received from Edward I a confirmation of a charter of Henry II granting them 'all their wood of Northwood, as King Edward gave it to them.' (fn. 33) There is, however, no mention of any property in Northwood among the possessions of Romsey Abbey at its dissolution. In 1544 the wood was granted to Thomas Hopson (fn. 34) and subsequently followed the descent of Ningwood in Shalfleet (q.v.). It was described as 'the manor of Northwood' in 1626, at which time it was in the possession of John Hopson. (fn. 35)

The manor of WERROR (Werore, xii cent.; Werole, xiii cent.; Warror, xvi cent.) was granted to God's House, Southampton, immediately after its foundation about 1197, for it was confirmed to the hospital by Richard I in 1199. (fn. 36) It had been given to the hospital by a certain Mark, and his gift was confirmed in 1209 by his son Roger, of whom the manor was to be held at a yearly rent of 6d. (fn. 37) William de Redvers Earl of Devon (1184–1216) granted to the hospital rights of pasturage and fuel, except for six weeks each year, over the whole land of Werror which belonged to his fee, and which is described as lying within Parkhurst, Northwood, Carisbrooke and the Medina. (fn. 38)

The estate remained in the hands of successive priors until the Dissolution (fn. 39) and passed with God's House to Queen's College, Oxford, (fn. 40) by whom the manor is still owned. (fn. 41)


The church of ST. JOHN THE BAPTIST lies to the east of the road from Newport to Cowes. It was built as a chapel for the northern portion of the parish of Carisbrooke in the middle of the 12th century, and consists of a chancel, a nave with north and south aisles and a modern tower with spire added at the west end in 1864. The south door is a good specimen of 12th-century work, to be classed with those of Yaverland and Wootton. Both aisles are very narrow and are of four bays, with columns having the characteristic splay-cornered capitals found elsewhere in the Isle of Wight, (fn. 42) and must have been added towards the end of the century, the south being the later. (fn. 43) There are curious flying arches across these, evidently inserted later, to withstand the thrust of the roof and carry the flat above. In the 15th century windows of the period were inserted in the walls and the chancel reroofed, (fn. 44) if not rebuilt, and a small door inserted in the north wall of the nave. There is a good canopied Jacobean pulpit, somewhat similar in detail to that at Wootton. The chancel arch is a plain splay springing direct from the wall without an impost, and looks as though the earlier one had been destroyed and the opening widened in the 15th century. The memorials of interest are a painted wooden tablet to the children of Samuel and Grace Smith, who died in 1668 and 1670, and a curious memorial to Thomas Smith, rector, who died in 1681. (fn. 45)

The one bell, founded by Mears, was hung in 1875.

The plate consists of a chalice inscribed 'T.H. E.L.'; a paten inscribed 'Thomas Troughear, D.D. istius Ecclĩae Rector,' dated 1732; a flagon (plated) inscribed 'Northwood Church, 1831'; an oval paten inscribed '1813.'

The registers date from 1539, and are in seven books (fn. 46) : (i) 1539 to 1593; (ii) 1594 to 1598; (iii) 1599 to 1605; (iv) 1606 to 1618; (v) 1621 to 1660; (vi) 1653 to 1759; (vii) 1743 to 1812.

There is a mission church in Pallance Road with a Sunday school attached.

The church of ST. MARY, WEST COWES, built in 1867 on the site of an earlier church erected in 1657, is a stone structure consisting of chancel, nave of four bays and aisles, with a tower containing one bell and a clock. It has a handsome reredos and a fine organ. There is a brass memorial tablet to Dr. Arnold of Rugby. The living is a vicarage in the gift of the vicar of Carisbrooke. The register dates from 1679.


HOLY TRINITY CHURCH, built of brick in 1832 at the sole expense of the late Mrs. S. Goodwin, was enlarged by the addition of a chancel in 1862. It has a western tower with embattled cornice and angle pinnacles. The register dates from 1833. The living is in the gift of Mr. Ll. Loyd.

The Roman Catholic church of St. Thomas of Canterbury in Terminus Road is a white brick building erected in 1796. There is a large altar-piece by Cau representing the Descent from the Cross, and another of the Death of the Virgin, on the north wall.

At Gurnard is the church of ALL SAINTS, attached to Holy Trinity, Cowes. It is of brick with Bath stone dressings, and has nave, chancel, north and south transepts and a turret with one bell.


The church of Northwood was a chapel of ease to Carisbrooke, and belonged in early times to the priory there, (fn. 47) to which it had been granted by William de Redvers Earl of Devon. When the prior and convent obtained the rectory and endowed the vicarage of Carisbrooke, the tithes of Northwood, both great and small, were assigned to the vicar. (fn. 48) In the reign of Henry VIII Northwood obtained parochial privileges and was exempted from contribution to the repairs of Carisbrooke Church. (fn. 49) The living is still attached to Carisbrooke, and the patrons at the present day are the Provost and Fellows of Queen's College, Oxford.

Cowes is ecclesiastically divided into two districts. The church of St. Mary was built in 1657, and further endowed in 1679 by George Morley Bishop of Winchester, 'provided that the inhabitants should pay the minister (who is always of their own choosing) £40 a year.' (fn. 50) The living is a vicarage, net yearly value £130, in the gift of the vicar of Carisbrooke.

The Roman Catholic church of St. Thomas of Canterbury was served at the beginning of the 19th century by two chaplains of Napoleon's Foreign Legion. The earliest register contains the names of several of the officers and men.

There are several large Nonconformist chapels in the town. The oldest of these is the Congregational chapel, which was built in 1804. The Wesleyan chapel was built in 1831, the Baptist chapel in 1877 and the Primitive Methodist and United Methodist Free Churches in 1889.



In 1688 John Mann by his will devised a fee-farm rent of £20 15s. 4d. out of the Grange of Lazenby, Yorkshire, to be applied in the first place in maintenance, education and setting up of poor orphan children of West Cowes, then to other children of Northwood, and then to poor, ancient, lame and impotent people of the parish. In 1909 two apprenticeship premiums of £4 each were paid, and the remainder in sums of £2 or £1 to seven poor.

In 1699 Richard Smith, by his will proved 15 March, charged his lands at Northwood with £2 a year for the poor, also with £10 a year for apprenticing poor children. The annuities are duly received, the £2 being applied in tickets for provisions and the £10 in apprenticeship premiums of £4 each.

In 1831 James Hoskins left a legacy, now represented by £485 19s. 3d. consols, with the official trustees for the benefit of destitute and decrepit men and women not in receipt of parochial relief. The annual dividends, amounting to £12 3s., are applied in the distribution of provision tickets to about sixty poor.

West Cowes.

In 1725 Thomas Cole by his will bequeathed £50, now represented by £46 11s. India 3 per cent. stock, the annual income, amounting to £1 7s. 8d., to be applied for the benefit of poor children of West Cowes, usually given in boots.

In 1887 Mrs. Harriet Beckford, by a codicil to her will proved at London 19 January, bequeathed £1,000, the income thereof to be applied in repairs of St. Mary's Church. The legacy was invested in £982 16s. consols, producing £24 11s. 4d. yearly.

The Market Hill almshouses for the accommodation of twelve poor women were founded by the Rev. Thomas Binstead Macnamara and endowed by his will, proved at London 1 February 1910, with £3,500, the annual income to be applied as to £75 in quarterly payments to the inmates and the residue in the upkeep of the almshouses. The legacy has been invested in the following securities—namely, £1,487 4s. 6d. India 3½ per cent. stock, £993 13s. 10d. Metropolitan 3½ per cent. stock, £993 13s. 10d. Birmingham Corporation 3½ per cent. stock, and £126 0s. 2d. consols, producing in the aggregate £124 15s. 2d. annually.

The several sums of stock above mentioned are held by the official trustees.


  • 1. Census of Engl. and Wales, 1901, Hants, 37.
  • 2. Statistics from Bd. of Agric. (1905).
  • 3. Worsley quotes a conveyance of land to the Stewards of the Fraternity by John Wynyatt, 1512 (Hist. of Isle of Wight, 182).
  • 4. On a brick in the south-east angle is cut H T 1736. Dr. Troughear was rector 1722–61 and lived at Northwood.
  • 5. Gurnard was held in the 13th century by Henry de Stella (Testa de Nevill [Rec. Com], 241).
  • 6. J. Albin, Hist. of Isle of Wight (1795), 587.
  • 7. Census of Engl. and Wales, 1901, Hants, 37.
  • 8. Founded 1 June 1815 at the Thatched House, St. James' Street, and two meetings were held annually, one in the spring at the Thatched House, the other at the Medina Hotel, East Cowes. In 1825 the club acquired a house in West Cowes—now the Gloucester Hotel—and in 1857 bought the old castle.
  • 9. Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Royal Yacht Squadron; Friday, Saturday, Town Regatta.
  • 10. Bullar's Guide of 1824 refers to it.
  • 11. Was in the 18th century the residence of a Mr. Collins, who kept an 'elegant yacht' (Albin, loc. cit.).
  • 12. In the 14th century the three ports of the Island were Ryde (la Riche), Shamblers (Shamlord) and Yarmouth (Ermue) (Worsley, Hist. of Isle of Wight, 31). Shamblers was only just above the present steam ferry to East Cowes, and a wood to the south is still called Shamblers Copse.
  • 13. L. and P. Hen. VIII, i, 3118.
  • 14. William Earl of Southampton writes to Lord Cromwell in 1539 that Calshot is approaching completion and that 'the work at the Cowe in the Isle' is progressing, but that both would require another 1,000 marks to complete (L. and P. Hen. VIII, xiv [2], 152).
  • 15. Leland, Itinerary (ed. Hearne), iii, 95.
  • 16. Camden, Brit. (ed. Gough), i, 123; Oglander MSS.
  • 17. Albin, op. cit. 116. A plan of it in the 18th century is given in Stone's Archit. Antiq. of Isle of Wight, ii, pl. cxxix.
  • 18. Cal. Pat. 1391–6, p. 601.
  • 19. Ibid.
  • 20. 'Cowes, Sept. 5, 1758, Was launch'd a new Frigate called the Cypress of 28 guns to be commanded by Captain Webber' (ex old Newsletter). 'Cowes, Nov. 3, 1780. On Tuesday the 28th of this month will be launched at this port his Majesty's ship Repulse of 64 guns allowed to be an exceeding fine model' (ibid.). Besides these the Cowes yard contributed to the Royal Navy Vanguard (70 guns), Veteran (64), Salisbury (60), Experiment (45), Astrea and Cerberus (32).
  • 21. Wotsley, op. cit. 232.
  • 22. Hassall, Tour of the Isle of Wight, i, 127.
  • 23. Albin, op. cit. 583.
  • 24. Local Act, 56 Geo. III, cap. 25.
  • 25. Chan. Inq. p.m. file 29, no. 2.
  • 26. Feud. Aids, ii, 322; Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 202, no. 4, 6; Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cxxxi, no. 182; Pat. 1 Chas. I, pt. ii, no. 10; Close, 1652, pt. xxxii; 2 Geo. II, pt. vii, no. 10. In 1814 Lord St. Leonards gave opinion that Northwood was not a separate manor but parcel of Bowcombe. Ex inform. Mr. Percy G. Stone.
  • 27. Ct. R. (Gen. Ser.), portf. 202, no. 4.
  • 28. Chan. Inq. p.m. (Ser. 2), cxxxi, no. 182.
  • 29. Testa de Nevill (Rec. Com.), 241.
  • 30. Feud. Aids, ii, 367.
  • 31. L. and P. Hen. VIII, xix (1), g. 278 (70).
  • 32. Cal. Pat. 1272–81, p. 357.
  • 33. Ibid.
  • 34. L. and P. Hen. VIII, loc. cit.
  • 35. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. iv, App. i, 6.
  • 36. Ibid. 452.
  • 37. Ibid.
  • 38. Ibid. 454.
  • 39. Ibid. vi, App. 1, 551–69; V.C.H. Hants, ii, 205. The tapers in the chapel of God's House were made of wax from the beehives of Werror and Cosham. Robert the priest and John Fleming went to the Island to hold the courts of the manor in 1298–9 and the former became bailiff and lived at Werror in 1312. Ex inform. Mr. Percy G. Stone from documents examined by him.
  • 40. Hist. MSS. Com. Rep. vi, App. i, 551–69.
  • 41. Inform. from the Provost of Queen's Coll., Oxford.
  • 42. At Arreton and Freshwater.
  • 43. The north arcade has arches with a single splay, while those to the south arcade have double-splayed voussoirs and a rough double-splayed label over. The north arcade columns too have high bases.
  • 44. The line of the earlier roof is visible on the exterior of the east wall of the nave.
  • 45. The former having a border decorated with the symbols of death, the latter being cut out of one piece of chalk and carved with hieroglyphic characters.
  • 46. Thos. Sparkes, the curate in charge in 1640, had a sort of Commonplace Book in which he entered such things as how to tell the coming seasons from oakapples, &c., which is very quaint reading. Samuel Smith, incumbent 1655–89, gives an account of the visit of Charles II to Sir Robert Holmes, the governor, at his house at Yarmouth and the knighting of William Stephens of Bowcombe. John Scott, his successor, gives an account of a naval engagement fought off the Needles and the final victory of Sir Cloudesley Shovel. Dr. Troughear, on his induction in 1722, mentions he found both Carisbrooke and Northwood Churches 'in worse repair than I can express,' and refers to a native of Newport, John Pedder, who was touched for evil by Charles I and wore a gold piece round his neck.
  • 47. Dugdale, Mon. Angl. vi, 1041; Chan. Misc. Inq. file 153, no. 71.
  • 48. Worsley, op. cit. 232.
  • 49. Ibid.
  • 50. Ibid.