National Gazetteer (1868) - West Cowes


The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland - 1868

WEST COWES, a seaport and market town, in the parish of Northwood, Isle of Wight, in the county of Hants, 4¾ miles N. of Newport, 12 W.S.W. of Portsmouth, and 78 S.W. of London. It is situated on elevated ground, near the mouth of the river Medina. The streets, which were narrow and inconvenient, have been greatly improved of late years; and many of the houses are handsome structures, especially in the upper part of the town, which is the most recently built. It contains, besides numerous hotels and lodging-houses, a townhall, market-house, and banks. The castle, built by Henry VIII., with its crescent shaped battery, stands on the parade near the mouth of the harbour, and is the Royal Yacht Squadron Club-house; and near it is the beautiful terrace, recently completed, the property of Sir Charles Fellows.

Many of these houses are regular marine palace's, elegantly furnished; and, although unoccupied during the winter, are well tenanted in the summer months by the wealthy visitors, who resort here for the use of the baths, and enjoyment of the mild yet invigorating climate of this most lovely of all watering places. There are two sets of baths, one near the castle, the other in High-street. This town being the chief port of the island, and the point of communication with the mainland by way of Southampton, necessarily enjoys a brisk trade, and has belonging to it about 180 vessels, a third of which are above 50 tons burthen. Steamboats run to Lymington, Portsmouth, Ryde, Yarmouth, and Southampton. Ship-building has long been carried on, and Messrs.

Ratsey and Hansen have turned out some of the prettiest quick-sailing craft yet constructed. Of this the yachts made for the Royal Yacht Squadron are examples. This club annually meets in the month of August at the anchorage in Cowes Roads, in 10 fathoms water, to hold their regatta. Vessels of large burthen are also built at Messrs. White's building yards, which consist of two docks of the respective lengths of 330 and 140 feet, with five slipways, capable of hauling up ships of 1,000 tons burthen. One of the vessels built here was the fast and powerful steamer Tectis, of 1,000 tons, for the Peninsula and Oriental Company, and the royal mail steamer Medina of 1,400 tons.

There are besides two brass and iron foundries, an extensive ropery, and two sail-making establishments. To Mr. Ratsey is due the credit of having introduced the manufacture of wire-rope. The harbour affords ample quay accommodation for discharging and loading ships of almost any burthen in perfect security. The steamboat pier was built by G. H. Ward, Esq., late resident-at Northwood Park. The Medina commercial wharf, situated in the Medina Road, has ample storehouses and bonding warehouses along its banks for general merchandise. The town of West Cowes, being not incorporated, is under the district magistrates, but its sanitary and local concerns are regulated by a board of health, constituted under the Health of Towns Act. Gas was introduced in 1845, and a good supply of water is furnished to the houses by a company formed in 1847.

There are two churches in the town. The living of West Cowes is a perpetual curacy in the diocese of Winchester, value £156, in the patronage of the Vicar of Carisbrooke. The living of Holy Trinity is also a perpetual curacy, value £85, in the patronage of Mrs. Goodwin, who erected the handsome new church in 1832, at her sole expense. The Roman Catholic chapel is a large brick building, erected in 1796. The Independents, Bible Christians, Primitive, Wesleyan, and Reformed Methodists, have each a place of worship. There is a British school for boys on Shooter's Hill, and a National school for boys and girls in York-street. In the vicinity is West Cowes House, West Hill, Northwood House, Dedburn Lodge, and Egypt House. Saturday is market day. A fair for pedlery and toys is held in Whitsun week.

[Description(s) from The National Gazetteer of Great Britain and Ireland (1868) - Transcribed by Colin Hinson ©2003]