Isle of Wight

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Isle of Wight
An image of the Isle of Wight from the ISS [1]
Isle of Wight UK locator map 2010.svg
Coordinates: 50°40′N1°16′W / 50.667°N 1.267°W / 50.667; -1.267
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Constituent country England
Region South East
Time zone UTC±00:00 (Greenwich Mean Time)
  Summer (DST) UTC+01:00 (British Summer Time)
Member of Parliament Bob Seely
Police Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary
Ceremonial county
Lord Lieutenant Susan Sheldon [2]
High Sheriff Caroline Peel [3] (2020/21)
Area384 km2 (148 sq mi)
  Ranked 46th of 48
Population (2021)141,538
  Ranked 46th of 48
Density372/km2 (960/sq mi)
Ethnicity97.3% White, 1.1% Asian, 0.2% Black, 0.1% Other, 1.2% Mixed [4]

Socio-economic data

The table below shows the regional gross value (in millions of pounds) added by the Isle of Wight economy, at current prices, compiled by the Office for National Statistics. [106] [107]

Regional gross value in millions of pounds sterling
YearRegional gross
value added [lower-roman 1]
Agriculture [lower-roman 2] Industry [lower-roman 3] Services [lower-roman 4]
  1. Components may not sum to totals due to rounding
  2. includes hunting and forestry
  3. includes energy and construction
  4. includes financial intermediation services indirectly measured

According to the 2011 census, [108] the island's population of 138,625 lives in 61,085 households, giving an average household size of 2.27 people.

41% of households own their home outright and a further 29% own with a mortgage, so in total 70% of households are owned (compared to 68% for South East England).

Compared to South East England, the island has fewer children (19% aged 0–17 compared to 22% for the South East) and more elderly (24% aged 65+ compared to 16% for the South East), giving an average age of 44 years for an island resident compared to 40 in South East England.

Industry and agriculture

Fields on the island with the coast of Great Britain in the background Newpark Farm Isle of Wight - - 70847.jpg
Fields on the island with the coast of Great Britain in the background

The largest industry on the island is tourism, but it also has a significant agriculture including sheep, dairy farming and arable crops. Traditional agricultural commodities are more difficult to market off the island because of transport costs, but local farmers have succeeded in exploiting some specialist markets, with the higher price of such products absorbing the transport costs. One of the most successful agricultural sectors is now the growing of crops under cover, particularly salad crops including tomatoes and cucumbers. The island has a warmer climate and a longer growing season than much of the United Kingdom. Garlic has been grown in Newchurch for many years, and is, in part, exported to France. This has led to the establishment of an annual Garlic Festival at Newchurch, which is one of the largest events of the local calendar.

A favourable climate supports two vineyards, including one of the oldest in the British Isles at Adgestone. [109] Lavender is grown for its oil. [110] The largest agricultural sector has been dairying, but due to low milk prices and strict legislation for UK milk producers, the dairy industry has been in decline: there were nearly 150 producers in the mid-1980s, but now just 24.[ when? ]

Maritime industries, especially the making of sailcloth and boat building, have long been associated with the island, although this has diminished in recent years. GKN operates what began as the British Hovercraft Corporation, a subsidiary of (and known latterly as) Westland Aircraft, although they have reduced the extent of plant and workforce and sold the main site. Previously it had been the independent company Saunders-Roe, one of the island's most notable historic firms that produced many flying boats and the world's first hovercraft. [111]

Another manufacturing activity is in composite materials, used by boat-builders and the wind turbine manufacturer Vestas, which has a wind turbine blade factory and testing facilities in West Medina Mills and East Cowes. [112]

Bembridge Airfield is the home of Britten-Norman, manufacturers of the Islander and Trislander aircraft. This is shortly[ when? ] to become the site of the European assembly line for Cirrus light aircraft. The Norman Aeroplane Company is a smaller aircraft manufacturing company operating in Sandown. There have been three other firms that built planes on the island. [113]

In 2005, Northern Petroleum began exploratory drilling for oil at its Sandhills-2 borehole at Porchfield, but ceased operations in October that year after failing to find significant reserves. [114]


There are three breweries on the island. Goddards Brewery in Ryde opened in 1993. [115] David Yates, who was head brewer of the Island Brewery, started brewing as Yates Brewery at the Inn at St Lawrence in 2000. [116] Ventnor Brewery, which closed in 2009, was the last incarnation of Burt's Brewery, brewing since the 1840s in Ventnor. [117] Until the 1960s most pubs were owned by Mews Brewery, situated in Newport near the old railway station, but it closed and the pubs were taken over by Strong's, and then by Whitbread. By some accounts Mews beer was apt to be rather cloudy and dark. In the 19th century they pioneered the use of screw top cans for export to British India. [118]


Tourism and heritage

The island's heritage is a major asset that has for many years supported its tourist economy. Holidays focused on natural heritage, including wildlife and geology, are becoming an alternative to the traditional British seaside holiday, which went into decline in the second half of the 20th century due to the increased affordability of foreign holidays. [119] The island is still an important destination for coach tours from other parts of the United Kingdom.

Compton Chine, looking east towards Blackgang Isle of Wight.jpg
Compton Chine, looking east towards Blackgang

Tourism is still the largest industry, and most island towns and villages offer hotels, hostels and camping sites. In 1999, it hosted 2.7 million visitors, with 1.5 million staying overnight, and 1.2 million day visits; only 150,000 of these were from abroad. Between 1993 and 2000, visits increased at an average rate of 3% per year. [120]

At the turn of the 19th century the island had ten pleasure piers, including two at Ryde and a "chain pier" at Seaview. The Victoria Pier in Cowes succeeded the earlier Royal Pier but was itself removed in 1960. The piers at Ryde, Seaview, Sandown, Shanklin and Ventnor originally served a coastal steamer service that operated from Southsea on the mainland. The piers at Seaview, Shanklin, Ventnor and Alum Bay were all destroyed by various storms during the 20th century; only the railway pier at Ryde and the piers at Sandown, Totland Bay (currently closed to the public) and Yarmouth survive.

Blackgang Chine is the oldest theme park in Britain, opened in 1843. [121] The skeleton of a dead whale that its founder Alexander Dabell found in 1844 is still on display. [122]

As well as its more traditional attractions, the island is often host to walking [123] or cycling holidays through the attractive scenery. An annual walking festival [124] has attracted considerable interest. The 70 miles (113 km) Isle of Wight Coastal Path follows the coastline as far as possible, deviating onto roads where the route along the coast is impassable. [125]

The tourist board for the island is Visit Isle of Wight, a non-profit company. It is the Destination Management Organisation for the Isle of Wight, a public and private sector partnership led by the private sector, and consists of over 1,200 companies, including the ferry operators, the local bus company, rail operator and tourism providers working together to collectively promote the island. Its income is derived from the Wight BID, a business improvement district levy fund.

A major contributor to the local economy is sailing and marine-related tourism. [126]

Summer Camp at Camp Beaumont is an attraction at the old Bembridge School site. [127]


The main local newspaper used to be the Isle of Wight County Press , but its circulation has declined over the years, especially since it was taken over by Newsquest in July 2017. In 2018 a new free newspaper was launched, the Isle of Wight Observer . By 2023 the newcomer was distributing 18,500 copies compared to the Isle of Wight County Press's total circulation of 11,575]. [128]

On-line news websites include Island Echo, [129] launched in May 2012, and On the Wight. [130]

The island has a local commercial radio station and a community radio station: commercial station Isle of Wight Radio has broadcast in the medium-wave band since 1990 and on 107.0 MHz (with three smaller transmitters on 102.0 MHz) FM since 1998, as well as streaming on the Internet. [131] Community station Vectis Radio has broadcast online since 2010, and in 2017 started broadcasting on FM 104.6. The station operates from the Riverside Centre in Newport. [132] The island is also covered by a number of local stations on the mainland, including the BBC station BBC Radio Solent broadcast from Southampton. The island's not-for-profit community radio station Angel Radio opened in 2007. Angel Radio began broadcasting on 91.5 MHz from studios in Cowes and a transmitter near Newport. [133] [134]

Important broadcasting infrastructure includes Chillerton Down transmitting station with a mast that is the tallest structure on the island, and Rowridge transmitting station, which broadcasts the main television signal both locally and for most of Hampshire and parts of Dorset and West Sussex. [135]


Language and dialect

Henry Bates Joel's 1895 artwork 'Bonchurch, near Ventnor, Isle of Wight' is a depiction of rural life on the island. It is exhibited in the Milntown Estate. Bonchurch, near Ventnor, Isle of Wight.jpg
Henry Bates Joel's 1895 artwork 'Bonchurch, near Ventnor, Isle of Wight' is a depiction of rural life on the island. It is exhibited in the Milntown Estate.

The local accent is similar to the traditional dialect of Hampshire, featuring the dropping of some consonants and an emphasis on longer vowels. It is similar to the West Country dialects heard in South West England, but less pronounced. [136] [137]

The island has its own local and regional words. Some, such as nipper/nips (a young male person), are still sometimes used and shared with neighbouring areas of the mainland. A few are unique to the island, for example overner and caulkhead (see below). Others are more obscure and now used mainly for comic emphasis, such as mallishag (meaning "caterpillar"), gurt meaning "large", nammit (a mid-morning snack) and gallybagger ("scarecrow", and now the name of a local cheese). [138]


There remains occasional confusion between the Isle of Wight as a county and its former position within Hampshire. [139] The island was regarded and administered as a part of Hampshire until 1890, when its distinct identity was recognised with the formation of Isle of Wight County Council (see also Politics of the Isle of Wight ). However, it remained a part of Hampshire until the local government reforms of 1974, when it became a full ceremonial county with its own Lord Lieutenant. [140]

The flag of the Isle of Wight Flag of the Isle of Wight.svg
The flag of the Isle of Wight

In January 2009, the first general flag for the county was accepted by the Flag Institute. [141]

Island residents are sometimes referred to as "Vectensians", "Vectians" or, if born on the island, "caulkheads". [142] One theory is that this last comes from the once prevalent local industry of caulking or sealing wooden boats; the term became attached to islanders either because they were so employed, or as a derisory term for perceived unintelligent labourers from elsewhere. The term "overner" is used for island residents originating from the mainland (an abbreviated form of "overlander", which is an archaic term for "outsider" still found in parts of Australia). [143]

Residents refer to the island as "The Island", as did Jane Austen in Mansfield Park , and sometimes to the UK mainland as "North Island". [144] [145]

To promote the island's identity and culture, the High Sheriff, Robin Courage, founded an Isle of Wight Day; the first was held on Saturday 24 September 2016.


Sport plays a key part of culture on the Isle of Wight. Sports include golf, marathon, cycling and sailing.


The crowd at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 is believed to have been 600,000. 1970-Isle of Wight Festival- 5.JPG
The crowd at the Isle of Wight Festival 1970 is believed to have been 600,000.

The island is home to the Isle of Wight Festival and until 2016, Bestival, before it was relocated to Lulworth Estate in Dorset. In 1970, the festival was headlined by Jimi Hendrix attracting an audience of 600,000, some six times the local population at the time. [146] It is the home of the bands The Bees, Trixie's Big Red Motorbike, Level 42, and Wet Leg. [147]


AP Icon.svg Abbey/Priory/Cathedral
UKAL icon.svg Accessible open space
Themepark uk icon.png Amusement/Theme Park
CL icon.svg Castle
Country parks.svg Country Park
EH icon.svg English Heritage
Forestry Commission
HR icon.svg Heritage railway
HH icon.svg Historic House
AP Icon.svg Places of Worship
Museum icon.svg
Museum icon (red).svg
Museum (free/not free)
NTE icon.svg National Trust
Drama-icon.svg Theatre
Zoo icon.jpg Zoo


One of the Wightlink FastCats which provide a high-speed ferry service between Portsmouth and Ryde Wight Ryder II.JPG
One of the Wightlink FastCats which provide a high-speed ferry service between Portsmouth and Ryde
A Southern Vectis Scania OmniDekka bus at Newport bus station Southern Vectis 1054 YN03 DFL.JPG
A Southern Vectis Scania OmniDekka bus at Newport bus station

The Isle of Wight has 489 miles (787 km) of roadway. It does not have a motorway, although there is a short stretch of dual carriageway towards the north of Newport near the hospital and prison.

A comprehensive bus network operated by Southern Vectis links most settlements, with Newport as its central hub. [148]

Journeys away from the island involve a ferry journey. Car ferry and passenger catamaran services are run by Wightlink and Red Funnel, and a hovercraft passenger service (the only such remaining in the world) [149] by Hovertravel.

The island formerly had its own railway network of over 55 miles (89 km), but only one line remains in regular use. The Island Line is part of the United Kingdom's National Rail network, running a little under 9 miles (14 km) from Shanklin to Ryde Pier Head, where there is a connecting ferry service to Portsmouth Harbour station on the mainland network. The line was opened by the Isle of Wight Railway in 1864, and from 1996 to 2007 was run by the smallest train operating company on the network, Island Line Trains. It is notable for utilising old ex-London Underground rolling stock, due to the small size of its tunnels and unmodernised signalling. Branching off the Island Line at Smallbrook Junction is the heritage Isle of Wight Steam Railway, which runs for 5+12 miles (8.9 km) to the outskirts of Wootton on the former line to Newport. [150]

There are two airfields for general aviation, Isle of Wight Airport at Sandown and Bembridge Airport.

The island has over 200 miles (322 km) of cycleways, many of which can be enjoyed off-road. The principal trails are: [151]


The Isle of Wight is near the densely populated south of England, yet separated from the mainland. This position led to it hosting three prisons: Albany, Camp Hill and Parkhurst, all located outside Newport near the main road to Cowes. Albany and Parkhurst were among the few Category A prisons in the UK until they were downgraded in the 1990s. [152] The downgrading of Parkhurst was precipitated by a major escape: three prisoners (two murderers and a blackmailer) escaped from the prison on 3 January 1995 for four days, before being recaptured. [153] Parkhurst enjoyed notoriety as one of the toughest jails in the United Kingdom, and housed many notable inmates including the Yorkshire Ripper Peter Sutcliffe, New Zealand drug lord Terry Clark and the Kray twins.

Camp Hill is located adjacent but to the west of Albany and Parkhurst, on the very edge of Parkhurst Forest, having been converted first to a borstal and later to a Category C prison. It was built on the site of an army camp (both Albany and Parkhurst were barracks); there is a small estate of tree-lined roads with the former officers' quarters (now privately owned) to the south and east. Camp Hill closed as a prison in March 2013.

The management of all three prisons was merged into a single administration, under HMP Isle of Wight in April 2009.


There are 69 local education authority-maintained schools on the Isle of Wight, and two independent schools. [154] As a rural community, many of these are small and with fewer pupils than in urban areas. The Isle of Wight College is located on the outskirts of Newport.

From September 2010, there was a transition period from the three-tier system of primary, middle and high schools to the two-tier system that is usual in England. [155] Some schools have now closed, such as Chale C.E. Primary. Others have become "federated", such as Brading C.E. Primary and St Helen's Primary. Christ the King College started as two "middle schools", Trinity Middle School and Archbishop King Catholic Middle School, but has now been converted into a dual-faith secondary school and sixth form.

Since September 2011 five new secondary schools, with an age range of 11 to 18 years, replaced the island's high schools (as a part of the previous three-tier system).

Notable people

Notable residents have included:

17th century and earlier

18th century

19th century

20th century onwards

Overseas names

The Isle of Wight has given names to many parts of former colonies, most notably Isle of Wight County in Virginia founded by settlers from the island in the 17th century. Its county seat is a town named Isle of Wight.

Other notable examples include:

Cultural references






Julian Barnes' novel England, England broaches the idea of replicating England in a theme park on the Isle of Wight. [167]

See also


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      Newport is the county town of the Isle of Wight, an island county off the south coast of England. The town is slightly north of the centre of the island, located in the civil parish of Newport and Carisbrooke. It has a quay at the head of the navigable section of the River Medina, which flows northwards to Cowes and the Solent. The 2021 census recorded a population of 25,407.

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      Shanklin is a seaside resort town and civil parish on the Isle of Wight, England, located on Sandown Bay. Shanklin is the southernmost of three settlements which occupy the bay, and is close to Lake Sandown. The sandy beach, its Old Village and a wooded ravine, Shanklin Chine, are its main attractions. The esplanade along the beach is occupied by hotels and restaurants for the most part, and is one of the most tourist-oriented parts of the town. The other is the Old Village, at the top of Shanklin Chine. Together with Lake and Sandown to the north, Shanklin forms a built up area of around 25,000 inhabitants, Shanklin alone contributing around 7,200 of this.

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