Historic Environment

The complexity of the landscape within the Isle of Wight National Landscape is a legacy of the centuries-old intricate relationship between people and place. Closely linked with geology, the historic environment is defined by Historic England and the National Planning Policy Framework as quoted below.

“All aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time, including all surviving physical remains of past human activity, whether visible, buried or submerged, and landscaped and planted or managed flora.”

Newtown Old Town Hall

Historic Environment: Archaeology, the built environment and the historic landscape

It is essential that the importance of this resource is understood if we are to conserve and enhance the Isle of Wight NL. The historic environment is a major contributor to the landscape character of the Isle of Wight NL. Set out below are some of the most significant features, from a landscape perspective but this is by no means an exhaustive list.

  • Open downland and heathland dating back to the woodland clearance of these areas from the Neolithic and in particular the Bronze Age and Iron Age periods.
  • Human management of semi-natural woodland over several millennia and the creation of plantation woodland in the recent past.
  • Spring-line settlement and other settlement patterns directly related to landscape and landform, highlighting how people took advantage of sources of fresh water, shelter from prevailing winds and/or were linked with the local church and manor.
  • Vernacular architecture embracing various traditional styles and reflecting the Island’s complex geology and locally available materials. Walls may be constructed of various types of greensand, Bembridge limestone, chalk or locally made bricks while roofs are typically slate or thatch.
  • Ceremonial sites such as The Longstone at Mottistone, burial mounds on chalk downland and sandstone hills, and structures such as churches and religious houses.
  • The historic enclosure of downland, heathland, open farmland, common and waste which took place in a piecemeal fashion over a long period of time particularly from the Tudor period into the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. Closely associated with historic boundary features below.
  • Historic boundary features such as hedgerows, ditches, hedge banks, wood banks, and stone walls and associated field patterns. Many earthworks were used to demarcate boundaries relating to medieval parishes, manors and other land holdings and can still be seen in the landscape of the Isle of Wight NL today.
  • Features and sites associated with safety and defence such as beacon sites, lighthouses, castles, forts and World War II and Cold War structures.
  • Roman Villa sites, medieval planned towns, Tudor and Jacobean manors and farmsteads.
  • Highways, byways, paths and tracks many of which are now part of the road or public rights of way network.
  • Industrial archaeology sites from quarries, old salterns, brickworks through to rocket testing.
  • Marine sites such as protected wrecks and submerged landscapes.
  • Designed parkland landscapes and ornamental gardens associated with grand houses such as Appuldurcombe, Northcourt, Nunwell, Norris Castle and Osborne.
  • The identification of the Isle of Wight and parts of what is now National Landscape as a place to visit as part of the English Grand Tour and the ‘Picturesque’ movement.
  • Royal patronage and the Royal Palace at Osborne House.
  • The increasing popularity of the Isle of Wight NL as a place to visit or to move to during the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries and the associated changes to settlements and facilities at sites which became attractions.
Night time illustration of Chale Church
Chale Church by Andy Noctor

The Historic Environment Action Plan provides a series of documents to help conserve and study the Island’s historic environment. Visit the Isle of Wight Council website to view the HEAP documents (links opens in new window).