OSBORNE is derived from Austerburne. The estate which formed a nucleus for the 5,000 acres now comprised in the word Osborne, was the hereditary land of the Bowermans through many generations.
From them it passed through the hands of the Arneys to the Lovibonds, who held it until the time of Charles I., when it passed into the possession of Eustace Mann, about whose memory is told one of those treasure tales with which Quarr is associated. It is said that Mann buried a large sum of money in a wood near his house, and never could find the spot beneath which the treasure lay. The tradition will not hold water, but the common people in support of their belief, triumphantly point to the fact that the spot is called to this day Money Coppice. No doubt many a rustic, when that part of the isle was less strictly guarded than it now is, has sought in a desultory way for the lost treasure. If it has been found, no whisper of the discovery has reached the ear. The grand-daughter of this Eustace Mann married a Mr. Blachford, whose son built Osborne House, a mansion of some architectural pretention. It was a descendant of this gentleman, the Lady Isabella Blachford, who sold the estate to the Queen in 1840. By subsequent purchases, it now extends almost from the Medina on the west, to King's Quay on the east; and here at King's Quay, it is said, John King of England remained in hiding for some time, when threatened by the barons; hence the name, King's Quay. Indeed, several isolated atoms of traditional evidence go to prove that John must unquestionably have visited the island.
The old unpretending house was pulled down, and the handsome Italian building which now occupies its site erected in its stead. It is believed that the architecture of Osborne is almost wholly due to the late Prince Consort, The two towers, which can be seen quite readily from Spithead, answer the purpose-- the one (90 feet high) of a campanile or bell tower, the other (107 feet in height) of a flag tower.
The Queen's apartments face the sea, but it is said Her Majesty's great delight when at Osborne is to pass much of her time, when the weather will permit, upon one or other of the flat terrace roofs with which the house abounds. In photographs the Queen's rooms are those on the right, situated before the flag tower.
Visitors are so rigorously excluded from the palace and grounds of Osborne, that very little is known concerning either. The gardens are essentially of the terrace order, and they slope almost to the water's edge. The house itself is crowded with works of art, and especially examples of sculpture by the greatest sculptors in the English school.
But if, on the one hand, the public are excluded from the palace and park of Osborne, on the other hand it must be felt that the interest the Queen took in the establishment of the model farm, was, up to the time of the Prince Comforts' death, boundless and constant. Upon that model farm was conducted a series of experiments which we have no doubt must have resulted in a great advance in agricultural knowledge had the promoter been spared to continue his work. As it happened there was no time afforded to admit of results, and there remains but the commencement of a great work. Every farmer in the vicinity, who had an opportunity of exercising his judgment, will bear testimony to the extraordinary vigour and skill with which the Prince's agricultural experiments were carried on. Nor was sport forgotten: the estate still maintains some excellent kennels.
The Osborne lodges on the East Cowes road are of similarly fanciful design. Osborne must not be left without some reference to the one chapter of antiquity in connection with the place. One of the estates absorbed into the royal demesne was that of Barton Manor. Coming, almost immediately after the Conquest, into the hands of the Fitz Sturs, their heiress, in the reign of Henry III., married one Walter de Insula, who, very obviously by his name, had been born on the isle. Shortly afterwards, in 1272, John de Insula, his brother, founded here a religious house, endowed it nobly, and dedicated it to the Trinity.
Upon the dissolution of religious establishments, this of the Holy Trinity fell to pieces, and ultimately upon its site, or near it, was built in the time of Elizabeth, Barton Court, which remained in partial existence until pulled down on its purchase by Her Majesty.
Moody says of this building: "One peculiarity of the house was, that it contained a room about twelve feet square, known as the Chapel, which had been apparently fitted up as a secret chapel for the performance of mass, subsequent to the Reformation, and which, within the memory of living individuals, retained its altar, crucifix, and other Catholic accessories." Some portions of the old building, its southern and its eastern front, were however, retained, and now form part of the royal residence.The Isle of Wight, By J. Redding Ware, 1871. Photographic Illustrations by Russell Sedgfield and Frank M. Good.
OSBORNE HOUSE. - A view of Osborne from the south lawn is the most picturesque, and gives the late Queen's apartments standing out in bold relief in the centre of the picture. The terraces below adorn the building, and the rosary which extends on the right to the lawn is gay with a blaze of colour in the month of June. Now that Osborne has been made into a Naval College, the grounds are open to visitors on Fridays in the winter, and on Tuesdays and Fridays in the summer season; it is visited by many thousands during the year.
The grounds of Osborne House contain five thousand acres, the lawn sloping down to the sea adjoining the grounds of Norris Castle. A sheltered portion of the garden contains a large number of trees and shrubs from Indian and foreign climes. In the vicinity of this Indian garden is Swiss Cottage, forming an architectural contrast to Osborne House, and surrounded with trees and flowers that make it appear quite a little paradise.
About a mile south of Osborne is Whippingham Church, a cruciform structure from designs furnished by the late Prince Consort. Before a private Chapel was added at Osborne the Royal Family often attended. The aisles which contain seats for the Royal Household are divided from the Chancel by ornamented arcades. The north aisle is converted into a Mortuary Chapel in memory of Prince Henry of Battenberg. Mural tablets to Princess Alice, the Duke of Albany, and a medallion bust to the Prince Consort have been erected by Her late Majesty; also a medallion to Sir Henry Ponsonby, whose tomb is in the Churchyard. From the back of the Church there is a fine view of the river Medina, looking towards Newport, the capital of the Island.
Whippingham Church is a charmed place, as being that now used through many years by the Queen as her place of worship when in the isle. But the old building was swept away to make room for a new edifice, the first stone of which was laid by Her Majesty seven months, almost to a day, before the Prince Consort expired. The act was one of the last royal public works previous to that great catastrophe. The old church was not of extraordinary architectural interest, but it was much visited by reason of its associations with the royal family of England. Knight says of the old building: "The only possible thing to notice inside would be its scrupulous cleanness. Now, of course, the royal pews are looked at by the stranger, but they are quiet and unassuming, only distinguished from the rest by a rather richer lining."
Proceeding westward from the Castle, we come to a pretty slope bordering the shore which goes by the name of — Prince's Green.
It was presented to the town by G. R. Stephenson, Esq., in 1863, on condition that it should never be applied to commercial purposes. Here are plenty of seats, a bandstand, and a fountain of unusually attractive design, which beseeches the passer-by, not once but many times, to "Keep the Pavement Dry." Overlooking the green are some fine residences. By turning up Mornington Road, the Zig Zag, a steep path leading to the cliff top, is reached. The views all along this road of the Solent and the opposite coast are delightful.
At Egypt Point the Trinity House authorities have erected a new light. Egypt is a fine red brick, ivy-clad mansion, with a rich background of foliage. The baths and bathing machines do what business they can, but the local rhymester who in 1760 exclaimed — "No more to foreign baths shall Britons roam, But plunge at Cowes, and find rich health at home," can hardly have known what a bath was. The shore, safe enough, and there is sometimes a fair quantity of sand, but most people will consider it too rough for comfort.
Where the Esplanade ends a remarkable contrast is presented. Civilization gives way to barbarism, or at least to a stretch of wild, uncultivated ground, where thistles flourish and the grass comes up to one's knee.
Following the path by the sandy shore we should come in another three quarters of a mile to Gurnard Bay, a suburb of Cowes, with a hotel of its own, and every likelihood of future development.
Holy Trinity Church, near the Castle, was built in 1831-2, the chancel being added in 1868. St. Mary's, at the top of the town, was rebuilt in 1867, thanks mainly to the Ward family of Northwood. The unsightly building which formerly occupied the site enjoyed the distinction of being one of the few churches erected during the Commonwealth. The Roman Catholic Church, dedicated to St. Thomas of Canterbury, was built in 1796, and stands opposite the railway station. Amongst the paintings is a very valuable picture, said to have been the work of Allessandra da Messina (ob. circa 1596). It hangs on the north wall, and represents the death of the Virgin Mary.
Those who have an inclination to see something of East Cowes should make their way up High Street, past the entrance to the pontoon, to the Duke of York Inn, turning left down the Medina Road to the Floating Bridge.
East Cowes has been aptly called "a combination of Norwood and Rotherhithe." There are numerous boat-building yards and wharves on the river bank, but the slopes above are occupied by villa residences of considerable amenity. Ascending the hill running eastward out of the town, we come, halfway up, to Slatwoods, where Dr. Arnold, head master of Rugby, 1828-1842, was born on June 13, 1795. The house is marked by a circular tablet. His father was collector of customs at East Cowes.
The Town Hall, at the foot of the tree-lined York Avenue, was the gift of Mrs. White. In consideration of the closing of a public road which to some extent interfered with the privacy of the Osborne domain, the late Queen constructed, at her own expense, another and more convenient thoroughfare, about 1,000 yards in length, and presented it to the public in exchange for the old road, together with about twelve acres of land. The new road was opened in 1898 by the Queen herself, and christened Beatrice Avenue.
On the summit of the hill, on the left, are the grounds of Norris Castle, like Osborne best seen from the Solent. Queen Victoria was often here as a girl with her mother, the Duchess of Kent. The large and well-wooded park adjoins the Osborne demesne, and the prospect is finer and more extensive than that from the terrace at Osborne. East Cowes Castle was designed by Nash, the architect of Buckingham Palace, Regent Street, etc., for his own occupation.
The chief interest of East Cowes of course centres round —Osborne the stately marine residence where Queen Victoria spent so many quiet days, and where, on the 22nd of January, 1901, she passed. away. The main gates are about three-quarters of a mile up the hill from the ferry.
Queen Victoria purchased the estate from Lady Isabella Blachford in 1845, and the palace was finished in 1851, though many additions were afterwards made. The building is of the Palladian type, and was designed by Thomas Cubitt and the Prince Consort.
The house is thus described in Sarah Tyler's life of the late Queen: "The architecture of the pile of buildings was planned to express such stately simplicity as best befits a country house and not a palace. The two towers — the clock tower and the bell tower, one belonging to the part of the house known as the Pavilion — and the pillared entrance arc its most ornamental portions. The house is built on the highest of a series of terraces which descend to the sea beach and pier. The terrace immediately beneath the windows of the principal rooms is a bright flower garden, with here a fountain and there a vase or statue. The lower terraces are the wooded slopes, with many a sunny and shady walk. The trees were largely chosen and grouped according to the taste of the Prince Consort. The different entrances lead into far-extending corridors, stretching in long vistas with gleams of the blue sea or the green park at each end." The lofty towers are conspicuous from many points. The flag tower is 107 feet high, and the clock town's 90 feet. The room in which the late Queen died is in the semi-circular projection beneath the former.
The grounds, some 2,000 acres in extent, have a sea-front of a mile and a half, and are well seen in passing by steamer from Cowes to Ryde. The King and his brothers and sisters in early days each had a small garden to tend and care for, and in another part of the grounds may be seen a miniature fort, "The Albert Barracks," actually built by the little princes.
In 1902, immediately after the Coronation, the King announced in a letter to Mr. Balfour his intention of presenting the house and estate to the public; and later in the same year an Act was passed setting out that the King had, with the concurrence of the Prince of Wales, "signified his gracious pleasure that the Osborne estate should be handed over so as to become part of the public property of the Sovereign, and that provision should be made for the use of Osborne House and grounds as a memorial to her late Majesty Queen Victoria."
Management of the estate is now vested in the Commissioners of Works. About sixty acres have been fenced off for the new Naval College, and the rest is maintained as a public park. The wings of the house are used as a Convalescent Home for about fifty officers of the Navy and Army.
The State Rooms, including the Audience Chamber, the Council Room, the Indian Room, the Drawing Room, and the corridors are richly decorated, and contain a collection of valuable pictures, statuary, etc. The late Queen's private apartments are sacredly reserved as a memento of her Majesty.
H.R.H. the Princess Henry of Battenberg, Governor of the Island, resides in Osborne Cottage.
The Royal Naval College adjoins the Prince of Wales' Gate, further south, opposite the Prince of Wales Hotel. The College was opened by the King, accompanied by the Prince of Wales, on the 4th of August, 1903. Under the new scheme for training naval officers the cadets, fresh from preparatory schools, will spend two years at Osborne, two at the Britannia College at Dartmouth, and two at sea, subsequently choosing which branch of the profession, navigating, engineering, or Royal Marine, they will follow.
The bungalows used as dormitories for the cadets consist of a wooden skeleton, over which, both inside and outside, sheets of the non-flammable building material, uralite, are fixed. Each dormitory contains accommodation for thirty cadets, reckoning to each bed 1,008 cubic feet of air space. At the end of each is the small apartment for the officer in charge, and a bath-room, with plunge and warm baths. A connecting verandah runs before the entrance to all.
In what were originally the stables of Osborne House class-rooms have been constructed. Here, too, is the mess-room, accommodating upwards of 300, and adjoining it the kitchen. The recreation room is a noble hall, 100 feet in length by 40 feet wide, with high vaulted ceiling and a musician's gallery. Beyond this is the gymnasium. The officers' quarters are in another bungalow, constructed on the same principle as the dormitories. A notable feature of the writing room is a representation in beaten copper over the fireplace of the Battle of Trafalgar, with Nelson's immortal signal, "England expects that every man will do his duty." The metal work throughout is of simple and artistic character, the door plates and handles being of pewter.
The Workshops are situated at Kingston Quay, on the east bank of the Medina, and arc connected with the College by a new roadway. Here full instruction is given in the handling of tools and machinery, and by means of the sloop Racer and other craft the boys acquire familiarity with the conditions of sea-life.
A direction post near the College points the way to Whippingham (about half a mile). Whippingham finds mention in Domesday Book, and the Church was built, as the inscription over the doorway informs us, on the site of an edifice "dedicated in the twelfth century to Mildred, a Saxon Princess, and founded by William Fitz-Osborne in 1066, by whom it was bestowed, with five others, upon the Abbey of Lire." A later inscription, of even greater interest, reads: "To the glory of God and to the beloved memory of Queen Victoria, who entered into her rest, at Osborne, on Jan. 22, 1901, the Sanctuary of this Church was enriched and beautified by her son, King Edward VII., and her other children and grand-children. 'Her children arise up and call her blessed.' "
The church "was designed by Albert, Prince Consort, and rebuilt by Queen Victoria in conjunction with him, in the year of our Lord MDCCCLXI." The building is finely situated on a wooded eminence overlooking the Medina and is visited by many thousands of tourists on account of its royal associations. It is additionally interesting as the scene of the marriage of Princess Beatrice and Prince Henry of Battenberg, and as the last resting place of the gallant prince, who died in the service of his adopted country. The entrance to the churchyard is by a lych-gate of teak, and the path is lined by cypresses. In style the church may be best described as a modern adaptation of Early English, but it is of distinctly foreign appearance. The ground plan takes the shape of a Latin cross, and the building comprises chancel, north and south transepts, and nave, the unusual length of the chancel being due to the fact that the Osborne pews are located in it. The large central tower is surmounted by a spire of peculiar construction, and has spirelets at the four corners. The sides of the tower are filled with good stained glass, an arrangement which gives a rich and airy appearance to the interior of the church. The Royal Pew on the south side of the chancel was reseated as part of the scheme for beautifying the Church. It is approached by a private entrance under a Norman archway. The beautiful marble Reredos depicting the Last Supper is a memorial of the late Queen. Other work carried out at his Majesty's command includes the repaving of the chancel floor, decoration and lining, and the provision of a new oak roof.
Facing the Royal Pew is the Battenberg Chapel, where the remains of the late Prince Henry rest. It is almost pathetic to see what tender thoughtfulness has been bestowed upon every detail connected with this monument. Everything is in perfect taste: chaste, rich, elegant, yet severely simple. The beautiful open screen is of gun metal, from a design by Mr. Gilbert, R.A. An autograph inscription by the late Queen records that the work is a memorial of her "dear son-in-law." The base of the sarcophagus is of dove marble, and the panels above bear the arms and the orders of the Prince and Princess, carved in perfect detail. The massive top is adorned with appropriate scripture texts, and the Latin words, " In te Domine Spero." The altar-table, constructed of dove and statuary marble, is approached by polished steps. Above the table has been erected the figure of an angel with outstretched wings, by Princess Louise, which stands nearly eight feet high, and occupies the major portion of the east end.
The handsome brass eagle lectern in the church is also in memory of Prince Henry, and was presented by Colonel Lord Edward Pelham-Clinton, January 20, 1897.
Within the Royal Pew is a medallion of the late Prince Consort, with two angels holding a crown over his head. The inscription records that the monument was "placed in the church, erected under his direction, by his broken-hearted and devoted widow, Queen Victoria, 1864."
Another monument which calls forth the sympathies of a nation is that erected to the memory of Princess Alice, whose death occurred so sadly on the anniversary of the death of her father, to whom she had been so devotedly attached.
There are also monuments in the church to the Duke of Albany, Sir Henry Ponsonby, and the father of Dr. Arnold of Rugby.
The churchyard contains a number of tombs of her late Majesty's servants of all degrees. The outlook is very pretty, though the cement works on the opposite bank do not improve it. By walking a hundred yards or so further along the lane in the direction of East Cowes a much better view is gained.
A Pictorial and Descriptive Guide to the Isle of Wight in six sections: excursions, cycling and pedestrian routes from each centre; illustrations, map of the Island Ward, Publisher: Lock and Company, Ltd. London; New York; Melbourne, 1900
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