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The Needles, Isle of Wight

Historical Description

Needles, The, a group of insulated chalk rocks off the W extremity of the Isle of Wight, flanking Alum Bay and the entrance to the Solent, 3½ miles SSW of Hurst Castle, and 4½ SW of Yarmouth. They originally formed the extreme W point of the middle range of the Isle of Wight Downs; they were insulated by the disintegration of the rock in the direction of the strata's fissures; they have a wedge-shaped form, which resulted from a highly inclined northward dip of their strata; they stretch out seaward, nearly in a straight line with the promontory of which they once formed a part; they will in course of time be extended landward by the insulation, from the headland, of other masses similar to themselves; they are at present five in number, though only three rise boldly from the sea; they formerly included a tall, slender, conical pinnacle, about 120 feet high, known as Lot's Wife, which fell in 1764, and the stump of which now forms a dangerous reef; and they took their name of Needles originally from that pinnacle, but may be said to take it now from numerous spirelets which are presented on the profile of their E side. The one of them nearest the land became insulated between 1815 and 1820, and the mass composing it was previously connected by an arch with the main cliff. The westernmost one is surmounted by a lighthouse, erected in 1859 and altered in 1888, with an intermittent or occulting light at an elevation of 80 feet above high water, and visible at a distance of 14 miles. It is a circular granite construction, and commands from the lantern a most remarkable and romantic view. There is also a fogbell. The Pomma 50-gun frigate, on her homeward voyage from Persia, was wrecked on that rock in 1811.

Transcribed from The Comprehensive Gazetteer of England & Wales, 1894-5