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Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Historical Description

Freshwater, a village and a parish in the Isle of Wight. The village lies 12 miles from Newport, and 2 from Yarmouth. There is a railway connecting Freshwater with Yarmouth and Newport, and a post, money order, and telegraph office. The parish contains the tithings of Easton, Weston, Middleton, and Norton. Acreage, 4836; population of the civil parish,, 3442; of the ecclesiastical, 2652. The parish forms the western extremity of the Isle of Wight, and the greater part of it is nearly insulated by the Yar or Freshwater river, and, was formerly called Freshwater Isle. The Yar river rises in a break or " gate " of the S coast, is separated at its source from the sea, at the head of Freshwater Bay, by only a low narrow isthmus of shingle, receives into its- waters from that bay, in violent gales, portions of briny billows, runs some distance along a deep narrow valley, and widens over most part of its course into considerable estuary. Freshwater Bay is of small extent, but, with the " gate" above it, forms a.' picturesque break between Afton Down on the E and High* Down on the W. Two isolated masses of rock on its E side, about 500 yards from the shore, stand boldly up from the sea, and one of these, called the Arched Rock from its being pierced with a rough arch of quasi-Gothic outline, is one of the most picturesque objects in the Isle of Wight. Many caves, mostly inaccessible by land, are in the cliffs on the W side, and one of thesey called the Freshwater Cave, entered by a rugged arch of about 30 feet in width, was long an object of great attraction to strangers, but perished about the year 1850, partly by sea-abrasion and partly by erection of a fort. Freshwater Gate, at the head of the bay, is a visiting-place for tourists and summer sojoumers, and has two excellent hotels, a number of lodging-houses, some bathing-machines, and a small museum. The coast thence to the western- extremity in the vicinity of the- Needles, an' extent of 3½ miles, is described byMantellas "asuccession-ofmural, precipices of chalk from 400 to upwards of 600" feet in height," and he adds t( that the face of these cliffs, when seen from the sea at a short distance, has a remarkable appearance from the rows of flints which score the surface of the white rock, with fine dark parallel lines running in an oblique direction from the top to the bottom of the section. Chief parts of this coast will be noticed in the articles MAIN BENCH and SCRATCHELL'S BAY; and chief parts of the other or western coast of the parish are noticed in NEEDLES, TOT-LANDS BAY,, and COLWBLL BAY. Two forts, the Albert and the Victoria, are on the NW coast, commanding the W entrance of the Solent, and another fort is at Freshwater Gate. There is a coastguard station. The manors of Afton, Compton, and Wilmingham form the SE part of the parish, and lie E of the Yar. The living is a rectory in the diocese of Winchester; value, —£380 with residence. Patron, St John's College, Cambridge. The church is Transition Norman, and is good; it was well restored in 1876. There are Wesleyan, Baptist, Bible Christian, and Congregational chapels. Dr Eobert Hooke, the mathematician, was a native.

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


The following is a list of the administrative units in which this place was either wholly or partly included.

Ancient CountyHampshire 
Ecclesiastical parishFreshwater All Saints 
LibertyWest Medina 

Any dates in this table should be used as a guide only.

Directories & Gazetteers

We have transcribed the entry for Freshwater from the following:


Online maps of Freshwater are available from a number of sites:

Visitations Heraldic

The Visitations of Hampshire, 1530, 1575, & 1622-34 is available to view on the Heraldry page.

CountyIsle of Wight
RegionSouth East
Postal districtPO40
Post TownFreshwater