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Cowes, West

COWES, WEST, a sea-port and chapelry, in the N. division of the parish of Northwood, liberty of West Medina, Isle of Wight division of the county of Southampton, 5 miles (N.) from Newport, and 86 (S. W.) from London; containing 4107 inhabitants. This place owes its origin to the erection of a small castle in 1539, by Henry VIII, on the western bank of the river Medina, commanding the entrance of the harbour; the fortress is a small edifice with a semicircular battery mounting eight pieces of heavy ordnance, and contains accommodation for a captain and a company of artillery. From the excellence of the harbour, in which ships may find shelter in stormy weather, and from which they may sail out either to the east or west, as the wind may serve, Cowes has become a populous and flourishing town; and from its advantageous situation for shipbuilding, several private yards have been established, in which men-of-war have been built for the royal navy. The town is romantically situated on the acclivity of an eminence: the streets are narrow, and the houses in general inelegant, but, rising above each other from the margin of the river to the summit of the eminence on which they are built, they have a pleasing and picturesque appearance from the opposite bank, and are seen with peculiar advantage from the sea, of which they command interesting and extensive views. The excellence of its beach, the pleasantness of its situation, and the salubrity of the air, have rendered it a fashionable place for seabathing, for which purpose several respectable lodginghouses have been erected, and numerous bathingmachines are ranged on the beach, to the west of the castle. The parade, terminated at one extremity by the castle, and at the other by the Marine hotel, forms a favourite promenade. The Royal Yacht Club, consisting of about 160 noblemen and gentlemen, established here for many years, celebrate their regatta annually in August, on which occasion more than 200 yachts and other vessels are assembled, forming a spectacle truly splendid. The club-house, situated on the parade, is a handsome building with a spacious veranda, commanding a fine view of the sea, and having in front an inclosure, within which are several pieces of cannon, and a semaphore, with apparatus for the display of signals to the vessels in the roadstead, belonging respectively to the several members of the squadron. An extensive trade is carried on in provisions and other articles for the supply of the shipping: the principal exports of the island are wheat, flour, malt, barley, wool, and salt, large quantities of which are shipped for France, Spain, Portugal, and the Mediterranean shores. Packets sail several times a day to Southampton, Ryde, and Portsmouth, and passage-boats to Newport. A market-house was erected in 1816, and the market is well supplied with meat, fish, and vegetables; a fair is held on the Thursday in Whitsun-week. The town is partly in the jurisdiction of the borough of Newport, and partly in that of the county; the upper part of the market-house is appropriated as the town-hall.

The living is a perpetual curacy; net income, £256; patron, the Vicar of Carisbrooke. The chapel, erected in the year 1657, and consecrated in the year 1662, is on the summit of the hill: in 1811 it was enlarged and improved at an expense of £3000, by the late George Ward, Esq., who added the tower at the west end, the lower part of which, opening into the church, forms the pew and the mausoleum of that family, and contains an elegant monument to the late Mrs. Ward; the building was further enlarged in 1832. A district church, erected on the west cliff, at the expense of Mrs. Goodwin, at a cost of £5000, including endowment, and dedicated to the Holy Trinity, was consecrated in 1832: it is a handsome building of white brick, ornamented with stone, in the later English style, and has an embattled tower crowned with pinnacles; the interior is lighted by a range of lofty windows, enriched with tracery, and is embellished with an east window of stained glass, and other appropriate details. The living is a perpetual curacy in the patronage of Mrs. Goodwin; net income, £85. There are places of worship for Independents and Wesleyans, and a Roman Catholic chapel.

Transcribed from A Topographical Dictionary of England, by Samuel Lewis, seventh edition, published 1858.