Old postcards are sometimes poorly produced and grainy, I've done my best to scan them. Please click thumbnails for full size picture. Dates are from the card or my estimate (where possible). The manufacturer of the card is shown in brackets (where available).
This map shows the extent of Newtown Creek, the town of Newtown can be seen in the centre of the map.
Newtown is an ancient town on the north west coast of the Island, it is now a shadow of its former self being a hamlet with virtually no facilities. It was formerly known as Francheville (hence the use of the term on the seal above). It is on a 'spider' like inlet, Newtown Creek, and the area surrounding is a National Nature reserve which is mostly owned by the National Trust. There are yacht moorings in the creek, but attempts are made to limit this in an attempt to preserve the harbours unspoilt nature.
Newtown was the most ancient borough in the Isle of Wight. Its earlier name of Francheville (meaning a town holding its lands and tenements at a fixed rent, and free from obligation of performing any services to the Lord of the Manor except suit of court) indicates that it probably enjoyed municipal privileges before the Conquest. The first charter of which any record remains is that of Aymer de Valanee, Bishop Elect of Winchester, who founded this "New Town" in 1256, but the oldest charter still in existence is one granted by Edward II in 1318.
The Corporation of the new borough, consisted of a number of burgesses, seldom more
than twenty-five, whose qualification was the ownership of' borough land. At first it was
probably governed by a reeve, or bailiff, later a mayor was elected annually, the
first reference to one being in a deed of 1365. The original plan of the town provided for
seventy-three plots of land, most of which were held singly, at a rent of one shilling
each per annum. The arable land was divided into strips, known as land shares or furlongs,
and one was probably allotted to each household.
Newtown is said to have been sacked by the Danes in 1001, and certainly it suffered a number of attacks by the French at later dates, the most disastrous being in 1377 when much of the town was burnt. Indeed, it seems that it never fully recovered from this raid, and may have been only partially, rebuilt. Although its charter was renewed on a number of occasions, its subsequent history is one of gradual decline; by 1559 the town had lost its importance, much of its maritime trade had been taken by Newport, and a survey of that year stated that there was no longer a market, nor any good house standing.
In 1584, Queen Elizabeth gave parliamentary representation to the borough, perhaps in
an attempt to revitalise it. In this she did not succeed, but nevertheless Newtown
continued to elect two members of parliament during the next 250 years. Throughout the
seventeenth century there were "quarrels, lawsuits and animosities" over the
rights of electors and candidates, and it is clear that politics provided much dissension,
although little prosperity. A map dated 1636 showed only twelve inhabited buildings and a
dilapidated chapel, yet two successive Governors of the Island were elected as mayor
between 1680 and 1693, and the Town Hall was built shortly before 1700, showing the
importance of Newtown as a parliamentary borough. During the eighteenth century it was
increasingly controlled by two prominent Island families, the Barringtons and the
Worsleys, who had acquired most of the borough lands and who had an agreement by which the
nominee of each family was automatically elected to one of the seats. In 1832, Newtown was
declared a "Rotten Borough", and was disenfranchised under the first Reform Act,
bringing its political life to a close. Newtown is now in the Civil and
Ecclesiastical Parish of Calbourne.
The Town Hall
The Town Hall is the only remaining evidence to the one-time importance of Newtown. Built of brick with stone dressings, it stands on the foundations of an earlier building. It was built and paid for by public subscription in around 1699. The architect is unknown but various features such as the round headed windows, the stone dressings and the interior panelling point to such a date. The stone walls and windows of the basement formed part of the previous building, while the Gothick fenestration and four columned portico on the North front were probably added around the end of the l8th century. One of the last acts of the old corporation before it was dissolved was a restoration of the Town Hall in 1813, at a cost of £443.
After the dissolution of the council, it became a school, then a house and then an ivy clad ruin. In the 1930's a group called Ferguson's Gang, a group of anonymous individuals with names such as Bill Stickers, Shot Biddy and Sister Agatha, who were dedicated to halting sprawling development and preserving England's heritage puchased it (for £5) and an adjoining field (for £100). It was then restored at an estimated cost of £1000 and gave it to the National Trust. It is now open to the public.
The inside of the Town Hall. A card probably from the 1950's. (Nigh)
There has been a chapel in Newtown, under the Rector of Calbourne, which can be traced back to about 1400, although is thought to be considerably earlier. By the early nineteenth century it was a ruin. The present Newtown Church was built in 1837, and is dedicated to the Holy Spirit. It is now part of the joint Benefice of Shalfleet, Calbourne and Newtown.
More about Newtown A travel article from the 1930's
Medieval Newtown - And the benefits of failure.
Old Town Hall, Newtown - National Trust Site
Newtown National Nature Reserve - English Nature site
Freshwater | Totland | Alum Bay and the Needles | Yarmouth | Shalfleet | Newtown | Calbourne | Carisbrooke Castle | Newport and Carisbrooke | Cowes and Gurnard | Osborne House | Wootton, Fishbourne and Quarr | Ryde | Seaview | Bembridge | Brading | Sandown | Shanklin | Godshill | Ventnor | St Lawrence and the Undercliff | St Catherine's Lighthouse's | Niton | Blackgang Chine | Blackgang and Chale | Brighstone and Shorwell | Mottistone to Compton
26 May 2010