National Geographic : 1935 Jan
ENGLAND'S SUN TRAP ISLE OF WIGHT builders took the hint, built their edifice on "God's Hill," and the fields below came to be known as the "Devil's Acre." In the dim light of the lofty church one comes upon many reminders of island his tory, such as the painting of "Daniel in the Lion's Den," which some critics attribute to Rubens. It is a remnant of the fine collec tion of Sir Richard Worsley, connoisseur, traveler, and chronicler of early island his tory. AN EPITAPH AND THE ISLAND PEPYS There is a reminder of another island his torian, Sir John Oglander, whose memoirs, had they related to the mainland lines of English history, probably would be as im mortal as those of Pepys. A crumbling stone bears an epitaph of an island worthy of long ago: "Here lies the mortal part of Richard - While his freed spirit meets with heaven's reward; His gifts endowed the schools, the needy raised And by the latest memory will be praised." There is more about "him whom virtue clothed with fame," but one's faith in epi taphs is shaken when reading Sir John's more realistic account of the same person age. He wrote (translated into modern spelling): "Richard was a notably sly fel low, dishonest and given to filching: he brought some tricks out of France with him. Vide-he would steal a cow, and putting a loaf of bread hot out of the oven on her horns, make her horns so supple that they would turn any way he pleased, so as to disfigure the beast that the owner might not know her again." FROM BADD TO VERSE Of another citizen, High Sheriff Em manuel Badd, Sir John penned succinctly: "By God's blessings and ye loss of 5 wyfes, he grewe very ritch," and the tombstone of the fortunate sheriff, in St. Helen's Church, has inscribed upon it: "So good a Bad doth this same grave contain, Would all like Bad were that with us remain." An early intimation, perhaps, of the island humor that still has a predilection for puns. A favorite postcard proclaims such natural wonders as "Cowes where there are no cattle; Downs that are up, and Freshwater that is salt." And billboards, which are happily rare, herald that "you can whip our cream, but you can't beat our milk." Godshill is sequestered, well off the beaten path of island travel, because it is an inland town. Most of Wight's attraction for visitors and its wealth of historic associa tion-ranging from the Roman occupation, through Jutish immigration, Danish assault, French attacks, and pirate raids-cling to its coast. Eastward from sedate Cowes is the up and-coming resort town of Ryde, with its lampposts that wear garlands of flowers (see page 22), its tiny tramcars, and its spick promenade where, on cloudless days, women knit as they garner sun tan. Its long, spidery pier is landing place for thousands of "trippers" from Portsmouth every summer week-end, and its domed pa vilion offers concerts and "snack" counters for their entertainment. Ryde is the island's metropolis; it has little antiquarian interest, but it surprisingly lacks any of the jerry-building prevalent among some resorts. It owes its popularity to its accessibility and to a topographical circumstance quaintly described many years ago by Fielding, father of the English novel, who wrote: "Its soil is a gravel, which, as sisted with its declivity, preserves it always so dry that immediately after the most driving rain a fine lady may walk without wetting her silken shoes." THE CHILDREN'S REGATTA Second only to Cowes Week is the regatta of Ryde's Royal Victoria Yacht Club. And a pretty touch is a children's regatta, held at their large Boating Lake, where young mariners sail elaborate toy craft and ride about in paddle-wheel boats propelled by handles. It is a short walk from modern Ryde to medieval Quarr Abbey, whose monks played as important a part in early Wight history as did those of Spanish missions in Cali fornia. Coming from France less than a century after William the Conqueror, they tilled the soil, taught the children, and en gaged in many charities. At first Quarr was Benedictine; then it was taken over by the Cistercians. Their abbot became Warden of Wight, had a voice in government, held ships at his command that were exempt from duty payment. The lovely Abbey and its stately build ings were destroyed by Henry VIII. The weathered stones were later purchased by a Southampton man for building material.