* * * * *
>> The best may of seeing this populous town, by those who have little inclination, or perhaps less time, for perambulation is, from the Pier, to enquire first for BRIGSTOCK TERRACE—walk on for about five minutes still westward—returning, pass by the CHURCH, and round the TOWN-HALL, and Market-place, ST. JAMES'S CHAPEL, and the Theatre;—look into the ARCADE, a little below;—traverse the street nearly opposite the theatre, which will open the eastern part of the town, where there is a handsome NEW CHURCH—and the very agreeable Environs in the direction of Appley and St. John's, which ought to be visited if time could be spared, going first on the beach, and returning by the high-road, a circuit of about two miles.
* * * * *
Ryde now ranks the first town in the island for the number of its elegant modern erections, both public and private; and if building should be carried on with an equal degree of spirit for a few years more, it will also be considerably the most populous. It occupies two sides of a lofty hill, falling with a regular descent to the sea on the north, opposite Portsmouth, from which it is about five miles across. This short passage, from its perfect safety and general convenience, proves a great local advantage, being performed several times a-day by superior steam-vessels in about half an hour. But besides these established means of conveyance, large-sized wherries (most excellent sea-boats,) are in constant attendance to take parties across on moderate terms, or for hire by the day upon any aquatic trip, even to Brighton.
The town used formerly to be distinguished into Upper and Lower Ryde, from having several fields between, but now it is only the difference of position which calls for any term of distinction; for where the green meadows then formed the separation, is now the most closely built upon; and at the beginning of this century, Yelf's Hotel stood a new and isolated object.
The principal streets are very open, clean, and well-paved; regularly disposed, most of them crossing each other nearly at right angles. Several of the handsomest run parallel almost in a direct line to the beach, thus affording the very desirable advantage of an interesting sea-view.
* * * * *
THE PIER being the first object to interest a stranger, and having contributed more than anything else to the advancement of the town, is well entitled to priority of notice.
Up to the year 1814, when it was constructed by a company in subscription shares of L.50 each, landing or embarking was rendered generally a miserable task, except during very favorable weather, at the moment of high tide. The practice then was, to cram the passengers promiscuously into a common luggage-cart, till it was drawn out upon the almost level sands sufficiently far for a large wherry to float alongside, into which they were then transferred, and conveyed to the sailing-packet, perhaps lying off at some considerable distance. The reader will readily believe that this united cart and boat process of reaching the vessel or shore could not be very inviting at the best of times; but it was really terrific to weak and timid persons during the concurrence of a heavy rain, and the tide perhaps at its lowest ebb!—to say nothing of the horrors of a dark and squally night.
The length of the Pier is now nearly half a mile (being double the extent it was originally), having had 500 feet added in the year 1824: the same augmentation again in 1833; and in 1842 it received the crowning addition of a most spacious and well constructed HEAD, which was rendered everyway more convenient for passengers landing or embarking. This last improvement must afford a most delightful accommodation for the gentry who prefer the pier for their usual promenade; and where, from the great extent it stretches out into the open sea, those invalids who are precluded from exercise, may more conveniently enjoy the invigorating sea-breeze. It is firmly constructed of timber: has four or five landing-places at different distances to suit the state of the tide: a strong railing on each side; and is furnished with several open and covered seats.
* * * * *
The TOWN-HALL and MARKET-HOUSE affords the best proof of the public spirit of the inhabitants of Hyde in regard to local improvements: for this handsome edifice is on a scale to accommodate three or four times the present population. It was first opened in the year 1831: and the commissioners for improving the town endeavoured to establish a permanent market for cattle, &c., to be held in the large open space in front, but the attempt proved abortive—Newport lying so much more conveniently for the general resort of agriculturists and tradesmen from every quarter of the island.—It is remarkable, however, considering the spirit of the inhabitants for public improvements, that it should have been left to the year 1840, before the town was lighted with gas!
The ARCADE is an elegant piece of architecture, though it does not make that imposing figure of its exterior, which the visitor would expect, when previously told that it cost at least L10,000. It contains 14 shops, and a very large room for the exhibition and sale of works of art: every portion being finished in the best style of workmanship.
This bold undertaking for a private individual, we are sorry to say, has not yet realized a remunerating return. The mistake seems to have been in fixing upon a site which had no local advantages to recommend it for a fashionable promenade; nor likely ever to become a much-frequented thoroughfare, popular and busy. Moreover, the tradesmen generally find it more to their advantage to engage respectable houses in the best streets, where they can profitably let lodgings, and make a much more attractive exhibition of their goods. These remarks will also serve to explain, why comparatively so few persons avail themselves of the extensive accommodation which the Market-house affords.
BRIGSTOCK TERRACE is a fine range of first-rate houses built according to a very judicious, uniform design, furnished by the late Mr. J. Sanderson. They command a beautiful marine prospect, as they stand at the head of a sloping lawn-like field, interspersed with several oaks and elms: indeed the terrace is the most conspicuous part of Ryde when viewed from the sea.
On the west side of the town too is a very spacious square, comprising a great variety of tastefully-embellished mansions; indeed in every direction a number of elegant houses are constructing,—tenants being found for most of them even before they are completed.
A very few years ago it was quite an easy task to point out by distinctive marks all the most important houses—it was only to name Westmont, and the two unobtrusive villas of the Duke of Buckingham and Earl Spencer. The stranger could then have no difficulty in discriminating these: but now, to give a List of all the residences that are entitled to notice with an equal share of pretensions, however judiciously described, would prove perfectly futile, and only calculated to mislead the stranger.
CHURCHES and other public places of divine worship.—These of course increase with the population; for only as late as the year 1827, the old chapel, now distinguished by its graceful spire (and seen at the back of the terrace), was so inadequate in its accommodations, as to require being considerably enlarged: and in the same year another was commenced as a private speculation by Hughes Hughes, esq., this is a long, low edifice, remarkable for its neat interior: a third has since been erected on the eastern side of the town, of a handsome design both inside and out, and very conspicuous from its open situation and lofty spire:—all three being episcopalian chapels of ease to Newchurch. The Independents, Wesleyans, and Primitive-methodists have also their respective chapels, and one for Catholic worship has been lately built, of the most elaborate style of architecture, especially the interior.
THE FAMILY HOTELS, INNS, &C.—Of these there are several, of various ranks, some of them vying in splendor and extent of accommodation with the best in the county (see the List). The lodging-houses are of course very numerous, and in every grade, from the humble jessamy or myrtle cottage at 20 or 30 shillings per week, to the lordly mansion at as many guineas.
During the latter summer months, the theatre is usually opened by a talented company of comedians. The shops are generally very imposingly fitted-up and well stocked: and in the literary and fancy lines are several excellent establishments—news-rooms, circulating-libraries, bazaars, &c.
* * * * *
Aquatic Amusements, &c. at Ryde.
THE ROYAL VICTORIA YACHT-CLUB, established in 1845, numbers amongst its members many gentlemen of the highest rank, and owners of as fine yachts as any in the world. Their Club-house is a handsome and commodious building on the beach west of the Pier; and they have an annual Regatta in the latter part of the summer, when several pieces of plate, etc., are sailed for by the vessels of this and other clubs. There is also a TOWN REGATTA held about the same time, for the purpose of giving encouragement to the skilful and deserving watermen: the sailing matches being between the wherries of the place, which are of a large size, and esteemed by nautical men to be the finest sea-boats in the kingdom: and as the race is confined to a circuit which can be distinctly seen from the whole of the Pier, there is as much interest excited as if the prizes were contested between larger craft. Rowing-matches also take place; good bands attend—and the diversions of the day usually end with a splendid display of fireworks, a dinner, or a ball. In short, nothing can exceed the gaiety of the scene, when the weather is at all fine: as it is made the occasion of a general festivity by the inhabitants—and resorted to as a holiday by great numbers from Newport, and the eastern parts of the island.
THE SHORE presents, when the tide is at its lowest ebb, a wide expanse of sand, stretching for miles both eastward and westward of the Pier, preserving upon an average the breadth of a mile: here and there interspersed with ledges of rock, and the banks beautifully feathered with groves and shrubberies. In some parts the sand has accumulated over the mud in sufficient quantity to bear wheel-carriages (which is the case near the Pier): and is found to be gradually increasing both in depth and extent. The best time to take a walk upon the shore is directly after the tide has begun to ebb,—for the sand is then firm and cool to the feet; but after a few hours' powerful sun in calm weather, it is rendered sufficiently hot to give the flowing sea almost the temperature of a warm bath, on which account the bathing here is preferred by many parties to a bolder shore.
That part called the DUVER (now built on,) was remarkable as having been chosen for interring the crew of the Royal George, a ship of 108 guns, which sank at Spithead on August 29th, 1782, by a sudden squall, while undergoing a careening of her bottom, when nearly 1000 persons perished.
Near the Pier are the bathing-machines, well attended, and in full operation; together with hot, tepid, and other baths for invalids.
THE PROSPECT.—As the amenity of every situation depends, we consider, greatly on the range and beauty of the view which it commands, we here give a faint sketch of the one obtained from Ryde and its neighbourhood: by which, however imperfect, it will be seen by the reader, that few prospects in England can surpass this, perhaps even in point of pleasing composition—but certainly not as a perpetual source of the most amusing observation.
The foreground of the Pier generally presents a most animated picture,—crowded with promenading fashionables; and surrounded by numerous wherries, steam-packets, and other craft, at anchor or gaily sailing about; a busy scene which forms a striking contrast to the quiet sylvan charms of the home-coast extending many miles east and west, and embellished by several delightful villas and other marine residences, among which are Osborne Palace (indicated by a lofty prospect-tower),—and Norris Castle, just beyond. We have the Solent Channel seen from here to peculiar advantage,—on the one hand contracting to the appearance of a noble river, and on the other expanding and uniting with the open sea. The far-famed anchorage of Spithead occupies the centre, with St. Helen's to the eastward, for ships of war; and westward, the Motherbank and Stokes's Bay, for merchantmen and colliers; hourly altering their position with the changing tides, and their number as suddenly increased or diminished with every adverse or propitious breeze.
"Majestic o'er the sparkling tide, See the tall vessel sail, With swelling winds, in shadowy pride, A swan before the gale!"
The eye is soon caught by a splendid range of houses called Anglesea Villa, on the opposite nearest shore, contiguous to Monkton Fort; and is thence carried to immense mass of brick buildings that form the grand naval hospital of Haslar, with the town of Gosport in its rear; opposite which are the celebrated fortifications of Portsmouth, with its noble harbour affording calm security to the maritime glory of England:—Southsea Castle stands a little to the eastward, and beyond that is the low level of Hayling Island, where several handsome houses have recently been built.
The line of Portsdown hills, on one of which is Nelson's monumental pillar, usually bounds the view to the north; but in clear weather our range of perspective embraces a portion of the South Downs which is crossed by the London road near Petersfield: and on the left, the beautiful retiring banks of Southampton Water to the town to itself, backed by the woodland heights of the New Forest;—while to the right it extends to the spire of Chichester Cathedral; but with the aid of a glass even to Beachy-head, which appears in the east like a faint cloud upon the horizon of the sea.
* * * * *
THE ENVIRONS OF RYDE
May be characterized as being beautifully rural, enlivened by peeps or open prospects of the sea: for this is the best wooded quarter of the island, adorned with several charming seats and villas, and intersected by good roads.
But perhaps it ought to be here explained to the stranger, that by good roads, in the Isle of Wight, is only meant that they are kept in tolerably good order: not that they are level, or even gently undulating: for the very charm of the island consists in its sudden alternation of hill and dale, producing a constant change of scenery: one moment you may be enclosed in a sylvan theatre; and the next minute stand on the brow of a hill, sufficiently lofty to command an interminable panoramic prospect of land and sea.
We will first conduct our friends along the shore eastward of the town, for the distance of two or three miles. The principal objects to the westward have been already noticed (p. 41, &c.)
APPLEY (about half a mile,) is a marine villa celebrated for its amenity: hence an excellent road to St. John's, where several very eligible sites for building on are to be disposed of: and a neat little church has recently been erected.
ST. CLARE, another delightful residence: the house built in the castellated style: and the pleasure-grounds and very extensive gardens, truly exquisite.
PUCKPOOL, a sequestered Swiss Cottage.
SPRING-VALE, a pretty hamlet composed of lodging-houses.—A carriage-road hence by the back of St. Clare.
SEA-VIEW (two miles), another pleasant hamlet, containing several lodging-houses: and having near it the beautiful villas of SEA-FIELD, FAIRY-HILL, SEA-GROVE, &c. A road hence to Nettlestone Green.
The grounds of the Priory extend eastward for about a mile: the sandy beach the whole of the distance is remarkably fine.
>> From the above it is apparent, that a Party may have a very pleasant saunter just as far as may prove agreeable, according to their ability for walking; as there is a choice of roads by which to return, thus making a circuit of any extent they like.
* * * * *
We now start by the regular carriage-road for the rocky coast (commonly called the Back of the island), and first reach a hamlet on the rise of the next hill, named OAK-FIELD, and then ...
ST. JOHN's, a first-rate seat,—mansion plain, but admirably situated for prospect, and screened by beautiful wood, as will appear in the road making several sudden turns, over-arched by lofty trees, especially the silver fir. Shortly the tower of St. Clare appears on our left: WESTRIDGE in a valley on the right; and several other minor seats are successively passed,—some partially seen through the woods and shrubberies, and others quite secluded.
>> From the hamlet called Nettlestone Green (about two miles from Ryde,) a carriage-road leads down to Sea-view, by which the party may on another occasion return on the beach to Ryde, passing the back of St. Clare.
THE PRIORY is three miles from Ryde: it takes its name from having been the site of an ancient monastic cell—is a spacious, plain mansion, and ranks among the finest seats in the island: here too, much of the wood is uncommonly fine, notwithstanding its exposure to the sea-air. Arriving at ...
ST. HELEN's GREEN,
We are presented with a beautiful view of the Peninsula of Bembridge, Brading Haven, and the British Channel. The houses are mostly scattered round a large verdant square (which gives the name): and a spacious building, to answer the purposes both of a parish school and chapel, has been lately supplied by the liberality of a resident gentleman. But the chief object of curiosity here is THE OLD CHURCH-TOWER, standing now at the water's edge, and still struggling against the further "encroachment of the sea," which in the year 1719, was such as to oblige the parishioners to build another place of worship in a more secure situation: this we passed near the Priory. The old tower was strengthened with a thick facing of brick-work, and painted white; for it was required to be preserved as a landmark to ships entering the roadsted. There is something extremely tranquil and pleasing in the whole of the scene,—and though the composition is simple, forms an excellent subject for a sketch.
>> The Party may either cross the ferry with their vehicle to Bembridge—for there is a good horse-boat in attendance, and drive round Yaverland and Brading; or they may go to the latter place at once; returning over the downs to Ashey Sea-mark, which affords an almost unrivaled prospect,—and hence descend towards Ryde, making altogether a charming circuit of about sixteen miles.
* * * * *
Exhibits during high water the beautiful appearance of an extensive lake: but at the recess of the tide, a mere waste of sand and ooze, comprehending above 800 acres.
As the sea comes through a very narrow inlet at St. Helen's, several unsuccessful attempts have been made to recover from its usurpation so valuable a tract of land:—in 1630 the famous Sir H. Middleton was engaged, and indeed succeeded for a short time, by means of a bank of peculiar construction. But the sea brought up so much sand, ooze, and weeds, as to choke up the passage for the discharge of the fresh water, which accumulating, in a wet season and a spring-tide, made an irreparable breach, and thus ended an experiment which then cost altogether about L7000. "And after all, the nature of the ground did not answer the expectations of the undertakers; for though that part adjoining Brading proved tolerably good, nearly one-half of it was found to be a light running sand." But it should be observed, that previous to the above attempt, several of the rich meadows contiguous to the haven were at different times taken in.
One circumstance was very remarkable: namely, A WELL, cased with stone, was discovered near the middle of the haven;—an incontestible evidence, that at some remote period, the spot was in a very different condition.
* * * * *
To the very remarkable CHANGE which appears (by the discovery of a well,) to have taken place in the condition of the haven—and the threatened existence of St. Helen's Church, from the "encroachment of the sea,"—we beg to call the attention of our more reflecting readers. History and tradition are silent as to the cause; and the popular opinion of the present day briefly dismisses the question by ascribing it to an increased elevation of the sea. But this hypothesis is not supported by the appearance of the coast immediately to the westward of the haven, where some creeks or inlets have become dry; a circumstance which induced the Rev. P. Wyndham, who wrote almost the first intelligent Guide to the island, to conclude that there actually had been a secession of tides in this quarter; yet, singular enough, he makes no allusion either to the haven or the church. Now as there is really no evidence whatever in the neighbourhood that would lead us to suppose in the slightest degree, that the sea has encroached upon the land by its gaining a higher GENERAL level (an idea deprecated by many eminent geologists), we must take the alternative in accounting for the phenomenon, and infer that the land of the haven must have SUNK at some very distant period, and that more recently, the same fate attended the foundations of the church, which certainly could not have been originally built so very close to the water's edge, as to be constantly enveloped in sea-foam during every fresh breeze from the east.
Analagous to the above mutation in the state of the land, is the following singular fact related by Sir Rd. Worsley, of Appuldurcombe, who, living as it were on the spot, was not likely to be imposed upon. The reader is to picture to himself three very high downs standing nearly in a line,—St. Catharine's, Week, and Shanklin: the latter, when Sir Richard wrote the account in 1781, he guessed to be about 100 feet higher than Week Down, but which "was barely visible" over the latter from St. Catharine's, in the younger days of many of the old inhabitants of Chale, and who had also been told by their fathers that at one time Shanklin could be seen only from the top of the beacon on St. Catharine's. "This testimony, if allowed," says the worthy baronet, "argues either a sinking of the intermediate down, or a rising of one of the other hills, the causes of which are left for philosophical investigation:" and so with respect to the haven and the church, we leave it as a curious question to amuse our scientific friends—whether it is the sea that has risen, or the land which has subsided?
* * * * *
>> This is a peninsula about three miles long by one broad, terminating abruptly on the sea-side in a range of SUBLIME CHALK PRECIPICES. The part easily accessible to strangers is White-cliff Bay, two miles from the ferry.
* * * * *
On account of the inconvenient situation of Bembridge as to the usual routes, it is not so much visited as Freshwater, whose precipices are on rather a grander scale, and the most celebrated in Great Britain of this magnificent species of coast scenery. For this reason, and also as the cliffs of both places agree almost precisely in their geological character (for they are but the termini of the same chain of hills), we shall merge the general description of the former in that of the latter; but we would advise the stranger who may sojourn at Ryde, by all means to visit Bembridge, if he should decline going to Freshwater; and if in a good boat on a fine day, so much the better,—he will be well gratified with the brilliant spectacle which these noble "white cliffs of Albion" present.
Before the year 1830, Bembridge seemed to be shut out from intercourse with the world: it was very rarely visited; possessed no facilities of communication; and had no charms to call the traveller aside from the routine track. But owing to the WISE and spirited exertions of a resident gentleman, it was soon rendered a populous village.
Among the first improvements was the erection (by public subscription) of a handsome little church for the accommodation of the inhabitants, who before had no place of episcopalian worship nearer than Brading: the next consideration was the establishment of a horse-boat, and other regular means of passage across the haven:—land was sold off on eligible terms for building; several tasty villas were soon erected, and ample shrubberies formed:—new roads were projected, the old ones widened and repaired, and travelling altogether rendered more agreeable. A respectable Hotel was also built at the same time, near the beach.
The face of the country about Bembridge is pleasant enough, being agreeably checquered by grove and meadow, cultivation and open pasturage: but it is THE SURROUNDING PROSPECT which yields the chief pleasure. The situation of the Church and other principal buildings, is sufficiently evident to the visitor from St. Helen's, or as he crosses the ferry.
The chalk precipices of Bembridge are named the Culvers, from the circumstance it is said, of their having been the haunt of immense numbers of wild pigeons; and they are now, as has been already mentioned (p. 21), resorted to in the summer months by prodigious flights of various sea-fowl. There is a small cavern called HERMIT'S HOLE in the face of the cliff, about thirty feet from the top; the descent to it however is steep and narrow, and it is comparatively but seldom visited.
BEMBRIDGE LEDGE is a dangerous reef of rocks, stretching out into the sea a considerable distance: a floating beacon-light called "the Nab" is always moored within a short distance, to warn ships of their position.
* * * * *
YAVERLAND. This is a straggling village near the sea-shore, between Brading and Sandown Fort. The little parish-church and the adjoining mansion (now converted into a farm house,) exhibit a venerable appearance, and being surrounded by groves of magnificent elms, the whole presents one of the prettiest rural scenes in the island; and to the amateur of sketching, it must prove a treat. The Parsonage too will be admired for its appropriate character and pleasant situation.—Passing a few scattered cottages, our road will be on the pebbly beach to ...
Altogether an extensive village, containing several new houses built near the sea-shore, intended for letting as summer lodgings: some of them are large and splendidly furnished: and enjoy a beautiful view of the British Channel, the dazzling cliffs of Bembridge, and the range of coast for two or three miles in the direction of Shanklin. There is a church, newly erected in the upper part of the village: and a neat inn on the beach.
Midway between Sandown and Shanklin we pass through LAKE, a pretty hamlet, having a few cottages that let occasionally for lodgings during the summer months.
* * * * *
Consists of one long, ancient street (through which is the chief thoroughfare from Ryde to Shanklin and the Undercliff,) and a few good houses recently built on the outskirts: it lies about half a mile from the haven; and still retains some of the privileges of an ancient borough. The Church is considered the oldest in the island; as it was certainly in existence early in the eighth century, though some date its erection so high as the sixth, and contend that the first islanders converted to Christianity were here baptized. On account of its antiquity, the numerous relics which it contains, together with the many well written inscriptions to be found on the tombstones in the cemetery (the most noted of which perhaps is the one erected to the memory of "Little Jane,") it is very frequently visited by parties making the southern tour. The surrounding country too is agreeably varied by wood and water, arable and pasture, and a very fine outline of hill and dale.
* * * * *
To return to Ryde or Newport over the downs from Brading, will be found exceedingly interesting to those strangers who delight in the contemplation of grand prospects, and a most fertile and well cultivated country:—having no objection at the same time to a hilly road as the price of their enjoyment, and which we call the most beautiful in the island.
But as artists are often enraptured with passages of scenery that to others prove comparatively uninteresting, we subjoin a sketch by Sir H. ENGLEFIELD, showing the deep interest and pleasure the surrounding landscapes are capable of affording:—
"To enjoy in all its glory, the complete view of the northern tract, which in detail presents so many separate beauties, we must ascend the chalk range that rises immediately from the woods of Nunwell. When the weather is clear, it is impossible to describe the magnificent scene which these hills command, from Brading Downs, by Ashey Sea-mark, and soon quite to Arreton chalk-pit.
"To the north, the woodlands form an almost continued velvet carpet of near 10,000 acres, broken only by small farms, whose thatched buildings relieve the deep tints of the forests. The Wootton River winds beautifully among them, and beyond the whole the Solent Sea spreads its waters, which in clear weather is tinged with an azure more deep and beautiful than any I ever saw. The Hampshire land rises in a succession of hills quite lost at length in blue vapour. The inland view to the south is far from destitute of beauty, though less striking than the northern scene. The vale between the chalk range and the southern hills is seen in its full extent: and the southern hills themselves rise to a majestic height. To the eastward the sea is again visible over the low lands of Sandown, and by its open expanse affords a fine contrast to the Solent Channel.
"The nearer objects on the southern slope are also very interesting: Knighton House, with its venerable grey fronts mantled with luxuriant ivy, and bosomed in the richest groves, is as beautiful at a distance, as it is interesting on a nearer approach. Arreton is also surrounded with trees, which group happily with the pretty church and an old mansion now converted into a farm: and from the western end of the downs, the country about Newport and Carisbrooke is seen to great advantage. Such is the faint outline of a scene, which, in richness of tints, and variety of objects, surpasses anything I ever saw."
Note.—Since this was written, Knighton House has been pulled down.
* * * * *
Objects between Brading and Newport.
Our course will be for the first three miles due west. On the north side is NUNWELL, the oldest seat in the island, having been awarded by William the Conqueror to the ancestors of Sir William Oglander, the present proprietor. Noble specimens of every kind of forest-tree are to be found in the park: particularly oaks, several of which are many centuries old, the family having long employed every possible means of preserving these venerable chiefs of the grove. The house (a large, plain building,) stands at the foot of the down, and therefore is not seen from the road: but the surrounding park, woods, and farms of the estate, spread before the eye in a most beautiful style ...
"With swelling slopes and groves of every green."
ASHEY SEA-MARK is very conspicuously seen, being seated on a high down, three miles from Brading, four from Ryde, and five from Newport: it is a perfectly plain, triangular object, erected in the middle of the last century to assist pilots in navigating St. Helen's anchorage.
On the south side of the down appears the pretty village of NEWCHURCH, in the direct road from Ryde to Godshill, &c. The situation of the Church is rather romantic, being nearly on the edge of a remarkably steep sand-cliff, through which the road is cut, feathered with brushwood and several overhanging trees.
* * * * *
If the tourist be returning to Newport, he will pass through the long village of ARRETON, whose church stands at the foot of the down of that name: it is of considerable antiquity,—and though its style of architecture is certainly heavy, is upon the whole both picturesque and singular. Its chief internal decoration is a beautiful mausoleum to the memory of Sir Leonard W. Holmes, bart.: and in the churchyard is buried the young woman celebrated for her piety in the popular tract of "the Dairyman's Daughter."
* * * * *
THE ROMANTIC SCENERY
OF THE ISLAND,
EXHIBITED ALONG THE SOUTH-EASTERN COAST, FROM
SHANKLIN TO BLACKGANG CHINE.
* * * * *
>> THE CHINE, a beautiful woody ravine in the sea-cliffs, is the great object of attraction; inquire the road to the beach, and you will be conducted through the scene back to the village;—of the latter, a, pretty good idea may be formed in passing through it to Bonchurch,
* * * * *
Here we enter upon the romantic scenery of the island. The village is most delightfully rural, and though it has several roomy lodging-houses, and two large hotels, still, from the bold variety of the ground, and the many shrubberies and clumps of fine elm and ash trees with which it is adorned, the dwellings are so hid from one another, that in almost every point of view it has the pleasing appearance of being but a small quiet hamlet. Except in the most exposed parts, vegetation flourishes with uncommon luxuriance,—even choice exotics: we would point to the Parsonage as an instance, enveloped in myrtles that stand the rigors of winter without protection: indeed it may well be said, that almost every cottage in this beautiful spot is surrounded ...
"With fragrant turf, and flowers as wild and fair, As ever dressed a bank, or scented summer air."
But the crowning feature from which it derives its celebrity as one of the chief curiosities of the island, is THE CHINE—a term that certainly does not convey to a stranger any idea of the scene: it is a provincial expression for a ravine or cleft in the cliffs of the shore, and of which there are several along the coast, possessing a beauty or sublimity that renders them highly interesting.
Having reached the beach, the visitor should take a short walk under the towering sandrock precipices which range to the right and left for several miles, before he enters the Chine. Nowhere on the coast of the island is there a more charming stretch of shore,—for the sand is of a cool dark color, firm enough for wheel-carriages and horses to be used by invalids, and therefore proves equally alluring to the aged as to the young, to enjoy salubrious exercise and recreation; it extends northward to Sandown—about two miles; its monotony being broken by occasional pools of sea-water, and a sprinkling of weed-covered rocks.
* * * * *
At the foot of the cliff stands a fisherman's cottage, which may attract our attention from its picturesque situation.
The first view of the Chine from the beach is not the most favorable: as the eye of the spectator is much too low to comprehend all the deep and bold windings of the chasm, which contribute so essentially to its romantic effect: but, gradually ascending by a narrow path, we soon open a wider view, and should then pause, to contemplate it on every side. We see suspended on the opposite slope, the humble ale house, resting
"Beneath an aged oak's embowering shade."
Just below it, a pretty rose-mantled cottage: and not far off, the gable end of a gentleman's villa, so prominently seated near the margin of the precipice, as to completely overlook the awful abyss. This view is altogether picturesque and animated: for the foreground is exceedingly bold,—and the prospect of Sandown Bay and the sublime cliffs of Bembridge, give wonderful brilliancy and interest to the perspective.
As we advance, the scene becomes increasingly romantic, especially when we are about half-way through it: for the deep sides of the chasm so fold into one another as to exclude all prospect, and yet afford a great diversity of coloring, light, and shade; the one side being beautifully hung with indigenous trees or shrubs, and the uncovered portions of the cliff of a glowing tint; while the opposite side presents the contrast of a sombre hue, and is generally too steep to admit of much vegetation ever gaining a permanent footing. Nor is the most critical eye annoyed by the indications of unnecessary artificial improvements—which so often tend to destroy the delightful robe of simplicity that such scenes of Nature's creation wear, when they are fortunate enough to escape the infliction of man's refinements.
"Still slowly climb the many-winding way, And frequent turn to linger as you go."
We now approach the waterfall, at the HEAD OF THE CHINE; and should there have been lately any heavy rains, it forms a noble cascade of about 30 feet; but after a continuance of dry weather, it is reduced to a scanty rill.
Ascending by a rude path cut in the side of the cliff, we pass through a rustic wicket, and take our leave of this celebrated scene, which has no doubt been formed by the slow operation of the streamlet in the course of many ages, insignificant as it may appear to a casual visitor in the middle of summer. The Chine of Blackgang is indebted for its origin to a similar cause: and this of Shanklin would have gone on rapidly increasing, had not the proprietor resorted to the aid of masonry, draining, piling, &c. to arrest in some measure its further progress towards the village.—See p. 33 of the "Vectis Scenery" for a full account of the formation of the Chines.
The sides of this chasm are about 200 feet in perpendicular height, and perhaps 300 wide at the top, near the beach, gradually diminishing towards the Head or waterfall, where the sides are perpendicular, and only a few yards asunder.
* * * * *
The earthy precipices between Shanklin and Luccombe Chines are called DUNNOSE,—they form the southern termination of Sandown Bay, which is a beautiful stretch of shore of above five miles in extent, bounded on the north by the white cliffs of Bembridge.
* * * * *
As we pursue our tour we can trace the course of the Chine (above the head), by the freshness and luxuriant growth of the trees that stand on its narrow banks: and just as we approximate the little parish-church, pass over a bridge thrown across it—but the streamlet itself is almost hidden by wild brushwood and aquatic weeds. The spring-head is a little above the church.
The Plate represents the church, and a remarkable portion of the road on quitting the village for the back of the island; it is seen ascending circuitously the side of a steep down, between a hanging copse and several groups of the finest ash trees,—one of which (on the left-hand,) has long been celebrated for its amplitude and beauty.
It is quite impossible for language to convey more than a faint idea of the magnificent and interesting prospect which gradually opens to view as the traveller ascends the mountain ridge: the British Channel spreads its blue waters as the boundary on the one side; the greatest portion of the island recedes in the most charming gradations on the other: and the Solent Channel presents the animated appearance of a noble river, crowded with ships of every description; while the opposite coast of Hampshire and Sussex may be traced more or less distinctly for 70 or 80 miles.
* * * * *
A series of pasturing downs stretch for several miles nearly parallel with the sea-coast: of these the nearest is Shanklin—its northern slope being abruptly broken by a fine range of cliff, composed chiefly of gray free-stone feathered by hanging woods, and on the edge of this beautiful precipice stand some very picturesque ruins called ...
Which being seen from a considerable distance in various directions, and never before published, appeared to the Artist to well merit a sketch. Sir Richard Worsley, in his History of the Isle of Wight, states it to be the "ruin of an ancient castle" (though it has been said that it was built as an object of view from Appuldurcombe House); but whether artificial, or really a relic of antiquity, is of little importance, while it proves so conspicuous an ornament to the scene.
* * * * *
Is another chasm in the sea-cliffs, similar to Shanklin in its character, but on a very inferior scale: and therefore is seldom visited by those in a vehicle who have little time to spare. But many walk from Shanklin to it, either on the beach (if the tide be ebbing), or by a foot-path near the edge of the cliffs, the distance being about two miles: either way is extremely pleasant. A few houses and cottages scattered about, serve to enliven the scene.
* * * * *
We now approach a most singular and romantic tract of the south-eastern coast, dividing the claim of interest even with the sublime scenery at the west end of the island: we mean ...
Which commences at East End, and terminates at Blackgang Chine, an extent of above eight miles, averaging about one mile's breadth: and bounded on the land-side by a towering ridge of perpendicular stone cliffs, or precipitous chalky hills; presenting in many parts the venerable time-worn appearance of some ancient fortress. Between this craggy ridge and the sea-cliffs, every spot bears the striking impress of some violent convulsion, such in fact as would be produced by an earthquake: but in proportion to the time that shall have elapsed, so all the more rugged marks of devastation are either obliterated by the liberal hand of Nature, or converted into positive beauties. Originally the whole of this tract, or nearly so, was rock resting on a sort of loose marly foundation: this being perpetually exposed to the undermining action of the sea at its foot; accelerated in wet seasons by the marle being rendered soft and yielding,—it is evident that, sooner or later, such a foundation would give way to the immense superincumbent pressure, and be attended with all the direful effects of a real earthquake.
Most probably other subsidences will yet take place, until more of the oozy, sliding foundation shall be removed, and its place occupied by a sufficient quantity of fallen rock, as will secure the stability of the ground; as we find to be the case for the greater part of this singular tract, which has certainly been in a state of repose for seven or eight centuries at least. Fragments of the cliff are indeed frequently shivered off, but rarely or never attended with any very injurious consequences: it is those extensive landslips which are alarming, when many acres of valuable land are completely overturned and laid waste in a few hours. The huge masses of solid rock thus torn and dashed about, produce the grandest scenes of terror: but are at the same time the source of those singular beauties—that variety of fractured cliff and broken ground, which are the greatest ornaments of this romantic country.
* * * * *
>>The Tourist ought, if possible, to walk through this very romantic scene, and if in a vehicle, be upon his guard that the driver does not hurry him by it, as is often the case.
* * * * *
Here, as we have said before, the Undercliff commences: and as soon as the stranger has nearly compassed the valley of Luccombe, he should particularly enquire for the spot which is the entrance to this romantic scene ...
"Where twines a path in shadow hid, Round many a rocky pyramid."
The distance is only a mile: the carriage in the mean time may proceed on to Bonchurch. But should the party decline the walk, they ought at least to alight, and advance near enough to the edge of the precipice, to have a view of the interesting scene below; and they must bear in mind, that though it lies within a few yards of the road, yet to a person passing by, there is no indication of its being so near.
The great interest of East End arises partly from its present wild character, and partly from its being the scene of the latest formidable landslips that have occurred in the island. In the year 1810, a founder took place which destroyed about twenty acres of land: this was followed by another, eight years after, that ruined in one night at least thirty acres more: at which time above twenty full-grown trees were uprooted, and several of them completely buried in the awful wreck. It therefore affords the inquisitive traveller the best opportunity of examining the cause of the peculiar character of this part of the island.
* * * * *
>>Formerly this was one of the most romantic scenes in the island, but has lately been converted into a fashionable village. Amidst a profusion of new houses, more or less tasty in their style—a villa, called EAST DENE, and the neighbouring old CHURCH, are all that will here particularly call the stranger from the carriage-road.
* * * * *
In the year 1834, this beautiful spot was advertised to be sold off in small lots for building 18 or 20 villas!—a circumstance much regretted by the admirers of the peculiar scenery of the Undercliff, which was exhibited here in its utmost perfection. Nearly the whole of the land is now disposed of; some of the houses were built for the purpose of letting lodgings; one has been opened as a first-rate Hotel; but the greater number are private residences,—and certainly it must prove a most enviable retreat for families or invalids during the winter months. It is impossible for any spot to be better adapted for a number of houses being built in a comparatively small compass: for the whole of the ground is so romantically tossed about by the sportive hand of Nature,—presenting here a lofty ridge of rocks, there a woody dell adorned with a purling stream or a limpid pool, that most of the houses are completely hid from each other's view.
From the bad taste which too generally prevails—we mean the vanity of glare—the affectation of elegance,—so frequently carried out at the expense of all propriety, we were not without apprehension that many of the gentry at Bonchurch would also neglect the essential rule, that the peculiar character of every scene demands an APPROPRIATE STYLE in building and decoration; for it avails little to have ivy-mantled rocks and mossy cliffs, the sunny knoll and the shady glen, with their groves and streams,—if the Genius of the spot be not consulted, and HARMONY made the rule of every innovation and improvement. In a word, it is too often in building as in dress, that many persons resort to show and refinement as the surest means of attracting the world's admiration for their superior taste and rank! But in justice to the Gentlemen who have located in this fairy-land, we must acknowledge that they for the most part avoided (as far as was possible), disturbing the natural beauties of the place, and have studied to make their happy retreats ...
"Smile with charms CONGENIAL TO THE SOIL, and all its own: For Ornament When foreign or fantastic, never charmed."
>>The reader who may feel an interest on this subject is referred to pp. 36 and 43 of the "Vectis Scenery."
The most delightful residence at Bonchurch is called EAST DENE: the beauty of its locality is unrivaled; the exterior of the house in a chaste style; and the interior fitted-up and furnished at a great expense in the antique mode of the 16th century.
The Tourist should certainly visit the old Church, which stands near the shore, and not far from the road, though concealed from it by a lofty ridge of the fallen cliff: it is of simple construction, but beautifully canopied by a grove of magnificent elms, and is supposed to have been built in the 11th century,—which is taken as a proof that this part of the Undercliff was certainly in a state of repose at the time of its erection; and has undoubtedly remained so ever since. Still, we cannot question for a moment, but this spot must have been in some previous age (judging from analogy,) subjected to the same catastrophes which we have witnessed even in our own time in its immediate neighbourhood at East End. There is also a new Church, of a neat design, beautifully nestled amongst the rocks in the higher part of the village.
As ROCK, in this part of the island, constitutes the chief source of picturesque effect, it would be an omission not to point out two crags which have gained quite a celebrity for their age and beauty: the first is Hadfield's Look-out, boldly rising from the road; the other a prominence in the face of the upper range of precipices, called the Pulpit Rock: the former has generally the appendage of a flag-staff,—the latter a rude cross, in unison with its name.
The road through the valley of Bonchurch presents a most enchanting scene: shaded by noble trees; and edged by bold rocky knolls,—and a small pellucid lake and stream, beyond which appears a romantic tract of broken ground and wild brushwood, backed by the venerable grey land-cliff and the lofty brow of St. Boniface Down. On emerging from this beautiful spot, we have on our right a genteel residence called ST. BONIFACE HOUSE, situated close at the foot of the high down which gives the name; built in a very chaste rural style; and embellished by some noble trees, and a sparkling rill.
* * * * *
We now open a general view of the fast-improving town of ...
>>This is the chief resting-place between Shanklin and Niton. The CHURCH, and the COVE, are the most interesting features.
* * * * *
Ventnor has risen into importance with a rapidity greater than any other place in the island: for as late as the year 1830 it numbered but about half-a-dozen cottages, one hotel, a small inn, and the accompaniment of a humble grist-mill, so necessary in a retired hamlet as this was then. But such has since been the eagerness for building, that land for the purpose which was at that time sold for L100 per acre, soon advanced to 300 or L400; latterly the price has risen at the rate of 800 to L1000 per acre for the more eligible sites. And at present there are three first-rate hotels and several minor inns; well stocked shops in almost every line of business: and medical men established on the spot. Several streets of considerable extent are completed, others are rapidly progressing; and much has also been done in the way of public improvements, such as paving, lighting, &c. The new Esplanade, on the beach, cannot fail to prove a delightful convenience both to the inhabitants and visitors at Ventnor.
It is greatly indebted for its prosperity to Dr. Clarke's popular Treatise, to which we have already referred (p. 16,) when speaking of the climate generally. Its progress was still more accelerated by the interest which the proprietor of Steephill Castle, John Hambrough, esq., took in its success, by erecting a handsome church, a large free-school, parsonage, &c.
Building being still carried on with undiminished speculation, the general appearance of the town must be consequently anything but agreeable—nor has there been the lapse of sufficient time for the growth of the shrubberies (however genial the climate,) to attain that size which would afford the relief of even a partial screen. Little therefore can be particularized under the present changing aspect of the place.
Among the buildings which attract attention in entering by the old road, are the connected range called St. Boniface Terrace, occupying a commanding situation, and the houses concurring in one general design: and below, some extensive erections, of rather a novel appearance to the untraveled eye, being strictly in imitation of the airy and picturesque style of the Italian villa.
The somewhat confused appearance of Ventnor is no doubt owing to its unexpected advance having prevented the adoption of any uniform ground-plan, as would no doubt have been done could the proprietor of the land have foreseen the magnitude to which the place was so soon to extend,—for in this respect a considerable improvement is visible in the latest-erected part of the town. The most regularly laid-out streets are near the shore: and one branch-road runs by the edge of the sea-cliffs for about half a mile towards Bonchurch, thus affording the houses an uninterrupted view of the sea.
ST. CATHARINE'S CHURCH is a beautiful feature in every respect, both in its exterior and interior, being the neatest in the island: and situated as it is on a commanding knoll nearly in the middle of the town, affords an admirable relief to the whole scene, by arresting the eye from the scattered glare of the surrounding slate-roofed and white-walled buildings,—which are almost the universal character of the houses.
* * * * *
The COVE presents at certain times a very animated and engaging picture: fishermen preparing for or returning from their voyage; invalids and other respectable parties sauntering or reclining on the sunny beach: some reading, others amused in listening to, and watching the curling waves expire at their feet in spreading foam. The material of the shore is principally fine shingle, or very small pebbles, among which particles are frequently picked up, possessing a brilliancy that has gained for them the title of "Isle of Wight diamonds;" and though they may be comparatively of inferior value in point of intrinsic quality,—still, the interest taken in searching for them must prove a source of the most agreeable employment to those visitors whose health precludes any exercise of a more active nature.
ST. BONIFACE DOWN, which forms a green back-ground to the view, is also an object of interest (at least with artists or amateurs of sketching,) that ought not to be passed by unnoticed. It is exceedingly steep: has a never-failing spring on its lofty summit, and is often cheerfully sprinkled with sheep, of the South-down breed, safely nibbling the close herbage on its precipitous side.
Speaking of the down, we should deserve to be censured by those of our elderly readers who may have been to Ventnor ere it reached the magnitude of a town, not to inform them, that the then only Hotel (so beautifully seated close at the foot of the hill,) is no longer a place of public accommodation; the license has been transferred. Many were the respectable parties of the olden time who used to amuse themselves with the attempt to gain the summit of the down,—sometimes successfully, but more frequently at the expense of a rather too precipitate descent, to the no small diversion of their friends who had less daring to make the experiment. In this age of refinement, such displays of rural agility would be regarded as "utterly vulgar!" there are however more circuitous and accessible paths by which we may reach the eminence, and hence enjoy a most delightful prospect.
In concluding this brief notice of Ventnor, it would be very unfair to Dr. Clarke, not to mention the fact, that he was decidedly opposed to the residences of invalids (with pulmonary consumption) being accumulated together "in the form of a Town;" he recommends that a number of detached houses should be built along the Undercliff, each surrounded with the protection of a garden-wall and a few trees. But, begging the Doctor's pardon, we heartily rejoice that his advice could not be acted upon to any considerable extent (except at Ventnor and Bonchurch); because fortunately the most eligible and attractive spots in this romantic district are in the holding of gentlemen who have chosen such for their private residences: and certainly, if selfishness was ever pardonable, it is so in this instance; nay, for our part, we really congratulate the public, that the spirit of exclusiveness so widely exists in this happy region of the sublime and beautiful. For what a lamentable transformation it would prove of the natural character of the scenery, to have many large and often glary houses obtruding upon the eye in every direction! banishing all the wildest and most interesting local beauties, for domestic convenience or fantastic embellishment! Where then would be the attraction to call the thousands annually to our romantic isle? Where those UNIQUE LANDSCAPES which now constitute its proudest charm?
And after all, the Doctor's objection to a residence in town, is largely compensated for in the case of Ventnor, by the many advantages afforded to invalids, that could be procured only in a populous place: such for instance as regular stage-coaches running to and from Ryde and other places; a good landing-place; bathing-machines; a post-office and reading-rooms; the location of several apothecaries and eminent physicians: tradesmen of almost every description; and the facility of enjoying society in the dullest winter months.
Westward of Ventnor, we have a sudden and most agreeable transition from the glare of the town to a quiet picture of rural scenery, broken only by two or three cottages neatly built in the antique style; this is the commencement of the property of Mr. Hambrough (of Steephill Castle), which extends to St. Lawrence, the estate of Earl Yarborough; succeeded by Old Park; and near Niton, the seats of Mrs. Arnold, Sir W. Gordon, and Mrs. Vine: altogether a delightful distance of above four miles; which we hope will long escape any desecration of its beauties by the operations of building speculators.
* * * * *
This splendid seat, from its proximity to the Undercliff, is most frequently embraced either in the south-eastern or the continued Tour, in preference to giving it a separate day: therefore here is perhaps the best place for its notice, especially as the regular road from Ventnor to Newport passes close by: and as it is only two miles from the former town. It is thus described by Sir Richard Worsley, in his "History of the Isle of Wight:"
"The house is pleasantly situated about seven miles south of the town of Newport: it has four regular fronts of the Corinthian order, built of freestone; the pilasters, cornices, ballustrades, and other ornamental parts are of Portland stone; the roof is covered with Westmoreland slates. The grand entrance in the east front is through a hall 54 feet in length by 24 in breadth, adorned with eight beautiful columns of the Ionic order resembling porphyry. On this floor are several handsome apartments, containing many valuable portraits, and other good paintings; the offices are very commodious, and on the first and attic stories are upwards of twenty bed-chambers with dressing-rooms. The house was begun by Sir Robert Worsley, in 1710: and completed by Sir Richard Worsley, who made considerable additions, and much improved upon the original design."
Sir Richard spent a great portion of his life in collecting the paintings and other relics of antiquity which adorn the mansion, and published a very sumptuous descriptive work, entitled "Museum Worsleyanum." The Estate descended to the Pelham family by the marriage of the Baronet's niece to the late Earl Yarborough.
The park of Appuldurcombe is extensive; and the soil being extremely rich, supports a great number both of deer and cattle,—the former of which is nowhere else to be found in the island. At the back of the mansion rises a lofty hill, whose sides are hung with groves of noble beech, interspersed with many venerable oaks. On the summit is an obelisk, originally seventy feet high, built of Cornish granite, to the memory of Sir Robert Worsley: but of late years it has suffered severely from the high winds, to the violence of which its elevated position renders it so exposed. From almost every part of this down we gain the most splendid views; below, is the rich vale of Arreton, Newchurch, and Godshill: beyond is seen on the north, Portsmouth and the neighbouring anchorages, with the wooded heights above Southampton Water; eastward are the beautiful shores of Sandown Bay; to the west the prospect is continued far beyond the white cliffs of Freshwater, by the coasts of Hants and Dorset: and on the south expands the azure horizon of the boundless ocean.
N.B. Strangers desirous of visiting Appuldurcombe, must provide themselves with tickets at the office of the stewards, Messrs. Sewell, Solicitors, Newport: the days allowed are Tuesdays and Fridays, between the hours of 11 and 4 o'clock.
* * * * *
Bordering on Appuldurcombe Park, is a populous village, chiefly remarkable for the very picturesque situation of the Church, a large and venerable pile, which stands upon a steep hill in the centre of the village,—commanding such an extensive and beautiful prospect as will of itself repay the tourist for the trouble of ascending. The interior of the church is enriched by several interesting monuments, ancient and modern, in memory of the various possessors of the Appuldurcombe estates,—the most sumptuous being that to Sir J. Leigh and his lady, whose marble effigies are canopied by a beautifully ornamented arch; and the massive tomb of Sir Richard Worsley, which occupies the south transept, where a colored window is placed to give it greater effect.—Godshill has a small country inn called the Griffin.
* * * * *
The distance from Ventnor to Godshill is four miles:—and thence to Newport, six: the country is well-cultivated, but presents no object to call for particular notice: we pass the hamlet of ROOKLEY: and the villas of PIDFORD and STANDEN.
WHITWELL is a very retired village, winding between Godshill and Niton: and having a church of some antiquity.
* * * * *
Returned to the Undercliff, the next place in our route which boasts of superior scenic beauty is ...
Where a splendid CASTLE was erected in the year 1833, by J. Hambrough, esq. (thence often called after his name), on a broad terrace of rock that rises almost perpendicularly from the present road: and here it may not be quite uninteresting to state—at least to some of our friends who used to visit the island years ago, that the castle occupies the very site of the once-noted Cottage of the late Earl Dysart, and which was for many years that nobleman's favorite retreat. Steephill was then a most charming rural hamlet; but the cottages are removed (much to the advantage of the tenants), to afford a scope in the grounds corresponding with the dignity of the new mansion. Rustic simplicity and the wilder graces have given way to elegance and polished decoration: but whether the alteration
"Adds beauties to what Nature plann'd before,"
Is merely a question of taste, on which we shall not presume to decide: various are the opinions,
—"And many a stranger stops, With curious eye, to censure or admire."
As the public are now excluded from the garden and pleasure-grounds, it is rather difficult to get a good view of the castle; the best places however are ... a lofty knoll or promontory on the opposite side of the road,—and a rocky mound near THE CAVE, which is in the face of the sea-cliffs, marked by a flag-staff; and there is, close by, a path to the beach. Half an hour's saunter would be quite sufficient to enable a visitor to judge of the beauty of the scene—which at one time procured it the title of Queen of the Undercliff. If but five minutes can be spared, the tourist ought to quit his vehicle, and reach the brow of the promontory above alluded to, were it only for the sake of the delightful prospect which it affords.
The coast of Steephill forms a pleasant little cove or bay, with remarkably bold and picturesque headlands: and the place altogether equals any part of the Undercliff in its natural embellishment of rich groves and sparkling streams, mossy rocks, and broken ground.
DESCRIPTION OF THE CASTLE.—In the design of this stately edifice, it appears to have been the aim of the architect to combine, as much as possible, all the internal advantages of a plain mansion, with the commanding form and embellished detail which usually characterize a castellated structure. It is not therefore open to an objection which lies against many of the most picturesque specimens of this dignified style of building—that internal convenience was sacrificed to the production of bold and pleasing contrasts in the face of the exterior: or that it was the growth of successive improvements. Indeed, both inside and out, all appears to be handsomely proportioned and well-arranged; while in any point of view the whole presents an aspect of elegant simplicity.—The general form of the castle is an oblong; and the most prominent features ... one majestic square tower which springs from about the centre of the north side; another tower of an octagon form at the south-eastern angle; and a beautiful hall-entrance on the east. The predominant tint is a dark grey: but the battlements, quoins, and mouldings, are of a light warm color, resembling the Bath stone. This opposition of tints has a most pleasing, chaste effect, when closely examined: but at a distance the whole melts into a sober hue, like the grey impression of time, and hence harmonizes the more sweetly with the surrounding scenery. Both kinds of stone were procured on the spot.—The architect was the late Mr. James Sanderson, of Ryde.
* * * * *
Remarks on the Exclusion of Strangers from most of the Gentlemen's Seats.—However provoking it may prove to many visitors when making the tour of the island, to be shut out from a view of some of the most charming seats, still it may be justified in a considerable degree; and we feel it our duty to repeat what we have stated elsewhere, that we know several gentlemen who would freely open their gates to respectable visitors, provided they could be assured of every party being contented with a general view of the local beauties, without indulging a too prying curiosity; and at the same time would refrain from plucking choice flowers, fruits, and shrubs, many of which may perhaps have been cultivated by the hands of the owner with an affection of no little solicitude and pride; and of course it is not always convenient to keep a person merely to act as an attendant. But a more decisive reason with many gentlemen who love retirement is, that from the island becoming every year more and more attractive with pleasure-parties, an unlimited admission of strangers would at once annihilate all the charms of rural seclusion; it would in fact be converting the flowery walks of a quiet country-villa into as giddy a promenade as almost any popular tea-garden in the suburbs of the metropolis. Still however, speaking generally, it requires only some slight grounds of introduction: and in the absence of the family there is of course less difficulty,—it being then a privilege often given to the servants.
* * * * *
>>The CHURCH, here, is from its diminutiveness, quite an object of curiosity; and the stranger will also notice THE WELL, on the road-side; but the VILLA and COTTAGE are both secluded from public view.
* * * * *
"Here lawns, and groves, and op'ning prospects break With sweet surprize upon the wand'ring eye:— While through romantic scenes and hanging woods. And valleys green, and rocks, and hollow dales, We rove enchanted."
The scenery of St. Lawrence is a singular union of the cultivated with the wild and romantic—a pleasing interchange of the elegance of splendid retirement with the unobtrusive dwellings of laboring peasants, scattered amidst sheltering groves and ivy-covered rocks. Here the Rt. Hon. Earl Yarborough has ...
"A country-cottage—near a chrystal flood, A winding valley, and a lofty wood;"
Long celebrated as the favorite retreat of the late Sir Richard Worsley, of Appuldurcombe Park, who embellished it in quite a classical style—planting a vineyard, decorating the grounds with models of ancient temples, &c. The house has since been considerably enlarged, and ornamented in the old-English style with elaborate barge-boards and pinnacles. At a short distance is the recently built residence of his Lordship's brother, the Hon. Capt. C.D. Pelham, R.N.—also in the Elizabethan style. By way of contradistinction, the original is emphatically called the Villa, and the latter, the Cottage. It is much to be regretted, that the public have of late been altogether excluded from the grounds—from even walking on the edge of the sea-cliffs!
The miniature CHURCH seldom fails of proving an amusing object with every visitor,—for it ranks among the smallest parochial places of religious worship in Great Britain: its belfry, the pretty little porch, and its several windows, are all in character; it has however lately been found necessary to lengthen the building, in consequence of the increase of population in the vicinity.
THE WELL encloses a fountain of ever-running crystal water, the soft murmurs of which combine with the surrounding scene to produce the most agreeable feelings; and it is marked by so much of that beautiful simplicity which is the foundation of picturesque effect, that perhaps no other object in its charming neighbourhood, except the little church, will afford the stranger more immediate pleasure.
* * * * *
THE ROAD FROM ST. LAWRENCE TO NITON.
>>For the succeeding mile and a half, our attention will be called to no one particular object; but we shall have the Undercliff in all its native character, a circumstance which must prove gratifying to those who admire Nature in HER OWN attire,
* * * * *
The reader will be pleased, we have no doubt, with the following brief notice of this part of the coast, by the late celebrated Mrs. Radcliffe:—
"Oct. 15, 1811.—Passed Lord Dysart's beautiful cottage: it stands at some distance from the shore, and has several distinct roofs, well thatched: stands at the head of a winding lawn, with a fine beech-grove, and richly-colored copse. The little parish-church of St. Lawrence, perhaps the smallest in England, stands on a knoll, and terminates the cultivated valley; immediately beyond which we entered upon a scene of the wildest grandeur and solemnity. Many of the ruinous precipices of the upper cliffs project in horizontal strata, yet have perpendicular rents. Some of the shattered masses give the clearest echoes: we stood before one which responded every syllable with an exactness which was truly astonishing.—There is sometimes what may be called an amphitheatre of rock, where all the area is filled with ruins, which are however covered with verdure and underwood, that stretch up the sides with the wildest pomp: and shelter here a cottage, there a villa, among the rocky hillocks."
* * * * *
Passing a gentleman's residence situated below the road on our left, called OLD PARK (not from its display of sylvan honors), we should look out for a romantic ascent in the lofty cliffs called ...
It is worth examining, being a curious instance of the formation of the bold horizontal crags and ledges which distinguish these hoary precipices. For some distance the path is in a sunken stratum of soft freestone, while the upper ledge of more stubborn rock overhangs it several feet. Having reached the eminence by a rude winding staircase in a rent of the cliff,—we shall be well repaid for our trifling labor, by the beautiful prospect which is disclosed of the Undercliff, spread like an extensive garden immediately under our feet. Many parties walk hence on the edge of the cliffs to Niton, &c.
MIRABLES is another charming villa, through whose luxuriant plantations the road is carried for nearly half a mile, affording a most grateful shade: but, by the bye, at the expense of all prospect.
"Refreshing change, where now the blazing sun? By short transition we have lost his glare, And stepp'd at once into a cooler clime."
The house is secluded from our view: it is in the plain cottage style: but the grounds are not surpassed for rock and sylvan beauty by any seat on the coast.
We successively pass through the grounds, close and open, of the three following villas:
THE ORCHARD (on the same side of the road as Mirables, and like it, not open to the public view): a spacious villa in the embellished style, and the grounds immediately in front being formed into a succession of walled terraces, where the grape-vine and the peach find a congenial aspect: the coping too is adorned with a profusion of elegant vases, filled with the choicest flowers, nor is a gentle fountain wanting to complete the Italian beauty of the scene.
BEAUCHAMP, an unpretending residence in the simple cottage style, on the right-hand side of the road, proceeding to Niton: we catch a glimpse of it through the trees.
PUCKASTER COTTAGE, the property of the late James Vine, esq., remarkable for its chaste and appropriate design, as a residence seated amidst colossal rocks, precipices, and wild tufted knolls. The house, the improvements in the grounds, and every decoration, in character,—UNITY marking the whole: rather an uncommon circumstance, where there is an unceasing desire to give every grace to a favorite scene—and withal, ample scope and means to indulge the wish.
The old road now makes a sudden turn on our right, and here occurs the only considerable break in the upper boundary line of the Undercliff from one end to the other. To the left of us, a considerable extent of land has been laid out and partly disposed of, for the purpose of building on; and new roads made accordingly: but as yet however the speculation has not been carried on with much spirit.
At a short distance we come in front of the garden-wall of a gentleman's villa called WESTCLIFF, a beautiful and well-sheltered spot where the road abruptly divides, the left-hand branch pursuing the tour to Blackgang Chine, and the right to Newport through NITON, a village composed of a number of stone-built thatched cottages, some of which are furnished for lodgings; and has also a decent small inn called the White Lion. The Church is a pretty little object enough, standing at the foot of the down, over which used to be the only direct high-road to Chale and Blackgang Chine.
Continuing on towards the Chalybeate Spring, we pass Westcliff, and come to the ROYAL SANDROCK HOTEL, placed in a most beautiful and commanding situation; it will be readily distinguished by its ample verandah, mantled with the choicest creepers.—Next to the Hotel appears MOUNT CLEEVES, a respectable residence near the foot of the cliff, surrounded by huge rocks and craggy mounds:—one of these is adorned by a small obelisk that serves to mark a beautiful feature which would otherwise be overlooked. The cottage-lodge below is a remarkably pretty object.—See the Plate.
This part of the Undercliff is at once picturesque and lively; there being just sufficient houses to give the scenery a cheerful aspect, without intrenching too much on the natural beauties of the place.
We now enter on a scene which gives us a complete picture of the Undercliff in all its genuine lines,—for it was the subject of an extensive landslip in the year 1799, when a tract of about one hundred acres was disturbed, the whole sliding forward in a mass towards the sea, rifting into frightful chasms, and alternately rising and falling like the waves of the sea: a cottage was overturned, but fortunately no lives were lost.
The annexed Plate of "the Undercliff, as it appears between the Sandrock Hotel and Blackgang Chine," is introduced in order to give an idea of the general aspect of this singular tract: the wall-like precipice which is the land-boundary rises abruptly on the right: the intermediate space to the sea-shore is broken into a series of craggy knolls and dells: the carriage-road threading its way between immense masses of the fallen cliff,—now conducted along the margin of a dangerous slope or precipice; and now descending into a theatre of detached rocks and wild vegetation; but even here, though the softer charms of scenery be wanting, it proves that ...
—"Whether drest or rude, Wild without art, or artfully subdued, Nature in every form inspires delight."
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>> The individual objects in the neighbourhood of Niton, calling for particular remark, are few; notwithstanding the general aspect of the scenery is strikingly wild and sombre. The LIGHT-HOUSE will force itself on our attention: the CHALYBEATE SPRING ought not to be passed by unnoticed; but the crowning feature of the district is BLACKGANG CHINE, a scene of the most terrific grandeur.
ST. CATHARINE'S LIGHT-HOUSE.
The building of this lofty tower was commenced in the spring of 1839, and finished in the following year: the undertaking having originated in consequence of the loss of the ship Clarendon (see p. 85). From the frequent wrecks on this most dangerous part of the coast, it is rather surprizing that such a warning friend to the hapless mariner was not erected before: because many of the catastrophes were owing to the want of some light or signal in the night, which could be distinctly seen by seamen long ere they reached the fatal shore. It is true indeed, that between 50 and 60 years ago, a Light-house was built on the summit of St. Catharine's down, but for some reason not known to the public, it never was equipped and lighted: and was in fact very soon abandoned. It has been said that the site was too elevated, that it would be quite obscured by fogs and mists in those very seasons when its friendly ray was the most required;—it might be so, but certainly that was never proved by the experiment: and it seems strange that these grounds of objection were not suggested to the projectors in time.
The new Light-house stands near the edge of the sea-cliffs, at an elevation of about fifty feet above the beach. The stone Tower is 101 feet high from the surface of the ground, besides the lantern of about 20 feet more: and the foundation is of solid masonry to the depth of thirty feet! The requisite offices for the two light-keepers are built round the foot of the tower, and are comparatively low, so that at a distance the lofty fabric appears as a magnificent column, or
"Like some tall watch-tower nodding o'er the deep, Whose rocky base the foaming waters sweep."
Inside the tower a broad stone staircase winds spirally to the top; and many visitors make the ascent, for the sake of the beautiful view afforded of the adjacent part of the Undercliff, as well as for examining the splendid and complicated lantern.
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As the carriage-road now pursues its mazy course through ...
"Crags, knolls, and mounds, confus'dly hurl'd, The fragments of an earlier world,"
We soon reach the locality of the SANDROCK CHALYBEATE SPRING: easily recognized by the low thatched roof of the Dispensary Cottage, that stands nearly on the brow of the cliff, as the water issues from a rock considerably below, inclosed in a plain piece of masonry. It has been proved by repeated analyses, that there is a larger proportion of iron and alumine in this than in any other mineral water yet discovered: and its medicinal properties are therefore decidedly indicated in the cure of those disorders arising from a relaxed fibre and languid circulation, such as indigestion, flatulency, nervous disorders, and debility from a long residence in hot climates.
Great improvement has taken place in the neighbourhood of the Spring, within these few years, by extensive draining: thus preventing the land-soaks and springs during winter from settling into frequent pools, and thereby reducing the soil to the repulsive condition of a sterile waste of quagmire and sliding rocks, and in every succeeding summer drying up into a thousand dangerous holes and fissures. The ground in fact is now sufficiently firm to invite the builder to the erection of some good houses; and the surface exhibits a healthy herbage: roads have also been made to the shore. A large and handsome-looking house, called an "Italian Villa," has been erected on the east side of the Spring,—but if the architect ever copied such for his model, he certainly should have selected a site more appropriate, that would have justified his choice of style by its genial aspect, its greenwood shades, and the vegetative luxuriance of the soil.
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The shore here is called ROCKEN-END RACE, being composed of vast confused heaps of rocky fragments precipitated in the course of ages from the cliffs above, and now stretching out into the sea for nearly a mile and a half.—Between this and Freshwater lie other formidable reefs, respectively named from the nearest villages, ATHERFIELD, CHILTON, and BROOKE; they are extremely dangerous: and previously to the erection of the new Light-house, occasioned frequent shipwrecks.
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"Where hills with naked heads the tempests meet— Rocks at their sides, and torrents at their feet,"
Deservedly ranks among the most striking scenes in the island, it is the termination of the Undercliff, and of a character the very reverse of Shanklin; for all here is terrific grandeur—without a green spray or scarcely a tuft of verdure to soften its savage aspect. It differs also from that sylvan spot, in being much more lofty, abrupt, and irregular: though it does not penetrate the land so far. Both have their respective admirers: this for its awful sublimity—that for its romantic beauty.
At the head of the Chine is a spacious Hotel, close to the road, and distinguished by the name of the place.
The shelving sides of this gloomy chasm are proved to be little less than 500 feet from the beach in perpendicular height; they are in a constant state of decay—more or less considerable according to the degree of rain and frost during winter: for the same description of soil, namely, a mixture of clay and loose absorbent marle, interspersed with veins of gravel, predominate here as we have seen elsewhere in its neighbourhood. The only relief in fact to the dusky tint of the scene, is two or three horizontal strata of yellowish free-stone, which give it a step-like appearance. The most remarkable feature is a tremendous gloomy hollow or cave, scooped out of the cliffs on the sea-shore by the united action of the waves and the stream: the latter falls over a ledge of the stubborn rock at the top, 70 feet high: and after heavy floods, forms a noble cascade of one unbroken sheet: but like others of its class, in summer fails in its amount, and often degenerates into a noiseless dribble.
Nowhere can we get a complete view of Blackgang except off on the water, which is not always practicable: certainly not in the very seasons when the whole appears with the greatest interest,—when there is a strong wind and tide setting in-shore, and the face of Nature is shrouded in deepening gloom, with perhaps some hapless vessel in danger of being wrecked,—it is then dressed in all the congenial horrors of savage sublimity.—No one, a stranger to the sea-coast, would imagine how awfully the surges lash the stony beach in tempestuous weather: the high-curling waves break with a deafening roar, and mounting the lofty cliffs in sheets of dazzling foam, are wafted in misty clouds half over the island—even to Newport, where the windows facing the south are occasionally dimmed with the saline vapors, almost to an incrustation.
The visitor will of course endeavour to descend to the shore; but this is sometimes attended with considerable fatigue and difficulty, after wet weather, to those who are delicate and infirm. For this reason, we have taken our sketch from near the new bridge, to which the descent from the hotel is generally easy: and from which the visitor may gain such a view as will enable him to form a very good idea of the whole scene. The windings of the Chine commence a little below the Hotel, which (as already stated) stands at least 500 feet above the beach.
From the proximity of several newly erected villas and lodging-houses, it ought here to be stated to the visitor, that the true character of the place is in consequence greatly injured: for the garish and obtrusive habitations of genteel life but ill accord with that solitary and impressive magnificence which constitutes the very interest—the sublimity and peculiarity of a silent and cheerless scene, such as formerly were the aspect and condition of Blackgang Chine and its immediate neighbourhood.
"There has long been a tradition that Blackgang Chine was once the favorite retreat of a gang of pirates, and from that circumstance its name was derived.—Without disputing the fact of its having offered occasionally concealment and a safe depository to smugglers, or even pirates for a time,—it is equally, if not more probable, that it is indebted for its very expressive appellation to its sombre coloring, and the step-like appearance of the strata, if the word gang be admitted to have the same signification as it has in a ship."
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Between Blackgang and Freshwater are several other Chines on an inferior scale, partaking more or less of the same sterile aspect: such are Walpan, Whale, Compton, Cowleaze and the Shepherd's, Grange, Chilton, and Brooke: but though several of them are well entitled to notice, they are seldom visited, owing to their remoteness from the public roads.
>> It should be observed however, that though they possess less scenic interest than those already described,—they embrace a portion of the island most attractive to the geologist, from the circumstance of the cliffs and shores abounding in the most beautiful specimens of fossil remains.—We would moreover call the attention of those visitors who may desire to examine into the agency which has produced the chines, to the two called Cowleaze and the Shepherd's—the latter of which has been formed within the last 40 years, in consequence, it is said, of a countryman in an idle moment turning the course of the small rivulet which had hitherto run through Cowleaze. They are situated about a mile from Brixton.
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ST. CATHARINE'S HILL
(In the steep side of which on the south is Blackgang Chine), is the highest in the island, or between 800 and 900 feet above the level of the sea. An ancient octagon tower stands at the top, built on the site of, or rather as an appendage to, a hermitage—originally endowed by a benevolent individual for the purpose of providing lights in dark and stormy nights:—there is also the shell of the old light-house mentioned at p. 79.
The regular carriage-road between Chale and Niton used to be over this down previous to the year 1838: and we in some measure regret (although celerity in travelling be now the order of the day), that it is superseded by the road then made to Blackgang: to the admirers of illimitable prospect it afforded a rich treat, "for language is scarcely adequate to describe the various beauties which present themselves from this elevated spot."
On the northern extremity of St. Catharine's down is an elegant and most conspicuous object (72 feet high,) called the ALEXANDRIAN PILLAR: the purpose of its erection is perhaps best told by the inscription itself:
"In commemoration of the visit of his Imperial Majesty Alexander I, Emperor of all the Russias, to Great Britain in the year 1814—and in remembrance of the many happy years' residence in his dominions—this Pillar was erected by Michael Hoy."
On the slope is a seat called the MEDINA HERMITAGE (formerly the summer-residence of the gentleman named on the pillar): the house is characterized by simplicity and neatness: and its greatest ornament is a large verandah, having a broad trellis roof, beautifully intertwined with the sweetest varieties of climbing plants. From its very elevated situation, it commands a rich display of the country from Niton to Newport.
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Must be passed in the regular tour, going to or returning from Blackgang; stands close to the road; and though simple in its architecture, has a venerable and rather picturesque appearance—especially its square tower, which proves a great relief to the flatness of the view looking westward to the Freshwater cliffs: dates its erection in the 12th century; and exposed as it is to the rage of the elements, affords an instance of the stability which characterizes the structures of antiquity.
The cemetery of Chale incloses many a shipwrecked mariner—no doubt some hundreds who were deposited, in the course of ages, without any memento whatever: but the public are now more interested, from the circumstance of the unfortunate sufferers in the wreck of the ship Clarendon being here interred,—to whose memory tombstones are erected, on which the date and other particulars of their melancholy fate are recorded.
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WRECKS ON THE SOUTHERN COAST.
We have already stated how dangerous this part of the coast is during a south or south-west wind, to vessels unmanageable in a storm: and previously to the erection of the new Light-house, few winters passed without two or more wrecks occurring between Niton and Freshwater Bay. In former times, the waifs, or possession of such remains of ships or their cargoes as were washed ashore, seems to have been a valued right of this, as well as some other manors in the Isle of Wight; and many tales have been told of the inhumanity of the wreckers who in those days are said to have resided in the neighbourhood,—which, if true, are strongly contrasted by the ready zeal and liberality which the present inhabitants display in assisting those unfortunates whom the furious elements so often cast on this fatal shore.
Of the numerous vessels which have been lost here in our own time, the largest was perhaps the Carn-brea Castle East Indiaman, in July 1829: she left Spithead at nine o'clock in the morning, and about six hours afterwards struck on the rocks near Mottistone: the weather being fine, her crew and passengers easily reached the shore. The size of the ship, and the remarkable circumstances under which she was lost, attracted a considerable number of visitors to the spot,—as she was not immediately broken up, though all hopes of removing her were soon abandoned.
A far more disastrous wreck was that of the CLARENDON, a West India trader of 350 tons, which took place on the 11th of October, 1836: and will be remembered with increased interest, as the acknowledged fact of her loss being mainly attributable to the want of some warning beacon on the land, led almost directly to the erection of the splendid light-house at Niton. She had 11 passengers, male and female, and 17 seamen on board: her cargo consisted of sugar, rum, molasses, and turtle; she was heavily laden, and had been about six weeks on her voyage. The preceding evening was fine, and the breeze favorable, and the passengers retired to rest in fancied security, with the pleasing hope of safely reaching their destination on the following day. After midnight the wind increased; but though the ship drove rapidly before it, no danger was perceived till about day-break,—when, already in the surf, there was no longer a possibility of escape. The crew immediately proceeded to set all sail the storm would permit, in hopes of weathering the point; but their gallant efforts could not long delay the fate of the doomed vessel, she continued to drift towards the beach, on which she struck a little before six o'clock, and within five minutes was totally demolished. It would be a useless attempt to describe the horrors of that short but fearful period: all that could be gathered from the statements of the survivors was, that she twice touched the ground lightly, forward, at which time all her people were assembled on the deck; and presently one mountain wave hurled her broadside on the beach with such stupendous force, that the huge hull at once parted into a thousand fragments! The frightful brevity of the whole catastrophe prevented any measures being taken for the relief of the passengers and crew, although the ship was scarcely twice her own length from the cliff; and all perished except the mate and two seamen, who were rescued by the courageous exertions of some countrymen who had hastened to the spot as soon as dawn disclosed the inevitable danger of the vessel.—For some hours afterwards a hideous spectacle was here presented,—the naked and mangled bodies of the unfortunate sufferers, with the remains of the vessel and cargo, were tossed about in dire confusion by the raging waves, or dashed again and again on the stony beach; but before the close of the day, most of the former had been drawn ashore, and the broken fragments of the wreck were strewed on the beach for several miles. Six of the passengers (an officer named Shore, his wife, and daughters,) were buried in Newport churchyard, where a monument has since been erected to their memory; and it is a strange fact that the premises which adjoin that cemetery on the western side, had been but a short time previously engaged for their reception by a near relative, who there anxiously awaited the ship's arrival. Most of the others (as already mentioned,) were interred at Chale.
Subsequently, the wrecks on the island coast have been less numerous, and rarely accompanied by loss of life or any other circumstance of particular interest: the case of H.M. Steam-sloop SPHYNX, however, having excited so large a share of public attention, claims a brief notice. Returning from her first voyage to Africa, she neared the coast during a thick fog about six o'clock on the morning of Jan. 16, 1847: and by the force of her engines was driven over the outer ledge (off Brooke), and firmly fixed in the clay beds within. The suddenness of the accident caused great alarm amongst her crew and passengers (300 in number): and the startling discharges of her heavy artillery quickly aroused the inhabitants for miles round: but daylight and the ebbing tide enabled her people to reach land with no great difficulty,—although a boat, sent to her from another war-steamer, capsized with the loss of seven men. For nearly two months, repeated efforts were made to extricate the Sphynx from her awkward position: and after her masts, guns, and most of her stores and machinery had been removed, and the hull itself buoyed up by a vast number of empty casks, and some decked lighters (called camels), she was at length brought off and towed into Portsmouth harbour on the 3rd. of March. Her bottom had sustained considerable injury, though much less than was expected from her having lain so long in such a situation, and during several severe gales.