Britannia, by William Camden

Isle of Wight.

Big T TO this County of Southamton, there belongs an Island which is stretch’d out, over-against it, to the South; by the Romans call’d Vecta, Vectis, and Victesis; by Ptolemy, Greek text; by the Britains, Guith; by the Saxons, ⌈ Saxon: Wiht and Saxon: Wihtland,⌉ Saxon: Wuitland and Saxon: Wicth-ea (for they call’d an Island, Saxon: Ea,) and by us at this day, The Isle of Wight, and Whight. It is separated from the Continent of Britain by such a small rapid Chanel (formerly call’d Solent,) that it seems to have been joyn’d to it; whence (as Ninnius observes) the Britains call’d it Guith, which signifies a Separation: As Sicily, in the opinion of Julius Scaliger, had it’s name from the Latin Seco; because it was broken off, and as it were dissected from Italy. Whence (with submission always to the Criticks) I would read that passage in the sixth of Seneca’s Natural Questions, Ab Italia Sicilia resecta; and not rejecta, as it is commonly read. ⌈But this opinion concerning the original of the name, however plausible, is not universally agreed-to. For tho’ Ninnius, a Britain, has call’d it Guith; yet it was after the coming-in of that people which our Historians term Jutæ, and the Saxons Saxon: Jotas and Saxon: Jutna cynn; and, at the same time, all agree that this Island fell to their share, upon the expulsion of the Britains. Now, Bede expresly names them Vitæ, which the Saxon Idiom, of course, would make Witæ, as it changed Vir into Saxon: Wer. And the Interpreter of Bede calls the Jutes who came over, Saxon: Geatas, or Getes, which points out to us their first original from the Goths, once so considerable a People in Germany. In the * * Cap.35.Laws of Edward the Confessor, they are named Guti, which (as † † Glossar. in Guti.Sir Henry Spelman observes) by a custom of changing Gu into Wy or Wi, becomes the same with Wyti or Witi; and the Saxon Aspiration, us’d in hundreds of the like instances, brings it to the true writing Saxon: Wiht and Saxon: Wihtland. If the names may be thus reconciled without straining, the reason of the thing makes the conjecture probable enough. For what can we imagin more natural, than that this People should call their Division after their own name; in the same manner as the Saxons and Angles (the two other sharers) fix’d their names upon their respective bounds; as any one may observe by the ancient Division of England? But of these two Opinions, every one is at liberty to chuse which he pleases.⌉ From the nearness of situation, and likeness of the name, we may guess this Vecta to be that Icta which (as Diodorus Siculus has it) at every tide seem’d to be an Island; but, at the time of the ebb, the ground between this Island and the Continent was so dry, that the old Britains us’d to carry over their tinn in Carts, in order to transport it into France. But I cannot think this to be Pliny’s Mictis,Mictis. tho’ so like the name Vecta: for in that Island there was white lead, whereas in this there is not any one vein of metal, that I know of.

This Island, from east to west, is of a Lentil or oval form; in length, 20 miles, and in the middle, where it is broadest, 12 miles over; the sides lying north and south. To say nothing of the abundance of Fish in this sea; the soil is very fruitful, and enables the Inhabitants to export Corn to other parts. There is every where plenty of rabbits, hares, partridge, and pheasants; and it has, besides, a forest and two parks, which are well stock’d with deer, for the diversion of hunting. Through the middle of the Island, there runs a long ridge of hills, where is plenty of pasture for sheep; whose wool, next to that of Lemster and Cotteswold, is reckon’d the best, and is in such request with the Clothiers, that the Inhabitants make great advantage of it. In the north part, there is very good meadow-ground, pasture, and wood; the south part is all, in a manner, a Corn-Country, enclos’d with ditches and hedges. At each end, the sea from the north, edges-in to such a degree, that it makes almost two Islands; which indeed are call’d so by the inhabitants, viz. that at the west-end, Fresh-water-Isle,Fresh-water-Isle. the other at the east-end, Binbridge-Isle.Binbridge-Isle. In Bede’s time, there were in it 1200 † † 1607.families; now, it has 36 towns, villages, and castles. As to Ecclesiastical Government, it is under the jurisdiction of the Bishop of Winchester; as to Civil, under the County of South-hamton. The inhabitants facetiously boast, how much happier they are than their Neighbours, since they never had either * * Cucullatos monachos.Monks, or Lawyers, or Foxes: ⌈But as to Monks, it is certain that St. Mary’s in Carisbrooke, was a Cell of Black Monks, belonging first to Lyra in Normandy, and afterwards to the Abbey of Montgrace in Yorkshire, and then to the Cistercians of Sheen. Besides which, there were in the Island three Priories.⌉

The places of greatest note, are these: Newport,Newport. the best market in the Island, formerly call’d Medena, and Novus Burgus de Meden, i.e. the new Burrough of Meden, whence the country (as it lies east or west) is divided into East-MedenEast-Meden. and West-Meden.West-Meden. ⌈This place hath given the title of Earl to Montjoy Blount, created Aug. 3. 4° Car. 1. who was succeeded in the same honour by his son and heir George Blount; and he, by Henry his brother. In the year 1711. Thomas Windsor (son of Thomas Lord Windsor, Earl of Plimouth,) who had been created Viscount Windsor of the Kingdom of Ireland by King William the third, was by Queen Anne created Baron Montjoy, from this place.⌉

Next, is Caeresbrok,Caeresbrok. an old castle in the very middle of the Island, ⌈eminent in the Saxon-times;⌉ and so call’d by a strange mangling of the name for ⌈ Saxon: Wihtgaraburh, or⌉ Whitgaresburg, from one Whitgar a Saxon; of whom more hereafter. It was, * * Lately, the last Age, magnificently rebuilt by the Governour. To this castle belong’d very many Knights Fees; and for antiquity, it exceeds all others in the Island; ⌈being also frequently mention’d in our modern Histories, since the Imprisonment of that Pious and Religious Prince, King Charles the first, in this Castle.⌉ Brading,Brading. another market-town. NewtonNewton. and YarmouthYarmouth. Mayor-towns, which also send Burgesses to Parliament. This Yarmouth and Sharpnore have their castles, which with Worsleys-tower secure the north-west shore. Opposite to these, and not above two miles distant, is Hurst-castle,Hurst-castle. built upon a little tongue of land in Hamshire. Quarre, where a ¦ ¦ A Nunnery, C.V.Mon.Angl.Monastery was founded Anno Dom. 1132. ⌈by Baldwin Earl of Devonshire, and consecrated to the Virgin Mary.⌉ Godshill,Godshill. where J. Worsley erected a Free-school: West-CowWest-Cow. and East-Cow,East-Cow. now both in ruins, were built at the Entrance into Newport by Henry 8; of which Leland,

Couæ fulmineæ duæ coruscant
Hæc casum colit, ille Solis ortum
Vectam quà Neoportus intrat altam

The two great Cows that in loud Thunder roar,
This on the Eastern, that the Western shore,
Where Newport enters stately Wight.—

On the North-east side, stands Sandham-castle,Sandham. fortify’d, like the rest, with great pieces of Cannon.

The Island is also well fortify’d by Nature; being encompass’d with a continu’d ridge of rocks; and some lie under water all along before the Island, to the great hazard and danger of Sailors. But the most dangerous are, the Needles, so call’d because they are very sharp, and pointed; and the Shingles, which lie before the west-corner of the Island: as on the east-side, are the OwersOwers. and the Mixon;Mixon. and on the North-coast, the Brambles;Brambles. shelves, which often deceive the Seamen. And if there be any place where an Enemy may conveniently land, that, according to the old way, is fenced with stakes fastened in the ground.

But for all this, it is not so well fortify’d by its rocks or castles, as by it’s Inhabitants; who are naturally warlike and couragious; and, by the daily diligence and careAnn. 1607. of the Governour, have the methods of Exercise so perfect, that, be the service they are put upon what it will, they are masters of it: for they shoot at a mark admirably, keep their ranks, march orderly; as occasion requires, they can close into a round, or loosen their Ranks: they can endure long marches, and the fatigues of hot and dusty weather; in short, they are Masters of whatever is requisite in a good soldier. The Island, of it self, can raise 4000 such men in times of war; besides, there are 3000 of the Hamshire Militia, and 2000 of the Wiltshire, appointed for the defence of the Island, upon all Emergencies. And, that they may with greater ease make head against an Enemy, it is divided into eleven parts, every one of which has it’s Centoner, or Centurion; and it’s Vintons, or Vicenarii, i.e. Leaders of Twenty; not to mention the † Tormenta majora.great Cannon, and the Centinels who keep watch on the high hills where the Beacons stand; and their Posts and Couriers, (by an obsolete name call’d Hoblers,) who are to give intelligence of all occurrences to the Governour.

Vespasian was the first who reduced this Island to the power of the Romans, while he serv’d as a private Officer under Claudius. For thus Suetonius writes of him:In the life of T. Vespasian, c.4. In the reign of Claudius, by the favour of Narcissus, he was sent Lieutenant of a Legion into Germany: being thence removed into Britain, he fought 30 pitch’d Battels with the Enemy, subdu’d 2 powerful nations, took above 20 towns, together with the Isle of Wight which lies upon the Coast of Britain; partly under the command of Aulus Plautius a Consular Lieutenant, partly under the conduct of the Emperor Claudius himself. For which he was honour’d with Triumphal ornaments; and, in a short time after, with * * Duplex Sacerdotium.two Sacerdotal Dignities. It was at this Island, that Alectus, when he had usurp’d the Government of Britain, † In speculis & insidiis collocata.lay in wait for the Romans with his Fleet; who yet by the help of a favourable fogg, got to shore undiscover’d by the Enemy, and set fire to their own ships, that there might be no temptation to run away. The first of the Saxons that subdu’d it, was Cerdicus; and he gave it to Stuffa and Whitgar, who put the greatest part of the British Inhabitants to the swordAn. Dom. 530. in Whitgaraburgh, call’d so from him, and now by contraction Caeresbrok. After that, Wolpher King of the Mercians subdu’d this Island, and gave it,Bede l.4. c.13. together with the country of the Meanvari, to Edelwalch King of the South-Saxons, when he stood Godfather to him. Ceadwalla King of the West-Saxons (after Edelwalch was kill’d, and Arvandus, a petty Prince of the Island, was made away) joyn’d it to his own Dominions, and cruelly massacred almost all the Natives of the Island. He gave 300 Hides, the fourth part thereof, to Bishop Wilfred, who first instructed the Inhabitants in the Christian Religion. But let Bede speak in his own words.

Bede, l.4. c.16. After Ceadwalla had got the Kingdom of the Geuissi, he took also the Isle of Wight, which till then was wholly given to Idolatry; and by a bloody Massacre endeavour’d to extirpate the natives and in their stead to people it with his own Country-men; obliging himself, as they say, by vow (tho’ he was not as yet become Christian) that if he conquer’d the Island, he would devote the fourth part both of it and of his spoil, to God; which he accordingly did, by giving it to Bishop Wilfrid for the service of God; for * * Forte de gente sua superveniens.he being of that country happen’d to be there. The Island is judg’d by the English to include twelve hundredFamiliarum.hides: whereupon three hundred of them were given to the Bishop. But he committed that part which he receiv’d, to one of his Clerks, by name Bernwin, who was his sister’s son; giving him a Priest, whose name was Hildila, with order to baptize, and preach the word to all who were desirous of Salvation. Where I think my self bound to observe, that among the first-fruits of those who were converted in that Island, two young boys of the blood-royal, brothers to Arvandus King of the Island, were by the special grace of God, crowned with martyrdom. For when the Enemy was ready to invade the Isle, these young brothers made their escape, to the next Province; where, coming to a place that is call’d Ad Lapidem,Jutarem. See p.192. and thinking to secure themselves there from the fury of the conquering Prince, they were betray’d, and order’d to be put to death. Which coming to the ears of a certain Abbot and Priest call’d Cynbreth, who at a small distance from thence had a Monastery in a place call’d Reodford,Reodford. i.e. the ford of reeds; he came to the King, who was then privately in those parts for the cure of the wounds he had receiv’d in the Isle of Wight, and desir’d of him, that if those young brothers must be kill’d, he would please first to permit them to be baptis’d. This request the King granted; upon which the Abbot having instructed them in the word of truth, and baptiz’d them, he gave them a sure title to the Kingdom of Heaven. And immediately after, the Executioner coming to them, they joyfully submitted to a temporal death, as a certain passage to eternal life. And in this order, after all the Provinces of Britain had receiv’d the Christian faith, the Isle of Wight was also converted; in which, notwithstanding, because of the miseries of a foreign yoke, none had the dignity of a Minister or Bishop, before Daniel, who is now Bishop of the West-Saxons and the Geuissi.

From which time, Authors say nothing of this Island, till the year 1066. when Tostius, brother to King Harold, invaded it with some Pirate-ships from Flanders, out of spite to his brother;Florence of Worcester. and when he had compell’d the inhabitants to pay him a certain Tribute, he sail’d off. A few years after (as I find in an ancient book belonging to the Priory of Caeresbrok, which was shewn me by Robert Glover Somerset-herald, our great oracle in Genealogical Antiquities,) as William the Bastard conquer’d England, so William Fitz-Osborne (who was his Mareschal, and Earl of Hereford) conquer’d the Isle of Wight, and was first Lord of it. A long time after, the French in the year 1377. surpris’d and plunder’d the Isle. They made another unsuccessful attempt A.D. 1403. being bravely repuls’d; as they were again, in the reign of Henry the 8th, when the French Gallies set fire to one or two small Cottages, within the memory of our * * So said, ann. 1607.Fathers.

As to the Lords of this Isle:Lords of the Isle of Wight. William Fitz-Osborne bring presently after slain in the wars of Flanders, and his son Roger attainted and banish’d; it came into the King’s hands, and Henry 1. King of England gave it to Richard de Ridvers (otherwise call’d Redvers, and de Ripariis,) Earl of Devonshire, and with it the Fee of the village of Christ-Church: Where this Richard built a Castle, as likewise another at Caeresbrok; but his son Baldwin (in the troublesome reign of King Stephen, when there were as many Tyrants in England as Lords of Castles, who all usurp’d a power of coining money, with other branches of Soveraign Authority) was depriv’d of this castle by King Stephen. Yet his posterity recover’d their ancient right; whose pedigree I have already drawn, where I treated at large of the Earls of Devonshire. At length, Isabella, widow of William de Fortibus, Earl of Albemarle and Holderness, sister and heir of Baldwin the last Earl of Devonshire of this Family, was very hardly prevail’d with to surrender all her right and title, † Per Deed, to King Edward 1.

Since that time, the Kings of England have held this Isle; and Henry de Beauchamp Earl of Warwick was by King Henry 6. (of whom he was a mighty Favourite) crown’d King of the Isle of Wight, and afterwards entitl’d First Earl of all England. But this new and extraordinary Title dy’d with him. Afterwards, Richard Widevile Earl of Rivers, was made Lord of the Isle of Wight by Edward 4. and Reginald Bray * * In firmam’d it of King Henry 7. (whose Darling he was) at the yearly rent of 300 Marks. Besides these Lords, it has had a noble Family call’d de Insula or Lisle; one of whom in the reign of Edward 2. was summon’d to Parliament by the name of John de Insula Vecta, i.e. of the Isle of Wight.

More rare Plants growing wild in Hamshire.

Ascyrum supinum villosum palustre C. B. Park. Marsh S. Peter’s wort with woolly leaves. On a rotten moorish ground not far from Southampton abundantly. It grows on the like grounds in many places, especially of the West-Country.

Alopecuros maxima Anglica Park. altera maxima Anglica paludosa Ger. emac. altera maxima Anglica paludosa, seu Gramen Alopecuroides maximum J. B. Lob. Ad. part. alt. The great English marsh-Fox-tail-grass. In the moist pastures of this County, near the Salt-works, and an ancient house call’d Drayton, about two miles from Portsmouth, over-against the Isle of Wight, plentifully. Lobel.

Asphodelus luteus Acorifolius palustris Anglicus Lobelii J. B. LancastriæLancastriae verus Ger. emac. descr. Pseudo-asphodelus palustris Anglicus C. B. Lancashire. Asphodel or Bastard-Asphodel. On a bog in a heath in the mid-way between Sarisbury and Southampton. This is very common in bogs and watery places both in the West and North parts of England.

Bardana minor, Ger. Xanthium seu lappa minor J. B. Park. Lappa minor, Xanthium Dioscoridis C. B. The lesser Burdock. I once found it in the road from Portsmouth to London, about three miles from Portsmouth. But, it being an annual Plant, may be lost again there.

Cissampelos altera Anglica minima Park. p.173. The least English Black Bindweed. This grows about Drayton near Portsmouth. It differs little from the common black Bindweed but in the smallness of it’s parts: which may be owing to the barrenness of the soil.

Dryopteris PenæPenae & Lobelii Ger. emac. p. 1135. True Oak-Fern. This Mr. Goodyer found in a very wet moor or bog, call’d White-row-moor, where Peat is now dug a mile from Petersfield in Hamshire. This is found in many wet and boggy grounds in divers Counties of England. It is called by Jo. Bauhine Filix minor non ramosa; and by us Fil. minor palustris repens.

Erica maritima Anglica supina Park. English low Sea-heath. Found by Lobel about Portsmouth. Park. p. 1485. This we have found in many places on the Sea-coasts both in Essex and Suffolk.

Malva arborea marina nostras Park. English Sea-Tree-Mallow. About Hurst-castle near the Isle of Wight: where also grows Crithmum chrysanthemum in great plenty on the miry marsh-ground.

Mercurialis mas & fœminafoemina J. B. vulgaris mas & fœmina Park. Ger. Merk. testiculata sive mas Dioscoridis & Plinii: & spicata sive fœmina eorundem C. B. French Mercury the male and female. On the baich near Ryde in the Isle of Wight plentifully.

Nidus avis flore & caule violaceo-purpureo colore, an Pseudo-limodoron Clus. hist. p. 270. Ger. emac. p. 228. Found in the border of a Field call’d Marborn, near Habridge in Haliborn a mile from Alton. Mr. Goodyer.

Pulmonaria foliis Echii Ger. rubro flore, foliis Echii J. B. angustifolia cœruleocoeruleo rubente flore C. B. Bugloss Cowslips, or long-leaved Sage of Jerusalem. Found by Mr. Goodyer flowering, May 25. in a wood by Holbury-House in the new forest, Hamshire.

Rapunculus corniculatus montanus Ger. flore globoso purpureo J. B. folio oblongo, spica orbiculari C. B. Alopecuroides orbiculatus Park. Horned Rampions with a round head of flowers. Found by Goodyer in the enclosed chalky hilly grounds by Maple-Durham, near Petersfield in Hamshire. It grows in divers places of the Downs in Sussex.

Chamaespartum As for the Genistella Anglica spinosa supina, sive Chamæspartum supinum, which Lobel is said to have observed growing not far from Southsea-castle, where it flower’d July and August, with slender trailing branches of a span long.

And the Genistella sive Chamæspartum rectum, flore & acutis spinis sparto supino paribus & similibus, found by the same Lobel flowering in July near Portsmouth, both which he is said to have describ’d in the Margin of his Dutch Herbal P. B. We could not find any such Plants in those places, neither heard we of them.


Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:52