Freshwater, Isle of Wight

Freshwater is a large village and civil parish[3][4] at the western end of the Isle of Wight, England. The southern, coastal part of the village is Freshwater Bay, named for the adjacent small cove.[5] Freshwater sits at the western end of the region known as the Back of the Wight or the West Wight, a popular tourist area.[6]

Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, England-26Dec2013 (1).jpg
Freshwater Bay, December 2013
Freshwater is located in Isle of Wight
Location within the Isle of Wight
Area5.59 sq mi (14.5 km2[1]
Population5,369 (2011 census)[2]
• Density960/sq mi (370/km2)
Civil parish
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Sovereign stateUnited Kingdom
Postcode districtPO40
Dialling code01983
FireIsle of Wight
AmbulanceIsle of Wight
UK Parliament
List of places
Isle of Wight
50°40′57″N 1°31′30″W / 50.682566°N 1.524884°W / 50.682566; -1.524884Coordinates: 50°40′57″N 1°31′30″W / 50.682566°N 1.524884°W / 50.682566; -1.524884
Freshwater town centre

Freshwater is close to steep chalk cliffs. It was the birthplace of physicist Robert Hooke and was the home of Poet Laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson.


Freshwater is famous for its geology and coastal rock formations that have resulted from centuries worth of coastal erosion. The "Arch Rock" was a well-known local landmark[7] that collapsed on 25 October 1992.[8] The neighbouring "Stag Rock" is so named because supposedly a stag leapt to the rock from the cliff to escape during a hunt. Another huge slab fell off the cliff face in 1968, and is now known as the "Mermaid Rock".[9][10] Immediately behind Mermaid Rock lies a small Sea cave that cuts several metres into the new cliff.

Freshwater's beach is very popular with tourists and locals. It is mostly sandy, but it is also covered in chalk from the nearby cliffs, which is frequently gathered by tourists as souvenirs.

Freshwater features an excellent example of a surviving Victorian Beach hotel, The Albion. The Albion was built around the time Freshwater became well-regarded as a coastal resort and is still popular today. Frequent repair-work and repainting are undertaken on the building's sea-front exterior walls, due to strong storms which often batter rocks, and other debris, against it.

The hills above Freshwater are named after Tennyson. On the nearby Tennyson Down is a Cornish granite cross erected in 1897 in tribute to Tennyson, "by the people of Freshwater, and other friends in England and America." There is also a hill in the area called 'Hooke Hill', named for Robert Hooke.

The Anglican All Saints' Church, Freshwater is one of the oldest churches on the Isle of Wight,[11] and it was listed in the Domesday survey of 1086.[12][13][14] Mark Whatson is the current pastor of All Saints, which is in the Anglican Diocese of Portsmouth.[15] A primary school associated with the church is nearby.[16] There is a marble memorial commemorating Tennyson in All Saints Church. Tennyson's wife Emily and other family members are buried in the church cemetery. The church is also the site of a memorial to Tennyson's son, Lionel Tennyson, who died of malaria in 1886.

Freshwater Bay, circa 1910. The large building in the foreground is The Albion, a Victorian hotel built in response to an influx in popularity
Dimbola Lodge (foreground, left), overlooking Freshwater Bay, 2006.

Dimbola Lodge, the home of Julia Margaret Cameron and now a photographic museum, is in the village of Freshwater Bay, which is part of Freshwater. There is also a tearoom and bookstore.

Tennyson's son, Hallam, donated land for a new church in Freshwater Bay. Hallam's wife Audrey suggested that the church be named for St. Agnes. St. Agnes' Church, Freshwater was consecrated on 12 August 1908.[17] It is the only thatched church on the Isle of Wight.[18][19][20]

Freshwater was the site of the largest station on the Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway that operated from 20 July 1889 to 21 September 1953.[21][22] A supermarket and garden centre now occupies the location of the former station.[23]

Freshwater is near the source of the Western Yar, a river whose estuary runs north to Yarmouth. Freshwater Marshes are a Site of Special Scientific Interest,[24][25] and a large part of the Marshes is also a Local Nature Reserve called Afton Marshes.[26][27]

At the western end of Freshwater Bay on a bluff are the remains of Fort Redoubt, also known as Fort Freshwater or Freshwater Redoubt, a Palmerston Fort. Fort Redoubt was built in 1855–1856 to protect Freshwater Bay and was in use until the early 20th century; until the military sold it in 1928. Presently, part of it is a private residence, and other portions are being developed as holiday flats.[when?] A doorway carved into the cliff below the fort was the main access to the building from the beach, although most of the iron stairway that formerly gave access has broken up due to the repeated actions of rust and the tide.

Although being sited near a cove, Freshwater often receives high waves as a result of storms in the English Channel
View of Freshwater from Tennyson Down, with the Solent beyond.

Two unusual structures that have been described as ice houses, pottery kilns or crematoria are found on Moons Hill in Freshwater. Robert Walker was the first to excavate these features in the 1890s, and he thought they were evidence of a Phoenician settlement in Freshwater. Chemical analyses suggest that they were most likely lime kilns.[28]

Notable residentsEdit

The renowned scientist Robert Hooke (1635–1703) was born in Freshwater in 1635. His father John Hooke was the curate of All Saints Church in Freshwater. When Hooke's father died in 1648,[29] Hooke left Freshwater for London to be apprenticed to portrait painter Peter Lely. After that, he went to Westminster School and then Oxford.

Painter George Morland lived in Freshwater in a structure known as the "Cabin" around 1800.

British Poet laureate Alfred Lord Tennyson lived at nearby Farringford House (on the road between Freshwater and Alum Bay). Tennyson lived at Farringford from 1853 until the end of his life in 1892. Tennyson wrote of Farringford:

"Where, far from noise and smoke of town
I watch the twilight falling brown,
All round a careless-ordered garden,
Close to the ridge of a noble down."

Tennyson rented Farringford in 1853 and then bought it in 1856.[30] He found that there were too many starstruck tourists who pestered him in Farringford, so he moved to "Aldworth", a stately home on a hill known as Blackdown between Lurgashall and Fernhurst, about 1+14 miles (2.0 km) south of Haslemere in West Sussex in 1869. However, he returned to Farringford to spend the winters.

Pioneering photographer Julia Margaret Cameron lived in Freshwater at Dimbola Lodge from 1860 to 1875.

In 1960, Dekyi Tseri, mother of the current Dalai Lama, stayed at the guest house of Sir Basil Gould's widow Cecily in Freshwater for six weeks. Tseri, known to Tibetans as "Amala", meaning "The Great Mother", was recuperating after a throat operation to remove a benign polyp performed at St. Mary's Hospital in London.

Freshwater was also the birthplace of Sir Vivian Ernest Fuchs (11 February 1908 – 11 November 1999). An English explorer, and Fellow of the Royal Society, whose expeditionary team completed the first overland crossing of Antarctica in 1958.


The Freshwater Village Association was created in November 2006. The Freshwater Village Association was formed by Freshwater residents who are concerned that Freshwater might lose its identity as a village.[31] The Freshwater Bay Residents Association was created on 2 July 1984, to express concern over the development of Freshwater Bay.[32]

Freshwater Lifeboat is an independent lifesaving organisation based in Freshwater Bay.[33] It operates the Freshwater Bay Lifeboat Station on the promenade along Freshwater Bay and two lifeboats from public donations and profits from shop sales since it is not part of the Royal National Lifeboat Institution.[34]

It hosts the Freshwater and Totland Carnival every year.

Freshwater is the headquarters of the Robert Hooke Society, who have created a walking trail around the area called the "Hooke Trail" to visit sites associated with him. They hold bi-monthly meetings at the Island Planetarium at Fort Victoria, a yearly Memorial Luncheon on 3 March on the date of his death and week-long celebrations of his birthday, 18 July.


The ancient causeway over the River Yar, leading into Freshwater, looking west, with the tower of the mediaeval All Saints' Church, Freshwater, visible above the trees.

There is evidence of a Roman harbour at the end of the Western Yar. In 530 AD, the Island fell to a combined force of Saxons and Jutes. After the Norman Conquest, Lord of the Island William Fitz Osbern gave the Saxon All Saints' Church and its tithes to the Norman Abbey of Lyre sometime between 1066 and his death in 1071. In 1414 all alien priories were seized by the Crown. In 1623, when King James I gave Freshwater Parish to John Williams, Bishop of Lincoln, Williams then granted Freshwater to St John's College, Cambridge on 24 March 1623.[35][36]

The Freshwater Parish originally was composed of five farms, known as "tuns": Norton, Sutton, Easton, Weston and Middleton. All of these place names still exist, except for Sutton, which is now called Freshwater Bay (previously Freshwater Gate). The first meeting of the Freshwater Parish Council was on 31 December 1894.[37]

In 2010, 250kg of cocaine was found in Freshwater Bay. The "Freshwater Five" fishing crew were convicted in relation to this, but are appealing their conviction.[38]

Village attractionsEdit

Freshwater Bay, with the lower reaches of the golf course in the foreground and the chalk cliffs of Tennyson Down behind

There are several attractions within the immediate area:

Not all of these attractions are within the formal boundaries of the village.


Freshwater is linked to other parts of the Island by Southern Vectis buses on route 7 and route 12 serving Totland, Yarmouth and Newport as well as intermediate villages. In the Summer, open-top bus "The Needles Tour" and tourist service "Island Coaster" serve Freshwater Bay.[40][41] Freshwater is on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ Office of National Statistics: QS102EW - Population density retrieved 30 May 2017
  2. ^ "Civil Parish population 2011". Retrieved 19 October 2015.
  3. ^ English Parishes & Welsh Communities N&C 2004 Archived 9 January 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Some sources describe Freshwater as a town "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 16 December 2007. Retrieved 18 December 2007.CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link), and since 1974 any civil parish has the right to declare itself as a town, but it does not appear on the List of towns in England.
  5. ^ Freshwater Bay was previously known as Freshwater Gate (Local Area, Freshwater Bay Residents Association website)
  6. ^ "Freshwater Isle of Wight". 10 May 2015. Retrieved 13 January 2016.
  7. ^ The Arch and Stag rocks 1903, Steve Shafleet, Isle of Wight Historic Postcards website, 15 January 2007
  8. ^ Page showing bookmark commemorating the fall of the Arch Rock, giving exact date
  9. ^ Freshwater Isle of Wight, Steve Shafleet, showing the Mermaid Rock and Arch Rock and other images, Isle of Wight Historic Postcards website, 15 January 2007
  10. ^ Freshwater Gallery, Steve Shafleet, showing the Arch Rock, Freshwater Caves and other images, Isle of Wight Historic Postcards website, 31 December 2005
  11. ^ Freshwater Church and Causeway, Steve Shafleet, Isle of Wight Historic Postcards website, 23 March 2007
  12. ^ Freshwater, All Saints, Steve Noyes, Welcome to Steve Noyes' web page: Here you will find a load of my bellringing programs, compositions and so on.
  13. ^ All Saints, Freshwater, 1998-2008 UK Church Directory Ltd
  14. ^ All Saints, Freshwater, photoset on Flickr, 30 Sep 2007.
  15. ^ Church of England, Freshwater, All Saints and St Agnes, Official Isle of Wight website Archived 22 January 2009 at the Wayback Machine
  16. ^ All Saints Church of England Primary School, Hampshire official website
  17. ^ Freshwater Isle of Wight Page 2, Steve Shafleet, Isle of Wight Historic Postcards website, 26 December 2006
  18. ^ St Agnes Church, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, Norman Atkinson, Flickr website, 14 January 2008.
  19. ^ West Wight, Official Isle of Wight Tourism, 2007
  20. ^ St Agnes Church, Freshwater Bay, Isle of Wight, Mark Collins and Alan Loze, Roughwood website, 2003
  21. ^ Freshwater Station, Nick Catford, Disused Stations website, updated 20 March 2006
  22. ^ The Freshwater, Yarmouth and Newport Railway Archived 20 November 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Steve Shafleet, Isle of Wight Historic Postcards website, 24 August 2005
  23. ^ Freshwater Station (then and now) Archived 12 September 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Steve Shafleet, Isle of Wight Historic Postcards website, 24 August 2005
  24. ^ "Freshwater Marshes citation" (PDF). Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  25. ^ "Map of Freshwater Marshes". Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Natural England. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  26. ^ "Afton Marshes". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  27. ^ "Map of Afton Marshes". Local Nature Reserves. Natural England. Retrieved 3 August 2013.
  28. ^ What are the Moons Hill Structures? Archived 24 April 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Roger Hewitt, Isle of Wight History Center Archived 4 August 2007 at the Wayback Machine, December 2000
  29. ^ Chronology of Robert Hooke, Robert Hooke page, hosted by Westminster School 2000–2007 Webmaster
  30. ^ The Home of Tennyson Archived 24 December 2007 at the Wayback Machine, Rebecca FitzGerald, Farringford: The Home of Tennyson Archived 4 December 2008 at the Wayback Machine official website
  31. ^ About Us, Freshwater Village Association Archived 12 October 2007 at the Wayback Machine website
  32. ^ About Us, Freshwater Bay Residents Association website
  33. ^ Freshwater Lifeboat: Making Our Seas Safer official website
  34. ^ Welcome to the Home Page of the Freshwater Bay Residents' Association, Isle of Wight, United Kingdom
  35. ^ Parish History Archived 20 July 2008 at the Wayback Machine, Freshwater Parish Council Archived 29 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine official website
  36. ^ Local History, Freshwater Bay Resident's Association official website
  37. ^ Freshwater Parish Archived 29 September 2006 at the Wayback Machine official website
  38. ^ BBC News
  39. ^
  40. ^ "Southern Vectis - bus routes". 2008. Archived from the original on 30 November 2009. Retrieved 2008-05-04.
  41. ^ "Southern Vectis - The Needles Tour". 2008. Archived from the original on 28 April 2008. Retrieved 4 May 2008.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Freshwater, Isle of Wight at Wikimedia Commons