Descriptive Gazetteer Entry for COWES

COWES, a town, two chapelries, and a sub-district, in the Isle of Wight. The town is in Northwood parish; is often called West Cowes; and stands at the left side of the mouth of the Medina river, 4½ miles N of Newport, and 11½ SSE of Southampton. It occupies the declivity of a semicircular eminence; and looks very picturesque, as seen from the water; but consists chiefly of steep, dark, narrow, winding streets. A railway, called the Cowes and Newport, authorized in Aug., 1859, and opened in July, 1862, connects it with Newport. Cowes is the principal port of the island, a last calling-place for many ships leaving England for all parts of the world, the station of the Royal Yacht club, a favourite resort for sea-bathing, and a starting-point of Isle of Wight tourists; and it possesses appliances, outskirts, and environs suitable to all its characters. The roads in front of it have sheltered anchorage in from 6 to 11 fathoms; and the harbour is capacious and secure. Steamers ply regularly to Southampton, Portsmouth, Ryde, Yarmouth, and Lymington; and steamers also, at frequent periods, which are made known by advertisement, start hence to sail round the island. Lodging-houses are numerous; there are five chief hotels; and a project was started toward the end of 1859 for a monster hotel on a similar plan to that of the new Westminster Palace hotel. A small castle, one of the circular forts for the defence of the coast, was built by Henry VIII. below the town, at the debouch of the river; was modernized into a mansion; and is now occupied by the Royal Yacht club. The former house of the club, now a hotel, stands to the east, and is marked by a projecting verandah. The club was founded in 1812; has a library, reading room , and similar household arrangements to those of a London club; owns vessels to the aggregate burden of more than 10, 000 tons; carries on yachting from the beginning of May till the end of October; and holds a regatta annually in the first week of August. Excellent baths, a well-sheltered bathing-beach, and a good supply of bathing machines are in the vicinity of the castle. A fine promenade, called the Marine Parade, extends from the castle westward to Egypt House, a Gothic building with a tower, now occupied as a school. Villas and gardens adorn the neighbourhood of the parade, and other outskirts of the town; and North-wood Park, a large Italian edifice, the seat of G. H. Ward, Esq., stands on the summit of the hill. A floating bridge, capable of conveying horses and carriages, connects-the southern part of the town with East Cowes. The town has a head post office, † a banking office, a telegraph office, a town-hall, a custom-house, two churches, and Independent, Bible Christian, Wesleyan Methodist, Primitive Methodist, Wesleyan Reformer, and Roman Catholic chapels. The building of ships, steam-vessels, yachts, and boats is carried on in three yards, one of which is large, and has a dock 330 feet long and 62 feet wide. There are also two foundries, a rope-work, and two sail-making establishments. The port includes Newport, Ryde, and Yarmouth as sub-ports; and the vessels belonging to it, at the beginning of 1863 were 149 small sailing vessels, of aggregately 3, 837 tons, -56 large sailing vessels, of aggregately 5, 372 tons, -and 4 steam vessels, of aggregately 202 tons. The sailing-vessels which entered, in 1858, were 63 from foreign countries, of aggregately 3, 677 tons; 3 from British colonies, of aggregately 649 tons; and 1, 328 coastwise, of aggregately 48, 670 tons. The vessels inwards from foreign ports in 1862 were 33, of aggregately 2, 614 tons; outwards to foreign ports, 46, of aggregately 2, 285 tons. The amount of customs in 1858 was £4, 494; in 1867, £4, 801. Pop. in 1841, 4, 107; in 1861, 5, 482. Houses, 1, 015. Sir Charles Fellows, the Lycian traveller, is a resident.- The two chapelries are West Cowes and Holy Trinity, dating from 1653 and 1832; and they divide the town between them, and are p. curacies in the diocese of Winchester. Value of the former, £165; * of the latter, £250.* Patron of the former, the Vicar of Carisbrooke; of the latter, Lt. Col. Loyd.—The sub-district comprises the parishes of Northwood and Whippingham. Acres, 10, 330. Pop., 10, 449. Houses, 1, 927.

(John Marius Wilson, Imperial Gazetteer of England and Wales (1870-72))

Linked entities:
Feature Description: "a town, two chapelries, and a sub-district"   (ADL Feature Type: "cities")
Administrative units: Cowes CP/Ch       Hampshire AncC
Place: Cowes

Go to the linked place page for a location map, and for access to other historical writing about the place. Pages for linked administrative units may contain historical statistics and information on boundaries.