Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
The ancient 'Kynges Towne' of Brading is the main town of the parish of the same name, which used to cover about a tenth of the Isle of Wight but now includes the town itself and Adgestone , Morton, Nunwell and other outlying areas between Ryde, St Helen's, Bembridge, Sandown and Arreton.
From early times, Brading undoubtedly ranked as an important Island port. The ancient name of Brerdynge from which 'Brading' is derived probably meant (according to 'Place Names of the Isle of Wight') the people living by the ridge of the Downs and dates from at least 683.
The Roman Villa south of the town, as well as the numerous relics of the Roman period discovered in the area, show that this was a seaport of some note 2,000 years ago. Signs of prehistoric activity have also been found on Brading Down.
Local history records that St Wilfrid came to the Island during the 680's, landed at Brading, preached there to the Islanders and began the conversion of the Island, possibly establishing his first church there. This is not entirely compatible with Wilfrid's known biography.
Royal charter and governance
The charter granted to Brading by Edward VI in 1548 makes reference to a previous charter granted by Edward I in 1285. In recognition of this status as a town, Brading still has a mayor and an elected town council.
In mediaeval times the town was governed by the Steward, Bailiffs and 13 Jurats, and returned two MPs to the Westminster Parliament. Now the town is a part of the Isle of Wight parliamentary constituency.
The old port
Until the 16th century the port was active. Ships lay alongside at the quay behind the Bugle Inn in the High Street. Ships came into Brading Haven for shelter and for provisions, particularly water, which was of a high quality. The north-eastern part of the haven was closed off by an embankment completed in 1594, much of which is still present. Ships would then tie up at the far end of Quay Lane on the other side of the embankment.
Throughout the Middle Ages various attempts were made to drain off the rest of the harbour; for it had gradually become silted up and, except for the main channel of the river, was too shallow to be of any commercial use. Sir Hugh Myddleton , who had constructed the New River from Enfield to London for James I, undertook this work; but the sea broke in and flooded the land once again. After others had also tried and failed, this reclamation was finally accomplished in 1881 by the building of a substantial embankment right across the harbour, with the building of the railway to Bembridge.
So Brading now shares with Winchelsea and Romney the distinction of being a seaport without any sea. Losing access to the sea caused Brading to decline in importance and prevented the sort of growth enjoyed by Cowes and Newport.
The Town Hall
An historic Old Town Hall stands near to the church. The New Town Hall dates from 1903. There is no record of the earliest Town Hall, but an entry in The Court Leet Book 1729 refers to the assessment of one shilling rate, and also a subscription towards building a new Town Hall, Market House and Prison. In 1730 an extra 3d was added to the rate for the Town Hall. This new building remained until 1876 when it was restored to its present state, and then contained the Free Town Library. Before the building of the first school in 1823, the children were taught in the Town Hall, and it was also used for Mother's Meetings. The Town Trust now owns the building. Brading was formerly the testing place for weights & measures for all of East Wight and these standards are still kept in the upper building together with the Town Charter.
The Bull Ring
Set in the ground outside the new Town Hall (1903) there is an iron bullring which, in its original location was once used to secure a bull whilst it was being baited by dogs. According to the diaries of Sir John Oglander , the Governor of the Isle of Wight would donate 5 guineas for the purchase of the bull to be baited; the meat was afterwards donated to the poor of the town. The Mayor attended this ceremony in full regalia and a dog, known as the Mayor's Dog, would be decked with coloured ribbons and set on the bull after the proclamation had been made.
The Town Gun
The town possesses a gun. It is a brass piece, made in 1549 by the Owine Brothers, John and Robert, so that the town might be defended from French invasion. The gun was never used in action, but was taken to the top of Brading Down in 1832 so that it could be fired to celebrate the passing of the Reform Bill. Unfortunately it exploded and split putting a stop to celebrations for the day.
Wildlife and Landscape
The southern half of the town is in the Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. There are two Sites of Important Nature Conservation close to Morton and another on the downs. Brading Down is a popular viewpoint and downland beauty spot, with outstanding views over Culver Down and Sandown Bay. From the north side of the hill you can look over the town towards the mainland. From further up you can see the Solent and the Spinnaker Tower at Portsmouth. This elevated site is also of great archaeological importance, with prehistoric, Roman and mediaeval remains, as well as practice trenches from the first world war.
The RSPB Brading Marshes nature reserve is the first RSPB reserve on the Isle of Wight. Situated on the reclaimed land of the old harbour, behind the present-day Bembridge Harbour, it was bought in 2001 and is a mix of lagoons and ditches, reed beds and meadows, with a fringe of ancient woodland.
Brading is served by the Island Line Railway with direct connection to the Wightlink ferry at Ryde Pier Head and stops at Ryde, Smallbrook , Sandown, Lake and Shanklin. Brading is also on the Island’s circular cycle route used for the annual “Bicycle Island Randonee”.
The town is well connected to the surrounding countryside by footpaths and bridleways. The Bembridge Trail passes through the town along Doctors Lane, Cross Street, High Street and Quay Lane (Wall Lane) then along the top of the embankment to St Urian's Copse. There are 71 other footpaths, by-ways and bridle paths in the civil parish area and organised parties of walkers may often be seen meeting at the station or the Bullring.
Features of the Town
The main street of Brading contains most of the facilities expected of a large village, or in Brading's case, small town. There are three pubs and a restaurant in the town, and one at nearby Yarbridge . The Church of St Mary's is at the north end of the town and the Methodist chapel is near the centre. There is a small supermarket, a post office, a newsagents, several other specialist shops, at least three teashops and a fish and chip shop.
Brading has many attractions to tempt the visitor, quite apart from the natural beauty of the area. These include the famous Isle of Wight Waxworks Museum ; the Lilliput Doll and Toy Museum ; The Roman Villa at Morton with its protective cover (new in 2004) and interpretation centre; and Morton Manor with its vineyard and gardens.
One of the town's claims to fame is that the boards used in churches all over the world to display hymn numbers were invented here by the Rev Legh Richmond, who was curate-in-charge of Brading and Yaverland 1757 to 1805, and a famous writer of inspirational evangelist pamphlets at that time.
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