Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Cowes is a seaport town on the Isle of Wight, an island due south of the major southern English port of Southampton. It is located on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina facing the smaller town of East Cowes on the east Bank. The town is therefore sometimes referred to as West Cowes, especially where distinction is needed such as at the ferry termini. Leland's nineteenth century verses, described the towns poetically as "The two great Cowes that in loud thunder roar, This on the eastern, that the western shore". The two towns are linked by a chain ferry. The combined population was 19,919 in the 1991 census, a figure that is easily doubled during the regatta in early August (see below).
Cowes is now renowned for sailing, Cowes Castle being home to the world famous Royal Yacht Squadron, which ranks amongst the world's elite yacht clubs. The town gives its name to the world's oldest regular regatta, Cowes Week, which occurs in the first week of August. Later on in the summer, powerboat races are held.
East Cowes is home to Norris Castle, designed by John Nash, and Osborne House, the former summer residence of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. The Prince had a major influence on the building of St Mildred's Church in Whippingham , East Cowes, which features distinctive turrets imitating those found on a German castle. Both towns' architecture is heavily influenced by the distinctive style of ornate building which was popular in Prince Albert's time.
Cowes and East Cowes are key gateway towns for the Isle of Wight. Those travelling to Southampton are served by a high speed catamaran passenger ferry from "West" Cowes and a vehicle ferry from East Cowes. Visitors arriving at East Cowes find it hard not to notice the worlds largest Union Jack on the hangar doors of the building originally used by Saunders Roe and successive marine and aerospace manufacturing companies.
Both Cowes and East Cowes derive their names from the time of Henry VIII, when fortifications called cowforts or cowes were built on the east and west banks to dispel a French invasion. In earlier centuries (when there two settlements were much smaller and known as East and West Shamblord; the East then being more significant settlement) the Isle of Wight had been a frequent target of attempted French invasions with some notable incursions. The west fort survives to this day, albeit without the original Tudor towers, as Cowes Castle but the east fort disappeared in the eighteenth century and should not be confused with East Cowes Castle built by John Nash (architect)
It is believed that the building of a small boat called Rat O'Wight on the banks of the river Medina for the use of Queen Elizabeth I sowed the seed for Cowes to grow into a world renowned sailing centre. Later, when George IV secured his own interest in sailing in the town with the holding of the first Cowes regatta and the establishment of the Royal Yacht Club (known later as the Royal Yacht Squadron), the roots had become secure for the town to become the world's yachting capital.
Northwood House was donated under trust to the town in 1929, the grounds becoming Northwood Park, was the home of the Ward family. William George Ward was a close friend of the poet Tennyson and in whose memory the poet wrote six lines which included these two:
Farewell, whose living like I shall not find,
My friend, the most unworldly of mankind.
During the reign of Queen Victoria who made her summer home at Osborne by acquiring and rebuilding Osborne House, East Cowes was the subject of planned estate of grand houses, groves and parks. The scheme, not finding the finances it needed was folded, but a few residences built in the early stages still survive to this day such as the former Albert Grove residences of Kent House and Powys House on York Avenue.
Local industry in both Cowes and East Cowes has always centred on the building and design of marine craft, including the early flying boats, and sailmaking. It is also noted as the place where the first hovercraft was tested. East Cowes was also once home to the manufacturer Saunders Roe, who built the flying boat The Saunders-Roe Princess.
To celebrate the Silver Jubilee of the Queen's coronation in 1977, the main hanger doors of what was then the British Hovercraft Corporation (a successor to Saunders Roe) were painted with the world's largest image of the Union Jack.
- Dr Thomas Arnold headmaster of Rugby School
- Queen Victoria and Prince Albert
- John Nash (architect) - who designed Norris Castle and lived at his other creation East Cowes Castle(demolished mid twentieth century), and is buried in St James's churchyard.
- Lord Mountbatten of Burma (in childhood), later last Viceroy of India at Kent House, East Cowes
- Cliff Mitchelmore - BBC television and radio presenter/producer
- Mark King - Internationally acclaimed guitarist and principal founder of the Pop Group Level 42
- Robert Stigwood - Music and Film producer, acclaimed for Grease and Saturday Night Fever, lived in Barton Manor , East Cowes until 2004 and annually opened parts of the house, and the spectacular gardens, to the public in aid of a local charity.
Quotes and jokes
The name of the town has led to many jests and puns over the years. Here are some examples, which, perhaps it need not be said, are best read out loud to be fully appreciated.
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