Travel Guides Crafted by Experienced Archaeologists & Historians

Isle of Wight
Art, History & Archaeology Sites & Museums

Split from Hampshire to form its own county in 1890, the Isle of Wight lies off the south coast of England. As well as a number of Bronze Age round barrows, the island is also home to the Longstone, potentially part of a former Early Neolithic long barrow. When the Romans ruled here, they established a villa at Brading, while the Middle Ages saw the creation of Carisbrooke Castle. To defend the island from foreign attack, King Henry VIII had Yarmouth Castle built, while the Victorians added the Golden Hill Fort for the same purpose. Several prominent stately homes were later established on the Isle of Wight, such as the 18th-century Appuldurcombe House, now in a state of ruin. More famous was Osborne House, built in the 1840s as a summer retreat for Queen Victoria and her family. The island has provided a retreat for more than just monarchy, in 1912 Quarr Abbey was founded here for a group of Benedictine monks.

Archaeology & History Sites on the Isle of Wight

Appuldurcombe House

When built in the early 18th century, Appuldurcombe House was a masterpiece of English Baroque architecture. So grand, the gardens were landscaped by the grandest of English gardeners, Capability Brown, in the 1870s. Although much of this park is now incorporated into surrounding farmlands. Once the finest house on the Isle of Wight, today the building is a shell. In the early years of the 20th century monks from France were housed here before the construction of Quarr Abbey.

Brading Roman Villa

In a designated area of outstanding natural beauty, Brading Roman Villa is one of the finest Romano-British sites in the UK with some of the best preserved mosaics in northern Europe. The villa was first a simple farmstead, but by the time it was destroyed by fire towards the end of the 3rd century it was an impressive villa surrounding three sides of a central courtyard. The main building of the villa is now entirely exposed and under the cover of an ward-wining and ecologically sensitive exhibition and visitor centre.

Carisbrooke Castle

Today a popular attraction on the Isle of Wight managed by English Heritage, Carisbrooke Castle has had many lives over its 1,000 year history. The earliest evidence is that of a Saxon fortress against Viking raids, then a Norman castle, an Elizabethan artillery fortress, a king’s prison during the Civil War and also a royal summer residence in the early 20th century. Since 1944 the hall range, originally renovated for Queen Victoria’s daughter Princess Beatrice, has housed the Isle of Wight Museum.

Newport Roman Villa

Discovered in 1926 when the nearby homeowner was digging the foundations for a garage. Due to public interest and support the site was saved and protected, with the villa partially reconstructed and now open to the public. Of particular interest is the well preserved bath suite, with hypocaust heating system, and kitchen. The skull of a woman in her 30s was found in one of the rooms, as well as window glass and painted wall fragments. The villa gives a good idea of life in the 3rd century AD on the Isle of Wight.

Osborne House

Osborne House stands on the site of an 18th century house, of which only the garden and stables remain. With the view over the Solent, Prince Albert was reminded of the Bay of Naples. And so the private holiday home for built for Victoria and Albert’s family was styled to look like an Italian Palazzo. Osborne House was one of three residences to which the Queen withdrew following the death of her husband. And it was here that Victoria died in 1901 at the age of 81.

Quarr Abbey

Completed in 1912, Quarr Abbey is one of the most important examples of early 20th century religious architecture in England. The church and monastic buildings, Grade 1 listed, were built using Belgian brick using a combination of French, Byzantine and Moorish architectural styles. The abbey is not far from the 12th century, Cistercian monastery. Although only just completed, the Guest House was used as a convalescence home for soldiers returning from France during the First World War. The Abbey is now home to an art gallery.

Yarmouth Castle

An artillery fort constructed during the reign of King Henry VIII in 1547, with modifications and renovations in the 16th and 17th centuries, Yarmouth Castle continued to be used until 1885. This was the first arrowhead artillery bastion to have been built in England. It was brought back into military use during the two World Wars. Today a tourist attraction, the fortification still has a prominent position in Yarmouth Harbour.

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Museums & Art Galleries on the Isle of Wight

Newport Quay Arts Centre

Refurbished warehouses at the head of the Medina River are now home to the Isle of Wight’s leading venue for cultural events. The Quay Arts Centre includes a number of facilities for live music and drama and three art galleries that showcase art produced by the island’s artists. The centre also has facilities that encourage the development of art on the island, including a ceramic workshop, a print studio and artists’ studios.