The correct spelling is 'Wight' rather than 'White', but why this word with its unique spelling was adopted after the Romans left in the 5th Century AD is not entirely agreed on by the experts.
Wight is a Middle English word, from the Saxon wiht, and used to describe a creature or living being.
It is similar to Old High German wiht, meaning a creature or thing.
More recently, the word has been used within the fantasy genre of literature to describe the undead Barrow-wights from the works of Tolkien.
Many of the Island’s towns and villages retain Anglo-Saxon names, for example Culver Cliff, named after 'culfre', the Saxon word for pigeon.
Another is Boniface Down, named after Saint Boniface.
During the occupation by the Roman Empire 50 to 400AD the Island was called 'Vectis' and the word Vectis is still much in use on the Isle of Wight today.
But the name was dropped when the Romans left in the 5th Century AD.
The only thing that can be said with any degree of certainty is that it has nothing to do with the colour of the cliff and the Island is not spelled Isle of White!
Robert Hooke (1635-1703), the famous scientist, philosopher, inventor and astronomer was born in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight in the road that now bears his name, Hooke Hill.
Hooke coined the term ‘cell’ to describe the basic unit of life.
There is a trail around Freshwater in his memory and a permanent exhibition dedicated to his life’s work can be viewed at the Isle of Wight Planetarium at Fort Victoria.
The Isle of Wight has had a number of famous residents over the years.
Some island-born celebrities include Oscar-winning film director, Anthony Minghella, Mark King, lead singer/bassist in pop/funk band Level 42, Jeremy Irons, an actor born in Cowes, Bear Grylls, the adventurer, writer and television presenter, yacht designer, Uffa Fox, and actress Sheila Hancock. ‘Overner’ celebrities who have made the Island their home, or stayed for extended periods of time include Winston Churchill, Charles Dickens, Charles Darwin, John Keats, Karl Marx, Alfred, Lord Tennyson, Dame Ellen MacArthur, and of course Queen Victoria!
Because of it's geography the Isle of Wight was once always considered a good location to imprison law breakers, and some of history’s highest profile criminals were once imprisoned on the Island at the former maximum-security HM Prison Parkhurst (now known as HMP Isle of Wight) including the Richardson Brothers and the Kray Twins.
Possibly the Island's most famous prisoner was of course Charles I, who was held at Carisbrooke Castle from 1647-1648 prior to his execution in London.
In 1956, Sir Christopher Cockerell secured funding to produce his invention – the hovercraft.
The contract was given to Saunders Roe, the flying boat firm based in Cowes on the Island.
Eight months later, Sir Christopher Cockerell found himself on board his 20ft invention crossing the English Channel to Calais.
By the 1960’s a whole fleet of hovercrafts had been produced and could regularly be seen crossing the English Channel and The Solent.
You can still catch a hovercraft to the Isle of Wight today where we operate the UK's only remaining passenger only service.
Back in 1969, 100 electric cars were produced on the Isle of Wight, which strongly resemble the models currently being mass produced by Renault, Nissan and BMW.
The Enfield 8000 was an extremely popular design, especially with US president, (governor of California at the time) Ronald Reagan, who wanted to provide all the residents of Catalina Island with an Enfield, offering the makers a factory site in the US.
The offer was declined, and production continued in Cowes on the Island until the company disbanded due to the pressures from oil companies.
The Isle of Wight was recently been declared the Dinosaur capital of the UK!
The land which forms the Island was once the perfect habitat for Dinosaurs, which had led to the local discovery of over 25 different species so far including the UK’s largest dinosaur the Sauropod!
The remains of a little dinosaur Yaverlandia, found locally as it's name suggests, is the only specimen in the world and is displayed at the Geology Museum at Sandown.
In 2009, 5-year old Daisy Morris discovered the fossils of a previously undiscovered species on Atherfield Beach, which has since been named after her – the Vectidraco (Dragon of the Wight) Daisymorrisae!
The Isle of Wight is famed for its garlic growing prowess!
Each August, The Isle of Wight Garlic Festival is held in the rolling green hills just outside of Newchurch at the heart of the Island.
Over two days guests are treated to cookery demos, tasty local produce, arts and crafts stalls to peruse, and a great line up of live music.
The Garlic Farm Shop and Café is open all year round, offering a garlic-themed (obviously) menu, including garlic beer and even garlic ice cream!
Some people claim that the Isle of Wight invented doughnuts, though the evidence against this claim is stronger than that which supports it.
We certainly did create doughnuts, but the Dutch are responsible for the variety which became popular through the U.S., though which came first remains a mystery.
Osborne House in East Cowes was the home of Queen Victoria and Prince Albert and she once said of the area, “it is impossible to imagine a prettier spot”.
The Queen lived here until her death in 1901 and on Coronation Day in 1902, the new king gave ownership of the house and estate to the nation.
Carisbrooke Castle dates all the way back to 1100 and is one of the most famous sites on the Island.
King Charles I was imprisoned in the castle between 1647-48 and you can still visit the room he tried to escape from – his plan was foiled when he got stuck between the bars on the window.
The castle was the holiday residence of Queen Victoria’s youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice up until 1944.
Quarr Abbey was first built as a Cistercian monastery in 1132, and is still working today.
It was named from the stone quarry from which the abbey was first built.
The monks bred carp in their ponds, which they transported live to London to sell as a profitable source of income.
Quarr stone from the Isle of Wight was used to complete the upper section of the White Tower at the Tower of London around 900 years ago.
Quarr stone was prized as a hard building material.
PLUTO - Pipeline Under The Ocean. During World War II, pipeline was laid from the mainland, via Southampton, across the Solent to Thorness Bay and then across the Island to pumping stations at Sandown and Shanklin.
At Shanklin, the pumphouses were concealed in the bomb-scarred buildings of the Esplanade near the cliff lift.
The pipeline ran from there to France. The Sandown line ran from a pumping station in the vicinity of Browns Golf Course.
In the event, fuel was not piped across the channel until after the D-Day invasion took place, the Shanklin line failed and very little fuel was piped from Sandown, but this should not detract from the enormity and ingenuity of the operation.
An exhibition of PLUTO memorabilia can be seen at Shanklin Chine.
Throughout history many of the creatively inclined have taken up residence on the Island!
Alfred, Lord Tennyson, poet laureate from 1850, made his home at Farringford in Freshwater on the Isle of Wight, and was followed across the water by a host of celebrity royalty at the time, including pioneer photographer Julia Margaret Cameron and writers Edward Lear and Lewis Carroll.
Sir Edward Elgar and his new wife, Alice, decided to make the Isle of Wight their honeymoon destination, staying at Alexandra Gardens in Ventnor.
Sir Edward said of the area “…the flowers and wild things here are marvellous, so large and forward; and the gorse, which is in fullest bloom, so abundant and large.
The hills, and there are many, and dales are one mass of brilliant yellow! The weather is gorgeous.”
The Isle of Wight is also home to the extremely popular Isle of Wight Festival.
In 1969, Bob Dylan attended and played to a crowd of 150,000, and a year later the festival attracted an estimated 600,000 people, with a line-up that included Jimi Hendrix, The Doors, Joni Mitchell and The Who. (The population of the Island was less than 100,000 at the time.)
In more recent years the festival has hosted musical names such as The Rolling Stones, David Bowie, The Police and Sir Paul McCartney.
The first Cowes Regatta was held in 1812 and subsequently attained international status.
Enhanced by the presence of the Royal family, Cowes Week is now the world's biggest international yachting event.
Over 8,500 competitors and 100,000 spectators flock to Cowes to soak up the festival atmosphere and enjoy the sunshine.
The Island is also home to round-the-world yachtswoman, Dame Ellen MacArthur, and Olympic gold medallist, Shirley Robertson, with Sir Ben Ainslie making frequent visits to the Island’s sailing clubs.
The Isle of Wight has its very own eight wonders (one more than the world!)…
1.Cowes you cannot milk
2.Freshwater you cannot drink
3.Lake you can walk through and stay dry
4.Needles you cannot thread
5.Newport you cannot bottle
6.Newtown which is old
7.Ryde where you walk
8.Winkle Street where there are no winkles
The Isle of Wight is said to be the most haunted Island in the world!
Many thousands of ghosts, spirits, poltergeists and apparitions are said to haunt the Isle of Wight or 'Ghost Island'- the world's most haunted island.
This incredible supernatural activity may be due to powerful unseen energy or 'ley' lines running under the Island, which attracts thousands of ghost-hunters from all over the world.
Ghosts and spirits abound here in some very haunted hotspots.
Ghost Island boasts everything - from phantom monks, grey ladies and poltergeists - to the shades of smugglers, soldiers, Royalty and Romans.
Other Interesting Facts
Often referred to as the Garden Isle, the Island is home to many rare plants and animals.
Of particular importance is the thriving population of Red Squirrels, which have been ousted from many mainland habitats by the larger more aggressive grey squirrel.
There is a regular chain ferry service, which enables pedestrians and motorists to travel from Cowes to East Cowes, across the Medina River.
Parkhurst Forest was recorded in the Doomsday Book as a royal hunting forest, which at that time extended as far north as Cowes, hence the village name of Northwood.
Sir Robert Holmes, a swashbuckling pirate and friend of Charles II, lived in the building which is now the George Hotel, Yarmouth.
It was Holmes who introduced the Guinea into the British currency, when he brought back gold from New Guinea.
Although he became Governor of the Isle of Wight, his piratical inclinations were still evident by the way he was determined to rid home waters of foreign ships, apparently regardless of the legitimacy or otherwise of their business.
He waylaid a ship en route to France and discovered a statue, minus its head, which was destined for the court of King Louis XIV, where the sculptor was to complete the head from life.
Commandeering the stature and sculptor, Holmes made him complete the head to his own likeness. The statue can be seen today in St. James Church, Yarmouth.
Bonchurch is the Island's best preserved Victorian village, which attracted many writers and artists, such as Charles Dickens, Lord Macaulay, Karl Marx and Thackeray.
The poet Algernon Charles Swinburn spent his childhood at East Dene and is buried in the churchyard of the new St. Boniface Church.
Also buried at the church is Admiral Jellicoe (Battle of Jutland fame), who lived at St. Lawrence and Elizabeth Sewell, author and educationalist, who was a local resident for over 50 years.
Famous Victorian Samuel Landon, said then to be the biggest man in the world, died in 1844 and his tomb can be seen in the graveyard of the Church of the Holy Cross, Binstead.