The annual Cowes Heritage Exhibition opened at Regatta House, Bath Road on Saturday (21st October) with one big question being asked of visitors: “How Well Do You Know Cowes?”.
Sponsored by Cowes Town Waterfront Trust this is the 15th consecutive year of a Cowes Heritage show. The exhibition continues until Sunday 12th November with viewing from 10:00-16:00 each day.
Cllr Lora Peacey-Wilcox, a local resident and passionate supporter of the group undertook the official opening. She said that she was honoured by the request adding:
“I’m a Cowes girl, that’s why I’m not wearing my (Isle of Wight Council) Chain of Office today.”
Over the years, Cowes has had many connections with royalty. In Arctic Road, the current site of UKSA was formally Marvins Yard. They were chosen to fulfil Queen Victoria’s wish that her coffin be made by a shipwright. Having gained a Royal Warrant undertaking work for Queen Victoria this Coat of Arms normally resides in the Sir Max Aitken Museum, based in Cowes High Street.
This museum also has a number of salvaged items from King George V’s Britannia, which was scuttled in St. Catherine’s Deep in 1936, following his death. At that time also, special permission was granted for a large medicine chest that had been provided by chemists Beken of Cowes, to be returned to the business.
In 1947 the Island Sailing Club gave Prince Philip an International Dragon ‘Bluebottle’ as a wedding present. He also owned and raced the Flying Fifteen ‘Coweslip’ which had been designed and built in Cowes by Uffa Fox. ‘Coweslip’ is now berthed at Leith, Scotland along with the RY Britannia. Plans are in hand for ‘Bluebottle’ to join them.
Other Royal facts include visits of Queen Elizabeth II on an SRN 6 hovercraft in 1968 together with her 3 sons and Lord Mountbatten – then Governor of the Isle of Wight – and another visit by HM The Queen in 2012 to open the Cowes RNLI Station.
In 2015 European Royalty were in Cowes to celebrate the bicentenary of the RYS. It had come into being as The Yacht Club in 1815, becoming RYS by order of King William IV in 1835.
The America’s Cup was born out of a yacht race around the Island with a start at Cowes in 1851 and was witnessed by Queen Victoria. To this day a British syndicate is yet to win the trophy that began life as the £100 Cup.
A history of the Floating Bridge chronicles how it was first introduced in 1859. After 157 years of service unfortunately Number 6 is yet to go fully into service.
Covering various aspects of life in Cowes this exhibition is a ‘Must See’ for those wanting to know more about the town and its environs. Other topics covered include: The Empire Theatre, Floods in the High Street, Alexandra Hall in Birmingham Road, Enfield Electric Car, Pritchett Bricks which made the bricks for the ‘Workhouse’ and the Pavilion Hotel on the Parade.
Report and featured photo by Alan and Suzanne Whitewood