Life in Cowes, like the rest of the country, underwent fundamental changes between 1910-1920 – and this is reflected in the latest Cowes Heritage exhibition: A Decade of Change.
Being staged for nearly three weeks this month at Regatta House, the Bath Road home of Cowes Combined Clubs, the exhibition has displays which throw an informative light on various aspects of what it was really like living in Cowes, Northwood and Gurnard a century ago. The event is sponsored by Cowes Town Waterfront Trust.
Cowes Heritage chairman ,]John Groves said:
“We want to show how very different life in the Cowes area became during that decade, not least because of the losses in the 1st World War and the growing acceptance that women could well do jobs previously reserved for men.”
One display tells the story of how thousands of J Samuel White workers, spread between the shipyard’s sites on both sides of the River Medina, built no few than 100 ships during the hostilities, of which 27 were destroyers. The company also built over 200 warplanes, most of them at Somerton where the company created an airfield.
There is a photographic reminder that Northwood House became a Red Cross Hospital during the war. No fewer than 9,260 soldiers convalesced in five such auxilliary hospitals on the Island, most of them casualties of the horrors of the western front and Gallipoli.
A touching memento is a small metal box still containing cigarettes; it was one of many given as a Christmas gift by Princess Mary to soldiers at the front in 1914.
The way local people marked the death of Edward VII and the coronation of King George 5th is featured, as too will the passing of Cowes in 1912 of the Titanic on its fateful maiden voyage. More domestic reminders of this decade include a rather ornate metal teapot, given as a wedding present in 1916, and several toys of the period.
The result of research into changes in the local water supply form another display, with reference to the various reservoirs in the town and efforts to improve water quality.
Also not forgotten is that Cowes, from the Victorian period and into the early 1930s, was the home of the world-renowned Redfern fashion house, providing work for many dressmakers recruited from a wide area of the country, many of whom were to eventually marry and settle down on the Island.
A Decade of Change exhibition will be open to the public every day, 10:00 to 16:00 from 11th to 31st October. Admission is free.
This is the 13th major exhibition staged by Cowes Heritage since its formation in 2003, the first of which was Cowes at War in 2004 – concerning the impact of the 2nd World War.