Isle of Wight

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Isle of Wight. Known to the Romans as Vectis, the Isle of Wight is largely chalk, some 22 miles across by 13 north–south, and almost bisected north–south by the river Medina. At the end of the Roman period it was settled by the Jutes and for a time had its own kings. But it was difficult to stand against the kingdoms of Sussex, Mercia, and Wessex. Cædwalla of Wessex took it c.687 and gave a quarter of the land to St Wilfrid for the church. It was used as a base by the Danes in 998, and in 1371 Newport was sacked by the French. In the 1840s the building of Osborne House for the queen and the establishment of the Royal Yacht Squadron at Cowes nearby in 1856 did much to popularize the island. The population grew from just over 20,000 in 1801 to over 80,000 by Victoria's death in 1901, and to 125,000 by 1992. From Saxon times the island formed part of the county of Hampshire and fell under the authority of the bishop of Winchester. The island was given a county council in 1890. In accordance with the Banham commission recommendation of 1993, the county was made a unitary authority, though retaining county status for ceremonial purposes with its own lord-lieutenant.

J. A. Cannon

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Wight, Isle of Island and non-metropolitan county off the s coast of England, separated from the mainland (Hampshire) by the Solent. Newport is the county town. The island's mild climate and attractive scenery make it a popular tourist destination. It is divided into two administrative districts: South Wight and Medina (also the principal river). Cowes is a famous yachting centre. Area: 318sq km (147sq mi). Pop. (1997) 128,200.

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Isle of Wight See Wight, Isle of