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Wight, Isle of

Isle of Wight (wīt), island and county (1991 pop. 126,600), 147 sq mi (381 sq km), S England, across the Solent and Spithead channels from Hampshire. The administrative center is Newport. The island is 23 mi (37 km) long from the eastern Foreland to the Needles (detached chalk formations at the western extremity) and 13 mi (21 km) wide. The Medina, which almost bisects the island, and the East Yar and the West Yar are the chief rivers. Numerous small streams on the southern coast have cut a series of picturesque gullies in the soft rock. The climate is mild, and the scenery, as a result of the contrasting geological strata, is varied. Quaint villages, such as Ventnor, and a beautiful coast line make the island a popular resort. Cowes is an important port.

The island was conquered by the Romans in AD 43 and probably settled later by the Jutes. It was annexed to the kingdom of Wessex in 661 and Christianized c.700. The Isle of Wight was the headquarters of the Danes at the end of the 10th cent. William I bestowed the lordship of the island upon William Fitz-Osbern. In 1293 it returned permanently to the crown. At Carisbrooke Castle, now in ruins, King Charles I was imprisoned (1647–48). In 1890 the island was established as a separate administrative county; administratively, it became a unitary authority in 1995. Queen Victoria's seaside home, Osborne House, is near the famous yachting center at Cowes. Parkhurst, a major British maximun security prison, is on the island.

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Isle of Wight

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

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

Isle of Wight See Wight, Isle of

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