Cowes Heritage Exhibition – now closed.

Posted by Admin on Thursday, 23rd October 2008, 00:00

An exhibition highlighting the particularly rich and diverse history of transport in one Isle of Wight town is the subject of the latest three-week annual exhibition being staged by Cowes Heritage, which opened at Northwood House on Saturday 18th October.

Called Cowes Transport Through The Ages, the event includes a huge number of pictures, plus fascinating text and objects – all intended to give a graphic insight into bygone forms of conveyance associated with the town. Augmenting the static displays is a specially made 78 minute DVD, available for sale.

Geoff Hughes, the well known television actor, has kindly agreed to officially open the event at a preview evening tonight (Friday) attended by specially invited guests.

“It is important that the exhibition is not just about photographs, fascinating though many are, but also about people who used these conveyances,” said Cowes Heritage chairman John Groves. “And although for the first time our exhibition is not in the town centre, we are optimistic that it will still attract several thousand visitors.” 

Cowes had a remarkable number of public transport ‘firsts’ on the Island:

* The first scheduled stage-coach service apparently began in 1770 between Cowes and Newport;
* Arguably it was to and from Cowes in 1810 that the first cross Solent scheduled steamer service operated;
* It was where work began on the Island’s 55 miles of railway network – the first Cowes trains linking with Newport in 1862;
* In the 1920s the Vectis Omnibus Co (later to become Southern Vectis) had its first major Island depot on the outskirts of Cowes, at Somerton;
* Cowes Airport (now the Somerton site of BAE Systems) was in the 1930s involved in the Island’s first scheduled airline service.

Another, much more historic ‘first’ for Cowes was when, in 1633, it was the departure port for the Ark and Dove sailing ships, carrying the first 150/200 settlers to Maryland.

The exhibition is being held every day 10 am – 4 pm at Northwood House until Sunday 9th November. Admission is free, although donations are welcome.

As with previous exhibitions, the volunteer members of Cowes Heritage have carried out extensive research and collected photographs during many months leading up to the event. Well-wishers across the Island have dug out almost forgotten old albums or recounted their own bygone transport experiences. The County Record Office has also been most helpful.

The DVD is presented by well known Isle of Wight thespian Peter Boffin, and is actually divided into distinct sections, virtually all related to Cowes. These include: Solent steamers; Seaspeed Hovercraft, Cowes Express sidewall hovercraft, passenger ships built by J Samuel White, the Ark and Dove, trains, horse-drawn vehicles, taxis, buses and coaches, airline operations both before and immediately after the 2nd World War, and the succession of Cowes-East Cowes floating bridges.

As well as pictures and old film footage there are personal interviews, including with the driver of the last train in and out of Cowes in 1966, and the man put in charge of Seaspeed’s pioneering hovercraft operation.

“We are most grateful to Cowes Town Council and the local Business Association for grants to cover the rental of Northwood House, to the Government’s ‘Grass Roots’ scheme for financing the making of the DVD, and to Seaview resident and railway film doyen Bob Ennis for filming and editing it,” said John Groves.

As with Cowes Heritage’s previous three DVDs (Cowes at War, Schooldays, and White’s of Cowes) the DVD will also be sold at various Island outlets, including the County Press shop and Tourist Information Centres. The price is £12.95.

Donations made at the exhibition and profits from all sales go to Cowes Heritage, set up to promote the history of Cowes through annual exhibitions, regular displays in Cowes Library, talks, publications and films. The long term aim of the organization is to have a permanent home of its own, as already enjoyed by East Cowes Heritage and Ventnor Heritage.

Follow-up:

Good Start to Transport History Exhibition

Television and stage actor Geoff Hughes had another appreciative audience at Cowes, when he officially opened the Transport Through the Ages exhibition.

He told guests at a preview he was most impressed by the high standard and variety of the displays, which had clearly involved a lot of work by the volunteers responsible. “It deserves to be taken all around the Island,” he declared.

Mr Hughes was greeted by John Groves, Chairman of Cowes Heritage, which is staging the exhibition at Northwood House. Also among the guests were local councilors including the Town Mayor, Geoff Banks.

The event will be open to the public every day 10am – 4pm until 9th November. Admission is free.

As well as the many displays featuring the history of a wide range of conveyances linked to Cowes, from cross-Solent ferries to trains, buses and aircraft – Cowes Heritage is also selling a newly-produced transport DVD.

The exhibition attracted a steady stream of visitors over the weekend, and those visiting on Monday included two couples that had made special journeys from the mainland.

“We are encouraged by such a good start, particularly as this is the first time we have staged one of our exhibitions away from the town centre,” said John Groves.

John Groves presents a ‘Transport Through the Ages’ DVD to Geoff Hughes:

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