Monday, 1 December 2014

Isle of Wight: Heaton Cooper / Hope Moncrieff guide

Another nice example of what's findable on the Internet: the fairly rare 1908 A&C Black guide, Isle of Wight. The text is by Ascott Robert Hope Moncrieff (1846-1927), a regular contributor to the Black's Guide stable, but also a prolific writer of gung-ho adventure stories for boys. The book is probably better known, however, for its exquisite series of plates from water-colours by the landscape painter Alfred Heaton Cooper (1863-1929).

This is not to say the text isn't worth reading. Compared to the majority of "me too" Isle of Wight guides of the 19th and early 20th century, AR Hope Moncrieff brings a considerably more personal touch to the account. Not all is sweetness and light; he devotes a considerable section of Shanklin's history (p64 ff) to his own encounter with the swindler Benson, who was involved in the notorious "Turf Frauds Case" of the 1870s. He has a hostile dig at the American ex-pat John Morgan Richards then resident at Steephill Castle ...
But this appreciative stranger is a little at sea in freely dashing into his sketch a background of "seats and parks of nobility and gentry," which seems somewhat of an American exaggeration for the villaed skirts of Ventnor. The most lordly "seat" about Ventnor is Steephill Castle, at the west end, from the tower of which flaunts his own Stars and Stripes to proclaim it the home of a compatriot who must have reason to chuckle, as he does in a volume of memoirs, that slow, simple, honest John Bull now wakes up to let himself be exploited by Transatlantic enterprise.
... and is quite candid about the complicated politics of Queen Victoria's residence on the Island:
The structure [Whippingham Church], finely situated, has a singularly un-English look, its German Romanesque features understood to have been inspired by the taste of the Prince Consort, on which account her late Majesty's loyal subjects would fain have admired the effect, as many of them could not honestly do. A wicked tale is told of a gentleman well known in the architectural world, who, on a visit at Whippingham, was surprised by a summons to Osborne. Unfortunately, this stranger had not been furnished with a carte du pays, and when the Queen led the conversation to Whippingham Church, asking advice what should be done with it, he bluntly gave his opinion : " The only thing to be done, madam, is to pull it all down!" whereupon the uncourtly adviser found his audience soon brought to an end.

Other stories or legends are locally current, illustrating the difficulties of etiquette that hampered her Majesty's desire to be on friendly terms with her less august neighbours. One hears of guests scared off by the sight of a red cloth on the steps to mark how royalty would be taking tea or counsel within; and of others suddenly bundled out of the way, when the Queen's unpretentious equipage was announced as approaching. It seems that majesty's neighbours were not all neighbourly. A lady of title here is said to have closed her gates to the Queen's carriage, which never again took that direction. Such an assertion of private rights would have astonished that high-titled Eastern potentate, of whom it is told that, being entertained at the seat of one of our greatest dukes, he advised the then Prince of Wales to have their host executed without delay as much too powerful a subject!
The chapter on Yarmouth (p119 ff) is particularly interesting for its extensive survey of fiction with Isle of Wight references or locations. 

Isle of Wight (painted by A Heaton Cooper, described by AR Hope Moncrieff, Adam and Charles Black, London, 1908, Internet Archive isleofwight00moncuoft).

1 - The Needles

4 - Newport

5 - Carisbrooke Castle

2 - Ryde - Moonrise

3 - Newchurch - the mother church of Ryde

6 - Godshill
Missing from cited edition; I found a duplicate in Gerald Edith Mitton's 1911 The Isle of Wight

7 - Water meadows of the Yar near Alverstone

8- Sandown Bay

9 - Shanklin Village - moonlight after rain

10 - Shanklin Chine

11 - Bonchurch Old Church near Ventnor

12 - The Landslip near Ventnor

13 - The Undercliff near Ventnor
This is a well-known view at Windy Corner; the pinnacle at left, Chad's Rock, no longer exists,
and nor does the road. See The timeline of Chad's Rock for more on the rock's history.

14 - Blackgang Chine

15 - Shorwell

16 - Farringford House

17 - Freshwater Bay

18 - Totland Bay

19 - Yarmouth

20 - Shalfleet

21 - Calbourne
Missing from cited edition: found (book source uncredited) online

22 - Yachting at Cowes

23 - Osborne House

24 - Whippingham Church

- Ray

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