Isle of Wight Hidden Heroes

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892)

alfred lord tennyson

Alfred, Lord Tennyson (1809-1892) was the most famous poet of the Victorian era, renowned for his dramatically powerful subjects and highly-wrought melodious style.

Among his most celebrated works are ‘The Lady of Shalott’ (1842), ‘Ulysses’ (1842), In Memoriam A.H.H. (1849), ‘Charge of the Light Brigade’ (1854) and Maud (1855).

Tennyson often took inspiration from Classical and Arthurian mythology, and frequently explored death, loss, desire, the passing of time, and the dilemma of whether to withdraw from or engage with the world.

Poet Laureate
Such was the acclaim for In Memoriam, that Tennyson became Poet Laureate on the death of William Wordsworth in 1850.

An epic and painfully personal poem about Tennyson’s grief on the sudden death of his best friend, Arthur Hallam, it came to represent an age of mourning, particularly in the wake of Prince Albert’s death in 1861.

Lord Tennyson
Having become an icon of Victorianism, Tennyson was made a baron in 1883. He had come a long way from his origins as the son of a Lincolnshire reverend.

To find out more about Alfred, Lord Tennyson visit the Farringford Website.

John Wilkes (1727-1797)

john wilkes drawing

John Wilkes was a politician, rebel and resident of Sandown.

In 1788, a spent force, Wilkes left his tempestuous past behind and leased a cottage at Royal Heath, Sandown Bay.

With few neighbours, he lived alone, writing daily to his favourite daughter, ‘Polly’ and giving a fascinating insight into the 18th/19th century, Isle of Wight.

He remained until 1795, the year of his death. His local memorial remains only in the name of Wilkes Street, Sandown.

His Isle of Wight story is told on Jan Toms’ Website.

Image: © Robert “Bob” Hampton

Paul Armfield

paul armfield

Paul Armfield has in the last two years completely reinvigorated the Quay Arts Centre.

Through relentless hard work and determination he has not only made it a far more vibrant hub for Island artists of all varieties, he has stabilised it financially through successful programming and helped secure vital sponsorship and future funding for it.

All this has been done with a tireless vision and selfless determination that is typical of him.

He is my hidden hero.

Image: © Donna Woodward Taylor

John Cattle

john cattle's skate club

John is a passionate skateboarder and has been skating for all his life, which has taken him around the world and alongside some of the biggest names in skateboarding.

Here on the Isle of Wight, he founded skateboard company Wight Trash and has been fundamental in promoting the skating scene, from sponsoring local skaters, to fundraising for skate parks.

Skate parks provide important opportunities for kids (and big kids) to get outside, exercise, expand their boundaries and just have fun.

Skate Club for all ages
John also runs John Cattle’s Skate Club teaching all generations including the next to skateboard.

Based in a purpose-built training skate park in Wootton, he excels at teaching all ages and abilities (from 3 to 50+) with no previous experience necessary, in a safe and fun environment.

A real legend
Through sharing his skills and enthusiasm, John gets people more active, and involved in a great community.

That’s why John Cattle is my Isle of Wight Hidden Hero.

Ian Boyd

ian boyd

I’d like to nominate Ian Boyd as one of the Island’s kindest, brightest, productive and most unsung heroes.

A polymath by nature and a brain-poppingly knowledgable ecologist, he’s quietly and gently worked to conserve, restore, reimagine and revitalise landscapes, places, buildings, communities, developments, wildlife and people all across the Island… either directly, picking up a shovel and getting planting or painting, designing trails or commissioning artists, or indirectly behind the scenes writing funding bids/supporting campaigns for Island-enhancing projects even including the Biosphere.

He’s added the essence or sparkle to countless projects and lives, founded I2K, G2N, Island Rivers, Shaping the Bay, Arc, Artecology, Discovery Bay, new not-for-profit The Common Space and more – all to make the world a better place.

He works non-stop to connect people & wildlife, from a calendar of always-imaginative science and nature events such as Under the Pier on his days off, to making space to sponsor and support students or in fact anyone, of all ages and abilities, and including some of our most vulnerable people.

He’ll drop everything to support and direct people to become the best of themselves, with endless patience and enthusiasm.

Thanks to him, numerous people have been inspired by nature, or enabled to work in the environment, many of whom may not even be aware of it. His actions or advice have made a huge difference to species and habitats too.

Thanks to his imagination and experiments, the Island has acres of marvels and new opportunities; bee fields and biograffiti walls, rare elm trees and white letter hair streak butterflies, new artificial rockpools bringing hope for marine wildlife against sea level rise, universities visiting the Island, and £1000s has been raised for regeneration projects in the Bay area for example in just the last couple of years.

Believing in the importance of public realm, he’ll often spend his own money, spare time or last ounce of energy to make things happen – the Willow Walk a latest example, even planting hundreds of coastal plants by himself.

He advises on national environmental work from Bournemouth to Edinburgh. And all this is only a tiny bit of his output. I think good people, true heroes, don’t blow their own trumpet and their purpose is clear and genuine.

They meet adversity with integrity, invention, humility, humour and spirit, they look for and act on every opportunity to improve things for their community, and they always say it was a team effort! That’s why they’re hidden, presumably.

Ian’s a truly valuable human being and Island hero. But best of all, thanks to him, there are poems on our pavements, and orchids in our fields, we know why a weevil’s got a long nose, where to find a sponge garden or where to hear a nightingale sing at sunrise.

Image: © Portrait of an Island – Steve Blamire and Julian Winslow

Martin and Rob Drake-Knight

Rob left Mart Right Rapanui

Martin and Rob are fairly well-known on the Island as founders of eco fashion company Rapanui.

From starting out in an industrial unit in Bembridge, they’ve grown the business to now occupy the old Co-op supermarket in Freshwater and have had quite a journey along the way.

Constantly developing staff and providing opportunities to get into not just a fashion or production, but a tech business on the Island, is just one of the reasons why I’m nominating them.

Their years of campaigning around plastics is also highly commended, but if you dig deeper in to the workings of the Rapanui and Tee-Mill factory, you’ll see a burgeoning team working on AI, automation and robotics.

Not bad for a little fashion company on the Isle of Wight?

John Vereker (Lord Gort) 1886-1946

lord gort

John Vereker (Lord Gort) was born on 10th July 1886.

At the start of World War II, he became the Commander-in-Chief of the British Expeditionary Force and, in this role, organised the evacuation of Dunkirk.

In later life, Lord Gort lived in East Cowes Castle on the Isle of Wight, having grew up on the Isle of Wight as a child.

He joined the Grenadier Guards in 1905, promoted to lieutenant in 1907.

Promoted to Captain on 5th August 1914 and was part of the British Expeditionary Force on the Western Front.

The Vereker family name is long associated with East Cowes. He died on 31 March 1946.

Lord Gort was portrayed in the 1958 film Dunkirk by Cyril Raymond

St Simon of Atherfield (d. 1211)


Some intriguing medieval references inform us of St Simon of Atherfield, neatly described as ‘a martyr to his wife’.

Simon was, apparently, murdered by his wife Amicia (or Avicia) on 21 March 1211, and she was sentenced to burn for the crime, probably in early summer the following year.

We are told that many miracles subsequently took place at his tomb, though its exact location remains unknown.

Tomb raiders
No mention of St Simon is to be found in any known calendar or martyrology, and no official recognition was granted to his status as saint; it is more than likely that Bishop Peter of Winchester – lord of the manor of Calbourne which possessed outlying rights at Atherfield – suppressed the cult fairly quickly, but not before appropriating the ‘seven pounds, twelve shillings and a penny’ left in offerings at Simon’s tomb.

Humble background
Of Simon himself, the sources tell us nothing of his family, implying that his background was humbler than that of his wife.

All we know is that he bore the toponym ‘de Atherfield’, and hence that he was a local man.

Dramatic death?
To be widely regarded as a martyrdom, Simon’s death must have taken place in dramatic circumstances; and the method of execution employed against Amicia, burning at the stake, was regarded as a particularly horrific one, even in the eyes of her contemporaries.

By murdering her husband, she had in legal terms committed an act of treason, according to the prevailing ethos of the time.

Murder in the blood
Amicia’s violent temper may have been an inherited trait: in 1255 we find two of her kinsmen accused of the murder of a man named Peter of Whippingham.

Within six months of his death, Simon’s tomb had attracted offerings of more than £7: this is a substantial figure which compares favourably with other shrines of the period, particularly given Atherfield’s remoteness – a fact which in turn helped the cult to be suppressed with a minimum of fuss.

Local saints
Simon’s cult, though intriguing, is not unique, and fits a pattern of victims of violence being subsequently turned into popular ‘local saints’.

The martyr would be portrayed as a person of spotless innocence, brutally and unfairly done to death; and more often than not, the cult would be frowned upon or suppressed as soon as it came to the attention of the church authorities.

No hint of St Simon’s murder survives in Island folklore or legends.

Image: boretom under CC BY 2.0

Admiral Dudley Pound 1877-1943

admiral dudley pound

Admiral Dudley Pound born 29th August 1877 in Ventnor on the Isle of Wight, joined the Royal Navy as a cadet in 1891 serving in World War One and eventually rising to the Rank of Admiral of the Fleet on 31st July 1939 just before the outbreak of World War Two.

“Churchill’s Anchor”
Worked closely with Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, and became known as “Churchill’s Anchor”, Pound’s greatest achievement was the defeat of the German U-Boats and winning the Battle of the Atlantic.

He was in poor health when he became Admiral of the Fleet and formally resigned from the post on 20th September 1943.

Ashes were scattered at sea
He died from a brain tumor at the Royal Masonic Hospital in London on 21 October 1943, he was given a funeral service in Westminster Abbey, and his ashes were scattered at sea.