The Isle of Wight Society

April 2017

Building Misfits

Walk along several streets in Cowes or East Cowes and the buildings do not seem to match.  A terrace of houses dated 1900 suddenly has a weird gap in it, where sometimes more modern buildings have been inserted.

In the centre of a town one is used to “improvements” among the shops, as a modern shop front replaces old.  It may be that demolition of several small shops has made way for a modern supermarket or chain store.

But in residential streets it is strange to see a sudden change in the period of the buildings, unless one considers the possible cause.  In Cowes and East Cowes this can often be put down to ‘The Blitz’, that took place 75 years ago this May.

Cowes and East Cowes were building ships – destroyers and MTBs, and aircraft – Walrus seaplane production was in full swing by 1942, eighteen a week.

In May 1942 the German airforce made a concerted effort to stop the production of ships and planes in the port.  In the process, numerous bombs fell on homes, as well as on factories.  There were many fatalities.

Walk along Adelaide Grove and one sees several houses built in the 1950s set amongst the Edwardian properties built by Sibbicks and WH Bradings, as shown in the photographs.  In some places, the insertion of new property has not been until this century, sixty years or more after the original houses were destroyed.  Clarence Road suffered badly and some land was still a field until Cavalier Quay was built.  Alfred Street has recent houses plugging a gap wrought by a 1942 bomb.

Often early 1950 building used a distinctive ‘crinkly’ faced brick, easy to spot when you know to look for it.

In many cases there was no attempt made to match the existing older properties either side of the bomb gap.  Only in Minerva Road East Cowes was a superior terrace of houses on the south side rebuilt after the war on a ‘like for like’ basis.  There, without the wartime photographs, it would be difficult to believe there had ever been a gaping hole in the terrace.

Phoenix Flats give away their origin in their name.  A bomb landed on an air raid shelter there and destroyed three terraces of houses.

So keep your eyes open as you walk around the streets of Cowes and East Cowes, and spot the misfits resulting from of the 1942 Blitz.  Sadly these architectural misfits are a reminder of the sad consequence of war.  Many mark the loss of a life.  As we say each year, “We shall remember them.”

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Isle of Wight Society
East Cowes Heritage Centre, 8 Clarence Road
East Cowes, PO32 6EP

Tel: +44 (0) 1983 280310

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