1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Newport (Isle of Wight)

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NEWPORT, a market town and municipal borough, the chief town of the Isle of Wight, England. Pop. (1901) 10,911. It is situated near the centre of the island, at the head of the navigation of the Medina River, 5 m. S. from its mouth at Cowes. It is the chief centre of the railway system of the island. The church of St Thomas of Canterbury, rebuilt in 1854 in the Decorated style, contains many interesting old monuments, and one by Marochetti to the princess Elizabeth, daughter of Charles I., erected by Queen Victoria. The guildhall, erected in 1816 from the designs of Nash, includes the town-hall in the upper story with the market-place below. There are a corn exchange and museum. The grammar school (the scene of negotiations between Charles I. and the parliament) was founded in 1612, and there is a blue-coat school for girls founded in 1761. The Albany barracks and Parkhurst prison lie north of the town. A considerable trade is carried on in timber, malt, wheat and flour. The town is governed by a mayor, 6 aldermen and 18 councillors. Area 504 acres.

It is supposed that Newport (Neuport) was a Roman settlement, then known as Medina. There are no traces of Saxon occupation, and no evidence that Newport became a borough before the reign of Henry II., though it was probably used before that time as a port of entrance for the ancient capital of Carisbrooke. The first charter was granted by Richard de Redvers between 1177 and 1184, freeing the burgesses from tolls throughout the island, from hundred suits, and from being imp leaded without the walls, and giving them permission to choose their own reeve—privileges for which they paid 18 marks yearly. These grants, repeated and extended by the countess Isabel de Fortibus, were confirmed in 1349 by Edward III. and afterwards by successive kings, Henry VII. in 1489 granting in addition the petty customs within all ports and creeks of the island. The borough was incorporated by James I. in 1607, and a second charter of incorporation granted by Charles I. in 1637 is that by which Newport was governed until 1835. It was represented in parliament in 1295, but no return was made from that time until 1584, from which date it regularly sent two members. In 1867 the number was reduced to one, and in 1885 its representation was merged in that of the island. A fair was formerly held on Whit-Monday and the two following days, and on the three Saturdays nearest Whitsuntide, known as “ Bargain Saturdays,” there was a hiring fair for servants. There is now no fair. The Saturday market dates from 1184, and there is a Wednesday cattle market. Owing to its facilities for trade, Newport early superseded Carisbrooke as the capital of the island. Its prosperity in medieval times depended upon its harbour dues and its oyster beds in the river Medina.