During the Victorian period the area around Freshwater Bay had become the Victorian equivalent of modern day Hollywood.

During that period, poets, writers and artists were the pop stars of the era, with perhaps the biggest star being Alfred Lord Tennyson who resided at Farringford house.

Within this area of Freshwater lived many other stars of the time.

Just a short distance from Farringford was the home of George Watts, the painter, and his young wife Ellen Terry.

Isle of Wight County Press: An old photo of Freshwater Bay Hotel An old photo of Freshwater Bay Hotel (Image: David White)

Unfortunately the house no longer exists, having been destroyed by fire many years ago.

Further down towards the bay, residing in Whitecliff House, were Alice Liddle and family, while across the road was staying the Rev Dodgson, ie Lewis Carroll, who was at the time writing Alice in Wonderland and got inspired.

Isle of Wight County Press: An old photo of the Albion HotelAn old photo of the Albion Hotel (Image: David White)

Moving down towards the Bay, you will come to Terrace Road. It was here that the author Thackery resided at a house called The Pannells.

In the same lane, at Dimbola, lived Julia Margaret Cameron, the first lady of photography who left an artistic legacy of historic photographic portraits of the pop stars of that time.

Isle of Wight County Press: Where the former Stark's Hotel wasWhere the former Stark's Hotel was (Image: David White)

Orchard Bros general store would have supplied all the needs of the famous residents, and is still trading today, while a little way down the road was Stark’s hotel, pub and hirer of horses and conveyances (one can still recognise the recess for the name etc over the blocked up doorway on the corner of the building).

Everything was catered for within the immediate vicinity.

Isle of Wight County Press: An old photo of Orchard Bros shopAn old photo of Orchard Bros shop (Image: David White)

Within the site of the bay lies Freshwater Bay Hotel. It was first called Plumley's, and later Lambert's Hotel. This would have been the five-star watering hole and hotel for visiting glitterati to stay, people such as novelist Anthony Trollope, poet Edward Lear, and William Allingham, the Irish poet and diarist.

Fronting the bay was The Albion. It was here that visiting authors, painters and poets would frequent, mixing with local fishermen etc, getting ideas for paintings, poems and stories.

Among the Victorian stars that frequented the area around Freshwater Bay were Virginia Woolf, Charles Darwin, and singer Jenny Lind (nicknamed the Swedish nightingale and now known to a fresh audience through the film The Greatest Showman). 

One final amusing story from that period involves Charles Darwin.

Isle of Wight County Press: Pannells in FreshwaterPannells in Freshwater (Image: David White)

While out riding on the Freshwater downland, he decided to study the behaviour of his horse, and what it would do should he let go of the reins and just sit there.

However to his disappointment it just steadily walked home to its stable, nothing more.

Anyone wanting to delve deeper into the fascinating history of “Victorian Hollywood” many excellent books are available, such as an amusing take on Tennyson and some of the visitors to the area in Tennyson's Gift by Lynne Truss and Immortal Faces by Dr Brian Hinton.