In the late 16th century on the Isle of Wight, where Quay Arts and the Riverside Centre stand today, there was once a marshy wetland known as the Oase, or ooze, where the inhabitants on Newport moored and mended their boats.

By the early 1800s the marsh had been reclaimed and converted to pasture and in 1851 Newport Corporation dredged the area to create a town harbour.

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It was a success from the start and became the Isle of Wight's main port of entry and exit for goods for nearly 100 years.

An 1872 list of carriage rates from Newport to Southampton includes clover seed at ninepence a sack, anchovies a shilling per barrel, molasses at four shillings per puncheon and soap at sixpence per firkin.

Isle of Wight County Press: The demolished buildings in Sea Street. The late Keith Newbery called it an act of “corporate vandalism.” Photo © Alan Stroud/County Press.The demolished buildings in Sea Street. The late Keith Newbery called it an act of “corporate vandalism.” Photo © Alan Stroud/County Press.

Building materials and timber gave the harbour a good living for the first half of the last century until by the early 1960s it was dealing with more than 2,000 vessels a year.

The future looked bright but bad times were just around the corner. With the arrival of container lorries in the 1960s, Newport harbour lost its trade almost overnight and the quayside became neglected and rundown, the council adding insult to injury by demolishing many fine old warehouses in Sea Street.

Luckily, the building once known as the ‘porter store’ was spared and in the late 1970s, after a long struggle by campaigners, it became the Quay Arts centre.

It was a bold move that almost certainly saved the remaining buildings from demolition and marked a turning point in the quay’s fortunes.

Slowly the harbour began to dust itself off and began a new life based on leisure instead of commerce.

The Riverside Centre and the Bargeman’s Rest sprang up, and the Jubilee Stores building, formerly home to BRS hauliers, gained a new life as an art studio.

The harbour, now complete with hotel, was transformed into a popular haven with well equipped berths for visiting yachts.

Once again Newport Quay was open for business.

Like reading stories about the Isle of Wight in bygone days? Click here to visit our Looking Back section to read more interesting tales.