The Belgae. Ghosts of the Isle of Wight, with Margo Williams.

Old maps identify an area of the island as definitively Celtic. Chances are a rich DNA vein runs through its residents to whom we owe not only our belief in ghosts, but acceptance of religion.
Photo image of Old Post Office. Main Road, Brighstone. Isle of Wight.
Old Post Office. Main Road, Brighstone. Isle of Wight.

The Brighstone Triangle

Lost from modern maps is an old reference to an Isle of Wight region known as 'the Belgae' - land south west from Carisbrooke between the villages of Gatcombe, Shorwell and Brighstone.

"The Belgae" were a tribe of settlers who came to the British islands about 50BC, but the presence of the mound barrows up on the ridge, plus the dolmen burial chamber in nearby Strawberry Lane, suggests this community dates way back into prehistory. To a time when the great pyramids of Egypt were under construction.

This area contains some of the Isle of Wight's oldest houses and families.

No ghost hunter can confirm if Wolverton, Northcourt and Westcourt manors are haunted because these properties are not opened up to investigators. Many other island manors are confirmed so it is a fair assumption, these too have supernatural sitting tenants.

Does every old house have a ghost? Probably yes.

Who First Believed in Ghosts and Gods?

No one knows why the first Brighstone resident believed in ghosts. It is an assumption that countless testimonials of ghostly encounters exist in the modern period. So chances are they probably happened in prehistoric times too.

There's no first date on record when a ghost appeared to a witness. So, either they suffered hallucination, as said of modern witnesses. Or what they saw was a ghost.

"Beware the local fungi," said Johnson to the new cave-artist-in-residence.

No one knows what hunter-gathering age flint-workers on the Isle of Wight believed happened to their fallen friends and beloved deceased. As people settled and grew crops for food, permanent stone structures were built to accommodate the dead.

The only surviving example on the Isle of Wight is the nearby Longstone; all that remains of a dolmen burial chamber.

Barrow mounds punctuate the downland skyline above. Few artefacts have been recovered and so treasure-hunters wonder if wooden platforms stood upon them exposing the deceased for cleansing. Weather-stripped bones were interred inside the Longstone dolmen.

Archaeological work in better preserved Neolithic mortuary enclosures reveals care in burial rites; indications of removal and replacement of particular bones, such as skulls, suggests movement may have been part of ritual connection.

Some form of religious belief system - personality survival - indicated by the inclusion of items with the dead.

Most Haunted island

Image of Examples of burial barrows and grave goods.
Examples of burial barrows and grave goods.

Isle of Wight Celts

Anthropology identified two groups dominant in Europe: Lowland Celts and Mountain Celts.

Lowland Celts originated in the lands around the Danube and migrated across Gaul (modern France) and the British islands around 1200 B.C. Says Celtic mythbuster T.W. Rolleston:

'..These were founders of the lake-dwellings in Switzerland and Danube Valley and in Ireland. They knew the use of metals and worked in gold, tin, bronze and towards the end of their period in iron.'

This group is described as peaceful agriculturists and pastural people who migrated to Britain and found already living here, "...A people with a powerful priesthood, ritual and imposing religious monuments; people steeped in magic and mysticism.'

There is little evidence of defensive earthwork engineering during this period, it may be that an aura of mystical invincibility enshrouded the British Isles.

Who were these people?

The Belgae

According to Caesar, the Belgae, a Celtic tribe invaded the southern coasts of England, subdued Hampshire and colonized the Isle of Wight about 85 years BC.

These brought a new technology in metal weapon - iron swords. Not cast and brittle like bronze, but forged, hammered hard and sharp.

"Which God do you got?" asked Artur.

Unlike the lowland Celts, these migrated from the mountain ranges of the Balkans and Carpathians, says Rolleston. 'Their organisation was that of a military aristocracy. These are the warlike Celts of ancient history. They hated agriculture and industry, their women tilled the ground and under their rule the common population became reduced almost to servitude.'

Lowland Celts built their villages in valleys, this new group were responsible for the hill-top fortresses which crown so many high and defensible positions. In much the same way later Normans built strong keeps to intimidate their conquered neighbours, the Belgae ruled from high.

All You Need Is....

But only for a while. 2000 years later democracy prevails. Brighstone votes every four years or so to send a representative to parliament from the the Belgae's old dominion. Peace reigns in this country idyll; leafy trees, fertile fields of wheat and grazing flocks. Everyone eats and enjoys life.

And feasts upon the tasty offerings in Brighstone's Three Bishop's Pub Grub menu. Or up the road in the Crown in Shorwell.

Some local detectorists who visit both pubs in a single evening, believe love is all around. There is no more loved up place. So much positivity in the Brighstone Belgae triangle its infectious. Which is why everyone integrated so well in the community.

By BC 50 these three groups blurred into one name of 'Celt' and a priestly caste Druid. A combination which forged a vast empire extending from Ireland across Europe; powerful as Rome's. Civil engineers, metallurgists and warriors, taught by a priestly caste who knew of astronomy, could talk of it as if magic, and believed the soul did not perish with mere death.

This is the earliest reference to widespread organised religion. The British islands were its administrative and spiritual centre, so Roman general Julius Caesar noted.

17th century map of the Isle of Wight still names this area after its inhabitants, the Belgae.

Exploring the haunted Isle of Wight

Temple of Eros

In the Three Bishops Inn, bartenders are accustomed to sharing proud and respectful talk of their hometown celebrity churchmen, steeped in learning and holy text.

Caesar noted how Druids did not commit their teachings and beliefs to text, only memory. But knew how to write, used Greek characters for communication.

In pre-Roman times, the Brighstone community probably followed their Druids' teachings and believed in an afterlife described by the Celts of Ireland. Or a system based on the ancient civilisations of Egypt and Ur.

Or the Olympian Gods described by Greek poets Hesiod and Homer.

And so built a temple to Eros.

Thank you for your company on this short tour of Isle of Wight mysteries and haunting. If you would like to know more about Margo Williams' investigations in Brighstone and other matters of life and death, read this book. Now available from Amazon.

Image of click link to book Ghost Encounters Famous and Forgotten
Now available from Amazon.
Useful Links


The Belgae

Three Bishops Inn

Crown Inn