Yarmouth. Ghosts of the Isle of Wight, with Margo Williams.

Some regulars in the cosy Bugle Inn say Yarmouth's ghost is their long dead landlord, artful amateur taxidermist Mr Butler searching for his lost collection of stuffed Isle of Wight birdlife.
Photo image of Yarmouth Castle, George Inn and St. James' church. Isle of Wight.
Yarmouth Castle, George Inn and St. James' church. Isle of Wight.

Yarmouth and the Raiders

In the fabulous George Inn, the barkeep says the ghost more likely is brave Lord Robert Holmes patrolling as the town's benevolent spirit guardian. Who sometimes is seen striding purposefully between the castle and the church. Lord Robert fortified the town against raiders and pirates.

Most Haunted island

Until relatively recently inhabitants of the Isle of Wight considered their home a dangerous frontier land. Invaders inevitably used the island as a base from which to launch attacks on the mainland.

Eremuth Town Charters

In its ancient charters, the first granted by Baldwin de Redvers in 1135 it is styled EREMUTH, and its present name does not occur until the charter conferred by King James I. 'EREMUE, alias YARMOUTH'.

Up to the great reform of 1832, it was a close borough returning two representatives to parliament. This privilege in the possession of the two principal landowners, who each elected his member.

The raids became especialy irksome following King Edward IIIs military sortie into France in 1348. The mission so enraged the French they declared it just and right to sail across La Manche to short-break pillage and punish the English by way of retailiation.

Isle of Wight Invasion

1377 a huge warfleet appeared in the Solent, filled to bursting with excited French soldiers and Spanish seamen. They roamed the coast burning and looting seaports. Arrived on the island and destroyed Newport on their way to attack Carisbrooke Castle. But lost their commander to a well aimed arrow shot by keen-eyed Peter de Heynoe.

Frustrated and vexed, they entertained themselves upon the citizens of Yarmouth who fought or begged for mercy while the invaders demanded a thousand marks to go away.

Sir William de Montacute appealed to the island's families to pay. Money was found, the French and Spanish sailed away. And came back in 1541 with a bigger force. Crashed ashore from French warships and this time carried off the church bells and destroyed Yarmouth's House of God, fired up by their red-hatted Inquisitors.

Image of base plan, Yarmouth Castle. Source Stone's Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight
Base plan, Yarmouth Castle. Source Stone's Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight

Yarmouth Gets a Castle

That such horror never revisit, the survivors begged King Henry to build a gun fort, for everyone knew what to expect when the last enemy seaman splashed back aboard boat, wiped his whiskers and sneered "We'll be back."

And the red hatted Inquisitor hissed afterword, "When you least expect it."

Henry agreed, but too late. The French returned with a vast invasion warfleet carrying enough men and weapons to invade England. While they waited for Henry's navy to come out of Portsmouth harbour for annihilation on a hot windless, summer afternoon in the summer of 1554, some of them rowed ashore at Yarmouth and burned the town to the ground.

"Guns there!" roared Henry when at last they were gone, leaving only the memory of their shrieking laughter as his beloved warship Mary Rose rolled over and sank; to the sound of splash, splutter and foul-mouthed recrimination. "And guns there in Yarmouth," Henry roared again, "Guns everywhere!"

Some say the ghost of Yarmouth Castle is from this period. Often seen in the dim ammunition storage bunker. A scary ghost, so said the soldiers billeted there for the D-Day landings.

Image of Yarmouth circa 1850, engraving by Brannon.
Yarmouth circa 1850, engraving by Brannon.

Constellation of Celebrity in Yarmouth Town

Yarmouth is sited, as name implies at the mouth of the western Yar, on a low sandy shore opposite the Lymington coast, 10ish miles from Newport, 12ish from Cowes and 104 miles from London Waterloo railway station.

During West Wight's golden years, the mid-1800s, Yarmouth buzzed with celebrity comings and goings.

Image of photographic portrait of Astronomer Royal, William Herschell, by Julia Margaret Cameron.
Portrait of Astronomer Royal William Herschell, by Julia Margaret Cameron.

Fresh off the London train to Lymington; a 4-mile ferry odyssey across the bar to Yarmouth town. Some stayed in the palatial George Inn or cosied into the Bugle's rooms, decorated with island ornithology specimens, courtesy of landlord Butler.

Doubtless some men and women of science applauded his skill while chancing an island cocktail, before heading on to Freshwater Bay to visit the poet in residence.

The guest-list at Tennyson's home Farringford House read like a register of A-List greats of that age. Artists, statesmen, churchmen; scientists; stars of Broadway; even revolutionary Garibaldi and Alice from Wonderland stepped ashore at Yarmouth. On their way to the land of high white cliffs and roiling sea, where the world's greatest poet composed his bestselling work – Idylls of the King.

And contemplated the consequence of science's discovery - Evolution.

The Ghost of Yarmouth Town

Yarmouth fully transformed into fortified town on the orders of Governor Sir Robert Holmes who chose to live in the community. He paid for a large and stately mansion, now the George Inn, where in 1661 and 1675 he hosted a party for King Charles II.

Holmes embanked the marshes, which previously the sea had overflowed so as nearly to surround the town (AD 1664) and enlarged and improved its fortification. At the eastern entrance the approach was secured by a drawbridge.

Town defences never were breached. Its castle provided a platform of four gun positions, the principal fortress in a deadly combination strengthened during the following years by other forts and gun emplacements on both sides of the Needles passage.

Photo image of Monument to Sir Robert Holmes, St. Thomas' church, Yarmouth.
Monument to Sir Robert Holmes, St. Thomas' church, Yarmouth.

Yarmouth's walls and guns protected it from everything unpleasant, especially marauding pirates and raiders. Beautiful houses arose, among the loveliest in the Isle of Wight; and sailing clubs wherein French and Spanish seapersons now are competitors not enemies as the Frenchies and Spaniardes were in times long past.

Some residents believe the George Inn barkeep and say the ghost of Lord Holmes haunts the town. A benevolent spirit guardian keeping Yarmouth safe, and during long winter nights probably takes refuge in the Bugle.

Exploring the haunted Isle of Wight

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 Yarmouth and other rogues and royals, read this book. Now available from Amazon.

Related links

Yarmouth Castle

George Inn

Bugle Inn