Newtown was the capital town of the Isle of Wight, but the once busy port is now a silted estuary and bird sanctuary. Originally named Francheville, the town was in existence before the Norman Conquest, but was almost destroyed by a French invasion in 1377.
In the early fourteenth century Newtown was a thriving town; during 1344 the borough was assessed at twice the value of Newport. Its busy and important harbour, which is now just a mud flat at the end of a woodland walk, was regarded as the safest in the Island.
In an effort to save the town Elizabeth I gave parliamentary representation to the borough in 1584 and Newtown continued to elect two members of parliament for the next 250 years. But in 1832 it was declared a ‘rotten borough’ and disenfranchised.
There are a handful of houses, a Victorian church and the old Town Hall, which was saved by an anonymous group called ‘The Ferguson Gang’ and given to the fledgling National Trust in the 1930s. Built of brick with stone dressings, the Hall was rebuilt in around 1699 on the foundations of an earlier building. The Gothic fenestration and four columned portico on the North front were probably added around the end of the l8th century.
On the estuary you can still see the great salterns where the seawater was evaporated to produce sea salt, and there were famous oyster beds. Now yachts visit the moorings and there are lovely walks around the estuary.