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Newport, Isle of Wight, in 1843

Newort, the capital town of the Isle of Wight, is situated in a valley near the centre of the island, on the west bank of the Medina, river, which is navigable to Newport. The tide flows nearly to Newport bridge, and carries large barges to the quay, which is built in front of the town, where the Carisbrooke stream falls into the Medina. Vessels of considerable burthen can ascend with high tides. The town is built on an easy ascent, and the streets, which are sufficiently wide, cross each other at right angles. It is a very pretty town, well paved, lighted with gas, and clean. The town-hall and market-horse form a neat structure, which is said to be very commodious in its arrangements. It was begun in 1814 and finished in 1816, at a cost of £10,000.

The magistrates of the island meet in the town-hall every Saturday, to determine parochial matters, and to commit offenders for trial to the county assizes. The Isle of Wight Institution, which is a public library and reading-room., is a building which is said to surpass the town-hall in elegance: it was built by subscription in 1811. There is also a Mechanics’ Institute. The free grammar-school is a large stone building, erected in 1619. The conferences between Charles I and the parliament were held in the school-room, and lasted forty days. There are two assembly-rooms, and a small but neat theatre. The church was built in 1172, but has been frequently repaired since it is a large plain structure. There are six chapels belonging to different classes of dissenters.

The House of Industry, in the vicinity of Newport, is a spacious building, with 80 acres of land attached to it, divided into fields and gardens, and cultivated by the inmates : in 1840 there were 441 persons in it. The Albany Barracks, not far from the House of Industry, were built in 1798. and were much employed during the war : they have a good military hospital, and grounds attached to them : in 1840 they contained only 54 persons. Parkhurst prison, for juvenile convicts, also in the neighbourhood of Newport, in Carisbrooke parish, contained, in 1840, 319 individuals, and the gaol at Newport 14. The Lunatic Asylum, which is in Carisbrooke parish, contained 34 persons in 1840.

The market is on Saturday, and is much frequented by persons from all parts of the island, Newport being a central depot, from which corn and other agricultural produce are shipped, and which imports articles of manufacture, coals, provisions, and whatever else may be wanted for the interior and south side of the island. An annual fair is held on Whit Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday ; and at Michaelmas there are three Bargain-Fair Saturdays, when the country men-servants and maid-servants meet at separate parts of the town to be hired, and this is the great season for rustic sports.

Previous to the Municipal Reform Act in 1835, Newport was a municipal and parliamentary borough. As a municipal borough, it consisted of a mayor, a recorder, eleven aldermen, self-elected, twelve chief burgesses, and an indefinite number of freemen. It was incorporated by a charter of James I. The governing charter of the borough was 13 Charles II. By the Municipal Reform Act it has been divided into two wards, with six aldermen, and eighteen councillors. The number of burgesses, or municipal electors, in 1837 was 526.

The expenditure of the borough in 1840-41 was £662, 9 shillings, 7 pence : among the items were:- for the administration of justice, prosecutions, &c., £30, 16 shillings, 8 pence ; police and constables, £282, 7 shillings, 2 pence ; rents, rates, taxes, and insurance, £43, 6 shillings, 10 pence ; salaries, pensions, and allowance to municipal officers, £103, 3 shillings, 10 pence ; public works, repairs, &c., £80, 6 shillings, 4 pence ; printing, &c., £2, 12 shillings, 3 pence ; miscellaneous, £15, 9 shillings, 10 pence.

As a parliamentary borough, the right of election was in the mayor, aldermen, and burgesses : the greatest number of electors who had polled at any election during thirty years preceding 1831 was 22. The population within the limits adopted by the Reform Act for parliamentary purposes was, in 1841, 6,330. It returns two members to the House of Commons, as it did before the Reform Act. The number of parliamentary electors on the register in 1839-40 was 669, of whom 657 were householders of £10 or upwards. The number on the register in 1835-6 was 603.

The parliamentary return gives the population of the town and borough as 3,858 ; but as a considerable part of the actual town is in the parish of Carisbrooke, this is not the true population of the town proper. It is probably about 5,000. Newport is properly a chapelry, the minister being nominated by the vicar of Carisbrooke, but it is called a parish, has separate churchwardens and overseers, and is in no respect subject to interference from the parish officers of Carisbrooke.