You can get a real sense of the history of the landscape in this part of the Isle of Wight Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The... more » story of people in this area takes us back to Neolithic times.
Around 6000 years ago the Neolithic farmers of the Isle of Wight started to clear areas of woodland for cultivation on the central chalk ridge and the lower greensand hills. It The Longstone is from this period, consisting of two megalithic entrance stones one now up right and one laying down. It is thought that these mark the entrance of a long barrow.
Extensive clearance of woodland took place in the Bronze Age (4300 years ago) to allow for grazing and cultivation. There are many round barrows both on the greensand and also on the chalk ridge from this period. The loss of woodland cover led to soil erosion and a gradually reduction in soil fertility resulting in the creation of extensive heathland areas across the greensand hills and species rich areas of chalk grassland on the central ridge.
There are many Bronze Age Close by is Castle Hill a strategic site with evidence of an Iron Age enclosure.
Many of the local place names (Limerstone, Brighstone, Hulverstone) have their origins in the old Anglo Saxon 'Tun' meaning farmstead. However this is not the case for Mottistone which is derived from ' the stone of the speaker(s) or pleader(s)' probably referring the use of the Longstone by Anglo Saxon peoples as the 'Moot Stone'.
To the north you can see the central chalk downland ridge which dissects the Isle of Wight from east to west.
The parishes of Brighstone and Brook were created in medieval times being subdivisions of much older larger parishes. Around this time much of the area would have continued to be farmed as unenclosed grazing land. Tenants of Mottistone Manor had common grazing rights on the chalk downs and also Mottistone Common itself (hence the name).
Between the spring-line villages (so called because of their siting just below natural springs below the chalk downs and greensand hills) and the coast there were areas of open-field cultivation.
Common grazing was still taking place on Brook Down and Mottistone Common in 1793 but many other areas of open grazing land and open field had been enclosed by this date.
Mottistone Manor is included in the Domesday Book being valued at £10 a sizeable sum of money for the C11th. It was the home of the de Insulas, an important Norman family who later changed their name to Lisle and were one of the richest Island families. Through marriage it passed to the de Glamorgan family who retained ownership until the C14th when it was purchased by the Cheke family. It was rebuilt in 1567 by Thomas Cheke, although the southern wing may be more changed later. Whilst this would have been the home for the lord of the manor it also functioned as the farmstead at the centre of the management of the manorial land and tenants.
In the C17th the Manor was bought by the Dillington family who also owned a number of other manors across the Isle of Wight (Knighton Gorges, Westover, Great Budbridge). It remained in this family until the early C19th when it was sold to John Leigh of North Court. The house reverted back to use primarily as a farmstead actually being known as Great Mottistone Farm until it was purchased by the Seely family who were living at Brook House.
The Seelys became one of the largest and most influential landowning families in the Isle of Wight during the C19th. General Jack Seely decided to leave Brook House and make Mottistone Manor his main residence in 1926. It is said that his decision was heavily influenced by his friend Sir Edwin Lutyens the celebrated architect. In 1933 he was made Lord Mottistone. He set about restoring the building with the help his son John who was himself an architect of some renown.
John Seely bequeathed Mottistone Manor and Estate to the National Trust in 1963.
This short walk will take you through some of the most beautiful and secretive countryside that the Isle of Wight has to offer. Expansive views of the south west coastline are afforded to you from Mottistone Common. These are contrasted later in the route with hedged ancient tracks and highways and woodland. less «