Shipbuilding has been carried out at Cowes for hundreds of years. Wooden “Men o’ War” were built in East Cowes before 1700. HMS Jersey was a three-decker laid down in 1697 by Joseph Nye, who then went to Russia and developed shipbuilding at St. Petersburg for the Tsar.
The street names reflect these days of optimism and adventure – “Arctic Road”, “Egypt Close” and “Nubia Close” – glimpses of a town in it’s glamorous hay day. In Victorian times and earlier, Cowes was one of the most important boat building centres in England and ghosts of the past remain amongst the luxury yachts and blue clad second homes: The rows of terraced boat builders cottages, the crumbling dry docks and an iconic hulking crane that towers above the entrance to the River Medina.
One of my favourite haunts is the Medina Yard – home to the Hammerhead Crane which, scaffold clad, dominates the skyline. It is a symbol of the once great ship building town,a monument to the men and women who worked there.
The yard remains, for the present at least, a welcome hub of marine craftsman and hands on industry – the bases for my sculpture are cut by The Stone Shop – their workshop was razed to the ground earlier in the year by a fierce blaze. The structure that remains offers a rare glimpse of the skeleton of a vast industrial unit – metal twisted and deformed by the heat, hanging like huge iron curtains from the remaining steel uprights.
For anyone who’d like to know more about the fire, the yard and some of the irreplaceable boats that were damaged…..this is a fascinating link with some great photos…