BRIAN GREENING writes: My grumpiness is well known locally and goes back to the days of my friendship with the much-missed Keith Newbery, that scourge of Southern Vectis, the county council and any local Freemasons.
(The reason for his dislike of the latter apparently stems from the fact he was bitten by one while still in his pram.)
It is simply, I personally hate change. For example, I dislike going into a supermarket to find the counter where I always purchased my slices of brawn is now selling cat and dog food or where I normally found the toilet rolls is now selling white spirit, paint scrapers and sandpaper.
This got me around to thinking just what any returning Newport-born resident, who had left the Isle of Wight in their teens, would make of the town today.
It is doubtful they would be naive enough to believe nothing would have changed in the intervening years but just how much would they miss of their childhood days?
Certainly, they would miss the trains and the disappearance of the railway station and that great metal bridge at the bottom of our High Street.
Gone too, they would discover, is the cattle market that was in South Street where I and many other children would make for every Tuesday to see and touch the sheep, pigs, chickens and calves and even occasionally see a dog tethered up to be sold.
Gone too would be the hot dog stall where that new delicacy of the time would have been on sale.
The cattle market was opened on September 11, 1928, by the mayor, Cllr W. Blake, after being in St James’s Square from around 1532.
Sir John Oglander recorded that around that time the corn market was held in St Thomas’s Square while the beast market was in St James’s Square.
He claimed neither was paved until 1654 when, with the proceeds of the sale of goods of a suicide victim, the former was paved, using the sum of £24 3s 2d raised.
The new cattle market was at the time a splendid construction, the frontage of it being built by using the bricks and tiles saved from the Green Dragon public house, that had stood opposite God’s Providence House for more than 200 years and commenced its demolition in 1924.
It seems inconceivable to imagine Church Litten and Town Lane were once no wider than the width of a single horse and cart. By 1924, Church Litten had already been widened and Town Lane was planned to be next, increasing its width from less than 12ft to 37ft.
However, in early 1900, there had begun the introduction on to our roads of motor cars and very soon, as now, they began to dictate any changes that were to take place within the town.
With Church Litten and Town Lane widened, the next target for demolition would be God’s Providence House.
In 1924, God’s Providence House was tenanted by a Mr Wells, selling all forms of crockery.
Then, in 1927, there was a letter printed in the County Press from a member of the Hobart family, who, at the time, lived at Standen House.
In his capacity as a senior member of the Chamber of Commerce, he described the house as being dilapidated, of having no historic interest to recommend it and said it stood in the way of a much-needed improvement scheme. No doubt he had a car.
A year earlier, the council had talked of purchasing the property to use as a museum or possibly a mayor’s house.
Indeed, when the new market in South Street was opened in 1928, the mayor even then commented the recent change the new cattle market had made to the town was progress and went on to say antiquity was all very well but it must give way to modern demands and he wished that God’s Providence House had been removed.
Then riding to the rescue came two local eminent architects in the form of Percy Stone and John Curtis Millgate.
The latter was Newport’s mayor on three occasions and when, in 1911, he was so honoured, he took as his mayoress his 12-year old daughter, Christabella, as sadly his wife had died in childbirth in 1903.
Indeed, Christabella took the same position on the two following occasions her father was mayor.
These two ‘knights in shining armour’ secretly purchased the property for £850 and then had it scheduled by the Ministry of Works as an ancient monument that stopped any destruction or alteration of the building.
Indeed, Mr Millgate did a similar deed when the Roman Villa at Cypress Road was beginning to be vandalised — he purchased this too, covered it over and preserved it for future generations to enjoy.
Personally, I applaud our two architects for their preservation efforts.
I do not often go along with wasteful demolition of our ancient buildings and wish those that followed them had put the same sort of effort into preserving Hazards House, once said to be the oldest house in Newport, when in the late 1970s it was demolished to eventually make way for the County Hall extension, a building that today I would welcome to see the end of.