Isle of Wight Postcard Club

Report of  Meeting, held on May 11th 2000 at 7.30pm in Newport Parish Church Centre.

Mr John Woodford, Chairman welcomed all present and extended a warm welcome to Mr Simon Dabell, the speaker for the evening.

Apologies were received from Mr Alan Leach (Treasurer), Mr Peter Burford and Mr Richard Hawes.

Matters arising:
The Annual Outing to Bloomsbury would now take place on November 26th.
The Millennium Outing on Thursday June 22nd had been arranged to the Buddle Inn, for an evening meal, followed by a walk to St Catherine's Lighthouse. A noted nature ramble.
The Auction on July 6th. Members could hand any material to Committee Members, in advance, or bring items that evening, to be included. The Club would retain 10%. Admission free. Refreshments would charge a fixed 50p for beverage and biscuits.
The Fair on August 24th, bookings now being taken for a 5ft table @ £10 each.

The Chairman introduced the speaker Mr Simon Dabell, on the history of Blackgang Chine.
Mr Dabell, who came into the family business in 1979, gave an account of the early history of the Chine, up to the present day. The word Blackgang, suggested smugglers, due to the many shipwrecks in the area. The name simply meant, Black pathway to the sea. The area on the south-west tip of the island, was a desolate area, mainly given to fishing and farmland towards Atherfield.
In 1840 Alexander Dabell, his sisters and parents all arrived on the island. Born in Nottingham to William and Martha in 1808, he and his family accompanied Mr Nunn and others to start a Lace Making factory in Newport. Alexander worked with his father in this craft and after his apprenticeship he went to London. Returning to Newport to open his first business in the High Street in about 1830.
Victorians were eagerly seeking out new health and holiday resorts, Alexander recognised the business potential of what was happening, particularly as there was a newly opened spring at Landrock.
Blackgang Chine a steep gaunt ravine situated some 500 feet above the sea, stretching three quarters of a mile down to the shore, therefore in 1939, he met and became friends with a publican who had recently built a 14 bedroom hotel.
Pathways were built down the ravine and gardeners landscaped, but it still lacked interest. In 1842, a huge fin whale was beached, measuring 87 feet in length. It was dismembered, the bones numbered and bleached. On arrival at Blackgang it was re-constructed, and displayed in a large specially built hut, in which the skeleton was opened for the morbid curiosity of the Victorians. A gift bazaar, later followed inside the whale. Blackgang Chine became one of the top seaside attractions as road and rail links had become established.
Alexander died in 1898, his son Walter then managed the park. Coastal erosion was already much in evidence, the road having been carried away in the 1860s and the last path the beach in 1913. The business continued passing from one generation to another. In the 1950's and early 1960's remarkable tableaux were designed to educate and to entertain.
In the 1970's features included Dinosaurland, Frontierland and Nurseryland at Blackgang.
By the late 1980's Blackgang coast was suffering badly from erosion and the company started to look for a new site. In 1993 Robin Hill was purchased and developed for older children and it was hoped the two attractions would continue to be popular well into the 21st Century.
Mr Dabell was thanked by the Chairman for such an excellent, and at times, amusing account of the history of Blackgang. Members warmly applauded. Any questions followed.
Displays of Blackgang were staged by Mrs Fay Brown and Mrs Lyn Archer.
Refreshments and raffle followed.
Dealers were Mrs Sylvia Taylor and Mr Mike Tarrant.

The next meeting on July 6th would be the Auction, to commence at 7.30pm in the same venue.

Return to IOW Club page