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Newport is a quiet pleasure

Richard Smout, Isle of Wight Heritage Services Manager, believes the Newport we see today has been determined by a whole set of factors that are heritage based.

His role means he directly runs Newport’s Record Office, while line-managing the council’s archaeological services and four council-run museums.

When it comes to its heritage, Richard believes Newport, with its more than 300 listed buildings, is something of a hidden gem with plenty to offer the connoisseur.  

“Newport is a quiet pleasure.

“It doesn’t scream at you as somewhere you must visit but it is a place that grows on you with a deep affection.

“Being surrounded by other attractions such as Osborne House, Carisbrooke Castle and the beautiful beaches, it’s not somewhere you would instinctively put on the tourist trail. 

“The medieval street pattern is largely intact and on the whole, the streetscape, in terms of length and breadth, is not dissimilar to what it has been for centuries.

“If you take the trouble to visit and look up you will be rewarded with all sorts of interesting details and that makes the High Street in particular more rewarding.

“There are so many great buildings in Newport that it is challenging to pinpoint just a few. One of my particular favourites is the Red House on Upper High Street near to the former Post Office.

“It was once home to the Sewell family who had strong links to Oxford Colleges. Henry Sewell became New Zealand’s first Prime Minister, although he served for less than a fortnight.

“I think it’s interesting that we have a building in the middle of Newport with links to New Zealand.

“To sum up what it is about the heritage of Newport that I like, it is the small details that please me.

“There was a shop called Murdochs which is now Watson, Bull and Parker and it is situated near the entrance to the square. If you look up to the first floor there are some very nice details to the building, with bow windows connected by a gallery.

“And up and down the High Street, we have amazing bow windows at the first floor and they are really quite a distinctive local feature. 

“I’ve been the archivist on the Island for just over 25 years and every time I find out a new fact about a building I see it with fresh eyes.

“I live on the Carisbrooke side of Newport and I have the choice of two routes to Newport. Both offer attractive, enjoyable, small scale buildings from the early nineteenth century. There is a lot of joy to be found from walking to and from work.

“When it comes to what the Heritage Action Zone is bringing to Newport’s High Street, there is the educational side of things. We are getting people to look and not take what they see for granted. I hope they are seeing things with fresh eyes and discovering new things in the heritage buildings around them.

“I’m hoping as well as the educational side, the HAZ will be able to help address issues with certain buildings in Newport that are in need of support to make them more vibrant.

“Realistically for a High Street to work it has to be worth the journey, in terms of time, effort and cost. Heritage has its role to play but it is about services and the High Street having the things that people want.”