Island Story with Alan Stroud

Just across the road from the Hare and Hounds where these customers were photographed in about 1910, is a Bronze Age burial barrow. In 1737 a gibbet post was erected on the mound to carry a man-sized iron cage. Into the cage went the body of executed murderer, Michal Morey, and for the next four months his decaying corpse swung from the gibbet “for rooks and ravens to peck down.” The story began in 1736, in woods near Burnt House Lane when, for reasons unknown, Morey killed his 14 year old grandson, James Dove, with a billhook. He then cut off his head and dismembered the body, concealed it in nearby undergrowth and then went into hiding. The remains were quickly discovered and Morey was apprehended and taken to Winchester where he was tried and found guilty then hanged within hours. His body was returned to the Island, placed in the cage on the gibbet and after a long hot summer the remains were buried in an unmarked grave.

At least nine skulls have been unearthed from the barrow since that time, the last being removed in 1933. This one found its way into the pub where local legend pronounced it to be that of Morey (in fact, later research has shown it to be the skull of a prehistoric female in her late teens). Georgi Newman, manager of the Hare and Hounds today, confirms that the skull is still on display in the bar.

Also in the pub is a ceiling beam reputed to be the actual gibbet post although in his definitive book on the murder, “For Rooks and Ravens,” author Kenneth Phillips points out that the incorrect date carved into the post might indicate otherwise. As is often the case, it is the murderer whose name has lived on so when you next visit the Hare and Hounds spare a thought for the victim and raise a glass to the unfortunate and unsung James Dove.

Once upon a time the Island was dotted with local breweries – Sweetmans, Burts, and Sprakes, to name but a few. The largest and most successful of them all was Mew Langton, or Mews, of Newport and for some readers it probably seems only yesterday that their distinctive red and brown signs were to be seen in every town and village across the Island. Mews operated from a two acre brewery site situated between Crocker Street and Holyrood Street, where St Cross Court and Lidl now stand. It remained a family business until 1965 when the brewery and 144 pubs were sold to the Romsey brewer, Strongs for what was, even then, the eye-watering sum of £1.5 million.

In 1969 brewing ceased at Newport and shortly afterwards, Strongs themselves were overtaken by Whitbreads who then wielded their corporate axe and closed nearly 50 of the Island’s smaller pubs. In the early 1990s their stranglehold came to an end when the Government ordered the big brewers to exchange or sell pubs between themselves to end local monopolies. Whitbreads were forced to sell or lease over 2000 of their pubs and overnight their name virtually disappeared from the Island and free houses sprang up, offering a whole new range of beers. Alas, Mews I.P.A. and Osborne Pale Ale was not among them!

Author: Isle of Wight Beacon

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