Coordinates: 50°45′34″N 1°18′01″W / 50.7595°N 1.3002°W / 50.7595; -1.3002

Cowes 01.jpg
Cowes Harbour
Cowes is located in Isle of Wight

 Cowes shown within the Isle of Wight
Population 9,663 [1]
OS grid reference SZ493958
Unitary authority Isle of Wight
Ceremonial county Isle of Wight
Region South East
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town COWES
Postcode district PO31
Dialling code 01983
Police Hampshire
Fire Isle of Wight
Ambulance Isle of Wight
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament Isle of Wight
List of places: UK • England • Isle of Wight

Cowes (sometimes anachronistically referred to as West Cowes) is an English seaport town and civil parish[2] on the Isle of Wight. Cowes is located on the west bank of the estuary of the River Medina facing the smaller town of East Cowes on the east Bank. The two towns are linked by the Cowes Floating Bridge, a chain ferry.

The population was 9,663 in the 2001 census,[1] a figure that is easily doubled during the regatta in early August.

Leland's 19th century verses described the towns poetically as "The two great Cowes that in loud thunder roar, This on the eastern, that the western shore".

Cowes has been seen as a home for international yacht racing since the founding of the Royal Yacht Squadron in 1815. The town gives its name to the world's oldest regular regatta, Cowes Week, which occurs annually in the first week of August. Later on in the summer, powerboat races are held.

Much of the town's architecture is still heavily influenced by the style of ornate building which Prince Albert popularised.



Cowes is a gateway town for the Isle of Wight. Travellers to Southampton are served by a high speed catamaran passenger ferry from Cowes known as the Red Jet. Southern Vectis route 1 is the main bus service in Cowes, serving the Red Jet terminal and running to Newport to take travellers on to other Island destinations.[3] Wightbus also run local services around Cowes and Gurnard. The Cowes Floating Bridge connects the two towns of Cowes and East Cowes throughout the day. It is one of few chain ferries left not to have been replaced by a physical bridge.

Cowes Esplanade and Cowes Castle (home of the Royal Yacht Squadron)

Cowes is the start of the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.[4]

Cowes was once served by Cowes railway station on the Island Line. However, this was closed as part of the Beeching Axe.[citation needed]



The name Westcowe was attested in 1413 as the name of one of two sandbanks, on each side of the River Medina estuary, so-called after a supposed likeness to cows. The name was subsequently transferred to fortifications built during the reign of Henry VIII on the east and west banks of the river to dispel a French invasion, referred to as cowforts or cowes. They subsequently gave their names to the towns of Cowes and East Cowes, replacing the earlier name of Shamblord.

The towns name has been subject to dispute in the past, sometimes being called Cowes, and then West Cowes. For example a Milestone from the 17th century exists, calling the town Cowes, but up until the late 19th Century the Urban District Council bore the name West Cowes. 1895 saw the last major point where the town was called West Cowes, when West Cowes Urban District Council applied for permission to change the name of the town to Cowes officially, and this was granted on the 21st of August 1895.[5] Despite the vast majority of businesses and people in the town in the past century calling it Cowes, the name West Cowes is still contentiously used throughout the literature of Red Funnel, the ferry provider that provides routes from Southampton to Cowes and East Cowes.

Early history

In earlier centuries the two settlements were much smaller and known as East and West Shamblord, the East being the more significant settlement.

The Isle of Wight was a target of attempted French invasions, and there were notable incursions. Henrician Castles were built in both settlements in the sixteenth century. The west fort in Cowes still survives to this day, albeit without the original Tudor towers, as Cowes Castle. The fort built in East Cowes is believed to have been similar but was abandoned c1546 and since destroyed.

Royal patronage creates a yachting centre

It is believed that the building of an 80 ton, 60 man vessel called Rat O'Wight[6] on the banks of the river Medina in 1589 for the use of Queen Elizabeth I sowed the seed for Cowes to grow into a world renowned centre of boat-building. However, seafaring for recreation and sport remained the exception rather than the rule until much later. It was not until the reign of keen sailor George IV that the stage was set for the heyday of Cowes as 'The Yachting Capital of the World.' In 1826 the Royal Yacht Squadron organised a three-day regatta for the first time and the next year the king signified his approval of the event by presenting a cup to mark the occasion. This became known as Cowes Regatta and it soon grew into a four-day event that always ended with a fireworks display.

Great houses

Cowes marina.

In Cowes the 18th century house of Westbourne was home to a collector of customs whose son, born there in 1795, lived to become Dr Thomas Arnold, headmaster of Rugby School.

Northwood House was the home of the Ward family. It was donated under trust to the town in 1929, the grounds becoming Northwood Park. William George Ward was a close friend of the poet Tennyson and in whose memory the poet wrote six lines.

Cowes and East Cowes became a single urban district in 1933.

World War II and the Blyskawica

During an air raid of World War II on 4/5 May 1942, the local defences had been fortuitously augmented by the Polish destroyer Blyskawica (itself built by White's in East Cowes), which put up such a determined defence that, in 2002, the crew's courage was honoured by a local commemoration lasting several days to mark the 60th anniversary of the event. In 2004 an area of Cowes was named Francki Place in honour of the ship's commander.[7] The Friends of the ORP Błyskawica Society is active in Cowes.


A street in Cowes.

Local industry in both Cowes and East Cowes has always centred on the building and design of marine craft and materials associated with boat-making, including the early flying boats, and sail-making. It is the place where the first hovercraft was tested.

Major present-day employers include BAE Systems Integrated System Technologies (Insyte), which occupies the site of the old Somerton Aerodrome at Newport Road, Cowes; and GKN Aerospace in East Cowes.

The population of the town increases dramatically during Cowes Week, and becomes the busiest time of the year for local businesses. The town has recently been reported to be doing well, despite the economic downturn.[8]

Notable residents

See also

The Cowes Library and Maritime Museum building.


External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Cowes —   [kaʊz], Stadt an der Nordküste der Insel Wight, Südengland, 19 700 Einwohner; Boots und Flugzeugwerften, internationales Jachtzentrum.   Geschichte:   Cowes entstand um ein 1540 erbautes Fort, das dem Schutz der Hafeneinfahrt nach Southampton… …   Universal-Lexikon

  • Cowes — an English holiday town and sailing centre on the Isle of Wight in the English Channel. Every year there is a ↑regatta (=series of boat races) there, known as Cowes Week …   Dictionary of contemporary English

  • Cowes — (spr. Kaus), befestigte Stadt auf der Nordküste der englischen Insel Wight; Marinehospital, Seebäder, Hafen, Getreide , Vieh u. Wollhandel; 5000 Ew. Hier Denkmal, wo 1837 Victoria als Königin zum ersten Male die Insel betrat …   Pierer's Universal-Lexikon

  • Cowes — (spr. kaus ), Doppelstadt auf beiden Seiten des Medinaflusses an der Nordküste der englischen Insel Wight. West C., mit (1901) 8654 Einw., hat einen sichern Hafen, an dessen Eingang ein altes Schloß (jetzt Klubhaus des englischen Jachtklubs)… …   Meyers Großes Konversations-Lexikon

  • Cowes — (spr. kaus), Hafenstadt auf der engl. Insel Wight, durch den Medina in East C. und West C. geteilt, (1901) 3180 und 8654 E.; Seebad, Sitz der Royal Yacht Squadron (Regatten im August). In der Nähe Schloß Osborn House, seit 1902 Genesungsheim für… …   Kleines Konversations-Lexikon

  • Cowes — (Kaues), feste Stadt auf der engl. Kanalinsel Wight mit 5200 E., ausgezeichnetem Hafen, Schiffswerften, lebhaftem Handel, besonders mit Lebensmitteln zur Verproviantirung der Schiffe …   Herders Conversations-Lexikon

  • Cowes — 50.762777777778 1.3008333333333 …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cowes — Pour les articles homonymes, voir Cowes (homonymie). 50°45′34″N 1°18′0″O / …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Cowes — /kowz/, n. a seaport on the Isle of Wight, in S England: resort. 18,895. * * * ▪ England, United Kingdom       town at the northern extremity of the Isle of Wight (Wight, Isle of), historic county of Hampshire, England, 11 miles (18 km) south of… …   Universalium

  • Cowes — 1 Original name in latin Cowes Name in other language Cowes, Kaus, Каус State code AU Continent/City Australia/Melbourne longitude 38.45231 latitude 145.23865 altitude 28 Population 3678 Date 2012 02 28 2 Original name in latin Cowes Name in… …   Cities with a population over 1000 database

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