A place for the ancestors at Barnes Chine
Barnes Chine is now little more than a small cleft in the cliff along the coastal path between Grange Chine and Atherfield. However, it seems that around 1,200 BC, Barnes Chine was the home to a Middle Bronze Age coastal community. Both the chine and the site of this settlement have now been lost to coastal erosion but the cemetery of this community could still be seen in 1927.
The people of Barnes made a circle of graves for their dead. Their circle is so regular that it seems likely that they marked each grave with a stone of a totem. Once cremated, most members of this community were carefully enclosed inside a favourite cooking pot or storage jar. The style of these pots matches well with those of Dorset, a place which may have been regularly visited by boat.
A carved stone head found near Luccombe Chine shows evidence of the religious practices of people living near the chines in the Iron Age (800 BC to 43 AD). Before the Romans arrived, the Islanders were arranged into complex social groupings or tribes who worshipped their Celtic gods. This carving shows one of those unnamed gods who were closely linked to the earth and natural environment.
Vectensian communities on the chine coast
In the decades leading up to the birth of Christ, Roman trading interests were growing on Britain’s southern coast. It was not long before the home of our Iron Age ancestors was written down on Roman maps as ‘the Island of Vectis’. It seems that the Chilton and Grange chines may have been used as landing places for Late Iron Age and Roman craft. Some boats brought great jars of wine, known as amphorae, and a variety of jugs and table ware.
Roman accounts of Britain tell us that export cargoes included “clever hunting dogs, warm woollen duffle coats (birrus Britannicus), corn and slaves”. At Barnes Chine, large quantities of local Roman pottery, now named Vectis Ware, were left scattered on the cliff edge. Some of these may have been made in nearby kilns.
Saxon records of the chines
After the Roman period there is only a little evidence of continued human use of the Isle of Wight chines. According to an Anglo-Saxon charter of AD826, it seems that Grange Chine was known as Eadgylses mupan (Edgil’s landing place) during the ninth century. This suggests that, like Roman times, this was considered to be a good spot for the landing of boats. The same document suggests that Shippards Chine was the bican doene (the Bitch’s Mouth).
Chines in medieval times
Near Luccombe Chine another small medieval community flourished. One item brought ashore was a Nordic whetstone (used for knife-sharpening) which had been shipped all the way from the mountains of Norway. Small, single masted boats called cogges were in use in medieval times and with a skilled navigator could land along the south-west coast of the Island. As the size of boats increased this dangerous stretch of coast was abandoned in favour of safer natural harbours and creeks on the Solent.