The Project: Calbourne Local Heroes

The production of this website and CD has been significantly assisted by funding from the West Wight Landscape Partnership’s Local Heroes project.

The aim of Local Heroes is to celebrate famous past residents, events or landmarks of the West Wight.  This particular strand of the project aims to re-awaken interest in one of the forgotten sons of Calbourne, the writer and antiquarian, W. H. Long, and to pay tribute to the local singers he collected.  In the course of researching William Henry Long we have also discovered the work of another Calbourne hero, Bill Brett.

Bill Brett and The Old School House

Bill Brett

As Keir Foss writes in his 2009 Book of Calbourne:

“The (West Wight) rural idyll that is Calbourne gave its name to one of the largest pre-Norman parishes on the Isle of Wight. The village has side-stepped the industrial and technological onslaught of recent centuries and retains much of the richness bestowed by a thousand years of English history.

“Three medieval manorial estates have left their imprint on a landscape little changed from feudal times.  The mill wheel can still drive the machinery that grinds the local corn.  The church bell still calls the faithful each Sunday.  And the laughter of the local personalities still resonates around the Public Bar.”

Bill with the DollymoppsThe old school house where W. H. Long was educated is now a private residence occupied by retired builder, Bill Brett, and his family.  Now well into his eighties, Bill recalls singing several of the songs from the Long collection around the local pubs in the 1940s and 1950s and can still carry a fine tune, even if the words are becoming a little hazy.

Bill is a gifted craftsman and folk artist and, over the years, has amassed an amazing collection of local artefacts.  The old school house is stuffed from floor to ceiling with his found objects.  And his garden is inhabited by a host of idiosyncratic figures of his own creation.  Many of the pictures on this website were taken in and around the old school house and give a flavour of the amazing cornucopia on show: double up toilet seats, the old nit nurse’s bike, fossilised dinosaur claws, cricket memorabilia, arcane agricultural implements and cobbled-together creations that conjure up the eccentricities of old Calbourne and the rural Wight.