A brief history of Brading
The ancient name of Brerdynge, from which ‘Brading’ is derived, probably meant the people living by the ridge of the Downs and dates from at least 683. We know from the presence of Brading Roman Villa, just beyond the southern end of the Town, together with the ancient burial mounds on the Downs above, that people have lived here for thousands of years before that.
Brading is often referred to as ‘The Kynge’s Town’. This dates back to it being granted a charter by Edward 1 in 1285 to hold a weekly market and a four day annual fair. In those days, remember, there were no High Streets full of shops, so the ability to trade your own produce and buy goods near where you lived mattered a great deal, but the right to hold markets was regulated, for everyone’s benefit. It is also why there are so many placenames with ‘Market’ or ‘Chipping’ (the Saxon for: ‘to buy’) in our British placenames.
Once a thriving port …..
Until the 16th century Brading was an active port, as can still be seen in certain older road names (eg: Quay Lane). Ships entered from the Solent through Bembridge Harbour and made their way down the estuary that curved behind the hills of Bembridge and Culver. Once here they moored at the quay behind the Bugle Inn in the High Street to load, unload, provision and take on Island water which, even up to the time of Nelson, was known to be of high quality in those days of extended voyages by square riggers. The ‘Haven’ was also a superb shelter from storms at sea.
Sadly the problem of silting up helped put an end to Brading as a port. In the later Middle Ages the problem reached the point where only the main channel of the river was of any commercial use, so in 1594 the southern part of the Haven was closed off and drained by an embankment which reached right across to Centurian’s Hill. Ships would then tie up at the far end of Quay Lane against this new embankment, but in the end even the main river channel became too shallow.
In 1620 Sir Hugh Myddleton managed to close off and drain the rest of the harbour but the sea broke through and flooded the land once more. Others tried and failed, but the reclamation was finally accomplished in 1881 by the building downstream of a substantial embankment across Bembridge Harbour, which also carried the new railway to Bembridge itself, the now lost station being near the current Pilot Boat Inn.
Our own station built in 1864 is a Grade II listed building. In mid-Victorian times Brading grew rapidly, partly as a result of the influx of visitors to the Island, which was partly the reason behind the need for a station.
The church of St. Mary at the northern end of the Town is on the site of a much older Saxon church and itself dates from the 12th century. It has the Oglander Chapel on the south east cormer with some most unusual wooden effigies on top of two of the tombs. The Oglander family are still local landowners and can trace their descent back to French lords accompanying William the Conqueror’s invasion. There are many interesting tombs and some fine ‘hatchments’ adorn the walls.
Just next to the church is the Old Town Hall. Looking through the arches beneath you can see the two instruments of justice the Bailiffs may have used for wrongdoers, the stocks and the whipping post!