I'm a Victorian freelance writer & photographer living in the Macedon Ranges north of Melbourne.
Published October 8th 2013
Too English to be True
Godshill, on the Isle of Wight and roughly midway between Newport and Ventnor, is to me the quintessential English village, in fact it's almost too English to be true with its narrow main street, crooked buildings, uneven cobbled paths and more thatched roof cottages than I've ever seen in one place.
Godshill, the quintessential English village, almost too English to be true
The 'quaintness' of the place adds a slightly incongruous note to the fact that nearby Ford Farm was the scene of the first Isle of Wight Festival in 1968 featuring as it headline acts the likes of Jefferson Airplane, Arthur Brown and Tyrannosaurus Rex.
Godshill goes back to medieval times with its church, All Saints, dating back to the 14th century. Legend has it that the church foundations were originally laid out on flat, low lying land but each morning were found transported to the top of the hill on which the church stands today. The locals took it as a message from God and constructed the church atop the hill – hence the name Godshill.
Both it and the neighboring village of Wroxall developed as satellites of Appuldurcombe House, the main house in the district and home to the influential Worsley family.
Godshill dates back to the 14th Century and is a very popular spot in the tourist season
Appuldurcombe was built as a priory in 1100 before becoming a convent and then, during the Elizabethan period, home to the Leigh family before passing to the Worsleys. In ruins today it is managed by English Heritage and is open to the public.
Godshill's main street boasts a number of small shops and tea rooms selling touristy type trinkets and country wares but nothing out of the ordinary. The Old Smithy is worth a look and some say it's probably the island's most up-market clothing store. It's also home to a gift shop and café.
The Old Smithy is one of several stores and tea rooms catering to tourists along Godshill's main street
If you've got a sweet tooth you won't want to miss Chocolate Island – literally a chocolate lover's paradise.
But the 'Englishness' of the place is what Godshill is all about and once you've had your fill of that your best bet is probably a drink at either of the villages two pubs, The Taverners or The Griffin. Locals swear by the food at the Taverners and the Griffin, recently refurbished and dating back to the 17th century, features a spectacular garden maze.
The Griffin, one of Godshill's two pubs
For something a little different perhaps try some of the locally produced ciders, liqueurs and fruit-based wines at the Cider Barn on the High Street. Here you'll find half a dozen or so different ciders on sale at any one time including the intriguingly named 'Scrumpy'.
Godshill is also home to a children's favourite, a 1/10th scale model of Godshill itself and nearby Shanklin Old Village. Cast in sand and cement the model buildings are authentic replicas of the original, right down to their tiny thatched roofs, and all surrounded by a bit less than a hectare of beautifully manicured gardens.
If you love a thatched roof you'll love Godshill
Godshill is very picturesque and very popular in the tourist season, perhaps too popular and touristy for some but certainly for me well worth the visit.