The Isle of Wight, Tom’s boyhood home, lies a short distance off the south coast of mainland England and is shaped like a rough diamond. It measures around 23 miles across from east to west at its widest point, and about 13 miles from north to south at its tallest. Its motto is “All this beauty is of God” and more than half of the island is designated as an area of outstanding natural beauty.
Mottistone, Tom’s village, lies in the west or the ‘Back of the Wight’ and in many respects has changed little since his day. Its principal buildings are the manor (the home of Tom’s family – the Chekes – from around 1300 to 1621) and parish church – both pictured below. Both can be visited – the manor (gardens only) is a visitor attraction run by the National Trust.
At the start of Tom’s memoir, his kidnappers lead him down to the nearby beach before putting him into a boat and rowing out to their ship waiting offshore. The following picture shows the stretch of coastline where the corsairs beached their boats.
The following link contains a historical map of the island from around Tom’s time. Mottistone is shown as “Matson” (a good indication of the local dialect) and is shown in the west nestling below a line of hills – “the downs”. The map also shows Ryde (Ride) in the north east and Newport near the centre of the island, which both feature as Tom makes his way home.
The parish church in Mottistone is a key setting towards the end of the memoir. It dates from the 12th century and was much enlarged and rebuilt by the Chekes in the mid 1300s onwards. The following picture provides a glimpse of the interior, facing towards the altar with the pulpit on the right. Sir Robert Dillington erected a tomb for his wife to the left of the altar.
On the return leg of his journey, Tom considers calling in at Carisbrooke Castle, just outside Newport, to see whether the Governor of the island, who resided at the castle, might be able to provide assistance. The photo below shows a view over the rooftops inside the castle, which is well worth a visit. Mottistone lies beyond the downs that line the horizon. (The famous castle well-house with its donkey-turned wheel is in the left fore-ground).
At the end of the novel, Tom and Edward visit a couple of inns on the Island: the Bugle Inn in Newport is now converted into shops; the Sun Inn at Hulverstone (just up the road from Mottistone) is still going strong.
Tom’s memoir ends in Cowes, the modern-day capital of British sailing, which was in Tom’s day a newly established port on the northern tip of the island.