O is for Oh Well, that didn't work out very well at all

Published November 19, 2011

Today I was supposed to go to the next destination for my A-Z Alphabet Adventure. I have reached the letter O, and I had intended to visit Osborne House on the Isle of Wight. My adventures had come to something of a standstill until recently, as it’s been a busy and thrifty latter half of the year. However, I was aware that Osborne House closed over winter, and that if I didn’t get there, I wouldn’t be able to do anything on the adventure until March at the earliest. That wouldn’t necessarily be a problem, I don’t know if I’ll get through any more of the alphabet before then anyway, but it’s always nice to have the option.

Time ticked on, of course, and suddenly I realised I had missed the opportunity, except for guided tours which aren’t really my thing. However, I noticed that the House were putting on a Victorian Christmas weekend, with decorations, a real life Santa and all that kind of stuff. It wasn’t exactly why I wanted to visit - I’ve done quite a few Victorian themed things already - but it seemed like a good opportunity to get over there.

Part of my plan was to experience the hovercraft that leaves from Portsmouth and arrives at Ryde. A hovercraft! How cool is that? I viewed the website, and found they were doing bundle tickets of travel plus attraction entry for this Victorian Christmas thing for a reasonable price. Even better. I snapped them up, and I waited.


It was all supposed to happen today, but it turns out that hovercrafts can break. The statement on the Hovertravel website reads:

Hovertravel can confirm that they have suspended hovercraft services with effect from 18:00 today Friday 18th November.

Following an issue with a propeller on the Solent Express Hovercraft on 30th October, further safety checks are to be undertaken to ensure the continued safety of Hovertravel’s fleet.

Hovertravel is working with the Maritime & Coastguard Agency (MCA), the regulatory authority, and hopes to restore a full service as soon as possible.

Irritating, for sure, but I don’t want to be travelling on something with a dodgy propeller. The Hovertravel service is suspended, the hovercrafts are… grounded, I suppose is the word. My one opportunity to get to Osborne House until it reopens in March! Damn and blast it!

It’s okay though. Now I’ve shared what the O would have been, I’m probably going to look for another option. I do prefer things to be a surprise. The reason I chose Osborne House anyway was simply because it would make a good story - it was owned by my family, who sold it to Queen Victoria! Really and truly!

This, from a book published in 1912:

John Mann son of Eustace died in 1705, and his daughter and sole heiress Elizabeth married Robert Blachford of Sandhill, Hants, with whose family  Osborne remained till Queen Victoria bought it of Lady Isabella widow of Barrington Pope Blachford in 1845.

The 18th-century house built by Robert Pope Blachford was pulled down and the present Osborne House begun in 1845 and finished in 1851. It was much frequented by Queen Victoria, who died there in 1901. It was given to the nation by King Edward VII in the following year, and is now used as a convalescent home for officers of both services.

There are plenty of bits and pieces that I’ve heard and can’t remember which are true and which aren’t. Things like Queen Victoria potentially not paying full value for the house and therefore, technically, owing me money. There’s also plenty of information that links Robert Pope and others to smuggling, and being charged with offences related to that worrying act. I’m telling you, I’d make a great subject for that Who Do You Think You Are programme.

So, I’m probably not going to go and see Osborne House firsthand. It doesn’t matter - it’s not the one that was built by the family anyway, and I just wanted to share this story. I’ll look for another O and try and find a less troublesome method of travel!

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