ENCHANTING Vernon Cottage – Tearoom, Tavern, Restaurant, Gift Shop & Tourist Information - in the beautiful thatched village of Old Shanklin, is the finest ‘Cottage Orne’ style building on the Isle of Wight and is celebrating its 205th Anniversary this year (1817 - 2022).

It was built in 1817 by Edward Vernon Utterson, an English lawyer, Collector of Books, Editor and talented artist whose works remain in the British Museum to this day. With a long smuggling tunnel which runs all the way from beneath the cottage to the bottom of the magnificent Shanklin Chine, Vernon Cottage was at the very heart of the Island’s huge smuggling empire in the early 19th Century with far reaching views from every room. 

The cottage also has a large ‘secret’ room underneath the present day upstairs lounge which was used to hide huge amounts of contraband. The lounge was originally the bedroom of the Mistress of the house with a secret trap door underneath her bed. When the Customs and Excise men called she would take to her bed with the vapours and they weren’t allowed to enter!

Vernon Cottage is home to a beautiful enchanting female ghost called Frances, the housekeeper who fell in-love with the original Master of the house and lived here for 30 years until she tragically fell down the stairs and died. Frances, who appears as her stunning younger self loves Vernon Cottage and leaves 5 pence pieces for the owners - and visitors - when she approves of their behaviour!

Susan and Paul de Vere came across Vernon Cottage by chance 13 years ago when they were sitting in the adjacent Old Village car park and someone said it might be for sale. When they were shown in, Susan says they felt ‘physically pulled into the building and practically propelled down the corridor!’ A Medium later told them Frances wanted them to stay and Susan had lived there before in a previous life!

Since arriving, Susan and Paul have transformed Vernon Cottage, uncovered and restored all its stunning original features including two exquisite fireplaces in the tearooms. Inside the secret upstairs room, Susan found lots of old pictures and photographs, most likely left by a previous owner, including a framed picture of the house circa 1831 – 14 years after the original house was built – and standing by the front door is a lady dressed in pink. Amazingly, pink has always been Susan’s favourite colour and rarely has a day passed in 30 years when Susan hasn’t worn something pink, be it a dress, scarf or shoes. So maybe there’s some truth in the Medium’s belief that she has ‘been here before’. Susan keeps an open mind but says: "I often experience moments of ‘deja vu’, though I think Frances secretly knew we would lovingly repair, re-wire, re-plumb, re-thatch, re-decorate and lavish thousands of hours of dedication on the now restored and beautiful Tea and Beer gardens - which won the 'Wight In Bloom Best Commercial Gardens on the IOW, presented by Alan Titchmarsh. I think Frances was delighted - and so was I".  

Today, Vernon Cottage is one of the loveliest family-friendly fresh-food destinations on the Island, renowned for its ‘Fabulous Homemade Food, including its signature 'Old Shanklin Pie' and unique homemade 'Isle of Wight Shaped-Scones'. 

Susan and Paul still can’t quite believe they’ve made the transition from launching Glossy Magazines to running Vernon Cottage – but maybe they were meant to be here all along? 

Susan says: “You never know where life is going to take you. Twelve years ago I’d never have believed I’d be living here. I still write for magazines and TV scripts, but this is a completely different way of life. My heart now lies in home-made scones and the delightful quintessentially English village of Old Shanklin – and, of course, beautiful Vernon Cottage.”