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Jan Toms, Isle of Wight novelist and historian

Novels, history, the Isle of Wight and so much more.

Books by Jan Toms

Recent Publication!

There is a huge following for the local history of the Isle of Wight and this book explores some of the unvisited, hidden people and places that have formed this island. The following pictures will give you a flavour of what is in store. (about 200 images).

Ten Days in Nether Fondle.

(This is an online, downloadable publication.)

Nether Fondle is a village near you, the epitome of British enterprise, stoicism, fair play and stupidity.

- Meet Righteous Cresswell, local historian and minister of the parish church of St Agnetha of the Blonde Hair.

- Rub shoulders with Sid Vertigo and the Nether Fondle football team, hopeful of greater success with the new signings of Wayne Penalty, and Sloane Grainger.

- Enjoy cultural evenings with poet Middleton Crisp, or soprano Madame Jen Italia.

- Tour the stately home of Hemlock Castle, home of the sugar baron Sir Fester Granule - there is so much to do in Nether Fondle.

Now 'twinned' with Royston Vasey.


Now to be serious:

"TO SERVE TWO MASTERS:" a biography of Colonel Robert Hammond. Caliver Books. £14.99. [email protected]

In 1647, having fought throughout the English civil war on the side of the parliament, Robert Hammond, battle weary and disillusioned with the way the peace negotiations were progressing, requested release from military service. Instead, he was appointed as Isle of Wight Parliamentary Governor.

Here was a reward for service and a chance to recuperate from the horrors of war in this peaceful backwater.

A few weeks into his appointment, King Charles, fearing for his life, fled to the Island and threw himself on Hammond's mercy. The governor found himself first the reluctant host and then the of King Charles 1. Showered with conflicting orders from and the army, plagued by double agents, at Carisbrooke Castle was a personal nightmare, ending only when he was the King was carted off trial and execution.

Also available at Amazon as a download: $2.

Left: - the Governor's house at Carisbrooke Castle, site of King Charles's incarceration.

A recently recorded video in the role of Elizabeth Hammond, mother to Governor Robert Hammond f Wight and hostess King Charles. For details, look up:


Now Also available as a download.

To Serve Two Masters,

e-book version: $2.

A perfidious king and a man out of his depth. How King Charles was a reluctant guest and an unwelcome prisoner.

Paper edition available from Caliver Books/Partizan Press price £14.99



The Isle of Wight has a mercurial history, as a sleepy backwater light years behind the mainland, then suddenly the centre of the universe. Famous for its beaches and rural beauty, infamous for its prisons, it has attracted people as diverse as Karl Marx and Queen Victoria.

The Isle of Wight Book of Days

The Isle of Wight may seem to be a sleepy backwater but hidden in its history are tales of heroic rescues, unrequited love, treason, and mourning.

Discover an event that took place on the Island for every day of the year.

Available at the County Press Shop, Waterstones, from The History Press, on Amazon - and direct from the author.



This is a perfect gift for all Island lovers. This lavishly illustrated book covers 45 different locations, showing the changes that have taken place over the decades.

The front cover shows Shanklin High Street, the picture cleverly combining photographs of today and fifty years ago. Read about its history, the old bank, the shops, the bombed church and more, that are bound to appeal to all Island Lovers.

A sample entry: Church Litten

CLUSTERED around the navigable head of the River Medina, in Elizabethan times, its narrow streets were broken by three open spaces. At the southern extreme of the town was Cosham Street, later re-named South Street where the poorest crowded into a jumble of tiny ill served cottages.

With inadequate sanitation, no effective supply of water and the arrival of boats from the mainland, the worst fears were confirmed when plague reached the Island. Newport lost as many as 200 of its people. Even the Island’s governor, Sir Edward Horsey, succumbed to the scourge.

Newport being part of the parish of Carisbrooke, it was to there that the dead were taken to be buried, but with so many corpses, there was no question of carrying the dead to St Mary’s church. A new site was chosen to the south of the town at the archery butts. The ground was consecrated in 1583 and called the Church Litten, being the Saxon word for ground.

By 1900 Church Litten was full. For nearly fifty years it remained unused, unloved until in 1950 the death knell was finally sounded. The gravestones were dug up and used as paving slabs, the area was landscaped and Newport was presented with a pleasure park.

Very few headstones escaped. A lucky survivor was that of John Hamilton Reynolds, himself a poet who, inspired by his friend John Keats’s enthusiasm for the island, spent his last years in Newport.

One remaining monument still captures the hearts and imagination – to Valentine Gray, a climbing boy, battered to death by his master, his memorial raised by public subscription.

Through the ornate Elizabethan gateway, despite the adjoining road, mature trees shield the park from the traffic. Across the Marks and Spencer and Morrison’s supermarket Within stunning weeping beech holds pride of place while an elderly yew, long symbolic of cemeteries may be left over from earlier times.

In the reign of the second Elizabeth, children play here happily, unaware of the heritage below their feet.


This collection tells you most of what you want to know about the Island - who was born here, who died here, how many are there, how many and bays. The Island has its own dialect, has produced its own artists and writers, was a prison to King Charles 1 and a refuge to Queen Victoria.

Its famous sons include Anthony film director, polymath Robert Hooke, the "giant" on whose shoulders Isaac Newton stood in order to see further, Vivian Fuchs explorer, entertainers Sheila Hancock, Jeremy Irons, Phil Jupitus were born here and Jimi Hendrix gave his last recorded performance before his death. There is so much to read.

Widely available, from The History Press, Waterstones Newport Isle of Wight, the County Press Shop, Newport Isle of Wight, Amazon and more - or, from the author.


This illustrated book is a tour through the people who have lived and died here, some famous, others little known although leaving their own small mark.

John Nash who built much of Regent Street, and Buckingham Palace, died at East Cowes, his body smuggled to the church because he was in debt. Daniel Asher who erected much of London's dockland and Dartmoor Prison retired to Yarmouth, donating the tower of Yarmouth Church in memory of his deceased son. Belying his name, Sir Faithful Fortescue famously changed sides in the battle of Edghill and died in Newport, while the Gartside-Tippings pulled off a double first - he the oldest serving naval officer in WW1, she, shot by a deranged French soldier and awarded the Croix de Guerre. There are more.

Available from Coach House Publications [email protected] Waterstones Newport High Street, Isle of Wight tel:0843 2908409, County Press Shop, Pyle Street, Newport Isle of Wight Tel 01983 533007 - or me.


This collection does what it says on the cover and recounts the infamous cases of murder, smuggling, shipwreck, spying and the occasional riot, as when the women prisoners at Parkhurst tore off their clothes and ran amok. It took brave, married male officers armed with a hose and a blanket to subdue them.

With 65 miles of coastline, it is not surprising that smuggling was a major occupation for fisherman and a headache for the revenue men. Even Queen Victoria was not immune when her private yacht was searched for contraband. Following a visit to Antwerp, the local press had alerted the English customs by reporting the record sales of tobacco when the royal party was in town. As tobacco cost 4d a pound in Antwerp and sold for 3/6d a pound in England, the temptation had proved too great for some of her crew members!

Available from Amazon, Waterstones, the County Press Shop and more = including me!.


Books by Janet Mary Tomson


I started writing novels under the name of Janet Mary Tomson. I was then already "old" - the wrong side of fifty. The resulting eleven novels have themes as diverse as photography, agricultural unrest, horse-racing, Irish rebellion, slavery, the English Civil War, Elizabethan witchcraft and more. Although mostly out of print, they are still in libraries and many are available as e-books. I still have some titles should anybody be looking for a particular novel - [email protected]

I am delighted to say that my original four novels written as Janet Mary Tomson can now be LITTLE, BROWN BOOK GROUP: Price 4.19

DEVIL ON MY SHOULDER is set against the background of the English Civil War and tells the story of a troubled colonel, a displaced and a brooding shepherd. The arrival of King Charles 1st, first as then Carisbrooke Castle, changes all their lives forever.

THE LOVE TOKENS follows the life of Meg, an Irish girl who leaves the of home to run away with her lover. At the railway tunnel is being excavated. It is dangerous work and an explosion leaves Meg alone and pregnant. Finding work, she is at risk from her predatory employer until at Freshwater, an eccentric photographer experimenting with this new, unpredictable art, takes Meg into her circle where her life is

GARNET FAIR In 1588 in Calbourne Village the Islanders await the feared arrival of the Spanish Armada. Local girl Lizzie Galpine thinks only of her sweetheart Will Gosden working at Carisbrooke Castle. He has promised her marriage and the future looks secure - until her father has other ideas. The arrival of Mardi Appleby, a girl, sees both Will and Lizzie's lives torn spying and witchcraft threaten the

EDEN In the 17th century, frustrated by the threat to their freedoms, a group of noblemen leave England for the Caribbean. Their motives sit uncomfortably with their religious beliefs - to build a new Puritan society and to grow rich from piracy and slavery. Into this world is born Esmeralda, daughter of Her father sees Esmeralda not as a daughter but as a useful asset, still a virgin and ripe for sale to the highest bidder.

Each novel is carefully researched and encapsulates the feeling of life at the time in which it is set. Good, absorbing reads.

All available for Kindle download.

reviews will be welcome.


Published by Shire Publications (now Osprey), these pages wander through the sometimes bizarre relations between humans and other animals. Queen Victoria and Lord Byron were convinced that animals had souls. Sefton the police horse was after being shot in Hyde Park, Pickles the dog became a hero for finding the stolen World while Foxie the dog inspired Wordsworth, Sir Walter and Landseer by her loyalty - although perhaps she guarded a dark secret. and tombs record their achievements scattered countryside. Named cult classic by the Independent review, this book will amuse and bemuse all animal lovers.

Available from Amazon, or direct from the author [email protected]

Also available on Line


My favourite book and indulgence. Victor Green, an unmarried tax inspector has the misfortune to fall from a tree and land on in the process killing him. The victim is Mauler Maguire, thug and his death precipitates gang warfare in the Isle of Wight. When the local paper misprints Victor's name as Vincent, he is mistaken for international assassin Vincenzo Verdi with alarming results. This is the antidote to all Crime Novels. Available from Amazon, Waterstones and through the History Press; - or from me!

Now in line for a film version. Date to be announced.


Sometimes you have to write something just because it is interesting. I came across the story of Jem Belcher, Georgian prizefighter and his life fascinated me so I wrote a novel based on his story.

Finding Jem Belcher

Set in the exciting but violent world for a brief period, Jem Belcher was the undisputed champion and more famous to ordinary people than Wellington or Napoleon, but a cruel accident stole his future.

This novel is a work of "faction," blending the known facts with a dose of fiction to bring Jem's world to life. A tale of love and loss,

Download from Amazon publishing price £2.

Jem Belcher.

A powerful insight into Georgian London.

One Small Candle

Available to download. $2

Shirley Weeks has good reason to remember February 17. Her secret fiance Guy Lamb disembarks from a plane at Heathrow and vanishes. Shirley waits, caring for Guy's elderly mother by day and dancing attendance on her own mother at night. Trapped, torn between the two women and waiting for something to happen, along comes Frank Agnew, who grew up in the village. Frank and Guy share a turbulent past. Is there a reason why he has now returned?

Formerly published under the name Janet Mary Tomson.