the Isle of Wight family


Chronological Notes by 

Mark Sebastian Bastiani Urry


Old Joe Bastiani
"Old Joe"
 Last updated 25 May 2008

The following calendar of events in the history of the BASTIANI family of the Isle of Wight (UK) is only intended to give an overall impression of the development of the family and is not a list of descendants. Contributions have come from 'cousins' all over the world and although this is intended as a factual account some suppositions and errors are inevitable. From this, perhaps erroneous, base it is hoped that other members of the family will contribute in order to compile a more complete history. Please don't hesitate in calling to my attention any errors that you may notice. Only in this way can a true account eventually be achieved.


Any discussion about the BASTIANI family of the Isle of Wight tends to revolve around, or relate to, the almost legendary figure of “Old Joe”, more formally known as Joseph William BASTIANI.  At a time when the Isle of Wight was relying heavily on smuggling for its trade, Old Joe seems to have established himself quite a reputation as being something of a master of the art. Certainly his frequent crossings of the English channel in an open fishing boat are a feat in themselves and his way of life is perhaps best summed up by Rudyard Kipling in his poem

"The Smuggler's Song"

It is well known that “Old Joe” had a certain propensity for embellishing a story and it is perhaps the contemporary appreciation of Mark Norman & Henry Griffin which best sums him up in ‘Old Men Remember Life on Victoria's Smaller Island’

“Old Joe possessed the ingenuity of "the land of the sunny skies". He exhibited tact and industry, coupled with the dogged perseverance of the English character. He was at times a trifle unscrupulous and had little regard for either truth or morality in his dealings. He was sober and abstemious.”

 Whether Joe’s family were exempt from such trifles remains a mystery but the story of his own origins may well rank amongst them. Legend, self instigated or not, would have it that he was the son of an Italian plaster sculptor Sebastian SANBASTIANI, but hard evidence tends to suggest otherwise!

The parent most often claimed by, and for, Joe was Sebastian SANBASTIANI, an Italian plaster sculptor who, whilst working in London, fell in love with a domestic servant girl from the Isle of Wight. Unfortunately Sebastian was dying of tuberculosis, so Harriet HEAL brought him to her home on the Isle of Wight where it was hoped the climate would better suit him. They were married in Portsmouth in 1829 and had some children. Sarah Elizabeth was born on the 15th July in 1830 but died when only three. A brother John, was born in 1831 but he also died in childhood circa 1839. Joseph William was born on the 16th June 1832. Amelia was born on the 12th October 1832 and another Elizabeth Sarah was born on the 31st of March 1834 after the death of Sebastian!

If records are to be believed it is impossible that these children were all born by the same parents. The most  probable alternative father is therefore, Joannes BASTIANI. Joannes is recorded as being a seaman shipped by Lord Yarborough from a Greek island circa 1828 and having settled as his gardener in his seaside villa known as "The Cottage" at St Lawrence IoW. It is possible, if not probable, that the similarity of their names and geographical locations may have led to a friendship between Joannes BASTIANI and Sebastian SANBASTIANI, Following the early death of the latter it is not unreasonable to surmise on the continued relationship of Joannes and Harriet and the possibility of offspring. After some years of fairly settled life in the island Joannes is said to have returned to Italy (c1839) to fight with Garibaldi’s Red Shirts. Garibaldi himself who was a visitor to the Island may have provoked this move.  However it is significant that this was also at the time of  Harriet's death. 

Lord Yarborough's yacht the "Falcon"Click for larger image...

In 1999 I quite unexpectedly received an e-mail from Dean CHRISTAKOS, who is a BASTIANI descendant from Greece. He informed me "there were three brothers from "Lower Italy"  who were crab fishermen and sometime circa 1820, whilst fishing from their open boat, a storm arose that blew them off course, eventually to be  wrecked upon the Greek coast. Without a boat and without means to return home, all three settled in "Platsa", near Kalamata, and later moved to "Tarapsa" (now Vasilikio). Two of the brothers started families,  settled into the Greek lifestyle and even took Hellenized names. The eldest, named Christos, assumed the name of CHRISTAKOS. The youngest brother, named Joannes, was remembered as having re-embarked upon a passing English ship and he was heard of no more. 

The choice of Joe’s parents is by no means obvious but some other factors may be taken into consideration:

·        No record of a marriage has yet been found for Joannes BASTIANI although he is recorded as having "settled into the local lifestyle".

·        Joseph used the name 'Harriet' for his eldest daughter (my great grandmother) who always claimed that her grandfather was Joannes and that he had returned to Italy to fight with Garibaldi. A Joannes BASTIANI is recorded with the Scottish contingent, in the British Legion of Garibaldi's  Army.

·        Sebastian SANBASTIANI came from an apparently prosperous family and it seems unlikely therefore that his children would have been left destitute in a foreign land, as seems to have been the case with "Joe".

·        The SANBASTIANI family and the BASTIANI family are generally considered as being of the same origin and they are certainly of the same region (Duchy of Parma) in Italy.

·        Sebastian SANBASTIANI and Joannes BASTIANI were both living very close to each other on the Isle of Wight. Apart from being close neighbours they also shared origins, name, language and patrimony. It is therefore quite probable that they knew each other well and at least became acquaintances.

 One hypothesis that seems logical, is that after the death of her husband, Harriet HEAL took care of  both  Sebastian's and Joannes's children. The similarity of their names may have given an air of eligibility to the situation and alleviated some administrative problems. Unfortunately, Harriet herself died in December 1839 and the two surviving children, Joe and Amelia, became orphans again; presumably living with Harriet’s parents and siblings. The natural mother of Amelia remains unproven but records suggest that she and Joe could not share the same.   


  • c1820 The Italian fishermen, Joannes BASTIANI and his two brothers were shipwrecked on the Greek coast at "Platsa", near Kalamata. 

  • c1828 Clifford T. RAYNER in "All my Yesterdays : Memoirs of a Shanklin Longshoreman" (Shanklin, Saunders 1978) records that the Earl of Yarborough d.1846 (whose wife inherited  in 1802 the estates of her uncle, Sir Richard WORSLEY, which included Appuldurcombe House and a marine villa known as "The Cottage" at St. Lawrence), "while cruising in the Eastern Mediterranean on his yacht "Falcon", for sickness or some other reason he found himself a seaman short. At one of the Greek Islands he shipped a sailor by the name of Joannes BASTIANI". On arrival back in England (circa 1828), BASTIANI was given a job as gardener at Lord Yarborough's seaside cottage and settled into the community. This information (apparently supported by the ship's log) has been supplied  by Neil CROCKFORD, to whom I am most grateful. He also informed me that Adolphus BASTIANI, and his father Fred, used to fish at Puckaster cove".

  • 1832 Joe BASTIANI  is born. He was brought up as an orphan by a fisherman, Captain (sic) John HEAL and his wife on, or from, Hayling island.

  • 1834 12th Oct - Amelia BASTIANI (Joe's sister) is born in the parish of Carisbrooke. 

  • c.1839 Joannes is reported as having left the island to go and fight with Giuseppe GARIBALDI (1807-1882) in Italy. This theory is supported by the fact that GARIBALDI did have connections with the island and, more interestingly, lodged for a time in Freshwater with Alfred TENNYSON at Farringford House. TENNYSON was known to be on friendly terms with the BASTIANI's and other local fishermen.

  • 1852 15th August - Joe marries Hannah DOWNER at Shorewell and claims his father as being Abraham BASTIANI.

  • 1853 Joseph BASTIANI was living on the cliff-top at Atherfield. He had a small shanty built chiefly with old timber recovered from the ships that had been wrecked in the bay below. He later moved to Chale and then Colwell bay where he died in 1912. Click here for relevant extracts from the book "Back of the Wight" by F.MEW

  • 1854 7th May - An official Inquest (8/5/1854) found that Amelia BASTIANI had hung herself whilst working at Haseley Manor. She had been found by another of the serving maids and was buried immediately after the Inquest on the following day with no Christian rights. A cotemporary newspaper article states  that she was a very beautiful young lady.  It seems that the second daughter of the person who owned the manor at that time was to marry a London surgeon  just the day after Amelia had killed herself. She had hung herself on the Sunday, a quick inquest and burial was  held on the Monday and the daughter of the household was married on the Tuesday. There is speculation that perhaps Amelia had fallen in love with the fiancée of the daughter, possibly even pregnant by him? Could it be, that she hung herself for this reason?.  

  • 1860 May - Joannes BASTIANI is recorded  with General Giuseppe GARIBALDI  in the Unification of Italy.  He served with the Scottish contingent, in the British Legion of GARIBALDI's  Army.  

  • 1864 Henry CHEVERTON and Joseph BASTIANNIA were charged with being on the road between Niton and Ventnor with a rabbit and nets used for catching game.  There being no proof of any trespass they were discharged. (extract from IW Observer 31/12/1864 - County Petty Sessions)

  • c1886  Joe BASTIANI is mentioned in the book "Old men remember, Life on Victoria's smaller Island" The memoirs of M.W. NORMAN & H.F. GRIFFIN  "Old Joe was blessed with a large family, chiefly boys, and his wife (Hannah DOWNER) was a little redheaded summer freckled woman who might have been styled comely"

  • 1886 Joe's only surviving daughter, Harriet Louisa Fortuna marries at Portsea. The groom was  "Frank", or Francis George URRY, a grocer & provisioner of Newport and of  Freshwater. Perhaps because of Harriet's strength of character, this branch of the family has retained the use of the name BASTIANI. Here is a picture of Harriet and Frank taken circa 1920 after they had raised nine children.

Click for larger image...

  • c.1887 Rodney Frank Sanbastiani URRY is born to Frank URRY and his wife Harriet BASTIANI, he in turn has two sons and two daughters, Sydney Norman, Iseult, & Joan, by his first marriage and two further sons, David, & Colin. by his second.

  • 1888 Fred BASTIANI (born 1854), "a well known local smuggler" was a member of the heroic lifeboat crew that finally saved 13 men from the wreck of the ship "Sirenia", ashore at Atherfield ledge on the 11th March 1888.

  • 1890 In "The Recollections of Old John Green"  he states that "Some years ago two gentlemen, wishing to see the rough sea beating against the cliff at Freshwater , hired a boat for this purpose, went out, and were upset and drowned. I know not who they were, or where they belonged. I understood that the person who let them have the boat was very much to blame."  It has elsewhere been rumoured that Joe may have been the guilty party.

  • c.1890-1928 'Ned' BASTIANI builds a fleet of 'Rob Roy' canoes, 2 & 4 oared skiffs, and various lug-rigged sailing boats for the family's boat hire business in Colwell Bay. This summer business supplemented the principal occupation of lobster and crab fishing that was kept going throughout the year. The business, which survived until the late 1920's, was finally run by his nephew, Norman.

  • c.1880-1938 Sebastian BASTIANI runs the bakery on the corner of the High Street and Foreland road in Bembridge.

Sebastian with his Breadcart - kindly donated by John SothcottClick for larger image...

  • 1907 7th May  Funeral of Joe's wife Hannah DOWNER. This picture show's Joe with his seven sons, his daughter in law Ellen PHILIPPS and a grandson. 

Click for larger image... 

  • 1909 12th May Frederick John BASTIANI is drowned in Reeth Bay after his fishing boat capsized

  • 1912 15th March  Death of "Old Joe" aged 80. Click here to read Joe's obituary

  • 1912 11th October, birth of Sydney Ralph BASTIANI URRY to Rodney Frank Sanbastiani URRY.

    c1928 Colwell Bay. "Ned" BASTIANI's boats and bathing machines are to the right of the access road with the CONWAY brothers business on the left.

Postcard of Colwell BayClick for larger image...

  • c1940 "The Four Generations" -  Lillian Kate BASTIANI's family were all musical. This photo shows in the back row from left to right, Herbert John SOTHCOTT (tenor), Lillian Kate SOTHCOTT née BASTIANI (contralto), and Kate's father, Sebastian BASTIANI.  In Front- Roger Ernest SOTHCOTT (treble), John Lionel SOTHCOTT (treble, but more often violin). John went on to spend most of his active career as a professional musician, latterly specializing in Medieval and Renaissance music and instruments. 

Click for larger image..."The Four Generations" - kindly donated by John SOTHCOTT

  • 1945-1950 David BASTIANI attends Sandown Grammar School.

  • 1949  An IoW newspaper reports that at 94, Joe's son Frederick was the oldest allotment holder ever on the IoW.

  • 1952-1960 John BASTIANI attends Sandown Grammar School.

  • 1963 Birth of Lisa BASTIANI to John and his wife Diana WEST.

  • 1994 14th Oct - Birth of Angus Rowan Sebastian URRY, Grandson of Dane URRY.

  • 1995  March - This web page starts life as part of the URRY Family History web site

  • 1997  3rd Dec - Birth of Cara BASTIANI to Martin & Louise

  • 1999 15th March - Birth of Isabel BASTIANI, a sister to Cara.

  • 1999 19th June  - Death of Professor Sydney (BASTIANI) URRY, he was a leading figure in the creation and exceptional growth of Brunel University in the UK.


  • 2001 2nd November  - Caroline (BASTIANI) URRY gives birth to Emily Beth LEWIS at Penllys Fawr in Wales.

  • 2002 23rd April  - Death of Capt. Sydney Ralph "Bill" BASTIANI URRY (MN Ret'd)





What is shown on this page is only a fraction of the information that has been collected. Family trees including over 400 members of the Isle of Wight family are stored on Gedcom files. Copies of such files are available, by e-mail, to those of you who are equipped with the appropriate software (e.g. Brother's Keeper etc...).



My own branch of the family are nearly all boat owners. Father owned 45 during his life, and my uncles, David and Colin URRY of Emsworth UK achieved fame on the dinghy racing scene and are amongst those who founded (and built) the Emsworth Slipper Sailing Club. Today, Colin has his 'Rival 32' based in Greece where he's doing some research of his great grandfather "Old Joe" BASTIANI, whilst his son Martin is campaigning the Mumm 30 "Warp Factor VI".  David's been hobnobbing with Royalty lately, when HRH Princess Ann recently opened the club's new facilities for handicapped sailors.

If I am biased toward my own branch of the family it's mostly because I'm self indulgent and partly because that's where most genealogy begins. I hope that in time we'll be able to regroup all the branches into an interesting family tree.

Thanks must go to all the people who have so generously contributed  information and photographs included on this page. The title photo for this page was kindly donated by Silvia BASTIANI and restored by myself. It replaces an earlier copy withdrawn at the request of Heather KERSHAW

Special thanks go to Heather KERSHAW née BASTIANI of Colwell who has done considerable research on our family and her continued presence on the Island has enabled her to accumulate a great deal of our history. Although the information shown here is not her own, I am at least indebted to her for the encouragement she gave me during a visit to her home in 1999 and her initial donation of a copy of the photo of "Old Joe". Heather may not always agree with all my findings but such criticism can only be beneficial in the reconstruction of the true facts. I am therefore,  indebted to her. Heather is without doubt a highly competent researcher of the BASTIANI family history whilst I prefer to look upon my own contribution as simply that of a chronicler.


Click here to send me an E-mail


The author and editor of this website...

Mark Sebastian Bastiani URRY
6, rue Gambetta,
F-17230 Marans,
Tel: 33 (0) 546 011 829