Newtown Old Town Hall - saved by Ferguson's Gang

An old photograph of Newtown Old Town Hall in the late 1920s

In 1933 the Old Town Hall on the Isle of Wight was given to us by the mysterious Ferguson's Gang, a group of young women who wore masks and used fictitious names such as Red Biddy, Sister Agatha and Bill Stickers. Their bizarre exploits have secured their reputation as some of our most unusual benefactors.

England and the Octopus

Their aim was to preserve examples of 'traditional England' and they took inspiration from the book 'England and the Octopus' by Clough Williams-Ellis. In it London was described as an 'octopus', with its tentacles spreading out across the countryside.

Publicity: their most effective weapon

The Gang’s peculiar nicknames and dramatic masked appearances attracted press coverage and publicised their cause.
In 1935 Ferguson was invited to make a radio appeal. It is not known whether the masked man who spoke was actually Ferguson but his appeal was effective leading to 600 people joining us as members and raising donations of £900.
Ferguson's Gang in the 1930s
Ferguson's Gang in the 1930s
Ferguson's Gang in the 1930s

The Boo

The Gang recorded their exploits in a minute book, known as 'The Boo', so called because when writing the title they mis-judged the space leaving no room for the final letter. A copy can be seen in the Town Hall.

Saved for the Nation

Newtown Old Town Hall was the second building the Gang purchased, the first being Shalford Mill, near Guildford.

The end of an era

After the Second World War, the Gang’s activities decreased. But then in 1989, ‘Sister Agatha’ visited the Town Hall. She didn’t reveal her real name but had abandoned her mask. When asked why they had done what they did; she replied that they had been young, they wanted to help the National Trust and above all it had been fun.

Uncover the heroes

If you’re intrigued by the story of Ferguson's Gang and would like to find out more about the incredible ladies behind it, then you might find ‘Ferguson’s Gang: The Remarkable Story of the National Trust Gangsters’ interesting. You can pick up a copy at the Old Town Hall, in our National Trust shop at Mottistone Gardens and online. Or you can find a short history of them below.