Perched high on St Catherine’s Down, the Hoy Monument is accessible only by walking. Built of local stone, it’s also known as the Alexandrian Pillar – 72ft high and capped with a distinctive ball finial.
In praise of the Tsar
Michael Hoy, a successful Russian merchant, had the monument erected to commemorate the visit to Britain, in 1814, of ‘His Imperial Majesty Alexander the 1st, Emperor of all the Russias’.
Tsar Alexander I was held in high esteem by the British because he had dealt a serious blow to Napoleon I’s ambitions to dominate Europe by repelling the French invasion of Russia in 1812.
Although he visited Portsmouth, the Tsar didn’t make the short crossing to the Isle of Wight. Nevertheless, Michael Hoy wished to mark the event ‘In Remembrance of many happy Years Residence in his Dominions’ as the inscription on the pillar proclaims.
A successful businessman
Michael Hoy (1758-1828) was an entrepreneur, with shops in St Petersburg and a thriving import and export trade with Britain. In recognition of his achievements, he was made Sheriff of London in 1812. With the fortune he amassed, he bought over 1,700 acres of land and property on the Isle of Wight.
For several years he lived at Medina Hermitage in the lee of St Catherine’s Down. His house burned down in the late 19th century and was rebuilt around 1895. It’s now simply called the Hermitage.
Following the Crimean War
After Michael Hoy’s death, the house was let to William Dawes – a commissioned officer who, naturally during the Crimean War, didn’t share Michael Hoy’s Russian sympathies.
Dawes had inscribed on the south side of the monument a tribute ‘in Honor of those brave men of the Allied Armies who fell on the Alma at Inkermann and at the siege of Sevastopol AD1857’.