In and around Alum Bay there are some twenty named wrecks. Probably the best known is the ‘Campen’. She was a ship financed by the Dutch East India Company which, with four other sister ships, set sail for the West Indies in 1627. She was caught in a southerly gale, and ran for shelter in the western Solent.
The anchors were lost when she tried to anchor off Freshwater Bay and a desperate attempt to save the ship failed. She sank with great loss of life on the south side of the Needles rocks.
The original lighthouse was erected in 1785 on the summit of the Downs at the western extremity, 462 ft above sea level. However, it was generally considered that the building was too elevated above sea level to be really useful, especially in poor visibility, and it became disused when its replacement had been built. The name ‘Needles’ is believed to have been derived from a slender tapering rock pinnacle which was formerly situated a little to the north (i.e. on the Alum Bay side) of the present central rock. This needle-shaped rock, about 120ft high and known as ‘Lot’s Wife’ collapsed into the sea in 1764 with a crash which was said to have been heard many miles away! The stump of this pinnacle can still be seen at low water where it forms a dangerous reef.