Building » Isle of Wight (Ventnor) – Our Lady and St Wilfrid

Isle of Wight (Ventnor) – Our Lady and St Wilfrid

Trinity Road, Ventnor, Isle of Wight

  • 2007

  • 2007

A mid-Victorian Gothic design, seriously damaged by fire in 2006 and subsequently demolished and replaced with a new church in 2014. 

Mass was being said at various locations in Ventnor from 1856 and it was not until 1870 that a permanent site was found in Trinity Road and a church built and opened in May 1871. The architect was T. Chatfield Clarke, a London architect who came from the Isle of Wight and in about 1880 built himself a house, Oakfield, at Wootton. The Tablet (17 September 1870) provided the following account of the laying of the foundation stone:

‘It is now some five or six years since the first Catholic service was held in Ventnor by the Rev. V. W. Duke, in some houses which then stood near the cliff, and were known as Devonshire Terrace. At the time the piers were being constructed to form a harbour for the town it was found necessary to blast a portion of the cliff. The blasting shook these houses to their very foundations, and brought them into a very dilapidated condition. It was in one of these that the Rev. V. W. Duke established himself, and fitted up a chapel, and here he celebrated Mass until he was succeeded by the Rev. F. S. Bowles, who, in his turn, continued to live in the house and hold services, until, in consequence of the unsafe state into which the houses had been brought, increased by heavy gales of wind which rendered them roofless and otherwise damaged them, they had to be taken down, at least so much as was left of them. The present Priest is the Rev. Justin D. Mooney, who since his residence at Ventnor, some eight months, has continued the services in another building. At length, a site having been obtained, it has been determined to erect a suitable church. The site is a peculiar one, standing much below the level of the road, and is of no great width. The church is planned to utilize the space, and leave room for enlargement, and will consist of a spacious nave, a roomy chancel, sacristy, entrance porch, and all adequate provision for worship. It was originally designed to seat about 150 persons, but has been somewhat enlarged in execution to seat about 200. The foundation-stone was laid on Thursday the 7th inst., the Bishop of Troy officiating. The afternoon was fine and warm, and there were a large number of people present, who were gathered between the walls of the church, which was hung round with flags. The Bishop was attended by the Very Rev. Canon Danell, V.G ., &c., the Rev. Michael Barry, of Spanish Place, London,, and the Rev. Justin D. Mooney, Pastor of the Mission at Ventnor. The Rev. Thomas Morrissey officiated as master of ceremonies […] The usual ceremonies having been performed, Richard Swift, Esq., of Chale, who is one of the principal donors to the church, was invited to lay the stone, which he accordingly did, and a bottle containing the following inscription was placed under it :— ” To the greater glory of God, and in honour of the Blessed Virgin Mary and Saint Wilfrid, Bishop and Confessor, this stone was laid by the Most Rev. William Placid Morris, O.S.B., Bishop of Troy, on the Feast of the Nativity of the same Holy Virgin, the year in which the first Vatican Council was celebrated in Rome, 1870. Rev. Justin D. Mooney, was the Priest of the Mission; Thomas C. Clark, the Architect ; and Daniel Day, the Builder. ” ‘[…]

The church was opened by the Bishop of Southwark on 24 May 1871. The report in The Tablet (3 June) included this description:

‘The church is a beautiful specimen of the Early English style of architecture, from designs by T. C. Clarke, Esq., of London, and reflects great credit on him and on the builder. It consists of nave and very handsome chancel, and is built of the local freestone. It is well lighted by a triple lancet window at the west end, and by five smaller ones on each side of the nave, and over the high altar is a very beautiful painted window erected by R. Swift, Esq., in memory of his only child, the late Miss Swift. It represents Our Lady in Glory, supported by S. Wilfrid and S. Catherine, V.M.’

The church was built of stone, of nave with bellcote, later liturgical north aisle and sanctuary. Plain lancet windows and a trio of lancets to the liturgical west wall of the nave. The liturgical north aisle was also gabled and not much smaller than the nave. The arcade had octagonal piers and chamfered arches. The sanctuary was more individual, with five circular windows high up in the liturgical south wall and a high circular liturgical east window.

There was a devastating fire on 3 December 2006, which left the nave roofless and only the main structural walls and arcade remaining. The roofs of the liturgical north aisle and sanctuary were less harmed (see photos above). A decision was subsequently taken to demolish, and in 2014 a new church was built on the site of the adjoining parish hall (designs by the AED Practice, Reading).

Entry amended by AHP 1.1.2021

Heritage Details

Architect: T. Chatfield Clarke

Original Date: 1871

Conservation Area: Yes

Listed Grade: Not Listed