Churches of the Isle of Wight



The churches of the Isle of Wight are for the most part fairly small, many of them, over the centuries, have increased in size and these enlargements are quite often in the form of north and south aisles with open arcading between the aisle and the nave. The towers, in keeping with the rest of the building, are also of modest preporations, with at least one notable exception. Another feature of the tower found in some island churches is a pair of vertical butresses on the west side of the tower with a high narrow arch above the west door. Almost every church has some feature or other that makes it quite unique within the Island and sometimes throughtout England. In the past island villages were required to keep, maintain and provison a gun for the defence of the island. The powder and shot had be stored and kept dry and a volunteer gun crew trained in the use of their wepeon. At some of the churches traces of these former 'gun houses' can still be seen. Many of the medivel churches were 'modenised' in the Victorian period but there are also churches that were newly built at this time which are outstanding examples of the Gothic Revival. Many of the island churches seem to have developed along similar lines and what may described as a six unit plan, namely nave, chancel, north and south asiles which are extended to the full length of the church to form two chapels, have evolved, with various minor differences in many places. Click here to see the


St GeorgeArreton

The church is four units of the six unit plan described in the introduction and consists of nave, chancel and south asile extended to form a south chapel

(Plan). One of the finest features in the church is the square marbel table font, its style dates from the late 12th century. On the south wall is a modern memorial window to those who lost their lives in the Burma campagin during the second World War. The openings to the former Rood loft are clearly to be seen at the east end of the nave. There is a small trefoil piscina near the southern opening. A Royal Coat of Arms lies tucked away in north-western corner of the nave. It is supposed to date from the regein of Queen Ann but it is a very sad state of repair and it is impossible to tell. Either side of the archway to the tower are four charity boards, these are unusal because they are painted on canvas. A large Parish chest, dated 1679 is found at this end of the church. In 1086 the advowson was held by the abbey of Lire in France but by 1400 it had been trasfered to Quarr Abbey. After the dissolution it was in private hands until 1609 when it was sold to the Lord Chief Justice in whose gift it still remained in 1973.

St Boniface, Bonchurch

One of the smallest churches on the island, it is only forty-eight feet long and this includes the tiny chancel that was added in the nineteenth century.

St Mary, Brighstone

The church goes some way to following the six unit plan but only manages two thirds and a bit, it has a nave, chancel and south aisle, known as the Limerstone chapel, which is extended eastwards to form the chapel of the Holy Spirit or Wayte's Chapel. On the north side of the nave is a very narrow north aisle. At the the western end of the church is a small tower topped by a short spire. A late eighteenth century print shows the gun house attached to north wall of the tower and a porch to the north door. Both these features have now disappeared. Before 1305 Brighstone was a chapel attached to Calbourne and the Rector of that parish claimed the tithes of Brighstone. The

advowson or right of presentment has always been with the Bishop of Winchester until that is the island was transfered to the diosece of Portsmouth

All SaintsCalbourne

The church consists of nave, chancel and to the south an asile forming two-thirds of the length of the nave. The remaining third is taken up with the south west tower. To the north is a tranceptual chapel built, in the nineteenth centuary, over a crypt together with the porch.The church is entered by this porch, both the inner and outer arches of which are copies of Norman arches. There is a door to a former gallery in the west end from the tower and a narrow arch high up on the south wall of the nave, set at an angle, like a squint, through to the south asile.On the south wall of the asile is a

hatchment. There is a mass dial on the right hand side of the priest's door in the south wall of the chancel

All Saints,Freshwater

The tower has a high narrow arch on its western side with the west door set back within the arch. Set against the outer walls of the church are a number gravestones, the earlyist that I find is dated 1697. The churchyard has a large

yew tree in it.

St Olave,Gatcombe

A lovely little church, little altered, set in peaceful pastrol surroundings. A striking table tomb to Charles Seely Grant, killed in action in 1917, the effigy has had its nose brocken off, supposedly by an inmate from the nearby former mental hospital. Also in the church is a wooden effigy of a crusader knight

All Saints, Godshill

The church is set high up on a hill overlooking the village. Over the doorway the Royal Arms date from the reign of Queen Anne.

St Lawrence, St Lawrence

This is the smallest church on the island in what is supposed to be the smallest parish in Britain.

St Peter & St Paul,Mottistone

A small church with nave, chancel, south asile and small northern asile, which widens out to to form the Cheke chapel at its eastern end. A small tower, topped by a short spire lies at the western end of the church. There is a

stoup in the entrance porch. The lychgate, on the northern side of the churchyard, is mordern or rebuilt. It contains a credence within which is part of a 13th century stoup. Also under the canopy of the gate is a corpse table. On entering the church notice the square font on the right and the image niche on the eastern column of the south arcade. There is an iron parish chest with the date of 1814. The Cheke chapel contains a parclose screen put up in 1948. The roof of the chancel is cedar and comes from the wreck of the Cedrine? Outside on the eastern wall of the Cheke chapel there is a low moulded ogee? course with three carvings on it, the middle one is a face or mask whilst the outer ones appear to be some kind of animal. The advowson descended with the manor until 1792 when it was bought privately, by the late 19th century it was held by the trustees of Hertford College.

The Church of The Holy Spirit,Newtown

A small early Victorian church built the Early English style in 1837, it consists of a nave and chancel only with a porch to the south entrance. There has been a chapel of ease here since at least 1306, Newtown being part of the large parish of Calbourne. It was not until 1871 the Newtown became a parish in its own right. The first impression on entering the church is one of light, this is because the walls are whitewashed.

St John the Baptist, Northwood

A small church founded as a chapel of ease in the 12th century for the north part of the parish of Carisbrooke. The church consists of chancel and nave with north and south asiles, the vestry, organ chamber and west tower were added in the 19th century. The south porch protectes a fine Norman doorway with chveron design.

St Peter,Shorwell

There are many features about this extrordinary church that make it unique. It is a full six unit church with nave, chancel, north and south asiles and chapels to the north and south of the chancel (Plan)

. The tower has a stone vaulted roof and an external stair turret on the northern side. On the south side of the tower the south asile has been extended to cover almost half the side of the tower. This was the former gun house and is quite unique in the Island laying as it does within the body of the church. The door to the gun house, now blocked, may be seen as a low, wide arch in the asile's west wall. Another opening, square in shape, may also be discerned in south wall in this area. There is unusally a north and south porch still in use. Above the north door is a famous wall painting of St Christopher. The second pillar of the north asile has been uniquely adapted, by widening it, so the entrance to the pulpit passes through the pillar. There is a sounding board above the pulpit dated 1620.