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HeritageSun, 23rd July 2017

ABOUT VENTNOR: HERITAGE

The Undercliff:

A geological feature unique to this area that stretches for seven miles from Luccombe in the East to Blackgang in the West. It is a plateau about ½ mile wide situated between sea cliffs and an inland cliff with wooded scenery, rare plants and insects. Many large Victorian villas occupy prominent sites, most with outstanding sea views. The A3055 road twists and turns through this delightful area passing Ventnor Park, Steephill Cove, the cricket ground, and the Botanic Garden, once the home of the Royal National Hospital and on to the lovely village of St. Lawrence with its tiny ancient church.

Bonchurch:

To the East of Ventnor is the interesting and beautiful village of Bonchurch. Many notable people have been associated with the area and several imposing Victorian Villas add to the charm. Swinburne, Dickens and Edmund Peel are among many who lived or stayed in Bonchurch in Victorian times when it attracted many artists and other visitors. The village, set under steep cliffs, and with its two dramatically situated churches, one of Norman origin, make Bonchurch a special place indeed.

Cascade Gardens:

centre of the Sea Front, laid out in 1903.

Clock Tower:

Built 1870. Strategically placed on the Esplanade. A pleasing small tower built of local stone. Recently restored.

Crab and Lobster Inn:

 

One of the Island's oldest inns, thought to date to 1760. Reputed to have been the first licensed inn on the Island. In early days it was the centre of Ventnor's social life and the annual Crab Fayre was held on the lawn in front of the inn. Not to be confused with the Crab and Lobster Tap further up Grove Road, the original Crab and Lobster is now two cottages.

Manor House:

Farmhouse to the original Ventnor Farm. Most of Ventnor is built on the farm’s land. An elegant partly thatched house in the Grove.

Pier/Harbour:

A Harbour was constructed in 1862 but soon fell into the sea. In 1871 a second pier was started. It was destroyed in a storm in 1881 after taking ten years to complete. In 1887 the Royal Victoria Pier was opened which lasted till the end, albeit modernised after the second World War. Pier declared unsafe and closed to the public in1981. Serious fire 4 years later. Withstood the 1987 hurricane. Finally removed in 1993. Now the site of the bandstand look out and pumping station. The adjacent Haven was opened in 2003.

Railways:

Ventnor's main station was built in a quarry 276 ft. above sea level. The approach was through a 1312 yd. tunnel. Opened in 1866, it closed in 1966, 5 months short of its centenary. Ventnor West was located near Steephill Castle. Opened in 1900, closed in 1952, the line to Newport despite its scenic delights never paid its way. Ventnor main station is now a small Industrial Estate. Ventnor West is a private residence, modern bungalows are built on the line. The Ventnor Heritage Centre has working model railways of the two Ventnor stations.

Royal National Hospital:

Opened in 1867 to deal with diseases of the chest. The building grew eventually containing several cottages or wards, plus a chapel in its ¼ mile length. Closed in 1969 it is today the site of the Botanic Gardens.

St. Catherines Church:

Parish Church of Ventnor built in 1837. The spire was removed in 1921. At the Eastern end of the town Holy Trinity Church has a prominent spire and was built in 1862.

St Catherines Home/School:

Founded in 1879 as a home for sick children. In time it became a school run by nuns. Many old pupils re-visit the town and call in at our museum. The school now caters for pupils with special needs.

St Lawrence:

The village West of Ventnor has a 12th century church that may have some Saxon elements. The Victorian church has stained glass windows by the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood. Two village heritage trails, telling more of St Lawrence history, can be downloaded from http://www.ventnorheritagetrail.co.uk/stlawrence.html

Steephill Castle:

Built for John Hambrough in 1833 this fine building resembled a medieval Castle complete with tower, occupied a prominent position in the Undercliff, 1 mile West of Ventnor. It was pulled down in 1963 as no economic use could be found for it. Now occupied by up-market housing, some of the old walls can still be seen.  There is a Steephill Castle exhibition in the Ventnor Heritage Centre

Town Hall:

Built in 1877 it became the Town Hall in 1900. Home for many years to the local theatre. In the1970s became a factory and then a night club. Several fires wrecked the building. It stood a derelict eyesore for many years but in 1994 it was turned into flats. Fortunately, the classic façade remains.

Ventnor Downs:

 

Towering above Ventnor and managed by the National Trust. Bronze Age bowl barrows may be seen, a shooting range used by The Isle of Wight Rifles training for WW1 and during WW2 the RAF Ventnor radar station was built on the top which resulted in many bombing raids around the town. That has been replaced by a civil aviation radar station.

Winter Gardens:

The town’s main entertainment venue built on the cliffs overlooking the cascade gardens in 1937 it occupies the site of the former rectory. With its 1930s architecture of concrete and glass it is a distinctive building.

 

Content supplied by Ventnor & District Local History Society

 

Details of the Ventnor Heritage Centre at  www.ventnorheritage.org.uk