Ventnor Heritage Centre

"To make the past present, to bring the distant near . . . to call up our ancestors before us with all their peculiarities of language, manners, and garb, to show us over their houses, to seat us at their tables, to rummage their old-fashioned ward-robes, to explain the uses of their ponderous furniture . . . " Thomas Babington Macaulay describing what the study of history can do (written in 1828)

Current displays and exhibitions |

Current displays and exhibitions

Permanent displays in the Heritage Centre include Ventnor’s development as a Victorian resort, the story of some of the shipwrecks off our coast including the loss of HMS Eurydice in 1878, an exhibition on Steephill Castle, and working models of Ventnor’s two railways  – Ventnor Station (closed in 1966) and Ventnor West (closed in 1952).

Take a mini tour of the permanent displays

Other current exhibitions include:

Landscape Paintings of the Isle of Wight
A selection of the images from Robin McInnes book ‘Isle of Wight Landscape Art’, which is  on sale  in our shop.

‘Mayfair-by-the-Sea’
Over the Victorian age, parts of Ventnor took on shades of London’s West End, perhaps best exemplified by the Royal Marine Hotel on Belgrave Road. It became the haunt of the rich and the famous, including royalty, and boasted a hydraulic elevator and a palm court.

A Whitwell Childhood in the 1930s
Based on the recollections of local resident Audrey Chiverton, this display describes growing up in the village of Whitwell in the 1930s, and of village life as it was then.

A Story of the First World War
The Great War touched the lives of individuals and families in almost every part of Britain. This display reconstructs the story of the two Cawston brothers from Niton, one of whom survived while the other died at Gallipoli in 1915.

Ventnor People
In its Victorian heyday Ventnor and the surrounding villages had many famous residents and visitors often from the worlds of literature, art and music. These included Myles Birket Foster, Elizabeth Sewell, Charles Dickens, Pearl Craigie, E.W. Cooke, Thomas Miles Richardson, J.M.W. Turner, Karl Marx and Ivan Turgenev.

Prehistory of the Undercliff
The Undercliff has a long history of human settlement. Flint tools have been found from the Stone Age, pottery and axes from the Bronze Age and there is evidence of Roman and Saxon occupancy.

Clarendon Boarding House
Looking southwest from the top of Grove Road in Ventnor, the Clarendon was the area’s premier boarding house. It had a striking cosmopolitan air, with visitors from all over northern Europe, from America and from Australasia.

Victorian Shopping Paradise
Ventnor’s main streets in the nineteenth century offered the best shopping on the Island. They vied with London’s West End for the quality of goods offered to customers, a reflection of the relative wealth of its visitor population.

A History of Ventnor Breweries
The story of Burts Brewery in Ventnor.  This display is accompanied by a booklet ‘Ventnor Breweries’ (£3) and a specially written Ventnor Pub Walk

Celebrating 30  Years
The story of the founding of the Ventnor Heritage Centre in October 1987, using documents, photographs and contemporary press reports.


Exhibitions, stories, images . . .

The wreck of the ‘Underley’

As we know, the 'Back of the Wight' was certainly a dangerous place for mariners. But casualties also occurred off the Ventnor Coastline as well. In September 1871, the fully rigged ship "Underley" came ashore between Bonchurch and Dunnose Point. The ship was built in 1866 for the Australian trade. The owner was a Captain Chambers, who traded as the Liverpool and Lancaster line. The vessel was build in Lancaster and was regarded as a ship of fine lines with a tonnage of 1200 tons and carried passengers as well as cargo. The ship sailed from the Thames bound for Melbourne, but only two days later came to grief at Bonchurch. On the night of 25th/26th September she drove ashore in a south-easterly gale. On board were thirty passengers, the cargo included cotton goods, machinery and gunpowder. The captain was Captain Tidmarsh, but it transpired that a pilot from the Thames was in charge. Why was the ship so close into Bonchurch, which with a south-easterly gale would have made it a lee shore? The Court of Inquiry blamed the pilot for absence of care, and the captain for negligence in leaving his ship in charge of a pilot whose responsibilities ended at Dungeness. Tugs were sent out from Portsmouth but could not move her, as by now she had broached broadside on to the waves. The Ventnor coastguard stood by with their rocket line. All her passengers and crew were saved, except for a steward, a Mr Richard Tatton-Groves, who foolishly re-boarded the vessel, it is said to rescue his pet bird, and was washed overboard as the vessel began to break up. The crew were taken to 'East Dene' to recover, the pilot and the captain were accommodated at the Commercial Inn at Ventnor. This fine vessel became a total loss. For many years its ornately carved name board was to be seen affixed to a barn wall on the Landslip path close to where the wreck took place. We understand the board is now kept safely at a nearby property. Graham Bennett, September 2012 [easy_image_gallery gallery="877"]

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