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)

The Museum |

The Museum

Here the Heritage Centre carries visitors back in time to explore Ventnor’s origins and the way it grew at phenomenal speed to become a premier Victorian resort town.

Our many display boards tell this story in words and pictures. There are finely detailed images from glass plate negatives that offer glimpses into vanished lives. There are reproductions of paintings from visiting artists of the time, fascinated as they were with the dramatic coastal scenery of Ventnor and the Undercliff and the people who came to visit. Other displays document the life-worlds of outlying villages in the earlier 20th Century, a time when horizons were limited and the pace of existence altogether different from today.

Current displays and exhibitions

Visitors will also see showcases of artefacts that recover lost material worlds. There are even models of the town’s vanished railway lines. We play several DVDs that offer voyages back in time. Finally, you can absorb our Victorian kitchen and laundry exhibits, telling of an age when household chores took on a scale that is difficult for many to appreciate today.


From our archives

Paddle Steamers

In 1863 the PS (Paddle Steamer) Chancellor was wrecked attempting a landing a Ventnor Harbour pier, holed on the Lion Rock. In 1887 Southsea-Ventnor-Sandown  & Shanklin Steamboat Co started services, and in 1888: P S Dandie Dinmont , 'Ventnor's own steamer', was brought down from Scotland.  Despite a chequered career, including sinking in Portsmouth Harbour, she lasted until 1899. By 1900 there were many fine paddle steamers in Solent waters, and  most, if not all, called at Ventnor Pier, including Balmoral, Lorna Doone, Solent Queen, Bournemouth Queen, Empress, Emperor of India, Stirling Castle, Princess Helena, Duchess of Norfolk, Cambria, Glen Rosa, and Monarch. In this golden age trips were available to Sussex, Dorset and even Devon resorts as well as across the channel. From the 1930s until the 1950s more well known steamers called, including Gracie Fields and Princess Elizabeth. Between 1940 and 1945 many steamers had an heroic war. A lot were lost or returned in run down condition and had to be scrapped. The 1960s saw the end of 'paddlers', but from the 1980s onwards, although there is no pier at Ventnor, the PS Waverley can still be seen passing on her annual visits to the South coast.Read more...

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