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

Old Park, St Lawrence

The  house is thought to date back to 900 AD, and  may have been a hunting lodge. 1309 – Charter for hawking at St Lawrence Park.  At one time there was a mill below the house with a large lake. 1740 – Present house built. 1820 – Thomas Haddon was the owner.  He converted the house for use as a country residence, and it was visited by Queen Victoria. 1865 – A new wing was added to the house.  Sir John Cheape owned the property, and he also installed central heating and plumbing. (There were three taps in bathroom - one labelled 'Hot', one 'Cold' and one 'Rainwater.) 1883 – Walter Spindler owned the house. He imported and planted a million trees on the Old Park Estate in Whitwell Parish, and had water pumps  erected in Whitwell for the people living there to use. Sarah Bernhardt, a famous actress, visited – she had a liaison with Mr Spindler, who painted her portrait. In its latter days it was owned by Thornton Family, and the 'Bird Park' and Glass making factory were on the estate.Read more...