The Isle of Wight is known for many things – perhaps most notably the magnificent landscape, climate, and sailing opportunities – but it is much more than a holiday destination. Islanders have lived, worked, and worshiped here for centuries and there is a strong connection to religion.
This has developed significantly over the centuries, and there is a clear religious identity here that is a little different from the mainland. While there are plenty of Christian churches – some Victorian and others Medieval – there are still Pagan influences and the change in culture can be seen across the different sites.
Pagan Federation Druids still exist, and there is still a Sheela-a-gig at the gateway to Holy Cross Church in Binstead. With more than one church every square mile and so many different historical and cultural influences, it would take more than a week’s holiday to discover all of the Isle of Wight’s churches. The following six churches are some of the most influential and exciting sites to discover and visit.
6 Unique Churches On The Isle of Wight
1. All Saints, Godshill
All Saints Church in the brilliantly named Godshill is a must because of the age of the building and its impact on the landscape. It is said to be one of the most photographed churches on the island due to its old design and prominent position overlooking the village.
Legend states that the church was relocated here by God’s hand after the building materials mysteriously moved up the hill in the night. It is a great sight from afar, but tourists should also head inside for a closer inspection.
The church is home to a William Morris stained glass window and a renovated medieval Lily crucifix, which makes it a must-see church for art historians. This painting is one of only two left in the whole of Europe, so the effort to restore it after its Reformation whitewashing is to be applauded.
2. St George’s, Arreton
The best churches are often not those that provide the best services or the best architecture, but rather the ones with the best stories to tell. If you are looking for a little history and cultural significance when exploring the churches and graveyards of this island, a trip to St George’s in Arreton has to be high on the list.
The church is beautiful and inviting, but it is the graveyard that holds the most interest for travelers. It is here that Elizabeth Wallbridge is buried.
Wallbridge is better known as the subject of the bestselling 1814 book the Dairyman’s Daughter’ and the interest generated by her true story of religious conversion, spirituality and devotion meant that tourists.
And even prominent figures like Queen Victoria, came to the site specifically to see her resting place. The site is still a draw for tourists who can pay their respects and have lunch at the local Dairyman’s Daughter pub.
3. St Mildred’s, Whippingham
The Isle of Wight saw an impressive transformation during the Victorian period, as the Queen chose to reside here and property developers followed suit. Here means that in addition to new homes and hotels, there were also new “modern” churches in development.
St Mildred’s in Whippingham is one of the most impressive of this era because it was designed by Prince Albert and became the favored place of worship for the Royal Family when staying at Osborne House.
Notable items have been retained within the church to preserve this idea of the high church, and Victoria’s daughter Beatrice is even buried here. Travelers can pay their respects to the family that helped to shape the island beside the Royal Pew and the Queen’s first chair.
4. St Agnes, Freshwater Bay
Prince Albert and the Royal Family are not the only prominent tenants of the Isle of Wight to have shaped the churches of the region and put their mark on the way that Christianity came to be worshiped adhere.
The land in Freshwater Bay was donated by Hallam Tennyson, the eldest son of the former Poet Laureate and English national treasure. Much like St Mildred’s, the Victorian influence is evident here, but there is one striking difference to the architecture that helps to draw in the tourists.
The thatched roofs of English Cottages are a charming novelty to many foreign visitors, but even mainland residents rarely see a thatched church. It is a simple, picturesque building with a small bell tower and cross and a great source of artistic inspiration.
5. Newport Minster
It is easy to focus on the quaint churches in the old villages because of the sense of peace and the knowledge that they have been such important places of worship in small communities.
By doing this, visitors could find themselves overlooking one of the grander, but no less impressive, Newport Minister church in the island’s “capital.”
The church has continually been developed on this site for the past 800 years or more and has adapted to the mood and needs of the town. Unsurprisingly, there was a massive shift in style in the Victorian era when Prince Albert laid the foundation stone for the new church in 1854.
For the majority of its existence, there has been debate over which St Thomas it should be dedicated to – with different figures falling in and out of favor. This was all laid to rest in 1986 when the church was rededicated as a Minister for its role in the development of the island.
6. St Boniface Old Church, Bonchurch
Bonchurch is a gem of a village just to the east of Ventnor that has a strong community spirit and sense of its history and is named after the first church for StBoniface.
The site has been recorded in the Domesday book, and there have been worshipers in the area since at least the 8th century.
It is believed that Norman monks created their church on the site of a Saxon one and that this is the Old Church that still stands within the village.
Bonchurch is now blessed to have two interesting, different churches in the small area – the old church that has been kept as a symbol of the city’s heritage and the much larger, modern church that is suitable for services. Both are equally worth a visit.