It’s a dual celebration for Ventnor’s Catholic community in early September as St. Wilfrid’s Church marks its 150th anniversary and the adjacent St. Wilfrid’s school building celebrates its 125th anniversary.

A new book, just published by the Island Catholic History Society, gives a detailed account of the struggle to find a site for a church and also the anti-Catholic sentiment, which existed in Victorian times, and the determination of some to keep both Catholic and non-conformist churches out of the seaside town.

Scroll through the gallery of pictures above to see more of St Wilfrid's Church...

Ventnor’s “bracing sea air” from the English Channel was considered to be therapeutic to the various illnesses that prevailed at the time.

Isle of Wight County Press:

Inside the original church, which was opened in 1871.

Hence, it was mainly sick priests who were sent to Ventnor. Consequently, they did not have the energy to build a church and develop a Catholic community.

After ten years of false starts and disappointments, a site was purchased on the periphery of the town and the Church of Our Lady and St. Wilfrid was opened in 1871.

Surprisingly, it was, and still is, the only Isle of Wight church dedicated to St. Wilfrid, Patron of the Island, who came to evangelise the inhabitants in 686 AD.

Just 25 years after the opening of the church, St. Wilfrid’s Catholic Primary School was built on the same site.

Sadly, the original church burnt down in December 2006 and its replacement was erected eight years later.

Today, the church is a part of the South Wight parish, together with Sacred Heart, Shanklin, and St. Patrick’s, Sandown.

The history book, with a foreword by Bishop Philip Egan of Portsmouth, also records the valuable contribution made by the Benedictine nuns, before they moved to St. Cecilia’s Abbey in Ryde; the Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Bonchurch and the Benedictine monks at Appuldurcombe, before they moved to Quarr Abbey.

  • The new book is available from the Island Catholic History Society at £2.50, or £5 with postage and packaging.

Contact the society on 01983 566740 or email:

Like reading stories about the Isle of Wight in bygone days? Click here to visit our Looking Back section.

Have you got a story about life on the Isle of Wight in bygone days? You can email details to