Raising awareness of the Catholic history of the Island

Welcome to the web site of the Isle of Wight Catholic History Society, established on the Feast of St. Wilfrid, Patron of the Island, in 2001 and with the approval and the blessing of His Lordship Bishop Crispian Hollis of Portsmouth. The society seeks to raise awareness of the Catholic history of the Island and welcomes contributions from anyone who can assist with this objective. The patron of the society is Bishop Declan Lang of Clifton, a former Vicar – General of the Portsmouth Diocese, and a native of Cowes, who is familiar with the Catholic history of the Island.


As our society is keen to promote the history of Catholicism on the Island, you will find relevant information on the various pages of this website. At Quarr Abbey and at St. Mary’s, Ryde there are regular guided tours throughout the year. For further information contact 01983 812127 or 01983 566740.


For other churches contact the individual parish office / presbytery.

New Booklet – now available

Recent Events

Annual Walk to Quarr Abbey


The annual walk from Ryde to Quarr Abbey took place as usual in September. In terms of pilgrimages it is short (only about three miles) but it recalls a similar pilgrimage in Victorian times when Catholics would walk with their parish priest to the Medieval Cistercian ruins at Quarr. En route they would pray the rosary in the hope that monastic life would one day return to Quarr. We can wonder how many really thought that their prayer would be answered; but answered it was within thirty years, when the Benedictines purchased the site and built an adjacent abbey.


In times when Catholics question whether God hears their prayers, here is a wonderful example of “answered prayer”. In this case a pilgrimage to pray for the return of Catholic monastic life to its medieval site. 
  Twenty pilgrims took part this year in order to show their affiliation with their Catholic ancestors who placed so much faith and optimism in Almighty God. The footpath to Quarr crosses the north transept of the old abbey church. At this point prayers were led by Fr. Jonathan Redvers-Harris. In the present Benedictine abbey the pilgrims were welcomed by Fr. Luke Bell OSB. He spoke this time about the role of an abbot; – most appropriate with the recent elevation of Fr. Xavier to this position. The event concluded as usual with Vespers and Benediction.


Pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady of Consolation at West Grinstead and Arundel Cathedral


On the Feast (Memorial) of Our Lady of Sorrows our society organised a pilgrimage to the Shrine of Our Lady at West Grinstead and then on to Arundel Cathedral. This day was significant as it marked the 8th anniversary of Fr. Glaysher’s first Mass as parish priest of Ryde. This was an opportune time to ask for Our Lady’s intercession at the shrine in West Grinstead, where the One True Faith was never lost throughout the penal times.

Throughout the visit there was Mass, Exposition, the rosary/ devotions, Benediction and opportunity for Confession. Most of those who attended were able to visit the secret chapel above the presbytery (once a hay loft), where priests ordained abroad offered Mass in secret. Our own two Isle of Wight martyrs may well have been heading for West Grinstead when they were caught and arrested at Cowes.

As always at West Grinstead, (see picture – above) there was a warm welcome from Fr. David Goddard (parish priest / custodian), who led prayers as our group passed through the Year of Mercy Holy Door.  Frs. Emmanuel and Jonathan Redvers Harris concelebrated Mass and Fr. Goddard preached on the sorrows of Mary.
On the way back we stopped for a brief guided tour of Arundel Cathedral and prayed at the tomb of St. Philip Howard, who died in the Tower of London in 1595 and is regarded as a martyr because of the sufferings and torments that he bore whilst there.


“The History of Ireland – the Past 100 Years”


It was good to welcome Julian Bell (brother of Fr. Luke Bell OSB) who spoke on this theme at Quarr Abbey on 19th October.  Julian is a writer and teacher with a long-standing interest in all things Irish. With the recent centenary of the Easter Rising this was an appropriate time for this talk. Julian’s recently published novel ‘Whatever You Say, Say Nothing’, is set in Dublin in 1920 at the height of the Anglo-Irish War and it vividly evokes the atmosphere of that turbulent time in Irish history. We were pleased that Abbot Xavier and some of the “Friends of Quarr Abbey” were able to attend this talk which was well received.


St. Dominic’s Priory – 150th Anniversary


Isle of Wight clergy gathered at St. Dominic’s Priory, Carisbrooke on December 12th for a Mass to mark the 150th anniversary of the arrival of the Dominican nuns in 1866 and the first Mass. The preacher at the Mass was Fr. Neil Ferguson O.P. who spoke about the early days of the priory and the nuns:- “Dying to the world and being hidden away with Christ ….. the nuns lived the gospel message with a life of prayer and work

The following evening there was an ecumenical Carol Service to mark the occasion, with speakers outlining the history of the priory at different stages. Fr. Emmanuel (Parish Priest of Newport) led prayers and gave the blessing.

Spring 2017 Newsletter

The Spring 2017 society newsletter is now available. It has articles on:


  • Lenten Meditations
  • Island Pilgrimages
  • 60th Ordination anniversary of Fr. M. Purbrick
  • 60th anniversary of Shanklin and Seaview Catholic churches
  • Immaculate Heart of Mary
  • Obituary of Abbot Cuthbert Johnson OSB


Click here. This is a shortened version of the newsletter. The complete version is available at the back of the Island’s Catholic churches.

Island Catholic History Society Booklets

(Price list)


The following booklets can be ordered. Telephone 01983 566740


  • “Ryde to Rome”. The story of St. Mary’s in Victorian times £3-00
  • History of St. David’s. East Cowes £3-00
  • Parish Visions (Poetry) £2-50
  • St. Wilfrid – Patron of the Isle of Wight £2-50
  • Walsingham – “England’s Nazareth” £2-50
  • Life of William Ward £2-50
  • Life of Helen Gladstone £2-50
  • Pilgrimage to Walsingham £1-50
  • Pilgrimage to Rome £1-50
  • Pilgrimage to Poland £1-50
  • Short History / Guided tour of St. Mary’s Church £1-00
  • The Chapel and Shrine of Our Lady of Ryde £1-00
  • Story of the Isle of Wight Martyrs £1-00
  • Bishop John Baptist Cahill £1-00
  • Victorian Converts on the Isle of Wight £1-00
  • First Christians on the Isle of Wight £1-00

Web Links


For those coming to the Island, travel information can be obtained from: