Island People


The articles included on this page have been written by Isle of Wight people and, in most cases, give a brief history of Island people. They are listed here in chronological order (by date). Click on a link below to jump to a specific article.

 

Diamond Jubilee of Canon Dermot McDermot-Roe (Curate of St. Mary’s, Ryde, 1951-64)

Siegfried Sassoon and the Isle of Wight by Edmund Matyjaszek

Alfred Noyes – Poet

Guglielmo Marconi

Bishop William Timothy Cotter

Bishop John Baptist Cahill

Lady Louisa Dillon-Fitzgibbon (1823-98)

Sir John Simeon (1815-70)

Fr. John Telford (1814-1865)

Helen Jane Gladstone (1814-80)

Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman

Life of Elizabeth, Countess of Clare, – Foundress of St. Mary’s Church, Ryde

Richard Waldo Sibthorpe (1792-1879)

John Keats and the Isle of Wight

Elizabeth Heneage (1734 – 1800)

Was Shakespeare a Catholic?

Isle of Wight Martyrs – Blessed Robert Anderton and Blessed William Marsden

St. Wilfrid and the Makers of England

St. Wilfrid in Sussex

St. Wilfrid’s Chapel in the London Oratory

St. Wilfrid’s Church, Ventnor

The Story of Eoppa, the First Known Missionary on the Isle of Wight


Diamond Jubilee of Canon Dermot McDermot-Roe (Curate of St. Mary’s, Ryde, 1951-64)


St. Mary’s Parish was delighted that Canon McDermot-Roe came back to Ryde to concelebrate Mass with Fr. Glaysher and Fr. Gregory from Quarr Abbey on 8th July 2011, on the occasion of the Diamond Jubilee of his Ordination to the Holy Priesthood. (Photographs of the Mass and reception can be seen on St. Mary’s web site here.)

 

We are pleased to be able to include below, the sermon that the Canon preached at the Mass.

 

Dear Fr. Anthony and dear friends, I am most grateful for this kind and gracious invitation to me to come to Ryde to celebrate this Mass of Thanksgiving for the 60th anniversary of my Ordination to the Priesthood in 1951. In thinking about it, I have in the foremost of my mind, something which our beloved Holy Father, Pope Benedict said way back in 1969 when he was a young and distinquished theologian at a Summer school for priests in Maynooth in Ireland. He addressed them with these words, and I quote: “the priest misunderstands his task when he ceases to be a servant; when he no longer realizes that what he has received is the significant thing – not what he is”. I am here this evening, dear friends, to thank God for this wonderful parish of St. Mary’s and for the part it played in my early formation as a priest, and for all that I received from its priests, religious and its lay people during my time here from August 1951 to June 1964, – a very long time in terms of a young priest to stay in his first parish.

 

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Siegfried Sassoon and the Isle of Wight by Edmund Matyjaszek


Born in 1886, the name of Siegfried Sassoon will always be associated with the First World War. As one of the most prominent “soldier-poets” and one of those commemorated in Poets’ Corner in Westminster Abbey, he was also one of the first to protest against the course of the war. His sardonic, often savage poems, were among those that alerted those “at home” to the true nature of the soldiers’ experiences in the trenches.

 

What is less well known is that he became a Catholic towards the end of his life. And also, as a child and young man, he had strong connections with the Isle of Wight.

 

Siegfried Sassoon came from a banking family on his father’s side. But his mother was a Thornycroft, sister to John Thornycroft, the founder of what eventually became the ship-building firm Vosper Thorneycroft. John Thornycroft, Siegfried’s uncle, owned the house Steyne in Bembridge. It was still in the family’s hands within living memory I am told.

 

Siegfried visited his cousins on the island several times, as a child, and in a recent biography of Sassoon by Jean Moorcroft Wilson, is quoted as describing one of his holidays on the island with his cousins as “glorious”, being impressed by his “highly practical, confident, handsome cousins” in their “large and beautiful house”. Ah, island life……….

 

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Alfred Noyes – Poet


Alfred Noyes was born in Wolverhampton in 1880. His father became a teacher in Aberystwyth, and the Welsh coast and mountains were an early inspiration. In 1898 he went to Exeter College, Oxford, where he distinguished himself at rowing, but he failed to take his degree. Noyes was visiting his publisher at the time to arrange publication of his first volume of poems, The loom of years (1902).

 

Between 1903 and 1908, five further volumes of poetry were published, including Poems (1904) which includes the poem The barrel-organ with its refrain “Come down to Kew at lilac time”. Noyes’s best loved poem, The highwayman, was included in the volume Forty singing seamen and other poems (1907). One of his most remarkable works, Drake, an epic in blank verse which first appeared in Blackwoods magazine, was published in two volumes (1906 and 1908).

 

A biography of William Morris and other volumes of poetry followed, with Noyes’s popularity increasing, both in Britain and the United States. From 1914 to 1923 he was Professor of Modern English Literature at Princeton University. Noyes wrote for both British and American audiences, and a number of his books, such as The lord of misrule, and other poems (1915), and Beyond the desert: a tale of Death Valley (1920) were published solely in the United States.

 

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Guglielmo Marconi


Guglielmo Marconi was probably the most famous Catholic scientist to live on the Island. Born at Bologna, Italy, in 1874, the second son of Giuseppe Marconi, an Italian country gentleman, and Annie Jameson, daughter of Andrew Jameson of Daphne Castle in the County Wexford, Ireland. He was educated privately at Bologna, Florence and Leghorn. Even as a boy he took a keen interest in physical and electrical science.

 

In 1896 Marconi took his apparatus to England where he was introduced to Mr. (later Sir) William Preece, Engineer-in-Chief of the Post Office, and later that year was granted the world’s first patent for a system of wireless telegraphy. He demonstrated his system successfully in London. In 1899 he established wireless communication between France and England across the English Channel. He erected permanent wireless stations at The Needles, Isle of Wight, at Bournemouth and later at the Haven Hotel, Poole, Dorset. At Knowles Farm, Niton, is a plaque bearing the inscription : “This is to commemorate that Marconi set up a wireless experimental station here in A.D. 1900”. A memorial pillar at the Needles Park, Alum Bay was erected with plaques describing Guglielmo Marconi’s wireless transmission trials in 1897. The Inscription here states:-

 

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Bishop William Timothy Cotter


Parish Priest of Ryde (1900-1910); 3rd Bishop of Portsmouth (1910-1940)

 

The Church in Ireland appears to be at a crossroads at present. Secularization, dwindling vocations and other well-publicised problems have combined together to remove the clergy from their pedestal and the hierarchy from influence in the corridors of power. Times have clearly changed. In Pre-Vatican II days there was an Irish priest in almost every English Catholic parish. The Church in Ireland could proudly proclaim its achievements in the English mission fields. One bishop whose ministry highlights the significance of this missionary work is Mgr. William Timothy Cotter, 3rd Bishop of Portsmouth (1910-40).

 

He was born on 21st Dec. 1866 at Cloyne, Co. Cork. As a young boy he was taken to Portsmouth to visit his father in the Navy (on HMS Active). The English naval port certainly made an impression on the young William Cotter. After his education at St. Colman’s College, Fermoy, he studied for the Priesthood at Maynooth and was ordained for the Portsmouth Diocese on 19th June 1892. His first appointment was at St. Mary’s, Ryde on the Isle of Wight. Apart from a brief return to Cork for three months, he remained at St. Mary’s as curate until 1900 when he was appointed Rector in succession to Mgr. Cahill when he became Bishop of Portsmouth. In 1902 he was received in audience by Pope Leo XIII and promoted to Canon. Despite the limitation of his parish work (he had only served at Ryde) he was nevertheless consecrated by Bishop Cahill as Titular Bishop of Clazomenae and appointed Auxillary to him at Portsmouth in 1905. An episcopal throne (carved from oak) was presented to him by parishioners of St. Mary’s, Ryde. (It is still used as the celebrant’s chair in St. Mary’s today).

 

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Bishop John Baptist Cahill


(Rector of St. Mary’s 1868-1900; 2nd Bishop of Portsmouth 1900-1910)

 

John Baptist Cahill was born in London on 2nd September,1841; the son of Irish parents, Thomas and Joanne Cahill. He had two older brothers, Thomas and Edward, who also became priests. He went to Old Hall Seminary and was ordained on the Feast of St. Francis, 4th October 1864 at Bermondsey by Bishop Grant of Southwark. His first appointment was to Portsea, before going to Ryde as curate in 1866. Two years later he succeeded Fr. Stephen Philips as Rector. He is remembered as a man of great stature, rendering powerful sermons to his congregations. He liked the ritual and full ceremonial of Catholic worship. The calendar at the time records that there were frequent litanies, processions, exposition, novenas and missions; everything connected with Catholic devotion. At St Mary’s he soon introduced the “Children of Mary” and the “Confraternity of the Blessed Sacrament“. Catholics are familiar with these, and many similar societies and groups, today, but in Victorian Catholic life, there were few organisations in the parishes to promote prayer and devotional life. Fr. Cahill frequently recalled the sacrifices made by the English martyrs and recusant families and stressed that we were their spiritual descendants, who must strive to keep the Faith with its rites and ceremonies that go back in an unbroken succession to the time of the Apostles and universal in England for a thousand years until the Reformation. It was the unquenchable and all-prevailing love of the Truth for which the English martyrs so readily gave their lives. “Catholic truths“, he reminded the faithful, “are not only enshrined in the traditional liturgy and the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass, but also in the design of the traditional Catholic sanctuary and the furnishings that adorn it. In this respect we owe a great deal of gratitude to our noble foundress, who has provided us with this House of God to uphold the ancient Catholic traditions, which is the key to maintaining and promoting the Catholic Faith. We pray that England shall one day return to the One True Faith that was once hers.

 

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Lady Louisa Dillon-Fitzgibbon (1823-98)


Louisa Dillon-Fitzgibbon was the niece of the Countess of Clare’s husband, John, Earl of Clare (1792-1851). At present we only have a limited knowledge of her early life. Her brother, John, an officer in the 8th Hussars, was killed at Bratislava in the Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854 and Louisa inherited most of the family estate at Mountshannon in Limerick when her father died in 1864. Through the influence of the Countess of Clare and Louisa’s first husband, Lord Gerald Dillon, she became a Catholic despite being a member of one of Ireland’s most staunch Protestant families. With her two eldest sons, Charles and Augustus, she accompanied the Countess on her famous pilgrimage to Rome when the Countess was 75 years old in 1868. It was a wonderful time for Louisa and there is no doubt that her faith was strengthened. Her two sons were enthralled by their Roman education which consisted of an almost daily routine of morning Mass at one of the famous churches or basilicas followed by a tour of most of the famous sites which took them to the Forum, the Colosseum, the famous arches of Titus and Constantine, the temple of the Vestal Virgins and along the banks of the Tiber. Louisa accompanied the Countess for a private audience with the Superior-General of the Dominican Order and she was astonished when he gave permission for the Countess to enter the Dominican Order at Carisbrooke Priory (which she had built in 1866). Did Louisa think that the Countess would take all her wealth with her into the Priory? Did the Superior-General anticipate this as well? Whatever the reasons Louisa was becoming most apprehensive at the thought of her aunt entering the Priory at Carisbrooke as a professed nun. She rushed off a letter to Bishop Grant in London. The letter, (dated 15th July), in the Portsmouth Diocesan archives reveals a desperate plea for the Bishop to intervene and use his influence to discourage the Countess from this course of action. “My aunt is now 75“, she writes, “her health will not strong. The basic living conditions accepted happily by the nuns are not conducive to one who is used to a warm and comfortable house with servants to care for her. Such a change in her domestic circumstances is bound to adversely affect her health. I therefore implore your Lordship to discourage my aunt’s noble objective. I know that she will listen to your wise guidance.” The irony of this petition is that Louisa herself would eventually enter Carisbrooke Priory and spend her final days as a professed nun until her death in 1898. However the plea to Bishop Grant had the desired result. He urged the Countess to continue her support of the Church as a layperson and suggested she could become the “Honorary Abbess” of the community.

 

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Sir John Simeon (1815-70)


It was during John Simeon’s time at Christ Church, Oxford (where he received his MA) that he first heard John Henry Newman preach. His inspirational words were to have a profound affect on Simeon’s life in later years. Soon after he graduated from Christ Church, Oxford in 1840 with a second class honours degree in Classics, he married Jane Maria Baker and they settled at the family estate of St. John’s just south of St. Cecilia’s Abbey. (Today it forms part of Oakfield Primary School). The Simeon Estate encompassed the whole of the eastern side of Ryde. Simeon Street and the Simeon pub mark the boundary of the estate. John Simeon was determined to follow his father Sir Richard Simeon into politics. In 1847 he stood as the Liberal Candidate for the Isle of Wight and was duly elected. The family were generous, kind and hospitable. As prominent Anglicans, they were generous benefactors of St. John’s Church at Oakfield on the edge of their estate which was built about the same time as St. Mary’s, Ryde. John was soon visiting the parish priest, Fr. John Telford and making private visits to St. Mary’s Church in Ryde High Street. It was during his visits to his Oxfordshire cousins that John renewed his friendship with John Henry Newman (now a Catholic priest). Newman outlined his thinking, which led him into the Catholic Church and Simeon found himself supporting the views and beliefs of Newman. If he converted he felt duty bound to resign his Parliamentary Seat. Simeon spent hours in prayer and reflection. In 1850 he entered St. Mary’s during Lent to find the sanctuary overflowing with lighted candles. Branched candlesticks adorned the altar either side of the throne and tabernacle as the Blessed Sacrament was exposed in the monstrance. During this Lenten Exposition, the faithful, he noticed, came and went in a most devout manner with double genuflections on each occasion. It was at this point that he realised that he believed in the Real Presence. Could he continue to put his political career before his religious beliefs? It was soon after this that Simeon heard that Henry Edward Manning had resigned as Archdeacon of Chichester. For Simeon, Manning and many others at the time, it was the Gorham Judgement and the interference, as they saw it, of the Privy Council in ecclesiastical affairs which was the watershed and finally persuaded them that their spiritual home was in the Catholic Church. Although they were disappointed, Simeon’s family respected his decision. He applied for the “Chiltern Hundreds” and turned his back on a political career to enter the Church of Rome. Sir Richard Simeon died in 1854 and John Simeon now inherited Swainstone Manor near Calbourne. This was formerly the country home of the Medieval Bishops of Winchester. He restored the 12th century chapel and Fr. Henry Manning is recorded as saying Mass there later in the year. His contribution to the Catholic Church on the Island was not reflected in such financial generosity as that of the Countess, yet nevertheless, he opened his chapel at Swainston to the handful of local Catholics in the area, and he gave moral support and encouragement to all the clergy and was always at their service. In a rare ecumenical gesture for this period, he even gave a part of his land for the building of a Methodist chapel. He also leased land for the establishment of Ryde cemetery in 1858.

 

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Fr. John Telford (1814-1865)


Rector of St. Mary’s Church, Ryde (1846-65)

 

Every parish has its own unique story, which frequently involves a generous benefactor or a pioneering priest totally devoted to God and His holy church. In Ryde on the Isle of Wight there was both. Elizabeth Countess of Clare was the generous benefactor but her contribution was matched by the parish priest, Fr. John Telford. He was born on 26th Jan. 1814 and was ordained in 1838 by Bishop Thomas Griffiths and appointed as chaplain at St. George’s-in-the-Fields in August 1840. In December 1845 he was sent to become Rector of the new St. Mary’s Church in Ryde and he supervised the completion of the church in preparation for its opening and first Mass on Trinity Sunday, 7th June, 1846. Pope Gregory XVI had died a few days earlier so celebrations were deliberately kept low key. At the end of the Summer the first High Mass was sung. Due to Protestant hostility at the time there was no prior public notice of either event. The dedication of St. Mary’s appears to have been influenced by the inauguration of the “Congregation of the Holy and Immaculate Heart of Mary“, founded in the same year by Fr. Desgenettes in Paris, for the intercession of Our Lady for the aid of abandoned souls. In 1844 the “Confraternity of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the Conversion of Sinners” was introduced into England and consequently Ryde was the first church in England to adopt this dedication.

 

The first Episcopal Visitation at St. Mary’s took place in 1847, when Bishop Griffiths confirmed 92 candidates, (a few months before his sudden death in Rome). He was deeply impressed with St. Mary’s, recording that the church was indeed “very beautiful. Everything is of the highest quality and the finest workmanship is evident“.

 

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Helen Jane Gladstone (1814-80)


The life of Helen Gladstone (1814-80), younger sister of William Ewart Gladstone, the pre-eminent statesman of nineteenth-century Britain, was an unhappy series of rebellions against a Victorian patriarchy that sought to manage her aberrant behaviour by grinding her into submission. Helen was born in 1814, in Liverpool. She was the last daughter of a prosperous merchant, Sir John Gladstone and the last of 8 children- four boys and 4 four girls. Both parents were of Scottish descent, but the family spent many years in Liverpool. Her mother, Anne Robertson, the daughter of a leading Episcopalian lawyer, was intensely religious–an evangelical.

 

In the usual way for middle class families, Helen’s upbringing was probably supervised by nursemaids and later governesses, The boys were sent away to be educated. William went to Eton when Helen was seven years old and Helen was left at home with her mother and ailing older sister, Anne, to be influenced by her mother’s evangelical fervour as well as poor health. Strong willed, with long fair hair, Helen had a lively mind and wished to learn, asking William to teach her Latin.

 

However, it became increasingly difficult to control the headstrong Helen and a governess and an émigré abbot departed. She had no real role in the household increasingly given over to invalids. No wonder therefore that she became isolated and could not cope with adoles-cence. She became increasingly subject to bowel and other disorders.

 

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Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman


John Henry Newman was born on 21st February. By the time of his death in 1890 he had become one of the most eminent churchmen of his day. As a priest (and later Cardinal), writer, preacher and poet, he influenced many Victorians clerics and lay people to examine their understanding of Christianity. In particular as an Anglican priest he emphasised the development of the Anglican Church from the early Christian Church and the Catholic element as opposed to the Protestant nature of the Church. After opposition within the Church of England and the development of his thinking, he came to realise that the Catholic Church was the true modern development from the early Church and he consequently became a Catholic at Oxford on 9th October 1845 by the Passionist priest, Fr. Dominic Barberi.

 

This inevitably resulted in the alienation of many of his friends and family. The Oxford Movement of High Churchmen at the time included Dr E. B. Pusey, Hurrell Froude, Walter Palmer, John Keble, William Ward and his life long friend, Ambrose St. John. Many in this movement followed Newman into the Catholic Church. However, Newman was not the first to convert at this time. Here in Ryde, we find the Anglican pastor of St. James’s proprietary church in Lind Street, Rev. Richard Waldo Sibthorpe, converting in 1841. Among his congregation at St. James’s was Elizabeth, Countess of Clare, who converted a few months earlier and founded St. Mary’s Church in Ryde in 1844. Sibthorpe sought the guidance of Newman, among others, as he went to Oscott Seminary in Birmingham. Newman’s advice was that “he should be careful not to stay there too long”. Ironically and despite this cautionary advice, Newman converted four years later. It was the writings and sermons / speeches of Newman and others from the Oxford Movement that were the catalyst for many Anglicans to take a closer look at their Church, its teachings and traditions with the result that Catholicism gained many converts such as Henry Manning, Archdeacon of Chicester who became a Catholic in 1850 and within 15 years had become Archbishop of Westminster and later a Cardinal.

 

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Life of Elizabeth, Countess of Clare, – Foundress of St. Mary’s Church, Ryde


written by Peter Clarke

 

Elizabeth Julia Georgina Burrell was born on the feast of the Annunciation, 25th March, 1793, the third daughter of Peter Burrell, later to be the first Baron Gwydr; her mother, Priscilla was the sister of the last Duke of Ancaster. It was from both parents that she inherited her wealth that was to enable her to give so generously to the Catholic Church in her lifetime. Elizabeth was a determined and dominant lady with firm and decided opinions; a rare attribute for an early nineteenth century English woman.

 

In 1826 she married John Fitzgibbon, second Earl of Clare (1792-1851) whose father had been Lord Chancellor of Ireland. He was a close friend of the poet, Lord Byron, and was to have a successful diplomatic and military career in the Far East where he became Governor of Bombay. The marriage to Elizabeth Burrelll however was not successful and in 1829 they came to a mutual agreement to separate without any animosity and she moved to the Isle of Wight and set up home at No. 4, Brigstock Terrace, Ryde, in order to be near her brother, Lindsay, a keen sailor who founded the “Royal Victoria Yacht Club” and who was to become a generous benefactor of Holy Trinity Church in Dover Street, Ryde.

 

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Richard Waldo Sibthorpe (1792-1879)


written by Peter Clarke

 

In Ryde we know Richard Waldo Sibthorpe as the Anglican Pastor of St. James’s, Lind St, Ryde who caused such a storm when he converted to the Catholic Church. As a boy he had an early flirtation with Catholicism. His family found him praying before a crucifix and conversing with Catholic priests and bishops. On one occasion they arranged for him to be escorted home by the police and subsequently “read him the Riot Act”! This appeared to work as he was ordained an Anglican priest in 1818. Nine years later he purchased the proprietary church of St. James next to the town hall. A proprietary church had an independence to the extent that the pastor’s income came solely from the contributions of the congregation. The larger the congregation the more money he received especially (as in this case) if they were largely the gentry and upper class. Sibthorpe certainly benefitted financially. He was a fiery and eloquent preacher and he knew how to draw a crowd.

 

The most high profile English convert at this time was Fr. George Spencer; youngest son of the Spencers of Althorpe. (The same family as the late Princess Diana). His mother, Lavinia Spencer, is well known for providing the first Free School (1814) here on the Island. Spencer converted in 1830 and was ordained to the Priesthood in 1832. It was here in Ryde that he first met Sibthorpe. The Spencers had a holiday home, Westfield House, in Spencer Road overlooking the Solent. It was here that Spencer and Sibthorpe would discuss their religious beliefs for many hours.

 

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John Keats and the Isle of Wight


By Edmund Matyjaszek based on a talk to the IoW Catholic History Society in 2007

 

John Keats was born in 1795. It is no surprise to many to link the name of John Keats and the Isle of Wight.

 

He spent two very productive periods of his life writing on the island – in 1817 when he was working on his early poems including Endymion with its graceful opening line “A thing of beauty is a joy forever”, and again in 1819, a great and critical year in his life when he composed the Odes on which his fame chiefly rests, including “Ode to a Nightingale” and “Ode to Autumn”. It was actually the scenery around Winchester when he returned from an island stay during the summer of that year that prompted this famous and justly-anthologised poem that opens:

 

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun”.

 

There is of course the Keats cafe in Shanklin – he did stay and write in the town so there is every justice in his name being linked to it – and at the entrance to St Mary’s Hospital in Newport the opening line from Endymion greets everyone as they walk through the main doors. And indeed on his return from Cowes to the mainland in 1819 he wrote in a letter a description of yachts at Cowes that was probably connected with what became the Royal Yacht Squadron, founded about this time:

 

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Elizabeth Heneage (1734 – 1800)


Foundress of the Catholic Churches at Newport and Cowes.
By Peter Clarke

 

Elizabeth Heneage was born in 1734 at Sheat Manor house near Gatcombe. This Manor House, which she was to inherit from her uncle, Thomas Urry, was reputed to have contained a secret chapel in the attic, where Mass was occasionally said during penal times. The escape route for the priest, behind the chimney and out through a tunnel into the garden, are still evident today. We have no record of the number of Masses that were said. It is unlikely to have been many, due to the Island’s isolation. The family supported the local Anglican Church and they were popular in the farming community of the area so that they kept a low profile and did not draw attention to themselves. However their neighbours would have known where their sympathies lie.

 

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Was Shakespeare a Catholic?


Talk by Ed Matyjaszek to the IoW Catholic History Society.

 

The year is 1583. The day is October 25th. This, if our young and unfortunate protagonist had known, is an iconic day in English History, and given the subject of our talk, English Theatre too. Firstly, it is the date of the battle of Agincourt in 1415, that great but not unique victory of English arms against overwhelmingly superior odds.

 

“For he today that sheds his blood with me” King Harry is made to say
Shall be my brother: be he ne’er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition.
And gentlemen in England, now a-bed,
Shall think themselves accurs’d they were not here;
And hold their manhoods cheap, whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin’s Day”

 

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Isle of Wight Martyrs – Blessed Robert Anderton and Blessed William Marsden


Talk given to St. Catherine’s Trust for Traditional Catholic Education in association with The Traditional Catholic Family Alliance at The Summer School at Ardingly College, West Sussex by Peter Clark on Wednesday 2nd August 2006, the Feast of St. Alphonsus Ligouri, Bishop, Confessor and Doctor of the Church.

 

May I first say how delighted that I am to be present here this evening on the Feast of St. Alphonsus Ligouri. I am particularly pleased to be here on this day when you have just returned from a coach trip to Arundel. I know that in the cathedral you saw the tomb of St. Philip Howard, Duke of Norfolk, who died in 1595 and was re-buried in Arundel Cathedral in 1971. Although he was never executed, nevertheless he was canonized as a saint of the Church by Pope Paul VI because of his sufferings in prison. He could have been released if only he had renounced Papal authority and recognised the Queen as the Supreme Governor of the Church. He had written on the wall of his cell: “The more suffering in this world for Christ’s sake, the more glory with Christ in the next“. St. Philip put Almighty God and His Holy Church before any personal considerations and therefore he received the martyr’s crown.

 

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St. Wilfrid and the Makers of England


Based on a talk by Edmund Matyjaszek for the 1300th anniversary of the death of St. Wilfrid and local research by Peter Clarke

 

This year marks the 1300th anniversary of the death of a figure familiar to us on the Isle of Wight. That figure was St Wilfrid, (A.D. 634-709). Bishop, missionary, controversialist, and also son of a Northumbrian thegn, so, in the Anglo-Saxon world, of noble birth, an aristocrat; Wilfrid (634-709) is one of England’s greatest and most controversial Saints. He directly influenced the move away from Celtic to the more orderly Roman church practices and is best known for championing and winning the case for the Roman, as opposed to the Celtic method of calculating the date of Easter at the famous Synod of Whitby in 664. He became Bishop of York with a See covering the whole of Northumbria, built magnificent stone churches at Ripon and Hexham and completed and restored the stone church at York started by the newly converted king Edwin.

 

It was on the east and approachable side of the Isle of Wight that he would have landed, and the church in Brading – then a port – has always been given precedence as his foundation, Indeed, the spacious and roomy St Mary’s at Brading still breathes an innate dignity and presence within its pre-Reformation stones as of a mother church. Thus, Brading can claim to be “the Canterbury of the Isle of Wight

 

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St. Wilfrid in Sussex


In many ways St. Wilfrid can also be described as the Apostle of Sussex. Whilst he was officially based in the north of England, he undertook much missionary work in the south. Hence there are Catholic churches dedicated to Wilfrid in Burgess Hill, Hailsham and Selsey; where he founded a monastery. There are Anglican churches dedicated to St. Wilfrid at Brighton, Bognor, Horley, Chichester, Bosham and Portsmouth. It was whilst Wilfrid was in Sussex that he was reputed to have had a vision of St. Michael calling him to cross the Solent to convert the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight. The Catholic Church at Bembridge is dedicated to St. Michael to commemorate this event.


St. Wilfrid’s Chapel in the London Oratory


Based on a talk by Edmund Matyjaszek for the 1300th anniversary of the death of St. Wilfrid and local research by Peter Clarke

 

One of the most famous and ornate chapels dedicated to St. Wilfrid within a church is that in the London Oratory at Brompton. Situated to the right of the high altar the chapel is exquisitely adorned with marble and alabaster with a Flemish Baroque altar. The chapel was given by Mrs Bowden, in memory of Fr. Frederick William Faber, the famous convert, Victorian hymn-writer and spiritual author. Born in 1814, Faber converted to Catholicism, was ordained a priest and after joining the Oratorians, he became the first Provost of the London Congregation of the Oratory. It was Fr. Faber who promoted the Benedictine saint, when he wrote a “Life of St. Wilfrid” while still an Anglican much to the annoyance of his superiors. It caused controversy because of Wilfrid’s advocacy of the supremacy of Rome over the locals churches.

 

Fr. Faber died in 1863 and is buried beneath the altar in the London Oratory. An inscription above the entrance to this chapel reads, “Remember your leaders (Hebrew 13: 7) In honour of St. Wilfrid, Confessor and Bishop and in memory of Fr. Wilfrid Faber D.D.

 

Co-incidentally, the Feast of St. Wilfrid, Patron of the Island, (12th October) is also the anniversary of the Dedication of our two Solesmes abbeys at Quarr and St. Cecilia’s.


St. Wilfrid’s Church, Ventnor


The Catholic Church in Ventnor is the only Island church dedicated to the Patron Saint of the Island. Sadly this was badly damaged by fire in 2007. The memorial stone was laid and blessed on 8th September (Feast of the Birthday of Our Lady) in 1870. It was opened for worship a year later- Our Lady and St Wilfrid Ventnor – The architect was Mr T. Chatfield Clark of London (based in London but had Island connections) and the builder was Mr D. Day of Bonchurch

 

Prior to this, Catholics of Ventnor worshipped at the residence of the priest, Vicenza-villa, High Street; but Fr. Justin D. Mooney when he appointed to Ventnor saw the desirability of a church being erected. He therefore set himself to work to obtain the desired finances, and being aided by principally by Mr. Richard Swift, a merchant of London, who donated £500 towards the cost, with a promise of further aid, he saw his way to take the proper steps towards its commencement. The church was built in the garden of the villa, in the early English style.

 

It was always intended that this new church be dedicated to St. Wilfrid, in thanksgiving for his journey to the Island in A.D. 686 to bring the Faith to its inhabitants. At the request of Elizabeth, Countess of Clare (another benefactor) it was also dedicated to Our Lady. Hence the dedication – the Church of Our Lady and St. Wilfrid. A side aisle and Lady altar was added in 1958; the centenary of the apparition of Our Lady to St. Bernadette in Lourdes.


The Story of Eoppa, the First Known Missionary on the Isle of Wight


Written by Peter Clarke for the 1350th Anniversary of the Arrival of Christianity on the Island

 

FOREWORD. From Canon Michael Weaver, Area Dean of West Wight.
 “On behalf of the Island Church Leaders Forum I would like to thank the Catholic History Society for their initiative in producing this edition to coincide with our Ecumenical Walking Pilgrimage (July, 2011) to celebrate the coming of Christianity to the Isle of Wight in AD 661.
I commend this booklet to you and am confident that it will be of great interest, not only to this year’s pilgrims, but also to others interested in our Christian history in years to come.

 

2011 marks the 1350th anniversary of the first known Christian missionary on the Isle of Wight. Whilst we are aware of Saint Wilfrid’s visit to the Island in AD 686, the visit of one of his disciples some twenty-five years earlier is not so well known. The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle states: ‘The priest – first to bring Christianity to the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight? AD 661 – In this year ……… Wulfhere, son of Penda, ravaged in the Isle of Wight, and gave the people of Wight to Aethelwald, King of Sussex, because Wulfhere had stood sponsor for him at baptism. Eoppa, the priest, at the command of Wilfred and king Wulfhere, was the first to bring Christianity to the inhabitants of the Isle of Wight’.

 

It is important to remember that Eoppa’s missionary journey to the Island was only the first recorded visit (Anglo-Saxon Chronicle) but it is likely that there would have been a Christian presence in Roman times, although we will never know who was the first Christian to set foot on the Isle of Wight.

 

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