This lovely little family chapel is one of the best examples of an ornate Victorian Catholic family chapel in England, where, in many ways, time has stood still. It was built by the Ward family and opened in 1871.
William George Ward (1812-82) was a well known name in Cowes and Totland. An Anglican priest in 1840, he became greatly influenced by the Oxford Movement. In1844 he published his Ideal of a Christian Church, in which he openly contended that the only hope for the Church of England lay in union with the Church of Rome. Ward became a Catholic in 1845 and professor of moral philosophy at St. Edmund’s College, Ware in 1851. He had inherited considerable property in Cowes and Freshwater from his uncle in 1849. When he returned in the the Island with his family to Cowes in the 1960s, he was a great supporter of the Catholic churches on the Island. In 1870 he built Weston Manor (with chapel attached) where he lived in retirement.
The Ward family have left Weston Manor, but the chapel remains unspoilt by Vatican II re-ordering, although in need of restoration. Today Mass is rarely celebrated in the chapel but if we turn the clock back over a hundred years we find Holy Week celebrated with all the ceremonial, reverence and dignity that was the hallmark of the Church in those days. The following article was found in the County Press for May 1905:-
“The Holy Week and Easter Services were carried out at St. Saviour’s with their usual solemnity. The Squire of Northwood, Mr E. Granville Ward J.P, had invited a great number of his clerical friends to assist in the solemn offices of the week. An excellent choir was engaged, with most members belonging to the Jesuit Church at Farm Street, London. They were under the able conductorship of Mr. Stock. Mr Granville Ward himself acted as M.C. during the week and most of the male members of his family assisted with serving.
Palm Sunday commenced with the Office of Terce and the aspersion of holy water. After this the palms were blessed by the celebrant Fr. Butterfield S.J. and a solemn procession followed through the grounds of Weston Manor. Subsequently High Mass was celebrated and the music sung was the Ratisbon Missa in Dominicis Quadragesimae. In the evening Vespers was sung followed by the veneration of a relic of the True Cross.
The evening office of Tenebrae (Matins and Lauds of the following day) took place on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, and was performed in the customary manner by extinquishing one candle after another until the whole church was in complete darkness, thus typifying the darkness which took place over the whole world when Our Lord died. This traditional Holy Week office of the Church is very impressive as the church gradually grows darker.
On Maundy Thursday the canonical hours of Prime, Terce and Sext were recited and later None was chanted. High Mass followed. The music was Gregorian (Mechlin edition). Afterwards the altar was stripped bare to typify the desolation and abandonment which took place after the great sacrifice on the Cross on Mount Calvary.
On Good Friday the canonical hours were once again recited. Fr. Butterfield delivered an appropriate discourse and afterwards the ceremony of the adoration of the Cross took place during which time the reproaches were sung according to the music of Palestrina. Next came the procession to the altar of repose. Vespers followed and then the faithful were invited to venerate the relic of the True Cross. The Passion Service commenced at 3-00pm and the evening office of Tenebrae concluded the services for the day.
The Solemn morning office of Holy Saturday commenced at 10-00am with None, the blessing of the new fire and the Paschal candle, followed by the chanting of the Old Testament prophesies and the Litanies. Solemn High Mass was sung by Dom Osmund Campbell OSB. There followed Vespers and Solemn Matins and Lauds of Easter Sunday (anticipated). On Easter Sunday Masses were said at frequent intervals from 6-30am to 10-30am and Solemn High Mass began at 11-30am. The music was once again Gregorian (Mechlin) and Webb’s “Haec Deis” was sung. The sermon was preached by Fr. Butterfield. Vespers was sung in the evening and the Blessed Sacrament was exposed and various hymns and canticles were sung including the Te Deum.
All the services were well attended, especially on Easter Sunday when the little chapel was full to overflowing“.