St Catherine's Oratory

Niton, United Kingdom

St. Catherine's Oratory is a medieval lighthouse on St. Catherine's Down, above the southern coast of the Isle of Wight. It was built by Lord of Chale Walter de Godeton (sometimes spelled 'Goditon') as an act of penance for plundering wine from the wreck of St. Marie of Bayonne in Chale Bay on 20 April 1313. The tower is known locally as the 'Pepperpot' because of its likeness.

It is Britain's only surviving medieval lighthouse, and the second oldest (only the Roman lighthouse at Dover being older). It is a stone structure four stories high, octagonal on the outside and four-sided on the inside, originally attached to the west side of a building; remnants of three other walls are visible.

de Godeton was tried for theft in Southampton, before a jury from the island, and fined 287 and half marks on 27 February 1314. However, he was also later tried by the Church courts, since the wine had been destined for the monastery of Livers in Picardy. The Church threatened to excommunicate him unless he built a lighthouse near Chale Bay.

There was already an oratory on the top of the hill, dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria. This was augmented by the construction of the lighthouse, with a chantry to accommodate the priest who tended the light, and also gave Mass for those at peril on the sea.

Although de Godeton died in 1327, the lighthouse was nevertheless completed in 1328. It remained in active use until the Dissolution of the Monasteries between 1538 and 1541.

In the 18th century Sir Richard Worsley of Appuldurcombe House bolstered the structure by adding four large buttresses to prevent its collapse.

Nearby there are the footings of a replacement lighthouse begun in 1785, but never completed, because the hill is prone to dense fog. Its remnants are known locally as the 'salt cellar'. A nearby Bronze Age barrow was excavated in 1925.

The current St. Catherine's Lighthouse, constructed after the 1837 wreck of the Clarendon, was built much closer to sea level on St. Catherine's Point.

Comments

Your name



Details

Founded: 1314
Category:

More Information

en.wikipedia.org

Rating

4.7/5 (based on Google user reviews)

User Reviews

Iris L. (3 months ago)
Easy parking, nice walk uphill but doable (with a baby carrier). Amazing view, worth a visit.
Sarah Rogers (3 months ago)
Looks like a stone rocket. Short walk from a free car park. Lovely to explore with the 4 yr old
A H (4 months ago)
Lovely walk from a convenient car park. Interesting tower and beautiful views.
Jil G (6 months ago)
It's a big hill to walk up but you get some great views and some happy cows moo
Stephanie Weller (10 months ago)
This is such a beautiful walk no matter the weather. We were lucky that the sun came out but the views are beautiful either way!
Powered by Google

Featured Historic Landmarks, Sites & Buildings

Historic Site of the week

Château de Dieppe

Château de Dieppe was founded in 1188 and destroyed in 1195. The site was restored in the 14th century. The castle was largely reconstructed by Charles des Marets in 1433. The castle is composed of a quadrangular enclosure with round flanking towers and a lower court adjacent. The large west tower dates perhaps from the 14th century, and served as the keep. Several architectural styles are represented, and flint and sandstone are used in the buildings. A brick bastion and various other buildings have been added to the original enclosure. The town walls were built around 1360. The walls were extended between 1435 and 1442. Although the town was largely destroyed by an Anglo-Dutch naval bombardment in 1694, the castle survived.

Until 1923, the castle housed the Ruffin barracks. It was bought by the town in 1903 and today is home to the Dieppe museum with its collection of ivories (crucifixes, rosaries, statuettes, fans, snuffboxes, etc.), maritime exhibits and the papers and belongings of Camille Saint-Saëns. The castle offers a panoramic view over the town and the coast.