ST JOHN THE
Another view of St
Text and photos
Kindly donated by Gordon Childs, Bexley, Kent November
The village of Wroxall has been a
small farming community since ancient times, the Manor of
Warochelle (or Warochesselle?) being mentioned in the
Doomsday book of 1086.
Although the Appuldurcombe Estate and its Norman priory
had provided continual work for some local villagers
throughout the ages, it wasn't until the mid 1860's that
Wroxall showed any significant signs of development and
diversification of skills. The rapid growth of the nearby
fishing hamlet of Ventnor into a popular Victorian
seaside resort was the trigger. Apart from the initial
small increase in road traffic through the village (most
horse drawn carriages from Ryde took the scenic coastal
road through Luccombe and Bonchurch) there was the
inevitable demand from Ventnor for increased local food
production and supply of labour and services. However, it
was the, almost, chance routing of the railway through
Wroxall which brought about the most prominent change.
The original plans submitted to Parliament in 1859 for a
railway from Ryde to Ventnor proposed following a coastal
route via Brading, Sandown, Shanklin and Bonchurch.
However, there was strong opposition from the Earl of
Yarborough who objected to the idea of it passing through
Luccombe Chine, so an alternative route via Wroxall was
agreed in 1860. The railway was completed as far as
Shanklin by 1864, but it took another two years to
overcome the engineering challenges of taking it into
Ventnor. These challenges included constructing a steep
gradient over Apse Bank and a mile long tunnel through St
Boniface Down - both very labour intensive. As a result,
the population of Wroxall increased almost overnight with
the sudden influx of workers - all of whom required
sustenance, both physical and spiritual.
Although there was a commodious Bible Christian Chapel in
the village, there was no facility for Anglican worship.
Indeed, the nearest such church was at Newchurch, some 5
miles north, to which villagers had to travel for worship,
baptisms, weddings and funerals - the poorer ones on foot.
(I have heard of reference to an earlier improvised
wooden structure dedicated to St Michael, but have not
found anything further on this).
Thus, a fund was started in 1873 to provide for a local
church. The church was built in 1875 and its consecration
service was performed by the Archdeacon of Winchester on
21 December 1877. By 1878 the fund had reached £1,410,
mainly by contributions from individuals, which covered
the cost of the building and provision of some furniture.
The original church of St John's was a small cruciform
edifice of stone, built in the early English style to a
design by T R Saunders of Ventnor. (He also designed the
Primitive Methodist Chapel which was built nearby about
the same time). The church consisted of a chancel, nave,
organ chamber, south porch and a small western belfry
housing one bell, and provided seating for 130.
The considerable surplus of stone, excavated during the
construction of the nearby Ventnor railway tunnel,
provided a ready source of building material. While this
kept the cost down, it has since proved to be of poor
quality and the building is in constant need of refacing.
Before the tower was built
The present day tower was added by public subscription in
1911 to receive the clock presented by Henry Charles
Millett, RN, a Crimean Veteran and former churchwarden
from 1897 to 1905, who had died in 1909. The clock was
made by Chancellor & Son, Dublin in 1887 and, it is
reputed, was salvaged from a department store on the
mainland. The task of winding and maintaining the clock
was undertaken by several generations of the Linington
family. The clock mechanism was removed and fully
overhauled in 1998. (Its maintenance is now in the hands
of the very capable AA breakdown man who lives in the
The belfry contains a carillon of eight bells which are
called 'The Silver Jubilee Bells' since the last three
bells were added by public subscription as a memorial to
King George V and Queen Mary's silver jubilee in 1935.
The earlier bells were presented by individuals as
First bell by Mrs Hilda Florence Hood-Bailey in memory of
her husband Charles Hood-Bailey of Clevelands.
Second bell by Mrs Florence Helen Downer in memory of he
husband Arthur Downer of St Bernard's.
Third bell by Alfred Hearn in memory of his wife Frances
Mary Hearn of Clifton.
Fourth & fifth bells by members of the Flux family in
memory of William and Paulina Flux of Wroxall.
Initially, the interior of the church was very plain, but
the addition of some oak panelling and stained glass
windows in later years brightened it up. The redros above
the alter are in three panels of dark wood painted with a
scene on Calvary. It is dedicated to Alfred Wight, a
Priest who voluntarily gave his services to the Parish
from 1890 to 1898. The alter is surmounted by a triple
stained glass window depicting the Ascension. This was
given by the family of Edward Winslave, for some years a
sides man of the church. Five other stained glass windows
commemorate a curate-in-charge and other benefactors. A
Baptistery was included at the western end. Behind the
lectern is an oil painting of the Virgin and Child given
by the 'Children to their Church, Christmas 1941'.
During WW2, the Church was shaken badly by bombs dropped
nearby. The main damage was distortion of the large west
window which, still, cannot be made completely
weatherproof. A war memorial, consisting of a tall cross
on a plinth of steps, is located outside the porch and
records the names of those from the village who died in
both World Wars.
Until the 1950's, there was no vicarage and this
presented the incumbent with a growing problem. This was
solved by a parishioner magnanimously bequeathing a large
house opposite the church. However, the house was never
used as a vicarage, but proceeds from its sale were used
to fund a more suitable premises. (The original house
thereafter served as a private Country Club before being
bought by a brewery and made into the aptly named Worsley
A hall was built adjacent to the church in 1903 as a
venue for church meetings and other community functions
such as wedding receptions, baptism parties and a
thriving whist drive. Fifty years later, to mark the
coronation of Queen Elizabeth II, a new kitchen and
toilets were added. However, with the building of a more
substantial community centre nearby in the early 1980's,
the original church hall provides for smaller events only
St John's was originally termed a 'Chapel of Ease' within
the Parish of Newchurch which, then, was in the diocese
of Winchester. The vicar of Newchurch, a curate and two
or three trustees provided administration and ministry of
St John's. A succession of devoted priests was appointed
by the Bishop to act as assistant stipendiary curates
until Wroxall became a parish in its own right in 1907.
St John's first vicar in 1907 was the Rev R J Roberts who
had already served as curate-in-charge for some years. He
was followed in 1910 by the Rev R J Lubbock. (etc)
Although not obligatory, a Parochial Church Council was
appointed in 1911. The parish of Wroxall was included in
the diocese of Portsmouth on its foundation in 1927.
Rev Lubbock was taken 11 Jan
Although the railway through Wroxall has long since gone
(last train to Ventnor was in 1966), the Church of St
John still serves the ever-growing community. Indeed, the
Sunday services are well supported and, of course, there
are the regular baptisms, weddings and funerals to cater