"My Favourite Island Church
- Poet Laureate Sir John Betjeman CBE (1906-1984)
ST. ALBAN'S CHURCH
THE CHAPEL-OF-EASE TO THE PARISH OF GODSHILL
St. Alban’s Church – dedicated to the memory of S. Albanus (c. 209) England’s First Martyr, was founded September of 1889 under the curate-in-charge of the Parish of Godshill Rev. Richard Ussher. Upper Ventnor Lowtherville’s first place of worship was the Church of St. Margaret’s; built in 1884 in Lowtherville Road and dedicated to St. Margaret of Scotland (c. 1045 - 1093), The patroness of Ventnor.
With the ancient Mother-Parish-Church of All Saint’ Godshill at a distance of 4 & ½
miles St. Alban’s Church was formed as the Chapel - of - ease to the Parish of Godshill.
After plot of land was donated to hold the new ‘Tin Tabanacle’ of St. Alban’s Church
in May 1889 construction took place and on the 13th September 1889 the church was
opened, followed by thefirst service held on the steps on 15th September 1889 on what
we now know as St. Alban’s Steps on St. Alban’s Road and Gardens.
Serving the community of Upper Ventnor – Lowetherville, St. Alban’s became a focal
point of community life and held the funeral of Business woman and owner of the
former Royal Marine Hotel on Belgrave Road; Mrs. Ellen A. Judd (18889 – 1893) whos
funeral cortege consisted of 12 Carriages. Mrs. Judd together with her husband
Mr. William Mew-Judd (1818-1913) is buried in Ventnor Cemetery.
By the outbreak of WW1 the old corrugated “Tin” church of St. Alban had begun signs
of its age which lead to the creation of fund to build a permanent new Stone Church
which was continued by the then priest-in-charge Fr. Smale between 1904 - 1908.
Fr. Smale’s successor Fr. Smith continued the fund and saw the construction of the‘Old Parish Room’ in May 1900 located opposite the church gates on the steps, which would eventually become the Church Hall before being demolished in 2001.
With the former plans drawn by London Architect Mr. C.R. Baker-King for the New Stone Church of St. Alban’s was rejected, it wasn’t until the last Priest-in-Charge of the old Tin Church Fr. Graham Hunt Castle, M.A. took over in 1921 when progress was made.
A design by Ventnor Architect, Mr. Frannco M. Coley of Zig Zag road was proposed and featured a nave, adjacent sanctuary and the Lady Chapel. By 1922 the foundation stone of the Romanesque - style basilica we have today was laid during a ceremony at 11:00 am on the 15th August 1922 attended by Lt. Col. W Hartley Maud, C.M.G., J.P., D.L. On the Feast of St. Alban – 22nd June1923 the completed church of St. Alban was consecrated by the late Bishop of Winchester Rev. Frank Theodore Woods.
Although a bell tower was due to be built to house the old 1890 bell from the “tin” Church, construction ceased due to the sloping landscape prominent in Ventnor. Instead the original bell was placed in a cradle at the rear of the church and is still used today as it was over a century ago. Keeping in tradition many of the original Vestments and church fittings are still used today as they were back in the days of St. Alban’s former Iron Church. Our traditional Anglo-Catholic service – sung in traditional language is served with the original thuribles, Sanctus bells and processional cross whilst baptisms are held near our original 1889 baptismal stone font.
Extreme evangelicalism was prevalent in Ventnor
town during the 19th century and the church grounds
were vandalised with littered and the original Banner
of Saint Alban had Vitriol acid thrown over it by the
Kensit preachers during a protest under the church
wall in 1911. To the distaste of the Kensit’s, St. Alban’s
Church continued the Anglo-Catholic movement
within the Anglican community which continues to
this day. The banner of St. Alban was salvaged by one
of the congregation and returned to the Church in the
1970’s where it is currently displayed on the left hand
wall in the entrance of the church.
THE FISH SYMBOL was originally used on buildings
2000 years ago as code to identify them as Christian
homes and is still popular with many Christians today.
Was it mere coincidence that when this Church was
built, a large fossilised fish was exposed on one of the
large columns, carved from soild Purbeck Marble?
founded in 1889 by rev. r. ussher
' The Fish' symbol as used
by Christians for 2000 years
The Fish Fossil in a marble
column, is probably over
100 million years old