Ventnor Heritage Centre

"To make the past present, to bring the distant near . . . to call up our ancestors before us with all their peculiarities of language, manners, and garb, to show us over their houses, to seat us at their tables, to rummage their old-fashioned ward-robes, to explain the uses of their ponderous furniture . . . " Thomas Babington Macaulay describing what the study of history can do (written in 1828)

Current displays and exhibitions |

Current displays and exhibitions

Permanent displays in the Heritage Centre include Ventnor’s development as a Victorian resort, the story of some of the shipwrecks off our coast including the loss of HMS Eurydice in 1878, an exhibition on Steephill Castle, and working models of Ventnor’s two railways  – Ventnor Station (closed in 1966) and Ventnor West (closed in 1952).

Take a mini tour of the permanent displays

Other current exhibitions include:

Landscape Paintings of the Isle of Wight
A selection of the images from Robin McInnes book ‘Isle of Wight Landscape Art’, which is  on sale  in our shop.

Over the Victorian age, parts of Ventnor took on shades of London’s West End, perhaps best exemplified by the Royal Marine Hotel on Belgrave Road. It became the haunt of the rich and the famous, including royalty, and boasted a hydraulic elevator and a palm court.


Whitwell Church

A Whitwell Childhood in the 1930s
Based on the recollections of local resident Audrey Chiverton, this display describes growing up in the village of Whitwell in the 1930s, and of village life as it was then.

A Story of the First World War
The Great War touched the lives of individuals and families in almost every part of Britain. This display reconstructs the story of the two Cawston brothers from Niton, one of whom survived while the other died at Gallipoli in 1915.

Ventnor People
In its Victorian heyday Ventnor and the surrounding villages had many famous residents and visitors often from the worlds of literature, art and music. These included Myles Birket Foster, Elizabeth Sewell, Charles Dickens, Pearl Craigie, E.W. Cooke, Thomas Miles Richardson, J.M.W. Turner, Karl Marx and Ivan Turgenev.

Prehistory of the Undercliff
The Undercliff has a long history of human settlement. Flint tools have been found from the Stone Age, pottery and axes from the Bronze Age and there is evidence of Roman and Saxon occupancy.

Clarendon Boarding House
Looking southwest from the top of Grove Road in Ventnor, the Clarendon was the area’s premier boarding house. It had a striking cosmopolitan air, with visitors from all over northern Europe, from America and from Australasia.

Victorian Shopping Paradise
Ventnor’s main streets in the nineteenth century offered the best shopping on the Island. They vied with London’s West End for the quality of goods offered to customers, a reflection of the relative wealth of its visitor population.

A group of Burts brewery workers in the 1880s.

A History of Ventnor Breweries
The story of Burts Brewery in Ventnor.  This display is accompanied by a booklet ‘Ventnor Breweries’ (£3) and a specially written Ventnor Pub Walk

New Exhibition Coming October 2018

Britannia and Lady Butler

Exhibitions, stories, images . . .

Ventnor Carnivals

Ventnor’s first carnival in 1889 was a torchlight procession of ladies and gentlemen in fancy dress, followed by a Masquerade Ball. It was such a success that it became an annual event, attracting crowds of thousands. So each August, the town comes to a standstill to enjoy a parade of music and elaborate costumes with tableaux created by local groups and businesses, and a Carnival Queen chosen for the year and paraded round the town with her retainers. However there has always been another, more subversive side to 'Carnival’. Those taking part can step outside their day to day lives and turn the world upside down, dressing up, assuming different characters, and poking fun at established order and authority. It is a feast of dressing up, foolery, and music, perhaps best symbolised by the much loved Ventnor Comic Jazz Band.