Laura Hortense Richards

One of several impressive graves in Ventnor cemetery is the one dedicated to Laura Richards, wife of John Morgan Richards, the owner of Steephill Castle from 1903 to 1918.

John Morgan Richards was an American businessman who made his fortune from the promotion of patent medicines (the most well-known being  ‘Carters Little Liver Pills’). He was born in New York on February 16th 1841, the son of Dr. James Richards, a presbyterian minister of English descent, and Elizabeth Beals. He grew up in Boston where he met Laura Hortense Arnold. They were married in 1863 and moved permanently to London in 1867.

From his first visit to the Island in 1872, John Morgan Richards was captivated by Ventnor, later writing; ‘We never felt elsewhere the charm and delight that captured our fancy and revealed to us our ideals of Country and Seaside life that instantly claimed our delighted souls and held them captive to this very day’. Eventually they moved into Steephill Castle in 1908 where they lived until John’s death in 1918.

Laura was rather eccentric and became one of Ventnor’s most colourful characters, considering herself an ‘emissary of God’. She would send curt telegrams to world leaders with weird postscripts, such as; ‘aren’t the daffodil lovely for this time of the year?’ or ‘have faith in onions!’ She died in August 1914.

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