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Ventnor seafront.jpg
Ventnor seafront, June 2018
Ventnor is located in Isle of Wight
Area 0.980 sq mi (2.54 km2)
Population 5,976 (2011 Census)
• Density 6,098/sq mi (2,354/km2)
OS grid reference SZ562775
Unitary authority
Ceremonial county
Country England
Sovereign state United Kingdom
Post town VENTNOR
Postcode district PO38
Dialling code 01983
Police Hampshire
Fire Isle of Wight
Ambulance Isle of Wight
EU Parliament South East England
UK Parliament
  • Isle of Wight
List of places
Isle of Wight
50°35′51″N 1°12′30″W / 50.5976°N 1.2084°W / 50.5976; -1.2084

Ventnor is a seaside resort and civil parish established in the Victorian era on the southeast coast of the Isle of Wight, England, eleven miles (18 km) from Newport. It is situated south of St Boniface Down, and built on steep slopes leading down to the sea. The higher part is referred to as Upper Ventnor (officially Lowtherville); the lower part, where most amenities are located, is known as Ventnor. Ventnor is sometimes taken to include the nearby and older settlements of St Lawrence and Bonchurch, which are covered by its town council. The population of the parish in 2016 was about 5,800.

Ventnor became extremely fashionable as both a health and holiday resort in the late 19th century, described as the 'English Mediterranean' and 'Mayfair by the Sea'. Medical advances during the early twentieth century reduced its role as a health resort and, like other British seaside resorts, its summer holiday trade suffered from the changing nature of travel during the latter part of the century.

Its relatively sheltered location beneath the hilly chalk downland and south-facing orientation towards the English Channel produces a microclimate with more sunny days and fewer frosts than the rest of the island. This allows many species of subtropical plant to flourish; Ventnor Botanic Garden is particularly notable. Ventnor retains a strongly Victorian character, has an active arts scene, and is regaining popularity as a place to visit.


The local geomorphology defines the town. A significant area is built on clay, which suffers from serious landslip; the ground is notoriously unstable and many buildings and amenities have been lost to subsidence or cliff-falls. There is a local expression: "We live near the sea and are getting nearer every day". A nearby Site of Special Scientific Interest is known as the Landslip.

Ventnor Beach
Ventnor Beach

Interactions between the chalk downs and softer undercliff rocks drive the geological changes affecting Ventnor. A Graben runs above the town. This marks the top of the series of landslips upon which Ventnor is built. The fault moves regularly, which has destroyed buildings over the years, led to serious cracking of local roads, and disrupted utilities. The latest evidence can be seen at the former bus stop in Ocean View Road, where a 5" by 3" vent has opened.

Three miles off the coast, there is a parallel ridge under the sea rising to within 15 metres (49 ft) of the surface. The tidal flows along the Channel, forced between it and the island, have carved out a deep channel known as 'St. Catherine's Deep'.


Ventnor, Isle of Wight, England, ca. 1899
Photochrom of Ventnor, 1899
Cottage Hospital, Ventnor, Isle of Wight, England, ca. 1899
Cottage Hospital, Ventnor, ca. 1899

The town grew from a small fishing hamlet in the 19th century, situated between the villages of Bonchurch and St Lawrence. Each of these villages was its own parish, but the area now occupied by Ventnor was divided between the parishes of Godshill and Newchurch.

Charles Dickens lived nearby for a time.

However, it was with the coming of the Isle of Wight Railway in 1866 that the town became both a tourist and a health resort. The fresh air and warm climate were considered beneficial to sufferers of tuberculosis, and several sanatoriums were established.

The Isle of Wight Railway at one time ran a non-stop train from Ryde to Ventnor, named 'The Invalid Express' for the consumptive patients being taken to treatment at Ventnor. One train famously completed the journey in a little over twenty minutes. The town reached its zenith in 1930s, when steam packets operated between Southsea and the town's pier. The relatively small sandy beach was ideal for bathing, and is still popular today. Victorian era hotels in the town's suburbs and near the sea, such as Ventnor Towers Hotel, remain popular with tourists.


History of the railway

Ventnor railway station was the terminus of the Isle of Wight Railway (later the Island Line), and it brought many visitors to the town. Ventnor West railway station was the terminus of the Isle of Wight Central Railway from Cowes through Newport. Both stations suffered from being away from the town centre, requiring an onward road journey for travellers. Ventnor West Station was closed in 1952, before the closures ordered by Dr Beeching. Ventnor Station was closed in 1966, as part of a plan that also saw the remaining Ryde-Shanklin line electrified. Thereafter the town suffered economic decline from which it has not fully recovered.

Between 2004 and 2010 a 'rail link' bus by Wightbus ran from St Lawrence and Ventnor to Shanklin, facilitating the journey to and from Ventnor.

Current bus services

Southern Vectis run buses on route 3 and 6 from Ventnor to destinations including Newport, Ryde, Sandown, Shanklin and Niton. Additionally Island Minibus service run the local number 31 route which connects Ventnor to Bonchurch Village, the Botanic Garden and Esplanade. Previously operated by Wightbus, the link to the Esplanade was restored in 2011 after many years, despite suggestions that this would be impractical.

Ventnor cascade
Ventnor Cascade (August 2006)
Steephill Castle, Ventnor c1910 - Project Gutenberg eText 17296
Steephill Castle, Ventnor c1910. The castle was demolished in 1963

Ventnor Botanic Garden

Ventnor Botanic Garden occupies the site of the former Royal National Hospital for Chest Diseases, and has a variety of tropical plants. Annual rainfall of 31 inches (790 mm) and a particularly warm and sunny microclimate allows a variety of plants normally too tender for mainland Britain to grow. The garden includes plants from across the world, particularly Australia and New Zealand, but also from Japan and the Mediterranean. There is a temperate house, and a visitor centre renovated in 2001.

Other places of interest

The Seaside of Ventnor1
The seaside of Ventnor
  • Ventnor Park is on the western side of town and has a bandstand, aviary and stream, a putting green open seasonally, and live music on Sunday afternoons during the summer.
  • The Cascade Gardens This garden with a waterfall, known as the cascade, was laid out in 1903. Below is a paddling-pool on the esplanade with a model of the Isle of Wight that children can play on.
  • VENTNOR Sign: This is on the cliffs at La Falaise, west of the beach, with the town's name in 4 metres (13 ft) tall white concrete blocks. It was intended to provide a landmark visible from the sea, and replaced the chalk letters damaged in 1992.
  • Ventnor Brewery: A brewery has been on the same location since the 1840s. Water from the local spring "St Boniface's Well" is used to make beer. The town was also home to Burt's Brewery, which closed in the 1980s; in 1996 it reopened as a microbrewery called the "Ventnor Brewery", which produced cask ales including Oyster Stout. It closed in 2009.
  • RAF Ventnor High above the town is the site of the former RAF Ventnor, once a radar monitoring station. Now it is used for civilian communications antennae, but also contains bunkers that were part of an early warning network, later converted into nuclear shelters during the Cold War. The bunker, a variant on the P1 ROTOR design, is now sealed and inaccessible, although planning permission was granted in 2015 for conversion into a holiday property.
  • Ventnor Exchange is an arts centre that opened in 2014 in the old Post Office building on Church Street. It organises the annual Ventnor Fringe Festival and supports emerging artists.
  • Ventnor is on the Isle of Wight Coastal Path.


Ventnor and the Isle of Wight has a maritime climate with cool summers and mild winters. The Met Office maintain a weather station at Ventnor Park. Because of its coastal location, Ventnor currently holds the English record for the warmest nights for the months of...

  • May; 17.8 °C (64.0 °F) in 1989.
  • June; 22.7 °C (72.9 °F) in 1976
  • July, 22.6 °C (72.7 °F) again in 1976
  • and second warmest night on record in August,23.2 °C (73.8 °F) during 2003
Climate data for Ventnor Park 60m asl, 1971-2000
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Average high °C (°F) 7.9
Average low °C (°F) 3.6
Source: YR.NO

Wall lizard

The largest British colony of common wall lizards lives in the town; a wall specially designed as a habitat was built at the Botanic Garden.


  • Ventnor Fringe Festival: Held annually since 2010, this is an open arts festival taking place in venues across the town, similarly to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. Previous acts include Liam Bailey, Marques Toliver, Johnny Flynn and Vincent Moon as well as theatre companies such as Paines Plough. The Fringe coincides with the Ventnor Carnival and, since 2012, the Isle of Wight Film Festival. In 2013 it expanded with the introduction of camping for visitors at Ventnor Rugby Club.
  • Carnival: This is a traditional town carnival, held in the middle of August, with carnival floats, marching bands and drinking.
  • Isle of Wight International Jazz Festival: The 3-day festival was held from 2005-08. Headline acts included Maceo Parker, Humphrey Lyttelton and Cleo Laine.
  • Isle of Arts - annual festival

Other places named after Ventnor


High Street, Ventnor, IW, UK
Ventnor High Street, 2017

The English Indices of Deprivation 2010 identified the central area of Ventnor as being one of the 20% most deprived areas, with the economy dependent on low paid seasonal work from tourism, and challenges from child poverty, inadequate housing, and relatively high levels of disability and ill health. The 2015 Indices suggest that this relative position has worsened, with Lowtherville closer to falling into the 20%. In the sub-domains, central Ventnor scored particularly badly for employment, and Lowtherville for children in poverty. 9% of households in Ventnor East are without central heating, compared to an English average of 2.7%. An analysis published in 2014 suggests that the average annual income in Ventnor, at £27,978, is the lowest of any sub-area on the island.

Of the population aged 16–74, on census day 2011 24% were working full-time, 14% part-time, 16% self-employed, 5% unemployed, 5% studying, 4% looking after home or family, 6% long-term sick or disabled, and 24% retired. The most common occupational categories were health and social (15%), wholesale and retail (14%), accommodation and food servicing (14%), and education (11%). However, of those in employment, 64% worked full-time and 36% part-time.

The town has many hotels and cafés, open seasonally to support the tourist trade. The main retail centres are the town centre (principally the High Street and Pier Street) and the Esplanade. There is an industrial estate on the site of the former station in Upper Ventnor, and a local shellfish industry near the Haven. Ventnor also has a small shipbuilding company.

Regarding its retail sector, an IOW Council Retail Assessment (based on a 2009 health check) concluded: "Although the town has a good mix of local and tourist focussed retail and leisure provision, the high level of vacant units and charity shops gives the impression of a poor quality of retail provision. It suffers from a relative lack of public transport accessibility." It recommended that "planning policies focus on protecting...local convenience and specialist comparison goods, such as antiques and vintage items".


Having passed 6,000 by the turn of the 20th century, Ventnor's population peaked at over 7,300 in the early 1950s. According to UK census data, the population of Ventnor parish was 6,257 in 2001 and 5,976 in 2011, with a 2016 ONS estimate of 5,837, indicating a trend of declining population of just under 0.5% per year. With an area of 0.980 square miles (2.54 km2), the population density in 2016 was 5,730 inhabitants per square mile (2,211/km2). 51.7% of the population is female, with 16% aged 0–17 years, 53% aged 18–64, and 31% aged 65 or over. Mosaic analysis of the 2011 census classified 27% of Ventnor East and 39% of Ventnor West households as "active elderly people living in pleasant retirement locations", with 46% of East and 20% of West as "residents of small and mid-sized towns with strong local roots".


Year Ventnor East West Total %change
2002 3107 3132 6239
2003 3116 3131 6247 +0.1
2004 3116 3165 6281 +0.5
2005 3103 3132 6235 -0.7
2006 3138 3108 6246 +0.2
2007 3100 3132 6232 -0.2
2008 3110 3100 6210 -0.4
2009 3083 3097 6180 -0.5
2010 3071 3044 6115 -1.1
2011 3052 2924 5976 -2.3
2012 3045 2913 5958 -0.3
2013 2962 2902 5864 -1.6
2014 2947 2913 5860 -0.1
2015 2975 2902 5877 +0.3
2016 2975 2862 5837 -0.7

In March 2011, Ventnor parish had 2,846 occupied households, each containing an average of 2.1 people, 66% being houses (detached 29%, semi-detached 22%, terraced 15%) and 34% flats (18% purpose built, 14% conversions, 2% in commercial buildings). However, there were a further 733 household spaces (about 20% of the total) with no residents on the 2011 census day. Of the households, 43% owned their home outright, 23% owned with a mortgage or loan, 20% were private rented, and 12% social rented. 26% had no car in the household.

Of residents aged at least 16 in 2011, 47% were married, 27.5% single and never married, 13.1% divorced, 9.7% widowed, 2.5% separated, and 0.2% in a same-sex civil partnerships. 57.7% were living as a couple, and 42.3% were not. 94.3% had been born in the UK (91.5% in England, 1.4% in Scotland, 1.2% in Wales and 0.2% in Northern Ireland), with 0.6% born in Ireland, 2.1% in the rest of the EU, and 3.0% elsewhere. 24.3% had no passport.


In 2011 the average age of Ventnor residents was 47.3 years, compared with averages of 44 years for the island and 39 for England. The age distribution was as follows:

2011 Ventnor East West Total
0–9 229 215 444
10–19 353 326 679
20–29 281 194 475
30–39 284 197 481
40-49 450 361 811
50-59 444 441 885
60-69 505 583 1088
70-79 284 350 634
80+ 222 257 479


2011 Number Percentage
White: British 5624 94.1
White: Non-British 182 3.1
Mixed race 109 1.8
Asian or Asian British 51 0.9
Black or Black British 6 0.1
Chinese or other 4 0.1

Sport and recreation

Ventnor Cricket Ground
Ventnor Cricket Ground, July 2011

Ventnor Cricket Club has several active teams, and plays on its ground just east of the Botanic Garden. Its pitch is unusual in that it is not flat but situated in a bowl, rising toward the boundaries.

Ventnor Rugby Club runs two men's teams, and plays at its ground west of the town on the Whitwell Road.

Ventnor Football Club is adjacent to the rugby club, with the grounds housing the Ventnor Men’s & Rew Valley youth teams.

There is a riding school and equestrian centre north of Ventnor on the road to Godshill.

Rew Valley Sports Centre, in Upper Ventnor, adjacent to the Free School and St Francis Primary school, is available for the local community to use outside of school hours.

Ventnor has a bowling club, with a ground just north of the town centre. Ventnor Golf Club has the oldest course on the island, founded in 1892. The course on the high downs north-west of the town centre has views over the English Channel. The putting green in Ventnor Park is open during the summer.

Ventnor Tennis Club has four hard courts just north of the town centre. The town also has an angling club with a clubhouse at Wheeler's Bay.

Ventnor Beach, April 2018
Ventnor beach and pumping station, April 2018

Ventnor skatepark, at the eastern end of the esplanade, is currently closed following vandalism to the ramps. It is seeking funding to get the ramps repaired and re-opened.

Ventnor beach, with its mix of sand and shingle, is popular with both locals and visitors. Adjacent is Ventnor Haven with a fresh fish shop and a fish and chips outlet. The Isle of Wight Coastal Path runs along the esplanade, and the beach is dog-friendly from October through April. Recreational diving is popular offshore, owing to the number of shipwrecks.

The Isle of Wight has been named as the best place in the world for cycling by Lonely Planet, and Ventnor is on the route of the annual randonnée.


Education on the Isle of Wight is provided by local education authority-maintained schools, and independent schools. As a rural community, many of these schools are small, with average numbers of pupils lower than in many urban areas. In 2011 schools in the Isle of Wight were re-organised from a three-tier to a two-tier primary and secondary system, with pupils at state schools changing schools at age eleven. The former Middle Schools were closed.

Ventnor now has one secondary, one primary and one special school:

  • The Island Free School (secondary);
  • St Francis Catholic and CofE Primary School Academy;
  • St Catherine's School, a special school for pupils with speech and language difficulties.

Of the adult population in 2011, 25% had no qualifications, slightly higher than the English average of 22%. 24% had degree-level qualifications, compared to 27% in England.

Ventnor's library was founded as the Ventnor and Bonchurch Literary and Scientific Institution in 1848, moving into its current building in the High Street two years later. It has been part of the county library service since 1940. Nearly a third of residents are active members of the library, which also offers a music collection and open access computers, and a venue for both educational and cultural events.

The town has a small heritage centre and museum, in a local shop purchased by the Local History Society in 1987. The museum's collection and archive documents Ventnor's growth and popularity during Victorian times.


Surrounded by hills, with no railway connection, no roads within the County's Strategic Road Network, and only two year-round bus routes connecting to other towns, Ventnor is relatively isolated from the rest of the island.

Access by road

Historically Ventnor was difficult to reach by road, along narrow and steep tracks. In the mid-nineteenth century the three routes were, from the east, through Bonchurch via the steep White (now Bonchurch) Shute, from the north, via Old Shute described by Michael Freeman as "a precipitous descent", and from the west by a steep shute connecting Whitwell with St Lawrence. The modern routes respectively via the Leeson Road, Ocean View Road, and Whitwell Road, as well as the route to Niton along the Undercliff (closed to vehicles since 2014 following a landslip) were all created in the later nineteenth century.

History of the railway

Ventnor railway station in 1963
Ventnor station, 1963

Railways reached the town in 1866 from Shanklin and Wroxall, and in 1900 from Merstone and Godshill. Ventnor railway station was the terminus of the Isle of Wight Railway (later the Island Line), and it brought many visitors to the town. Ventnor West railway station was the terminus of the Isle of Wight Central Railway from Cowes through Newport. Both stations suffered from being away from the town centre, requiring an onward road journey for travellers.

Ventnor West station was closed in 1952, before the closures ordered by Dr Beeching. Ventnor Station was closed in 1966, as part of a plan that also saw the remaining Ryde-Shanklin line electrified. Thereafter the town suffered economic decline from which it has not fully recovered. More recently the local MP has asked about the feasibility of extending the Island Line to Ventnor.

Between 2004 and 2010 a 'rail link' bus by Wightbus ran from St Lawrence and Ventnor to Shanklin, facilitating the journey to and from Ventnor.

Bus services

Southern Vectis run buses on route 3 and 6 from Ventnor to destinations including Newport, Ryde, Sandown, Shanklin and Niton. Additionally Island Minibus service run the local number 31 route which connects Ventnor to Bonchurch Village, the Botanic Garden and esplanade. Previously operated by Wightbus, the link to the esplanade was restored in 2011 after many years, despite suggestions that this would be impractical.


As of 2018, the Town Council is consulting about the possibility of pedestrianising part of the High Street and/or the Esplanade.

Notable people

Residents of the town are known as Ventnorians.

In history

Resident at Osborne House in East Cowes, Queen Victoria visited Ventnor on the recommendation of her physician Sir James Clark. Its Royal Hotel was so named after enjoying her patronage in 1855.

Ventnor's popularity during the Victorian era attracted many writers. Charles Dickens spent the summer of 1849 in Bonchurch and wrote part of David Copperfield there. He described Bonchurch as "the prettiest place I ever saw in my life, at home or abroad". Thomas Babington Macaulay spent some of 1850 at Madeira Hall, where he wrote part of his History of England. Elizabeth Missing Sewell lived in Ventnor and founded St Boniface Diocesan School. Pearl Craigie spent many summers there, and leased St Lawrence Lodge.

The poet and critic Algernon Charles Swinburne spent his childhood in Bonchurch and his family grave is there. John Sterling purchased Hillside in 1843 and died of TB the following year aged 38. Canon Edmund Venables lived in Bonchurch between 1853 and 1864; in 1867 he compiled A Guide to the Undercliff. The Russian writer Ivan Turgenev stayed in Ventnor during 1860 and is reputed to have started Fathers and Sons there. Karl Marx rented a house at 1 St Boniface Gardens for the winters of 1881-2 and 1882-3, having written to Engels after his first visit that "this island is a little paradise”. John Leech, caricaturist, lived in Hill Cottage, Bonchurch Shute.

Other notable 19th-century residents include William Campbell Sleigh, lawyer and politician, and diplomat and MP Edward Eastwick, both of whom retired to and died in Ventnor. The admiral Earl Jellicoe also retired there. The organist and composer Edwin Lemare was born and spent his early childhood in Ventnor. The composer Edward Elgar and Caroline Alice Elgar spent three weeks on honeymoon there in 1889.

In the 20th century, Alfred Noyes, poet and playwright, lived in Ventnor from 1929 until his death in 1958. The author Henry De Vere Stacpoole lived in Bonchurch from 1930 until his death in 1951. American businessman John Morgan Richards owned Steephill Castle from 1903 until his death in 1918. The actor Sir John Martin-Harvey owned the Cottage in Bonchurch; Lady Harvey established the adjacent home for nurses.


  • The band the Bees are from Ventnor. The band Champs are from Niton, just outside of Ventnor.
  • The actor Brian Murphy was born in Ventnor.

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