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St Olave, Gatcombe, Isle of Wight

(50°39′48″N, 1°18′13″W)
SZ 493 851
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hampshire
now Isle of Wight
medieval St Olave
now St Olave
  • John Margham
8 April 2016

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Feature Sets

Gatcombe church is at the eastern end of an irregular row settlement in a relatively isolated situation to the west of the River Medina and east of chalk downland. It is near the geographical centre of the island. St Olave’s church consists of an aisleless nave, western tower, chancel and south porch. The nave was extant by the 13thc on the evidence of a lancet in the north wall and the chancel arch. The small plain round-headed doorway in the north wall of the nave may have given access to the church in the 12thc but a 17thc date is suggested by Lloyd and Pevsner (2006, 148). The chancel was rebuilt in 1864-5. The tower dates from c.1500. The porch would appear to have originated in the later medieval period (Thompson 2008, 136). The organ chamber and vestry to the north of the chancel were added c. 1920 (Lloyd and Pevsner 2006, 148). The only Romanesque feature is the grotesque head reset at the apex of the porch and now surmounted by a small stone cross.


Along with Whitwell (St Radegund), which has 12thc fabric, Gatcombe was founded as a chapel by the de Estur family. Whitwell was endowed so that the rector of Gatcombe should say Mass there and maintain the chancel (Hockey 1982, 6), the implication being that Whitwell was founded after Gatcombe and that Gatcombe was a foundation of the 12thc or earlier. A detached portion of Carisbrooke parish to the south of Gatcombe parish and small detached strips of land belonging to Gatcombe to the north of the parish within Carisbrooke parish are depicted on the six-inch Ordnance Survey map of the 1860s. This evidence strongly suggests that Gatcombe originated as a daughter church of Carisbrooke.


Exterior Features



Lloyd and Pevsner (2006, 148) state that the south porch and the carved head at its apex date from the rebuilding of the porch in 1910, but both porch and head have much earlier origins. The head was confirmed as being Romanesque of the 12thc by Dr Ron Baxter (Thompson 2008, 137).


S.F. Hockey, Insula Vecta: The Isle of Wight in the Middle Ages, Chichester 1982.

D. Lloyd and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Isle of Wight, London and New Haven 2006.

I. Thompson, ‘A 12th Century Corbel at Gatcombe Church’, Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society 23 (2008), 134-141