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The Pepperpot or England’s Only Surviving Medieval Lighthouse – Isle of Wight

You may ask me: ‘What’s this stone rocket doing up there on that windswept hill above the sea?’

And you may be surprised to find out that this, in fact, is Britain’s only medieval lighthouse surviving to this day. It’s located on the southern end of the Isle of Wight – a small but very beautiful island just off the coast of mainland England.

Even though its shape decidedly looks like a rocket ship, the lighthouse is affectionately known among the locals as the Pepperpot. The similarity is obvious, isn’t it?

Its official name though is St. Catherine’s Oratory and you can visit it any day of the week to admire its sturdy construction and the gorgeous views which open up in front of you towards the sea.

I had seen the Pepperpot many times from afar, as we drove past following the winding roads on the Isle of Wight. This summer though I finally hiked up to it.

The path lead us straight up, past a large herd of grazing cows and through the wooden gates of the fence surrounding the agricultural fields right on top of the hill.

I can’t tell you how long we walked for (perhaps half an hour, probably less), as I stopped every minute or so to take pictures and sweep my hair out of my eyes only for it to be flung right back at them by the strong winds. We could tell that a heavy rain was about to start, but being up there on the hill, lashed by the winds, gave us a strong yet calm sensation of feeling free.

Once we reached the lighthouse, I took my time admiring it from all sides, before walking in to see its blackened by fire interiors.

The Pepperpot was built in the 14th century by Walter de Godeton who owned those lands.

He had been threatened with excommunication from the church for the act of stealing 174 casks of wine from a shipwreck. The wine had been destined for the monastery of Livers in Picardy, hence the Catholic Church was not happy with the theft.

To atone for his sins, Walter built the lighthouse. Originally, it was attached to an already existing at the time oratory dedicated to St. Catherine of Alexandria, of which there are no remains.

The four buttresses, which give the lighthouse its distinctive rocket-like shape, were added in the 18th century to prevent it from collapsing from old age.

The Pepperpot is one of the most atmospheric places on the Isle of Wight. Don’t miss it, when you visit the island.


This post is part of my new series of blog posts. Called ‘Photo of the Day’ I use it to share with you (fingers crossed, daily) a photo which reveals the beauty and the reality of living in Italy and travelling in Europe. These are short posts (sometimes more of a caption, really), so that you can enjoy them on the go and use them to bring a ray of colour into each of your days.

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