A short guide to Newport's Parish Church
The Church was built in 1854 in the Decorated Early English style, by the Victorians but there has been a place of worship on this site for over 800 years. It contains many artefacts from the previous building, some of which are mentioned in this guide.
The South Aisle
By the South door stands the font. This one is a replacement for the original font, dated 1637, which disappeared and was recently discovered being used as a bird bath in a Newport garden. It has been returned to the Church and now stands further down the South aisle.
At the East end of the South Aisle is the tomb of Sir Edward de Horsey, Governor of the Isle of Wight from 1565 until 1582. This fine effigy sculptured in alabaster is one of the most outstanding of the 16th century and was saved from the earlier church on this site. The monument is inlaid with marble and has a cornice above supporting his arms. The back of the memorial carries an inscription with late Elizabethan strap work decoration.
The Sanctuary and Chancel
Enter the Sanctuary through the archway and note the fine east window. This depicts six stories form the life of Jesus:
Jesus with the elders in the temple
Jesus throwing out the money lenders
Jesus entry into Jerusalem
Jesus praying in the Garden of Gethsemane
Jesus being arrested
Jesus on the cross
In front of the alter are buried the remains of Princess Elizabeth. You can see her memorial in the north chapel.
In the Chancel stand the Corporation pews, which provide seating for the Mayor and Councillors of the Island. These were removed from the old Church and show a close link with the parish Church and the Isle of Wight County Council.
Also in the Chancel is the Vicar’s reading desk, which is made from the original 17th centaury carved Chancel screen. The inscription on the desk reads, Fear God and Honour the King, although some of it was knocked off by the Roundheads.
Opposite the Vicars desk stands the pulpit, a fine example of the work of the Flemish woodcarver Thomas Caper. This was a gift in 1637 from Steven marsh, mayor of Newport, who’s crest is carved on the backboard. The carved panels on the pulpit depict ( at the top) the seven virtues: faith, Hope, Charity, Justice, Prudence, Temperance and Fortitude. And at the bottom panels the seven Liberal arts: Grammar, Dialect, Rhetoric, Music, Arithmetic, Geometry and Astrology.
Notice the dove beneath the canopy, the carved text above and the two angels with trumpets on the top.
Walking West down the centre aisle look up and see the magnificent organ gallery built in 1870 and which holds the large organ which was substantially rebuilt in 1957.
Turn to the East and look up at the Royal arms of Queen Victoria over the Chancel arch.
The main feature in the North aisle is the Princess Elizabeth memorial. This memorial was presented to the Church by Queen Victoria in memory of the Princess Elizabeth, who was the second daughter of Charles 1st. After King Charles (who was imprisoned in Carisbrooke Castle) was beheaded it is said the Princess Elizabeth died of a broken heart. She and her brother, Henry, had been captured and imprisoned in the Castle after their fathers death. Her body was laid to rest in the Chancel of Sts. Thomas. The memorial is sculpted in white marble with the Princess lying with her cheek on the Bible open at the ‘comfortable words’ of Jesus. Above hangs a grating indicating that she was a prisoner, but the bars are broken to show that the prisoner has escaped to a ‘greater rest’.
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To the left of this memorial on the North wall is a plaque commemorating the laying of the foundation stone by Prince Albert in 1854.
At the West end of this aisle is the glass vestry screen illustrating scenes from the life of St. Thomas of Canterbury.
As you walk around the Church there are many interesting and informative plaques to read and various old standards and flags, which have been laid up in Sts. Thomas Church.