Our latest Curiosity of the Week is a rocket-shaped tower with an interesting tale. St Catherine’s Oratory, situated on the Isle of Wight, was built as a punishment for stealing wine!
It is thought that St Catherine’s Oratory was built by local landowner Walter de Godeton in the early 14th century, as a punishment for theft.
Walter de Godeton was caught helping himself to casks of white wine from a shipwreck. The cargo was meant for the monastery of Livers in Picardy, and so the church threatened to ex-communicate poor Walter for his crime.
Instead, Walter built the Oratory as his penance. It was constructed with a tall octagonal lighthouse tower, so that a priest could tend the light and say masses for the souls lost at sea.
The lighthouse tower, also known as the Pepperpot, is all that remains of the building today. There are eight windows that can still be seen at the top of the tower, these would have formed the lighthouse lantern.
St Catherine’s Oratory is looked after by English Heritage, and can be visited for free during daylight hours.
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