St Catherine's Down

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St Catherine's Down
St Catherine's Oratory.jpg
The "Pepperpot" on St Catherine's Hill
Isle of Wight
Summit: 778 feet SZ493773
50°35’36"N, 1°18’17"W

St Catherine's Down is a chalk hill in the downland of the Isle of Wight, rising to 778 feet at its summit. It is located close to St Catherine's Point, the southernmost point on the island, between the villages of Niton and Chale.

At the peak of the hill stands St Catherine's Oratory, locally known as the "Pepperpot", a stone lighthouse built in the 14th century by Walter De Godeton. It is the oldest lighthouse in the British Isles apart from the Roman-built lighthouse at Dover. The Oratory is in the care of English Heritage.

Reportedly, de Godeton was found guilty for having scavenged wine, belonging to the Church, from the wreck of the St Marie of Bayonne in Chale Bay. He was ordered to make amends, under threat of excommunication by building this lighthouse. Fires were lit in the lighthouse tower to warn ships at sea of the presence of the coast. There was an attached chapel at one time, but it has been long since demolished. There is a Bronze Age barrow nearby which was excavated in the 1920s.

A replacement lighthouse was begun in 1785, but was never completed. Locally this half finished building is known as the "salt pot".

St Catherine's Point is often foggy, so it is not the best location for a lighthouse. There is a lighthouse built after the wreck of the Clarendon in 1837 to the west of Niton at the foot of the Undercliff.

The Hoy Monument on the Down

At the northern end of St Catherine's Down stands the Hoy Monument.[1] The monument was created by Michael Hoy in 1814 to commemorate the visit of the Russian Tsar to Great Britain, hence its informal alternative name, the "Russian Monument". later, in 1857, a plaque was added at the base of the Hoy Monument that commemorates the soldiers killed in the Crimean War fought against Russia. The Hoy Monument was repaired in 1992 at a cost of £85,000, which was donated.

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