Standing at the highest point of the Isle of Wight is the St Catherine’s Oratory, known better to Islanders as the Pepper Pot. This octagonal tower is the shell of a medieval lighthouse.
Originally built in 1314 by Walter de Godeton as penance for stealing wine from the cargo of a ship run aground on Atherfield Ledge which was bound for the monastery of Livers in Picardy. The lighthouse was manned by a priest who tended to the light and prayed for the wrecked sailors.
The tower is 35ft tall and is the only surviving medieval lighthouse in England, the roof is an eight-sided pyramid and inside is a square shaft, the top has eight openings designed to shine light in all directions and be seen out at sea.
You can walk up to the Oratory following the footpath and the views from the hill are magnificent.
Bronze Age Barrow
At a distance of 15 metres (49 feet) to the south-east of the tower is a much earlier monument, a Bronze Age bowl barrow, or burial mound, which was constructed on this hilltop site about 4,000 years ago.
Bowl barrows consisted of a mound of turf, soil or rock, covering one or more burials, and usually surrounded by a circular ditch from which the mound material may have been quarried.
This barrow, which is 20 metres (66 feet) in diameter and 2 metres (6 feet) high, was partially excavated in 1925, when human and animal bones and flint tools were discovered.
At some time during the medieval period, possibly during the construction of the oratory, a lime kiln was built into the side of the barrow. To the south are pits and mounds which may have resulted from mining chalk to provide lime for the kiln.