HRH the Duke of Edinburgh will visit the isle of Wight to celebrate the re-opening of Newport Minster after a major refurbishment. He is the royal patron of the Friends of Newport Minster and will be among 400 specially-invited guests at the service on May 1 to celebrate the completion of the project. He will give a Bible reading as part of the service. 

He will meet some of the Island craftspeople, professionals, donors and volunteers, who include father-and-son carpentry team Nick and Sam Divers, and Paul ‘Butch’ Butcher, the site manager from Island builders Stoneham Construction. They have worked alongside the clergy, staff team and churchwardens on the project to create a new underfloor heating system, better toilets, new kitchen facilities, new seating and new meeting rooms. 

This refurbishment means the Minster is once again a spiritual and community hub for the island, with a growing range of events for all ages. The church will reopen to the public on Friday 3rd May from 10am-1pm after its seven-month internal refurbishment with the first community group using the building being the Play Café toddler group on May 7.

Jacqueline Gazzard, chair of the Friends of Newport Minster, said, “Our aim all along was to see the church start to come to life again. It is one thing saving important bricks and mortar, but creating community is much tougher and yet that is what is happening here. We’re delighted that our royal patron – who has supported this project right from the outset – will be there to celebrate alongside us. 

We are proud to boast a building with new purpose, that local Island people have made possible. This extraordinary building is going to be busy all year round and also warm for the first time in decades!”

Rt, Rev Dr Jonathan Frost, (Bishop of Portsmouth) will lead the re-opening service, and the Archdeacon of the Isle of Wight, the Ven. Steve Daughtery will preach. Students from local schools will be among those leading worship as part of the service. Other readings will be given by other community leaders.

This £2.6m project to complete the renewal of the building’s exterior and to refurbish its interior has been funded by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Historic England, the National Churches Trust, the Benefact Trust, other grant-giving bodies, private individuals and local fundraising. 

There has been a place of worship on the Minster site for at least 1,000 years, with a medieval structure completed in 1175 and named after St Thomas a Becket. It is grade 1 listed building and welcomes up to 30,000 visitors a year.

It has had significant royal connections for the past 400 years, and is the final resting place of Princess Elizabeth, daughter of King Charles I. She died, aged 15, in 1650 but her grave remained unmarked until it was uncovered by workmen in 1735. An impressive memorial in the Elizabeth Chapel was commissioned by Queen Victoria, who also commissioned the windows to the north of the chapel and the memorial for Prince Albert.

HRH the Duke of Edinburgh has supported the Minster and visited on several occasions over the past few years, tracking the multi-phase project to renew the building.