The Secret Shrine
It was a memorial, but is itself now no more than
For around forty years, Winton had a unique tiny
chapel dedicated to airmen who died in the second world war.
It was tucked away behind the Queen Victoria Hotel
in Wimborne Road - roughly at the back of the block that now contains
Super Drug and Shoe Zone.
It was built in 1948 by Gladys George, the wife
of the Queen Victoria's landlord. She constructed it herself from
the remains of a wartime emergency water tank. It was approximately
four metres high and four metres long.
In loving memory
The entrance porch was supported on four ornamental
pillars, decorated with sea shells and contained a small chapel
The oak door bore the inscription "To those
who gave their all in the Battle of Britain".
Inside there was an altar and room for about nine
people to stand.
There were small stained glass windows and the walls
were covered with a mosaic made of broken pieces of pottery. The
chapel was clearly a work of love.
The statue of the Virgin Mary on the altar came
from Dublin and the chapel's bible had been donated by the mother
of a Canadian fighter pilot who died in the Battle of Britain.
Other contents were given by local people.
Trashed by vandals
When it was opened in 1948 the chapel was blessed
by an RAF padre. For years it stayed quietly tucked away with
most people unaware of its presence.
By the 1980's though it had fallen victim to vandalism.
The windows had been smashed, some of the contents had been stolen,
and a fence had been put up to protect it.
When the Queen Victoria Hotel was demolished in
the late 1980's, the chapel went with it.
Gladys George and her husband Tommy retired in 1956.
She never revealed if there was a special personal
reason for building the shrine, although the Queen Victoria is
believed to have been a favourite of RAF pilots during the war.
Gladys never returned to the chapel. She said that
it held too many memories.
Picture captions top to bottom:
- Queen Vic licensee Ray Stickland's wife Pam outside the chapel
- Decorating the altar, 1972
- Canadian visitor Beryl Jones appeals for repairs in 1985 -
not long before demolition.
Pictures courtesy of the Evening