Carisbrooke Church is considered to be “the most important ecclesiastical building in the Isle of Wight”. (from Ward Locks Guide 1920’s)
The church is mentioned in the Domesday Book. Probably begun by William Fitz-Osbert, it was originally attached to the Priory of St Mary the Virgin, which was occupied by monks from the Abbey of Lyra (now Lire) in Normandy. Being an alien house, the Carisbrooke priory was dissolved during the French wars by Henry V in 1415. The priory buildings were then let to laymen who, having little use for them, allowed them to fall into ruin, so that there are practically no remains of them, except the wall which forms the northern boundary of the churchyard.
After the dissolution of the monastery, the church became more strictly parochial. Some hundred and fifty years after it had passed from its first owners, its chancel was pulled down by Sir Francis Walsingham, Elizabeth I’s Secretary of State, who was lay rector and whose duty it was to keep it in repair. Marks can still be seen on the exterior of the east wall showing where this chancel used to be. The remains of two round-headed windows which lighted the original church may be seen between the curves of the arches at the west end of the south wall of the nave. They were uncovered during the restoration of the building in 1907. The south aisle was added in 1140, but its two easternmost are of the fourteenth century.
The noble tower, ‘the crowning glory of the church’, was erected fifty-five years after the dissolution of the monastery. Later still are the two large windows of the north wall. They date from the sixteenth century, when Bishop Fox held the see of Winchester. His rebus, a fox, is cared on one of the label stops.