Our regular Tunnel Tours are currently postponed. Please email email@example.com if you'd like to enquire about a private tour.
Ventnor Botanic Garden has many secrets, some dating back to the days of the Royal National Hospital that formerly stood on the site. Underground caverns, secret passageways and a tunnel through the cliff can be found by the visitors to the Garden.
A proposal to dig a tunnel from the gardens down to the shore was mooted in the late 1800s. The Royal National Hospital annual report for 1875 states that “There can be no doubt that if the patients were able to obtain free access to the shore it would be very conducive alike to their recovery and their enjoyment.” Money for the tunnel at that time was not forthcoming and although it was built later, its function was by no means the rather romantic conception that has given rise to a good deal of speculation and comment; it was in fact used as a conduit for rubbish that was propelled through it and dumped into the sea. Steel tramlines are still visible on the floor. Exactly when the tunnel was built is unknown; possibly it was in relation to a new system of drainage and sewage disposal that was completed sometime in the 1880s. The tunnel was closed at both ends in 1940.
The 350 foot long vaulted roofed tunnel exits through the cliff midway down and is inaccessible. DO NOT attempt to locate the exit, or try to enter unless with one of our guides, as the cliff is extremely dangerous. Bolted gates are also in place for safety.
The Studio & Artist in Residence
The Isle of Wight has long been a magnet for Britain and Europe’s creative classes. Writers from Charles Dickens to Lord Alfred Tennyson have lived on the island to draw inspiration from its verdant pastures, undulating cliffs, and hidden chines. The ranks of artist visitors are no less illustrious. Berthe Morisot, the “forgotten impressionist” spent her honeymoon down the road in Cowes. And J.M.W. Turner, the gruff-mannered Englishman whose oil and watercolour works became the apotheosis of British landscape painting, also spent time sketching on the Isle.
The tradition continues with the VBG Artist-in-Residence Programme and our Art Series. The Artist-in-Residence occupies the Studio in The Hub, the atrium of our Tropical House, producing artworks for our Garden Gallery, teaching courses, and welcoming curious visitors into the Studio.
The origins of our AiR programme lie in the history of the garden. VBG was subsidised by the local government for many years, but after the financial crisis of 2008, the garden began to decay and its buildings fell into disrepair. In 2012, it was rescued by a Community Interest Company, a social enterprise which embarked on the process of preserving VBG for the local community. Our Artists-in-Residence, along with other artists with a connection to the Isle of Wight, help to support VBG by creating large canvases for our Art Series. The proceeds of these canvases are then used to help maintain and preserve our garden.
The only guidance for AiRs is that their works be connected to VBG in a way that the artist can articulate. We are forever indebted to Charles Inge, Jill Roe, Silas Curtis, Lisa Traxler, Alex Williams, Judy Rodriguez, Guy Eades, Alice Dawson & Helena Isabelle Biggs for their support and their excellent pieces. As the Series grows we look ahead to taking it on tour, so more people can enjoy the pieces.