Formerly the site of St Thomas' Graveyard (or 'Litten') and the grounds of St Nicholas' Villa, Church Litten has been a public park since the 1950s.
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Church Litten Park contains mature trees of interest including a weeping beech, weeping ash and yew trees; all types of tree traditionally associated with graveyards, which presumably survive from St Thomas' Graveyard. The mature trees at the southern end of the park are surviving features from the private grounds of Bradley Lodge/St Nicholas Villa. Changes in level within this part of the park seem to indicate former garden divisions within these grounds.
The entrance gateway to the park is an Elizabethan stone arch (Listed Grade II), which was restored in 1962 and commemorated by a Civic Trust Plaque on the left side of the gateway. On the right side is a plaque which reads ‘Borough of Newport Litten Park. Lay-out inspired by Mrs Elizabeth Ruby Chandler OBE Mayor 1930. Honorary Freeman of the Borough'.
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Church Litten originated as a cemetery dating from 1582 when Newport was hit by the plague. Previously Newport had no burial ground, being part of the parish of Carisbrooke. 'Litten' comes from a Saxon word meaning a cemetery. The area has been an open space since the 1950's. ('Isle of Wight Curiosities', Jack Jones 1989, 80.)
'St Thomas's Grave Yard' is shown on the 1st Edition Ordnance Survey of 1862 at 1:2500 scale and also on the much larger scale 1:500 Survey of the same date. The 1:2500 survey shows individual coniferous and deciduous trees in the graveyard, which was bounded on the western side by a row of deciduous trees separating it from the back gardens of properties in Orchard Street. A line of deciduous trees is also shown along 'Church Litton Lane' which flanked the eastern edge of the burial ground. The boundary between the parish of Newport (part of Carisbrooke Parish until 1858) and a detached portion of the parish of St Nicholas ran along the western and southern sides of St Thomas's Graveyard (the parish of St Nicholas consisted of various parcels of land belonging to the medieval Chapel of St Nicholas situated within Carisbrooke Castle).
'St Nicholas Villa' is shown on the Ordnance Survey maps of 1862 immediately to the south of the graveyard, surrounded by an ornamental garden and plant nursery. The villa was clearly named after the parish of St Nicholas in which it was situated, although on the 1860 Census the building was called Bradley Lodge and by the time of the 1906-1907 Ordnance Survey this original name for the building was again being used. The Census reveals that in 1881 and 1891 the property was owned by a Benjamin Vibert, one of whose daughters ran a school for young ladies at the premises. It is understood that Bradley Lodge was affected by the bombing of the Gould Hibberd and Randall Lemonade Factory on the east side of Church Litten Lane during the Second World War and was demolished after the war.
On the 1:2500 Ordnance Survey of 1906-1907 'St Thomas's Grave Yard' is labelled 'Disused' but the present public park was not created until the 1950s, when the formal rose garden at the north end of the park was also laid out in an area formerly occupied by housing. The new park included both the former area of St Thomas's Graveyard and the site of Bradley Lodge/St Nicholas Villa with its surrounding grounds. The inclusion of the grounds of Bradley Lodge in the new public park explains the curious dog leg in the western boundary of the park towards its southern end. Houses in Orchard Street were demolished in the late 1970s and the Lord Louis Library built in this area. The boundary wall with Church Litten Park was rebuilt at this time and gravestones from the former cemetery were placed against it. One surviving funerary monument within the park is a memorial to Valentine Gray, an early nineteenth century boy chimney sweep.
Litten Park is owned and maintained by the Isle of Wight Council. A Children's Play Area was built within the park in about 2003.
Isle of Wight Gardens Trust