Winton Forum


The Secret Shrine

It was a memorial, but is itself now no more than a memory.

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 bell.

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:

  1. Queen Vic licensee Ray Stickland's wife Pam outside the chapel in 1965
  2. Decorating the altar, 1972
  3. Canadian visitor Beryl Jones appeals for repairs in 1985 - not long before demolition.

Pictures courtesy of the Evening Echo