Carisbrooke Priory was originally the home of Dominican nuns who belonged to the Order of Preachers, founded in southern France by a Spaniard, Dominic of Guzman, at the beginning of the 13th Century.
St Dominic’s Priory as it was then called was built in 1865-1866 for the Lady Countess of Clare, a devout convert to the Catholic faith and a tertiary. The Pugin influenced architect Gilbert Blount – who as a civil engineer had previously worked as a superintendent on the Thames Tunnel for Isambard Kingdom Brunel – built the Priory in Gothic style, and a number of interesting architectural features of the main building and its gateway have contributed to its Grade II listing.
The nuns lived at the Priory from December 1866 to October 1989 and were visited by a number of dignitaries including Queen Victoria. Many of the nuns were skilled needlewomen as the permanent exhibition of vestments now at Carisbrooke Castle clearly shows. Others translated books, illuminated scripts and later on set up a printing press for the production of Christmas and greetings cards and stationery. Their quiet life was centred around prayer and the Chapel was the focus of this.
The Priory was purchased by the Carisbrooke Priory Trust in April 1993. Founded as a registered charity it also became a company limited by guarantee in 2008.