Bonchurch is on the slopes
of St Boniface down which is 'noblest height' on the Isle of Wight and is 787
feet above sea level. The village as well as the down are named after the Saxon
saint who was from Devon and who educated in Hampshire before going to Germany
to evangelise, he was later murdered at Dokkum.
Standing on what was a Saxon
site the old church has a doorway that is thought to have been made up with the
curved stones of a Norman archway, the door itself is studded with nails and is
made of two layers of timber, and the altar rail is constructed from old roof
beams. It is said that the first church on this site was founded by Boniface
before he left the monastery of Nursling before leaving for Europe.
The new church which was
given by the wife of James White of Punch can be found the grave of Elizabeth
Sewell who children's stories were much read by children during the 19th
The church has six of its
windows filled with old glass that depicts saints dressed in 15th century robes
and were painted by Flemish artists. A little window that show St Edith is in
memory of Edith Swinburne and its companion window is in memory of Admiral
Swinburne, who with Edith were two of the church's greatest friends. The most
famous member of their family being Algernon Charles the poet who now rests in
the churchyard. The Swinburne grave is near to the path and is made of grey
stone. The poet had a home at East Dene in a delightful white house that had
trees as its background and the front graced by the wide sweep of the bay.
The village is renowned for
the water bordering its street, this was once part of a garden owned by Mr H de
Vere Stacpoole who was a novelist and there is an inscription to Margaret de
Vere Stacpoole his wife.
Bonchurch's history is
linked with many well known names, Macauley lived at Madeira Hall for a time
(this is on the Ventnor road) and he would often be seen walking up the winding
drive. Tennyson loved the area even though he was once accosted by some "ladies"
who seized his coat and tore it into shreds. Harold Whitehouse the founder of
Bembridge School gave the hilltop to the National Trust and name it Nansen Hill.
This is a favourite camping spot for Scouts and Guides.
The village was also the
birthplace of Sir Thomas Hopsonn, who later became a tailor's apprentice but
later ran off to join the fleet. He was known as a resourceful person who earned
swift promotion and for his courage he was knighted by Queen Anne.
Two other famous Victorian
people also lie at rest in the graveyard of the old church, William Adams and
John Sterling, the former being a writer and preacher who was well like on the
island and lived at his house called Winterbourne. He is best known for his
beautiful allegory, The Shadow of the Cross and an iron cross now casts a shadow
over his grave.
John Sterling was an early
Liberal and he was described as a remarkable man by all who knew him, but the
sum of his achievements were not enough to make him famous.
Text courtesy of:
Southern Life (UK)