Old St Boniface Church, Bonchurch

Old St Boniface Church

Old St Boniface Church is located in Bonchurch on the Isle of Wight and was built in the 11th century.  It was replaced by the Parish Church on The Shute in 1848. The old church continues to hold occasional evening services in the summer months and on the Feast Day of St Boniface on 5th June.

On the grounds of the old church is a memorial to Sir James Douglass, Lighthouse Engineer. He was engineer for a number of lighthouses, including the fourth and current Eddystone Lighthouse.  In addition, he also designed Souter Lighthouse, Hartland Point Lighthouse, Longships, Smalls and Southwold Lighthouse.

Old Boniface Douglass memorial

The memorial stone reads:

In this churchyard lies buried
Sir James Nicholas Douglass FRS
Lighthouse Builder

James Nicholas Douglass was born in London in 1826.   He retired from Trinity House in 1894 and retired to Bonchurch with his wife, Mary.  Douglass died in 1898 and was buried at the St Boniface Old Church in Bonchurch.

His widow Lady Mary Douglass moved to Dartmouth following her husband’s death. In August 1913, her husband’s remains were exhumed and reinterred at St Petrox churchyard. Only a few days later, on 10th August, their eldest surviving son, William Tregarthen Douglass, also a lighthouse engineer, died.  He was drowned whilst sailing with his son Edward, and his body was found on 31st August.  William was buried alongside his father in St Petrox churchyard.

Sir James Douglass
Sir James Douglass
Public domain

Old St Boniface Church was founded by monks from Lyra Abbey in Normandy. Lord of the Island, William Fitz Osborne granted them the tithes of Luccombe and Bonchurch.

The church was dedicated to St Boniface, a Saxon saint. He joined the Benedictine monastery in Hampshire in 700AD and later became Archbishop of Mainz.  Legend says that St Boniface preached here to fishermen on his missions.

Charles I was brought here from Carisbrooke Castle, where he was imprisoned, to attend the burial of Sir Ralph Camberlayne.

In an unmarked grave is buried Chevalier D’Aux, leader of the French, who was killed in 1545 in an attack on Bonchurch. Writer and poet John Sterling was also buried here.

Charles Dickens moved to Bonchurch in 1849 for a long summer, providing the inspiration for some of his works.  Dickins’ former residence is close to the church.