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St. Blasius Old Parish Church

Shanklin, Isle of Wight

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The Church from outside

The building

The octagonal, shingled spire houses one of the two bells of the church, and was constructed as part of the mid-19th century expansion. The new entrance is by the South East porch, which is guarded by a wrought iron gate placed as a memorial to the Reverend Kenneth Parkinson, rector of the parish from 1971 - 1990. The old doorway into the church is now the internal one between the Parish Room and the nave. In addition to the rough carving of a crusader's cross, the original hinge mountings may still be seen.

Looking at the building from the outside, traces of the original chapel can still be found by the diligent. The masonry of a single light window on the South side, to the right of the present porch, is 12th century and there are traces of a chevron ornament at the foot of each jamb.

The flints embedded in the wall surrounding the chancel are local, from the Downs, and were part of the original chapel.

The church in its grounds

In personal Reminiscences by an Old Inhabitant we read, "The high road to Bonchurch was round by Shop Lane, now called Pomona Road, up the farm lane through the farmyard at the West end of the Old Church..."

"The only direct approaches to the church were two footpaths across the Great Mead, one from the corner opposite Holm Cottage, the other entering by a wicket gate about halfway up the farm lane. There being no burying-ground except when any member of the Popham or Hill families, both of which have vaults within the sacred edifice."

In Village Churches of the Isle of Wight, Ron and Pat Winter write, "Before the coming of the motor car and the development of the Isle of Wight to its present busy level, the site of this old church must have been serenely peaceful. Even today with cars whizzing along the road from Shanklin to Ventnor, and the occasional aircraft buzzing overhead, the place is tranquil and relaxing. A hundred years ago with no mechanical noises to intrude, the peace must have been complete."

In its position close to the Manor (now apartments), by Big Mead, the old Manor grounds and the duck-filled pond, the church has remained particularly fortunate. The traditional group of church and Manor remains as it has been through the centuries.

The churchyard

The churchyard's air of antiquity is a little misleading as, apart from the Manorial families, the burials took place between the 1850s and the 1920s.

The first found in the records was:

"J G L Burbidge, second son of James Ive and Eilleen Burbidge of Arundel Terrace, Bainsbury died 26th July 1859 aged 17."

and the last was:

"Sybil Mona, a Holden of Bramscote, wife of F. Burgess Watson RN and mother of Elizabeth Mary and Anne, born 17 Nov. 1887, m 29 Dec 1909, d 23 May 1926."

However, Margaret White-Popham, who died in September 1929, is buried in the family tomb to the North of the church.

All the burials are to the right of the path, which leads past the church to the Downs, to the North, East and West of the building. To the South, in addition to the rhododendrons and the memorial plantings, is a Garden of Remembrance in which ashes may be buried. The area is marked with a small, flat memorial slab.

This garden was dedicated in 1977, and families and friends may plant a variety of bushes, trees or flowers in the flowerbeds bordering the path in memory of those whose ashes are buried in the garden.

The lych-gate

Most visitors will approach the church through the lych-gate, which was given by the residents of Shanklin in 1894 as a memorial to Francis White-Popham, the last resident Lord of the Manor. The hand wound clock and the bell are unusual features.

The rhododendrons

When the huge bank of rhododendrons to the South East of the church is in full flower, the sight is unforgettable. These, in seven colours, were planted in 1923. They flourished and grew so that in the twenty first century they continue to provide a brilliant area of colour in May and June.

The churchyard as a whole is a wonderful place in which to remember the departed, among the squirrels, rabbits, snowdrops and daffodils. For the bereaved or for the users of the footpath to the Downs (through the lych-gate, past the church to your right and onward into farmland over the stone stile at the South West) there are the pleasures of a peaceful garden and memorial seats should they wish to rest and contemplate.

Features of the Interior (mobile) Incumbents and Patrons (mobile)