Isle of Wight Trip – Day 4 (Old St. Helen’s Church on the Duver)

This was an interesting sight, the old St. Helen’s Church of which now only the tower remains. There has been a church here since the early eighth century, although the original wooden building was destroyed during a Danish raid in 998.

The new stone church was built in the early twelfth century and the tower was added in the thirteenth century. The church was used by the Benedictines, but it started to fall out of use in the early fifteenth century and well before the Dissolution of the Monasteries.

The church came into the ownership of Eton College in 1440 and they owned it until 1799, but they didn’t bother to maintain it. This meant that chunks of it fell down and the locals pinched the stone. Other pieces of the stone, namely the sandstone, were taken by sailors who used the holy stones to scour and whiten the decks.

After a while of the stones being pinched the decision was made to demolish what was left, other than the tower. The tower was instead painted white, which it remains today, by the British Navy in 1719 and used as a navigational aid. A new church was built inland in the eighteenth century and was also given the dedication of St. Helen’s.

Today the church remains bricked up and the entrances are sealed with iron grilles to prevent any access. It’s easily noticeable along the coastline and at least the tower has remained for future generations.