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Boldre - the parish church
of St. John the Baptist

Boldre parish church
Boldre parish church

Boldre parish church sits atop its hillock 1.5 kilometres (1 mile) from the village centre. The church structure can be traced back to the late-11th century.

Built of ashlar and chalk rubble with flints, the original fabric was enlarged and refashioned in the 13th and 14th centuries, and there have been numerous other alterations and additions.

The somewhat squat tower dates from the fourteenth century, although the upper part was rebuilt in brick late in the seventeenth century. The original three of the current eight bells were listed in the church inventory of 1552; were recast in the 19th century; and repaired and re-hung in 1927, at which time a further five were added.

A weathervane has been present on the south-west corner of the tower since at least 1825, whilst a sundial has been present on the south wall of the tower from at least the beginning of the 20th century.

In the North Chapel is a wall tablet to William Gilpin, vicar of Boldre from 1777 until his death in 1804. Gilpin worked tirelessly on behalf of his parishioners, and was responsible for building in the village a Poor House and school. The school, now known as Gilpins Cottage, still stands. It cost four hundred pounds to build, and opened in 1791. The school tablet reads: 'For the Instruction of Children of day labourers of Boldre, This School was endowed by William Gilpin many years vicar of the parish.’

Gilpin was also an accomplished artist and the first president of the Watercolour Society. He produced a number of books including, in 1791, Remarks on Forest Scenery. His chest tomb is in the churchyard, on the north side of the church.

Henry Comyn, curate from 1812 until 1819, also left a record of his passing, by in 1817 compiling an inventory of every family in the joint parishes of Boldre and Brockenhurst - it was published in 1982 as 'Comyn's New Forest'.

Boldre parish church and the surrounding landscape, shown in an 1832 print
Boldre parish church and the
surrounding landscape, shown in
an 1832 print

The oldest named tombstone, decorated with carvings of a skull, thighbones and hour glass, is that of Edward Watts, who died on May 12th, 1698. Inscribed tombstones include one for Joseph Young, with the rather sobering verse; ‘Hark from the tomb a doleful sound, My ears attend the cry. Ye living men come view the ground, Where you must shortly lie.’

Twenty-three war graves in the churchyard include those of fifteen Canadians stationed at Beaulieu Airfield during the Second World War.

Inside the church can be found a memorial to HMS Hood, a battle cruiser sunk by the German battleship Bismarck on 24th May 1941. One thousand, four hundred and fifteen men lost their lives - only three survived.

Vice Admiral L. E. Holland CB, who had been a regular worshipper at Boldre, was among those who died. On a Sunday towards the end of May, a service is held at St Johns, in memory of the ship's company.

The church is open to the public during the day.

References:
History of the Church of St. John the Baptist: http://www.bsbb.org.uk/history/page3.html
HMS Hood Association: http://hmshood.com/
Hampshire Treasures: http://www.hants.gov.uk/hampshiretreasures/vol05/page016.html

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Content produced by Andrew Walmsley
Content produced by Andrew Walmsley