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Holy Cross, Binstead, Isle of Wight

(50°43′55″N, 1°11′11″W)
SZ 575 928
pre-1974 traditional (England and Wales) Hampshire
now Isle of Wight
  • John Margham
01 June 2016

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Feature Sets

Binstead is a small village of the Isle of Wight just W of Ryde. The church is located by the island’s NE coast where it forms the core of an older established settlement to the N of a suburban development. The area was formerly extensively used for the quarrying of building stone. The church consists of a nave, a N aisle, a chancel and a S porch. The chancel contains an abundance of herringbone fabric. The nave was rebuilt in 1845 and the N aisle was added in 1875. The S wall of the churchyard includes a round-headed Romanesque doorway which was formerly the N doorway of the nave (Lloyd and Pevsner 2006, 84-6). The lower courses of the S wall of the nave contain some herringbone fabric so it would appear that only the upper courses were rebuilt in the mid-19thc. The Romanesque features are the two pieces of sculpture reset above the nave west windows and the one piece reset in the gable end of the S porch, and the doorway with a figure above, reset in the S wall of the churchyard.


The Domesday Survey records that in 1066 'Benestede' was held by Tovi; in 1086 the lordship passed to William (son of Stur). The manor valued £0.5. Binstead church may have originated with the grant of land to the church at Winchester for building stone made by William II (see Comments). There was certainly a long-lasting connection between Binstead church and the see of Winchester through the bishop of Winchester’s Calbourne estate. At the time of the publication of volume 5 of the Hampshire Victoria County History “The advowson has always been, as now, with the see of Winchester”. Also the rector of Calbourne claimed archidiaconal jurisdiction over Binstead but was resisted in 1321 by the parson of Binstead, and the church paid an annual pension of 2 shillings to Winchester (Page 1912, 154).


Exterior Features



The church would have appeared to have originated in the late 11thc, as suggested by the quantity of herringbone fabric in the chancel and in the S wall of the nave below the level of the rebuild in 1845. The former nave also contained much herringbone fabric (Tomkins 1796, 98). The former S doorway was recorded as being ‘of plain Norman work’ by Sir Stephen Glynne in 1825. The foundation of the church may have been associated with the grant made by William II to Bishop Walkelin of ‘half a hide in the Isle of Wight for the building of his church [Winchester Cathedral]’ (Margham 2014, 13-14). The three Romanesque sculptures reset in the 19th-c church fabric are of a later date than this. The Romanesque sculpture now in the gable of the S porch depicting a nimbed bird would appear to be the evangelist symbol for St John, although a representation of the Holy Spirit is a possibility. All three of these sculptures came from the former nave of the church according to Page (1912, 151-5).

The former nave and the chancel were separated by a plain semicircular arch springing from roughly carved Romanesque imposts (Page 1912, 151-5) although Renn (1969, 269) makes reference to ‘imposts to the former chancel arch, with trilobe-tailed dragons....running along a billet moulding’. These imposts were illustrated by Stone (1891, Vol.1, 9) but have now been lost. In 1825 Sir Stephen Glynne recorded that ‘The arch which divides the nave from the chancel springs from brackets having the billet moulding’. It is not known whether the seated figure above the reset doorway was in this position before the mid-19thc. This figure was described thus in the 1960s: ‘The head is large, much weathered and devoid of features save for two large earlike lateral projections…… The beard indicated by Stone is evidently an unjustifiable interpretation of the lower part of the very weathered face….. The arms are clearly indicated and are well rounded, the forearms being almost horizontal and directed towards the very weathered genital region; there are indications of hands but no further details can be recognised in this part of the effigy. The legs are thin and inconspicuous…. curving round from the back of the figure underneath the forearms, the feet directed towards each other. The figure is seated on an animal head, the mouth of which can be seen clearly from below’ (Hutchinson and Hutchinson 1969, 239).


G. E. Hutchinson and A. L. Hutchinson, ‘The “idol” or sheela-na-gig at Binstead with remarks on the distribution of such figures’, Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society 6, IV, 1969, 237-51.

D.W. Lloyd and N. Pevsner, The Buildings of England: Isle of Wight, Yale 2006, 84-6.

J. Margham, ‘New Churches for Old: St George, Arreton and the Rebuilding of Island Churches’, Proceedings of the Isle of Wight Natural History and Archaeological Society 28, 2014, 5-29.

W. Page (ed.), The Victoria History of the Counties of England: Hampshire and the Isle of Wight 5, London 1912, 154.

D. F. Renn, ‘Some Early Island Churches’, Proceedings of the Isle of Wight natural History and Archaeological Society 6, IV, 1969, 266-70.

P. G. Stone, The Architectural Antiquities of the Isle of Wight, privately published, 1891, vol. 1, 9, pl. VI.

C. Tomkins, A Tour to the Isle of Wight, vol. 2, London 1796, 98.