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It shelters under the great heights of Brighstone Down, a delightful place. The top of the down (it is 700 feet up) is the highest point of the middle range, and from it we see almost from end to end of the island, from Culver Cliff above Sandown to Freshwater Bay, 20 miles as the crow flies. The little church (which has an old mass clock on its sunny wall) has a beautiful interior, with a Norman arcade for the north aisle and mediaeval arches on the south, a i3th century doorway, a i4th century tower, and a 15th century font. There is a pretty trefoiled niche in one of the piers, and in the splay of a window are the remains of the roodloft stairs. Two chairs in the sanctuary were given by Charlotte Yonge, who spent the profits of her books on Hampshire churches.
In this pulpit there preached that valiant and saintly man Thomas Ken; the sanctuary pavement is a memorial to him by Winchester College. He was rector here before he was Bishop of Bath and Wells, and in the rectory garden (where gentian from Switzerland flourishes as though still on its native heights) is a row of trees he planted.
Brighstone Church stands in the middle of the village at the side of the road from Shorwell, where the way to the coast turns off. It has stood there for close on eight hundred years, and its whole aspect is one of a sturdy strength and enduring quality which has outlasted the gales and storms of centuries.
Many generations of Brighstone people have cared for this church, and great has been their affection for it. This was never a rich parish and the building, enlargement, strengthening and repair of the fabric through many centuries have been carried out by local men, men without special skill in the working and decoration of stone, and usually without much money with which to do it. The result is a certain rugged simplicity and beauty, but with many architectural imperfections. The Church has altered greatly through the years, and records of the changes are often few or non-existent; there are many gaps which can be filled only by conjecture, and dates and times must often be approximate.
The setting is a peaceful rural scene, surrounded by woodland and pasture and overlooked by the chalk downs. It is close to the sea, and the spire, once painted white, was a landmark to ships that passed that way. The Rectory, standing close by, is separated from the churchyard by a wall with a little wicket gate in it. This. too, is an ancient building, standing in an old garden where Thomas Ken wrote his hymns and William Wilberforce spent the closing years of his life.
The grey walls of the Church are of Island stone, much weathered, and supported by strong buttresses. The body of the building has nearly equal twin gables, and the tower is square and low, being surmounted by a short spire and weathercock. The main entrance is through a porch set in the south wall and leading from the churchyard. It is covered by heavy Dorset stone tiles of a type which it is believed at one time covered the whole roof of the Church, until their weight was found to be too great for it.
The porch is old and weathered, and above it is seen, outside, a sundial placed there in 1721. The figures and words on it can now scarcely be seen, the soft stone being worn by wind and weather. Canon Heygate, in his notes of 1891, tells us that round the figures was written: 'Go your way into His gates with thanksgiving'; over the finger was 'Reg Jones' (then Rector), and under it the date, 1721, and the initials of William Jolliffe and Richard Woodford, churchwardens.