The Church of St Mary Magdalene, Boveney, is a redundant Anglican church standing close to the river on the north bank of the Thames, near the village of Boveney, Buckinghamshire, England. It is about 3 kilometres (2 mi) to the west of Eton College. The church has been designated by English Heritage as a Grade I listed building, and is under the care of the Friends of Friendless Churches.
A church has been on the site since before the Norman conquest, but the fabric of the present church dates from the 12th century. Windows and the tower were added in the 15th century. The church was built to serve the bargemen working on the River Thames; there was a quay alongside the church but there are now no remains of this. It was a chapel of ease to St Peter's Church, Burnham. An attempt to make it into a separate parish in 1737 failed because sufficient endowment could not be raised. Probably in the middle of the 19th century, a dado of bricks was added to the exterior in an attempt to keep out damp, and in 1897 the window tracery was replaced.
St Mary's in constructed in flint and chalk rubble, with ashlar dressings. Small fragments of flint have been inserted in the mortar; this process is partly functional and partly decorative, and is known as galletting. The tower is weather boarded; it stands on a timber framework, which itself stands on the ground. The door is in the south wall. High in the west wall is a small narrow lancet window that probably dates from the 12th century. Inside the church, some of the original 15th-century pews are still present. Other fittings date from the 18th and 19th centuries. The ring consists of three bells. The largest of these dates from about 1536 and was cast at the foundry in Reading; the other two bells were cast in 1631 and 1636 by Ellis I. Knight.
World War II
The Church was, apparently, in a sorry state in 1942 according to a poem penned in a local publication at that time:
'To the Glory of God'
A visit to the riverside Church at Boveney, near Windsor, Easter 1942 (Wartime WW2)
If God goes back to Boveney
What will he say when he sees
The flint walled Church by the river
Hiding its shame in the trees
The pipes that spoke for the organ
Strangled and flung around
A list of hymns for service
And rubble on the ground
Under the knotted bell ropes
Shall for his praise be found
Tarnished brass on the altar
And hymnals lining a pew
Damp as the brew of terror
And moulded in white mildew
If God goes back to Boveney
To give his people a pledge
He will find a path to his temple
Through barbed wire and a hedge
But if bombs hit his Church at Boveney
This would be sacrilege
Recent history and present day
The church was declared redundant in 1975, and it was planned to demolish it or convert it into residential accommodation. However following a local campaign, it passed into the care of the charity the Friends of Friendless Churches in 1983. The charity holds a 999 year lease with effect from 10 June 1983. The church is still consecrated, and has been used for occasional services since 1983. However the church then had to be closed because it was found that the tower had become unstable, and repair was essential. When 19th-century plaster was removed from the footings of the tower, it was found that they were almost completely rotten. The cost of the repair totalled £200,000. Of this, 70% was received as a grant from English Heritage, and the remainder was raised from a number of sources. These included Sir John Smith and the Francis Coales Charitable Foundation, and Eton College who donated the proceeds of their annual "Concert for the Choir". The repair of the tower was completed, and in 2010–11 another round of repairs was undertaken, including work on the windows. The repair work carried out on the tower won the Royal Institute of British Architects South Conservation Award for Architects in 2005.
Many visitors like to play a tune on our piano when they are in the church - which is very much encouraged!
A recent frequent visitor, George, who loves the church, played Happy Birthday to his four year old sister, Bonnie, recently! His final bars can be enjoyed below:
The Church is open daily.
We encourage those who are interested to take advantage of going inside the Church and enjoying the wonderful, quiet, peaceful place that it is.
The Church is available as a venue for appropriate events.
Full details in the Venue section