The church of St Mary Magdalene, Boveney stands on a site which has been a place of worship since before the Norman conquest. Its origins are obscure but the earliest known reference to it was made in 1266, when the offerings from the church were assigned to the vicarage of Burnham.
The church originally served the village of Boveney and the area surrounding it: at that time it was one of the largest villages in the area. The church was also probably used by bargees and other riverside folk when there was a busy wharf nearby which was used for transporting timber from Windsor Forest.
It was originally dependent on a mother church at Burnham and a bull of Pope Leo, dated 1513, ordered the Vicar of Burnham to find a Chaplain to 'celebrate Mass there as heretofore'. An act of Parliament in 1737 to make Boveney a separate living failed for want of sufficient endowment.
The Vicar of Burnham and his curate held a service there on the first Sunday of each month, but in 1767 the chapelry demanded a service every Sunday and protested its independence except as regards burials. It appointed its own churchwardens, looked after its own poor and repaired the highways. By an order in Council dated 25th May 1911, Boveney was ecclesiastically annexed to Eton.
The church was declared redundant in 1975 and there was then a possibility that it would be demolished or sold for conversion to residential use. Local residents, however, fought to save the chapel and it was eventually leased at a peppercorn rent to a Charity Group in London known as `The Friends of Friendless Churches'. This organisation now maintains the building. It is still a consecrated church building, (although not licensed for weddings) and is normally used approximately three times per year, at the Patronal Festival of St Mary Magdalene, in July at Harvest, and at Christmas.
The walls of the church are of chalk rubble garretted with small flints with dressings of sandy limestone and chinch. The buttresses are modern. The main window is 16th Century. The south doorway, similar to the north, has a 15th Century label. In the west wall, high up is a small lancet window probably 12th Century with head of limestone and jambs of chinch. The bell turret rests on a framework which itself rests on the ground. In a small glass-fronted box on the north wall are fragments of small sculptured figures of alabaster with traces of colour and gilding representing scenes of the Assumption, Crucifixion, Resurrection etc., possibly 15th Century The church pews were installed about the 15th Century (everyone had to stand before that!), and some of the original ones are still there. There are a set of three church bells in the tower, two by Ellis Knight 1631 and 1636 and a third probably 16th century.
The next service to be held at the church will be the
Advent Carol Service on Sunday 10th December at 3.00pm
Please note the church has no electricity supply so warm clothes and torches are recommended.
The church is generally open to visitors during the daytime.
ST MARY MAGDALENE, BOVENEY
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