Navigational tips and beauty spots around the south-east coast of the Isle of Wight.
Bonchurch – ‘the prettiest place’
Bonchurch sits above Monk’s Bay. Photo: Peter Bruce
Between Ventnor and Dunnose Head lies the town on Bonchurch, on the undercliff beneath St Boniface Down, the island’s highest point. In 1545 Monk’s Bay, below the town, was one of three places where the French landed troops with the intention of capturing the island. A local militia of 300 on St Boniface Down defeated 500 French soldiers trapped on the undercliff and the Battle of Bonchurch was won. The French fleet, retreating from defeat in the Battle of the Solent, landed a party at Bonchurch to draw water from its spring. Its commander Chevalier d’Aux was killed, his body buried and finally repatriated three years later after hostilities had ceased.
Three hundred years later, in 1849, Charles Dickens wrote David Copperfield while staying at Winterbourne House – now a hotel – and described it as ‘The prettiest place I ever saw in my life, at home or abroad.’