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Early Photography of Bonchurch Village Village Road and the Old Smugglers Cottage.

Updated: Jun 1, 2023

Over the few years that I have visited and now live in Bonchurch, I have been fascinated by the old photographs of the village. For this sequence of images I think of the film 'The Time Machine' the H.G.Wells story. The best bit, I think, was the rapidly changing window display in the dress shop. I can't quite achieve that effect with these photographs, but the subtle changes are visible. The big change happens once the cottages on the left hand side of the road are gone and the Huish Cottages are built.

There are three scenes that have been regularly photographed from about 1840; the old church, the pond in the direction of the shute, and moving a little further along Bonchurch Road (once called Shepherds Lane), the view towards the Old Smugglers Cottage that once had the less romantic name of Cliff Cottage.

This view of the road is now quite different apart from the view of the Old Smugglers Cottage which is why it is so fascinating. The maps show that there was once a Smithy behind the Smugglers Cottage, a stone yard where the Huish Cottages (once a Mission Room) stand. Two bungalows now stand on the site of the thatched cottages.

Oliver Cox, whose Aunt bought the Old Smugglers Cottage in the 1930's, said that the thatched cottages were pulled down for a road widening scheme. He felt this was ironic, as part of the road is now narrowed to slow traffic.

The Smugglers Cottage has been owned by many people including the Popham's, the

Rev. White, Johathan Joliffe, Wm. Huish and Daniel Day and Sons. Later it was owned by the YMCA, and was once partly used as a telephone exchange, before being owned by the Cox family.

Here are a collection of photographs of the view along this part of the road that I have been collecting for a few years. With very many thanks for all the people who have generously allowed me to take copies of their photograph to share.

I have tried to place the photographs chronologically by looking at the growth on the trees, the growth on the cottages and looking at the state of repair of the cottages.

If you would like to comment, give feedback, I would love to hear from you. If you have any images of this scene from this period, or perhaps a better quality image to share, please get in touch and I will add it to the page giving you a credit for the image.

Here is a snippet of the 1863 O.S. map showing the row of thatched cottages to the left hand side above the road marked in orange. The Old Smugglers Cottage is the building in the middle, marked in green.

With many thanks to Ventnor Heritage Museum for many of the following photographs.

1. This is possibly one of the earliest photographs. Note the cottage adjoining the Old Smugglers Cottage at the back of the house. Also note the poor state of the thatch.

There is a stone yard in between the Old Smugglers Cottage and Rock Cottage (now Rock Villa).

Note the upper window opens from the centre and not from the side. None of the windows open this way anymore. Rock Villa in the village road has a window that still opens in this way.

With thanks to Peter Chick.

2. This image is a bit later. The Smugglers Cottage now has a new thatch.

If anyone has a better quality copy of this photo, please get in touch.

2 a. Many thanks to Andy Butler for this wonderful photo.

3. The lad is carrying a wooden box on his shoulder.

4. Note the sheets blowing on the washing line at Smugglers Cottage. The lad in the previous picture could be the same person next to the Smugglers Cottage.

4a. Many thanks to Andy Butler for this wonderful photo.

5. In the enlargement you can see a lady peeking out behind the wall behind the Old Smugglers Cottage and the sign reads 'ALE AND STOUT'. I think this would probably indicate that alcoholic drinks were sold on the premises. If anyone can decipher the rest of the sign please let me know.

The extended family on one side of the road look like Bonchurch residents and not brought there to look picturesque as frequently happened in early photographs. There is also a man standing in the doorway of the Smuggler Cottage.

With many thanks to Sandra Gonzales for this photograph.


5b. Many thanks to Andy Butler for this wonderful photo above.

I am following the growth on the thatches and the stone that the lad is sat on for the sequence of photos. Note these stones are missing in the next photos. The man in the black waist jacket and hat to the right of the picture is the stonemason called Woodford, Andy tells me it's a good old island name. Woodford is also in the pictures below.

6. With thanks to Michael Snudden for this photograph. Note the photographers umbrella propped against the wall. There is a mother and child stood outside of the cottage on the left.

There is now a piece of the boundary wall missing from the cottages on the left. Note the fallen stones are next to the wall.

The ale and stout sign is on the wall behind the Old Smugglers Cottage.

6a. This is the same image. I thought it worth showing both as it is possible to see different things in the same photograph because of the way the image has been processed. The man with the pail in his hand is very prominent. The washing is out again.

6b. Many thanks to Andy Butler for this wonderful photo.

I am following the damaged stone wall again for the sequence.

7. A gentleman stands in the village road by Cliff Cottage smoking his pipe with his leg crossed. The boundary wall stones are still there. Slatted wooden planks are now on the wall where the ale and stout sign used to be.

8. With thanks to Andy Butler for this pic. The lady is Elisabeth Missing Sewell, one of our famous residents.

The boundary wall stones at the front left of the photo have another piece missing from the top.

8a. Many thanks to Andy Butler for this wonderful photo. This is a lovely crisp photo. You can see everyone has been told to stand still, except the toddler to the left has started to walk leaving a smudgy ghostly image.

9. The thatch on the front of the first cottage looking less tidy. Children play outside the old Smugglers cottage and there is a white heard man standing in the cottage garden.

It's worth remembering that the first photograph was taken was in France, 1826. Photography became more widespread when the secrets of the process became more widely known by the early 1840's. Therefore, these images were pioneering for their time.

I thought I would add the changing views of this scene to more recent times.

10. The thatched cottages are gone, the Huish Fountain is on the left. The Huish Cottages on the right with iron railings all the way to 'Cliff Cottage'. A horse drawn cart is in the road and a person sits on the steps of the Huish Cottages.

11.A bit more growth of the tree in the garden of Rock Cottage (now Rock Villa).

13.A sign on the Cottage reads 'Cliff Cottage'. Note the gate is on the right hand side.

14. A hedge instead of railings, possibly removed for the war effort 1939 - 45. The tunnel in the cliff was reputed to be a hidden passage through the cliff for smuggling.

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I am fascinated by this material, and would appreciate assistance from any Bonchurch residents who might read this comment. I am researching the life of Prince Alamayu (Alemayehu) of Ethiopia, who was brought to the Isle of Wight in mid-1868, at the age of 7 years, following the British invasion of Ethiopia that had led to the death of Alamayu's father, the Emperor Tewodros (Theodore). For one year Prince Alamayu lived at Afton House, Freshwater, and was befriended by Queen Victoria. While living on the island, the Prince attended a private residential school at Hawthorndean (also 'Hawthorndene'), Bonchurch, run by a Mr Roharder.

I would be very grateful for any relevant information, or photographs of Hawthorndene or its surroundings at…

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