Church tribute to ‘Little Jane’

A model church, which took more than three years to build in the back garden of a house at Queen Bower, provides a lasting memorial to a young Brading girl who died at the age of 14 more than 200 years ago.

The model was painstakingly constructed by Richard Dollery, who was inspired by the story of Jane Squibb, also known as ‘Little Jane of Brading’.

Richard began building the church in May, 2010, but explained: “The story actually starts in 1799, the year Little Jane died. A year before she passed away the local priest Legh Richmond sent all the children from his bible class in the churchyard to learn an epitaph off a gravestone. Little Jane returned and repeated the verse she had been given to learn, but then also recited the verse on the adjacent gravestone.

“The priest was very impressed, and noticed how she had changed and become more religious just on the back of learning the verse. Sadly, shortly afterwards Little Jane became ill and died of tuberculosis, but subsequently touched the hearts of many because of the priest’s careful recording of what had happened.”

When Richard heard the story of Little Jane, he found her grave in Brading churchyard, which he now tends regularly; rewrote and published Legh Richmond’s original book about Little Jane, included illustrations, and then set about building the model church in her memory.

Richard said: “The church was all built of mainly reclaimed materials. Fortunately there was already quite a lot of St Helens stone in my garden. There are about 3,500 slates on the church roof which were cut down from normal sized slates, and other pieces were cast as matchbox-sized individual blocks from cement, with about 1,000 used for the tower and its buttresses.”

The church’s arched windows took many hours to build, sometimes over the course of four or five days, as did the interior pillars. Often during the construction, Richard demolished part of the church and rebuilt it in his quest for perfection. He smiled: “Originally it was not going to be as big as it ended up, and I thought it would only take a couple of months to build. But as it stands on a concrete foundation, it probably weighs about seven tonnes in all, so I don’t think it will be going anywhere. I also put a time capsule underneath the construction, which hopefully will be there for centuries to come.”

Richard has now started building other, smaller churches, saying: “I know similar projects have been made from cardboard or matchsticks, but I don’t think there are many in stone and cement as I build them.”

*The verse that meant so much to Little Jane still stands on a gravestone in Brading churchyard, now almost illegible, badly weathered and lichen encrusted. It reads:

It must be so – Our father Adam’s fall, 

And disobedience, brought this lot on all. 

All die in him – But hopeless should we be, 

Blest revelation! Were it not for thee. 

Hail, glorious Gospel! heavenly light, whereby 

We live with comfort, and with comfort die; 

And view; beyond this gloomy scene the tomb 

A life of endless happiness to come.