Church History

 

The foundation stone of St John the Baptist Church was laid on 24 May 1875 and can still be seen under the east window. Several coins of the day which rest nearby. The building committee was headed by the Vicar, the Revd William Bray.

The church is Gothic in style, with a nave, north and south aisles and a decorative and ornate chancel. Coloured bricks are used abundantly and the dressed Bath stone gives a warm and pleasing effect.

An arcade of four bays divides the nave from the south and north aisles. The piers carrying the arches forming the arcades are diagonal on plan and have detached columns of Bath stone running up the four angles. Large octagonal capitals rest on the arches, delicately carved and of the decorated naturalesque type.

The nave roof rests upon vaulting shafts supported by stone corbels. Of these corbels, twelve represent the heads of the apostles and the rest show leaves and flowers probably to reflect local benefactor Frederick Townsend’s love of botany, so prominent in other areas of the church. The aisle is laid with Staffordshire tiles. The internal woodwork is of pitch pine and the roofs are of timber, open and unvarnished. In the chancel they are panelled and topped at each intersection by carved bosses.

1884 saw the north transept completed for an organ chamber. The organ was added in 1885.

The proposed spire was not built:in 1887, the funds for a tower were given by Mrs Franklin of Shedfield Lodge, in memory of her husband. It was hoped that a four faced clock would adorn the new tower. However, insufficient funds meant that a single face clock,was set into the South wall of the tower in 1891.The north aisle was added in 1895. Various stained glass windows were fitted to windows in the south wall between 1885 and 1900. The William Bray windows were fitted into the south aisle in 1896, and in 1898 the large stained glass east window was fitted in memory of Admiral Sir Augustus Phillimore.

The chancel floor was laid with marble in 1903. Marbles used include white Italian, Cippolino and Verde Antico in the centre and Irish Rossa and Belgian Dove in the narrow bands.

Outside, the apexes of the different gables are crowned with foliated crosses of stone with steeply pitched tiled roofs. The tower originally held a peel of 6 bells, cast by Taylor and Co of Loughborough. Two additional bells were added in 1941 and rang for the first time in 1942 to celebrate victory in El Alemein.

The west door is of oak and was given by the Revd William Bray, who died in 1879, just before the church was completed. The pulpit was given by the Townsends of Shedfield Lodge. in memory of Samuel Wilberforce, Bishop of Winchester (1869- 1875). It, is of Caen stone and stands in a central shaft. The carving displays many varieties of plants and fruits.

TheTownsends also gave the font. The beautiful canopy was carved by Thomas and Co of Winchester and given in 1905 by the Revd A B Alexander in memory of his sister, Elizabeth Buttemer.

Once the church was established, many artefacts were given as memorials. These include the processional cross of cast and chased brass, given in memory of Lt Matthew Phillimore by his parents. It displays the crucified Christ in the centre with medallions symbolising  the four evangelists.

The brass lectern was given by the church’s architect, John Coulson in memory of his parents.

The beautifully-carved oak choir stalls, in  came from the Revd Alexander’s family in 1905, carved under the direction of his daughter. The parishioners gave the Reredos in memory of the Revd Alexander in 1906.

The oak chancel screen, was added around 1922. The doors reflect the emblem of the Diocese of Winchester  (the Diocese of Portsmouth was not created until 1927). The organ was made by A J W Walker and Sons and was purchased in 1885 at a cost of £280.00. It has had several overhauls, the latest being in 2008, and continues to give excellent service.

The Lady Chapel was created in the north aisle in 1961, along with the ribbed oak doors to the organ chamber. Both were the gift of Admiral Sir Desmond Dreyer

During his incumbency (1954-1963), the Reverend Eric Staples made various changes to the church’s interior . The font was moved to the south aisle (but subsequently restored to its current position); the chancel roof was repainted and the front pews were removed, Portland stone was laid between the pews and the chancel screen.

The choir vestry was created in 1974. Pews were removed from the south transept behind the choir stalls and plate glass was used to  make the best use of light. The pews at the rear transept were removed in 1996 and replaced with chairs, creating a baptistry and flexible worship space.

The embroidery displayed on the north wall was created by members of the Parish to celebrate the millennium.

The most recent addition to the church is the Study Centre, the inspiration of the Reverend Geoffrey Morrell Vicar of this parish for 25 years. The Study Centre was designed by Terry E Roberts, built by local company H H builders of Bishops Waltham, and dedicated by the Bishop of Portsmouth in September 2003.