Founding of the Parish
Background to Fareham in the 1830’s
In 1834 Fareham had a population of 4,402 people and only 690 houses. It was a prosperous market town and its port exported bricks and chimneys for which the town was famous. It was also in this year that Fareham had its first bank.
The Parish church was the ancient church of St Peter & St Paul at the top of the High Street.
In 1836 a Fareham Literary Institute was built (now Portland Buildings) which had a library, reading room and concert hall, and in 1838 a sea bathing house was put up in Bath Lane with two large baths for males and females. The President of the Literary Society at that time was Sir Henry Thompson (later the first vicar of Holy Trinity). The railway was not opened until Monday 29th November 1841 but there was a good coach service to Portsmouth, London, and other places. There were a number of large houses in the area. Henry Delme and Captain George Delme lived at Cams Hall, while Captain John Beardmore lived at Uplands. Captain Le Blanc lived at Blackbrook House (there is a tombstone to Colonel Francis Le Blanc at one side of Holy Trinity churchyard); Captain John Purvis lived in Blackbrook Grove (which later became the Bishop’s residence in 1927). The founding of Holy Trinity was formed because of the growth in the population of Fareham town. It was recognized that the church of St Peter & St Paul could not cater adequately for the poor who were unable to afford pew rent. Lady Jane Thompson, who had lived in High Street and who was a great benefactor to the town, provided under her will of 1832 “that it was preferable that a chapel should be built as affording greater accommodation for the poor” because the seating at St Peter & St Paul church was inadequate. Dame Jane Thompson (b.05/1766) (nee Selby) died 7th February 1833 and the people of Fareham felt that the new church should be erected in her memory so a meadow on the south side of West Street was bought by public subscription. A tablet above the north door of the church recalls that the site was purchased and donated to the founder by the people of Fareham.
The cost of building the church, £4,200, came from funds provided by the generosity of Lady Thompson. Her son Sir Henry Thompson (05/11/1796 – 01/07/1868), who was a curate at St Peter & St Paul at the time became the first Minister of Holy Trinity. Sir Henry was the son of Vice Admiral Sir Charles Thompson, Bart (1740-27/04/1799). Holy Trinity church was consecrated for Divine Worship by Bishop Charles Richard Sumner (22/11/1790 – 15/08/1874) of Winchester at 11.00am on Wednesday 2nd December 1835.
Sir Henry apart from paying for the building, also provided an endowment. He was still a curate of St Peter and St Paul at the time, but in 1837 a district was formally allotted to Holy Trinity, which included Funtley and Sir Henry paid for the school there which was also used as a church.
It was decided that a third of the seats at Holy Trinity should be free, the remaining being let at about 5 shillings (25 pence) a year, with the income going to the Incumbent. There were two churchwardens, one elected by the Vicar and the other by the Pew Renters. Captain Charles Borlase of 2nd Regiment of Foot (the Queen’s Royal) (1785–1836) and William Spain (1803–1876), a solicitor, were the first to be elected.
In 1840 a separate parish was formed out of St Peter & St Paul and Sir Henry became the first first Vicar of the parish of Holy Trinity.
The church is built of a local white brick with stone dressings. It was a Commissioners church and is one of the earliest of the Gothic Revival style which came to dominate the Victorian era. The architect was Thomas Ellis Owen (1805–1862), a Portsmouth man who was largely responsible for the development of Southsea. Jacob Owen, his father was also responsible for All Saints, Landport which was also a Commissioners church and is very similar in style to Holy Trinity but which was built slightly earlier in 1828.
A tenor bell cast by Messrs. Taylor of Oxford and Loughborough, was placed in the tower of the church in 1842 at about the same time that the clock was installed.
In those days the church looked somewhat different from the church we know now. There was no chancel and in the centre of the east end there was a three–decker pulpit for the clergyman and the parish clerk.
There was no central aisle as we see today but just two nave aisles. The original design also provided for side galleries to match the gallery at the west end as the church was designed as a preaching house. This meant that the seating capacity in those early days was much higher than today.
The fine window now relocated at the west end of the church was behind the pulpit and the organ and choir were in the gallery at the west end. There were also side galleries where, from the 1850’s, after Forts Fareham and Wallington were built, soldiers of the Heavy Artillery Regiments sat in their red uniforms. We have mention of a military band occasionally being present, and we can imagine them marching down West Street on their way to church.
There were box pews in the nave, which stretched across the church, access being down two side aisles. A pew opener is mentioned, presumably an elderly member of the church, who earned in 1862, £2.12s. a year.
An organ blower also had to be provided and he acted as bell ringer for £2.2s. a year. The parish clerk was paid £36 a year and the Curate £150. We do not know how the church was heated but it was usual to have large ‘Tortoise’ stoves which used coke. In 1849 we have a bill of £13.12s. for oil which we assume were for oil lamps which were eventually replaced by gas, but often the pressure was so bad that the verger had to operate a pump when the lights faded.
Sir Henry Thompson provided the choir with a uniform. This was blue cloth jackets with three rows of buttons inscribed Trinity Church Choir, velvet trousers, peeked caps with scarlet bands and shoes with brass buckles. One of the choirboys, a lad called William Cremer, become famous for his work for international peace and was knighted in 1907. He later received the Nobel Peace Prize and endowed some almshouses, built near to where the roundabout by the station is now situated. When the road was widened here, the almshouses were re-established at Stubbington, where they are still in use. One of the newer pathways in Fareham town centre is named after him.
The western end of Fareham (West Street) was a fashionable place for retired naval officers and the row of shops to the west of the church were originally the homes of such service personnel.
A stone spire was added to the tower in 1837 which was visible from The Solent. Unfortunately it had to be removed in 1992 over a period of three weeks, at a cost of around £5,000, due to deterioration of the structure. So today’s exterior is more akin to the original design.
The Rectory (or Parsonage House as it was then called ) was built by subscription in 1848. The Bishop subscribed £50 and Sir Henry Thompson £300. An attempt was made in the 1960’s to purchase the site compulsorily for a police station but fortunately the recommendations were turned down at the enquiry. In 1990 the Rectory was sold and has now been converted into flats.
In 1844 Sir Henry Thompson moved to a new post as Vicar of Frant in East Sussex, where he remained until his death in 1868.
A first restoration of the fabric of Holy Trinity was carried out in 1889. This cost a total of £510 and provided for 700 people (or sittings as they were then described). This large total was due to having upper galleries on three sides.
In 1891 a daughter mission church was erected at the western end of the parish to serve the Catisfield area. This was named after St Columba.
The Vicar at the time was a Reverend Charles Lowther Arnold whose sister-in-law Miss Tyler was a granddaughter of Sir Henry Thompson and Patron of the Living. Her mother, who had been lady-in-waiting to Queen Victoria, knew her youngest daughter, Princess Beatrice (Princess Henry of Battenburg, since her marriage in July 1885) and her daughter, Princess Victoria Eugénie (to marry the King of Spain in May 1906).
To raise money for the new extension, the parish decided to hold a bazaar in the Connaught Drill Hall in West Street on Wednesday 4th October 1905. Princess Henry and Princess Victoria Eugénie were invited to open it. This was quite an occasion. They were received by, amongst others, Mr Arthur Hamilton Lee M.P. who lived in the High Street and who afterwards became Lord Lee of Fareham and gave Chequers to the nation under the Chequers Estate Act of 1917.
The alterations to the church were eventually completed in 1913. In addition to the alterations mentioned the side galleries were removed, the east window removed to the west end and the organ removed from the gallery.
During two World Wars Fareham was largely a backwater. A church hall was built alongside the church in 1932 and was called Church House. There are memories of Belgian refugees, of hospital trains passing through Fareham station, blackout curtains in the church and Church House being used as a first aid post.
After the last war, however, we had an entirely different situation because the population of the parish increased to such an extent due to growth from both military and industrial development that new arrangements had to be made. First the parish was divided and a new parish was formed. In November 1963 the church of St John the Evangelist in Redlands Lane was consecrated to cover the population living south of The Avenue.
Church House had been built next to the church on part of the original meadow. A row of shops now stand where the original Church House stood. Behind it the parish owned land on which for many years there were tennis courts. The old Church House was demolished after the land was sold at auction on Tuesday 12th July 1960 for a sum of £30,000 and a replacement hall was built at the end of the tennis court land.
The old mission church of St Columba (the tin tabernacle) in Catisfield, built in 1891, was considered inadequate and a new St Columba church was built in Hillson Drive. The foundation stone was laid in 1962 and the building dedicated in February 1963. Incidentally, the stone from which the font was made was brought by submarine from Iona (St Columbas home) to Gosport.
In the late 1950s urgent repairs had to be done to Holy Trinity. The south-east corner of the church was sinking and stonework was dropping off the tower. Another restoration was needed. However by January 1960 the restoration had been completed and the interior redecorated in white, blue and gold to a design by Stephen Dykes-Bower.
The increase in population also meant that more clergy were urgently required and in 1960 the parish decided to embark on a major Christian Stewardship campaign, which was very successful.
A Team Ministry was set up in 1971 under the Reverend Simon Burrows. He left the parish in 1974 to become Bishop of Buckingham. The 1970’s and 1980’s were a time of continued growth in Fareham and so the number of clergy increased. Eventually the second parish hall, built in 1962, was considered inadequate and so the hall located at the by-pass end of the old tennis courts was demolished. A major reordering of the interior of Holy Trinity was carried out early in 1985 and a new Parish Centre was built on the graveyard adjoining the south side of the church. All these works were completed in time for the celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of the building of the church. This centre now caters for an increasing number of both parish and community activities.
In 1994 a similar celebration occurred at St Columba to mark the centenary of the erection of the old tin mission church in Catisfield. There was also a big celebration to mark the 40th Anniversary of the present building in 2002.
This brief outline has been partly based on a booklet written by the late Richard Wade for a Parish Festival held in 1976, with later updating by Steve Ellis.