Christ Church Ashburton Road

Howard Stanley 1925-1927: a ‘brilliant young minister’.

Howard Stanley was unusual amongst Christ Church’s ministers in it being his first charge. During his short pastorate there was a slight increase in membership and a revival in the fortunes of the Sunday school (Table 5).

Howard Stanley - minister

Table 5: Membership and Related Data for Christ Church Congregational Church 1924-1926
Year Members Sunday School
No 3 Year Average Scholars Teachers
1924 180 186 106 9
1925 189 183 90 9
1926 180 183 96 9

Notes
a. Most of the data in this table have been taken from the Yearbooks of the HCU (HRO: 127M94/62/68-70).
b. The three year moving average has been calculated to even out sudden changes in the figures for individual years.
c. For comparative purposes the membership figures for Buckland were 1924, 483; 1925, 483; and 1926, 483.

The fact that he only served for less than a couple of years before moving on to London Street Congregational Church in Basingstoke might suggest that he was not well suited to Christ Church. However, given that he was to have an illustrious career within Congregationalism culminating in the chairmanship of the Congregational Union of England and Wales in 1951-52, it would seem best to regard his time at Southsea as an apprenticeship for what was to come.

When his resignation was reported in December 1926, reference was made to the fact that:

60In Portsmouth Mr Stanley [had] gained a wide reputation as a fearless and outspoken preacher and a great thinker, and is regarded in some quarters as one of the most brilliant young men of Congregationalism. On one occasion, when the Mayor and Corporation attended a service at Christ Church, Mr Stanley created a great impression by a sermon on the Civic ideal, which was considered one of the most brilliant pieces of pulpit-oratory heard in Portsmouth.

Inevitably, it was going to be difficult to replace Stanley, but in 1928 members secured the services of Fred Horrox, another Yorkshireman. Moving to Southsea from Scarborough during the summer of that year, Christ Church was his fourth charge.

Fred Horrox 1928-1936: ‘a preacher of outstanding ability’.

61Born in 1887, Horrox had studied for an MA at Aberdeen University and had trained for the ministry at Yorkshire United College. As reported at the time of his induction to the pastorate at Christ Church, prior to Scarborough he had ‘had successful ministries at both Utley and Halifax, where he won prominence as a preacher. His seven year ministry at Scarborough found an honourable place in the social and religious life of the community.’ Following an afternoon service and tea, at the evening meeting Rev. Henry Parnaby ‘welcomed his new colleague to a City in which … the relations between the Free Churches were very close, and one which was presided over by a Bishop of wide and generous sympathies.’ While the vicar of St Judes observed that although there were differences between them the things on which they agreed “were deeper and more fundamental” than the petty matters on which they disagreed. The induction service which followed was presided over by the Moderator, Rev. Frank Wheeler, ‘who gave the charge in language that was beautiful in its impressive simplicity.’ Like one of his predecessors, John Wills, Horrox was described as a ‘preacher of outstanding ability.’ The point was also made that although he was ‘awake to all the movements of modern thought, he … [was] evangelic[al] in sympathies and in theology, and his style of utterance [was] clear and simple.’ The belief was expressed that he would maintain all that was best in the traditions of Christ Church. In view of his reputation as a preacher, it is unsurprising that one of the most prominent of these was that of the high quality of the Church’s preaching ministry. For example, in 1930 he delivered a series of sermons ‘centred around the Ten Commandments under the title “The Laws of God in Modern Life”.62’It was judged that ‘seldom have such old truths in modern garb been so ably expounded.’
However, from the data in Table 6 it is clear that during Horrox’s pastorate Christ Church suffered a dramatic decline in its membership. While the reduction from 180 members in 1928 to 120 in 1929 was probably due to a rigorous revision of the church roll and likewise in 1935, the underlying trend was clearly downwards. While this mirrored the fortunes of many churches, it must have been disheartening for the minister and deacons, especially since Buckland managed to keep its membership above 400.

Table 6: Membership and Related Data for Christ Church Congregational Church 1927-1936
Year Members Sunday School
No 3 Year Average Scholars Teachers
1927 180 180 96 9
1928 180 160 156? 9
1929 120 143 30 3
1930 130 60 4
1931 Yearbook Missing
1932 125 60 4
1933 107 119 30 5
1934 126 102 60 7
1935 74 88 55 7
1936 64 71 54 6

Notes
a. Most of the data in this table have been taken from the Yearbooks of the HCU (HRO: 127M94/62/71-79).
b. The three year moving average has been calculated to even out sudden changes in the figures for individual years.
c. For comparative purposes the membership figures for Buckland were 1927, 483; 1928, 442; 1929, 432; 1930, 435; 1932, 442; 1933, 430; 1934, 430: 1935, 415; and 1936, 430.

63In addition to his responsibilities for Christ Church, Horrox was involved in the Post-War Brotherhood Movement and a leading “Rotarian”. Thus, at ‘the annual celebration[s] of “Rotary” Sunday by the Brotherhood’, which were held at the Wesley Church in Arundel Street, Horrox would usually lead the prayers.
64At the beginning of January 1936, Horrox left Christ Church for Bramhall in Cheshire, where he was pastor until 1951.65Just over a year later, in early 1937, it was reported that his successor, William Horace Boxall, had responded ‘to a unanimous invitation … [and] commenced a pastorate of which high hopes were entertained.’

William Boxall 1937-1939: ‘a vigorous personality with a strong gift of leadership’.

66Boxall had been brought up in Havant and was thus very familiar with the area. He came to Christ Church from Brunswick Congregational Church in Bristol, which had been his first charge, after completion of his training at Paton College in Nottingham. His time in Bristol was described as ‘a very happy ministry … [which] drew young folk particularly into his church.’ Moreover, he had ‘a vigorous personality with a strong gift of leadership’. Consequently, it was anticipated that he would prove to be ‘a notable acquisition to the religious life of the City.’ Boxall commenced his ministry at Christ Church on Sunday January 23rd 1937 and was formally inducted on Monday, February 1st.

Table 7: Membership and Related Data for Christ Church Congregational Church 1937-1939
Year Members Sunday School
No 3 Year Average Scholars Teachers
1937 76 77 54 10
1938 90 84 50 7
1939 87 50 7

Notes
a. Most of the data in this table have been taken from the Yearbooks of the HCU (HRO: 127M94/62/80-82).
b. The three year moving average has been calculated to even out sudden changes in the figures for individual years.
c. For comparative purposes the membership figures for Buckland were 1937, 370; 1938, 375; and 370, 1939.

67Alongside his preaching and pastoral responsibilities, Boxall ‘took a keen and active interest in the Boy Scout movement, holding the rank of Group Scoutmaster and Rover Scout Leader.’ While in Portsmouth he was District Commissioner for a year.
68In 1939, with the likelihood of War becoming ever more apparent, once again Christ Church lost the services of its pastor who became a Chaplain in the Royal Navy. There followed a number of years when the pulpit was ‘supplied’, often with lay preachers, and the Church was required to struggle on without a permanent minister during the extremely difficult years of the Second World War.

Demise

69Between the departure of Boxall and the founding of the United Reformed Church [URC] in 1972, Christ Church continued to have its membership figures recorded in the HCU Yearbook. These indicate that it retained the support of a loyal and tenacious, if dwindling, band of supporters. The number of members recorded for 1940 was 80, but by 1972 this had fallen to just 16. In many respects, it was the bombing of the Church in an air raid during March 1941, when the main building was severely damaged, that marked the beginning of its gradual decline and perhaps hastened its eventual demise. In its Report for 1941, the Executive Committee of the HCU commented with respect to air raid damage to churches that: ‘In Portsmouth the Gosport Church was totally destroyed … while the Buckland and Edinburgh Road and Kent Road [i.e. Christ Church] Churches sustained some damage.’ The reference to ‘some damage’ in respect of Christ Church was undoubtedly an understatement.

70Although they had no permanent home, members of the congregation continued to meet faithfully for worship Sunday by Sunday. Initially they used St Jude’s Church Hall in Marmion Road. Then in 1942 they met in ‘the Hospital Chapel.’ However, for the remainder of the war the Sunday school was closed and did not re-open until the late 1940s. Throughout the war years and the immediate post-war period the congregation seem to have retained the hope that the Church would be rebuilt with government assistance.
Moreover, a positive note was struck in 1948 when the Church acquired a new permanent minister, Norman Stanley Jenkinson. Born in 1922 and having trained at New College, this was his first charge. He was ordained at Christ Church and his appointment must have engendered some optimism. There was a modest increase in the number of members from 30 in 1948 to 44 in 1950. Moreover the Sunday school re-opened in 1949 with 15 children and four teachers increasing to 45 children and four teachers in 1951.71This, perhaps, is unsurprising since much of Jenkinson’s work in Southsea was with children and young people. He established a Children’s Church, known as “St Christopher’s”,72which met before the main service on Sunday mornings and formed an organisation “pilots”, designed to interest children in ‘missionary work in foreign countries’.73 In addition, he was chaplain to the officers of the Boy’s Brigade in Portsmouth.74 Alongside these activities, he fostered close relations between Christ Church and Southsea’s other Congregational Church, Victoria Road.75 He was also involved with the Brotherhood Movement. In January 1949, he spoke on the theme of “One Church, One Faith, One Lord” at a meeting of the Cosham Brotherhood, with the advertisement encouraging men and women to ‘come along and hear what a young man has to say about Brotherhood in action.’76 Later in the month he presided at a musical service organised by the Portsmouth Brotherhood.

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