Christ Church Ashburton Road

More negatively, little progress appears to have been made during Jenkinson’s pastorate with respect to repairing the damage to the church premises. In 1949 it was reported that:

77Christ Church, Southsea, are not so fortunate [by comparison with other damaged Portsmouth churches] as far as the actual church is concerned, and it is well that they have such useful accommodation in the hall and adjoining buildings. In addition to very extensive war damage there is a large amount of consequential damage and ordinary dilapidation. The question of apportionment is already being dealt with.

A year later, Christ Church is mentioned for the last time with the outlook appearing fairly bleak.

78Unfortunately our friends at CHRIST CHURCH, Southsea, are still awaiting final settlement with the Commission regarding the extent of their war damage, and their future commitments are necessarily uncertain at present.

79That said, the Church Hall and the two adjacent properties 2 and 4 Ashburton Road, which the church owned, continued to be usable. Unfortunately for church members, Jenkinson’s pastorate was terminated in 1951 when he moved to Seaford in Sussex. In a newspaper report from September 1950, on Jenkinson’s impending departure in the following January, reference was made to the fact that when he arrived in 1948 services were being held in the Royal Hospital Chapel. However, after nine months he began to use the Church Hall which was now shared with the County Courts. Thus, quoting an unknown source this was “where they dispense[d] the law on week days and the Gospel on Sundays.”

80After Jenkinson left, the congregation continued to meet in the Church Hall (also known as Ashburton Hall), with most services being led by the Church Secretary and lay minister, Eiron Rees. Interestingly, in the HCU Yearbook, until the mid 50s the number of sittings for Christ Church is shown as 650, the figure from when the new church was opened in 1872. Moreover, until 1956 the Church is listed, somewhat poignantly, in the Kent Road section of Kellys Directory. In 1955 the site on which the ruined church stood was sold81and a year later it was demolished, with the rubble being used as ‘part of the foundations for Admiralty-owned maisonettes … being built in King’s Terrace’. This was a sad and, in some respects, ignominious end for what had once been a thriving Nonconformist place of worship in Southsea.

82Yet, from then until 1972, church members maintained a Congregational presence in this part of Southsea with services being held regularly in Ashburton Hall, despite constant difficulties with damp. Moreover, although numbers sometimes fell below 10, the Sunday school continued to function until the late 1960s. In the records of the HCU, after 1955 the number of sittings is shown as 125 and from 1959 the address is changed from Kent Road to Ashburton Road. Indeed, in 1962, it was possible for Eiron Rees to state in a letter to the HCU that: ‘There’s still life at Christ Church.’

Epilogue

Following the establishment of the URC in 1972, Christ Church Southsea continued to be listed in the URC Yearbook until 1999. Membership, however, declined from 16 in 1973/74 to 3 from 1996 onwards. That said, when the column headed ‘average congregation’ was introduced in 1991/92 there were 8, with same number being recorded in 1999.

When Christ Church finally closed the remaining members transferred to Southsea URC in Victoria Road South. This Church, however, soon met the same fate with the congregation joining that of Milton URC. In recognition of its historic links with the Church in Ashburton Road, this is now officially known as Christ Church Milton URC.

Roger Ottewill PhD
September 2017

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