Freemantle (southampton)
The year 1951 marked the Centenary of the Parish, for it was in 1851 that Freemantle was separated for ecclesiastical purposes from the Civil Parish
of Millbrook. At that time, Freemantle Estate was held by the Rt. Hon. General Sir George Hewitt, K.C.B., who resided at the Hall which stood somewhere near the site of the present Mansion Road. The population consisted only of the residents at Freemantle Hall, the Lodges and a few scattered houses on the edge of the Park.


Christ Church Freemantle
(Photo kindly donated by Paul Young, UK)


According to E. A. Mitchell's 'Occasional Notes,' Freemantle Hall was not remarkable for its design, but its surrounding lawns with their clumps of beech,
elm. oak and maple provided a beautiful setting. It seems that Foundry Lane and Waterhouse Lane were then in existence and led across Millbrook Common, the former from Shirley to the site of a foundry at Millbrook which had been moved to Northam, and the latter to an old waterhouse.

We are indebted to Miss E. M. Sandell for information about Freemantle Hall as far back as the middle of the eighteenth century. In 1753 the poet William
Cowper was staying there with his cousin Lady Hesketh. He was greatly attracted by the neighbourhood and described the prospect as the most beautiful view he had ever seen, and declared that *his spirit became joyful and light in a moment.' Skelton's Guide of 1790 tells us that the estate had been recently purchased by John Jarrett, Esq., and another guide of 1809 alludes to the residence of Mr. Jarrett and the famous room of the hall which was 'beautifully wainscoted with sumptuous Italian Marble.'

A relation of the last occupant of Freemantle Hall was Lt.-Col. William Hewitt. who died on October 26th, 1891, at the age of 96. and was the last surviving British officer of the Battle of Waterloo. He had lived for many years at 17. East Park Terrace. His body was buried near the Hill Lane Gate of Southampton Cemetery.

In 1852 the estate was bought by Mr. Sampson Payne, who pulled down the mansion, built several good roads across the park and resold the portions.
Houses now began to spring up. and soon it was felt that some provision should be made for the spiritual needs of the new inhabitants. The first move was made
by Miss Charlotte Hewitt. sister of the late owner of the estate, who lived at EImfield. Millbrook Road. She approached Archdeacon Wigram, who recommended the erection of a temporary church and the appointment of a clergyman.

In May. 1855. the Archdeacon gave a letter of introduction to Miss Hewitt to the Rev. Abraham Sedgwick. As a result of this interview. Miss Hewitt issued an appeal for funds to purchase the laundry room ofthe.old Hall and a piece of ground adjoining it and to turn the building into a temporary church. This appeal was for 400. and was dated August 10th. 1855.

On September 13th. 1855, the Bishop of Winchester summoned the Rev. A. Sedgwick to Farnham Castle and appointed him to the spiritual charge of the
new Ecclesiastical District of Freemantle. On November 2nd Mr. Sedgwick came into residence. The population of the district was then about 1,200; the Building Fund amounted to 410. The laundry room. an upper room over the bailiff's house, was fitted up and licensed as a temporary place of worship. The first service was held there on the afternoon of Sunday, February 3rd. 1856. On March 23rd one of the rooms of the bailiff's house was opened for Sunday School. On the same day Sunday Morning Service was commenced and the Holy Communion was celebrated, apparently for the first time. There were 15 communicants.

On September 21st, 1856. the last service took place in the laundry upper room. and a week later services were commenced in the west end of the laundry
buildings, a part formerly used as the washhouse and brewery.

Further building operations were carried on, but difficulties now began to multiply. We are told that on November 9th, the bailiff's house and laundry room were 'gutted' when they were about to be converted into a girls' school. On December 31st the builders failed and the creditors seized all movable materials, including Mr. Sedgwick's bell. But the schoolroom was at last completed and used for worship. On August 5th, 1857, a service was held in Millbrook Church to commemorate the completion of the work, and the Bishop of Winchester was the preacher, and on August 17th the day schools for boys and girls were opened, with Mr. T. Winter as the first headmaster. Thus began that long association of church and school which has meant so much to the Parish throughout the years. It is not possible for us in this brief history to record in detail the progress of Freemantle School. The first headmaster had a reputation for 'tyrannical government,' but was soon succeeded by Mr. and Mrs. Newton and the school began to thrive. When Mr. and Mrs. Simpson succeeded in 1870. there was already a need for extra accommodation, and two years later the Infants department was built. The new Girls' School was added in 1885.

The most important building in the Parish is. of course, its spiritual centre, the Parish Church. The site for the Church was purchased soon after the opening of the school, and the foundation stone was laid by Archdeacon Jacob on July 25th, 1861. The money was being raised by public subscription, but the response had not been very encouraging, and it was decided that the walls could only be built to a height of five feel. Subsequently funds were raised, but rather slowly, and owing to various unexpected difficulties the work took rather a long time (for those days). The Church was dedicated as Christ Church, and consecrated by Bishop Sumner on July 27th. 1865. It is interesting to note that the total cost of the building, which did not include the tower and spire, did not exceed 7.000. The interior was constructed with white bricks of the district with archings and mouldings in red; the exterior was of Portland stone with Bath stone dressings.
The tower and spire were added in 1875. A printed letter dated January 30th, 1874, appeals for 1,000 to carry out this work. It is quite certain that a building
of comparable size could not be built for less than 100.000 under present-day conditions—assuming that building licences could be obtained!

On April 19th, 1866, the Ecclesiastical Commissioners established the new parish by declaring Christ Church to be a Rectory. Two years later the 'London
Ghetto' announced that the Church had been endowed with 1.278 15s. 6d..invested in 3 per cent. Redeemed Bank Annuities, for the augmentation of the Living. Mr. Sedgwick now gave his attention to the problem of building a rectory.

In 1869 the Bishop of Winchester gave 500 towards the purchase of a site. and Mr. Sampson Payne added 100. Seven hundred and sixty pounds of stock of
the Endowment was then sold to provide a house, and the present rectory was built. This was Mr. Sedgwick's last great achievement. for he was succeeded as
Rector in 1871 by the Rev. J. D'Arcy Preston.

The population of the Parish continued to grow steadily. From a total of 1.200 in 1855 it rose to 5,000 in 1867. 7,000 in 1891. and about 12,000 in 1900.
But the Church was alive to its responsibilities* Concern was felt about the expanding northern end of the Parish and eventually the building of a Mission Church was planned. St. Monica's Mission Church was dedicated by the Bishop of Guildford on September 24th, 1891. The chancel consisted of a movable shed which had originally formed part of Freemantle School. A brick nave had been added to this with a partition so that it could be used for social purposes. This
nave was later enlarged, bringing it to its present dimensions, and the new portion was dedicated by the Bishop of Southampton on March 26th, 1901. The Rev. j. D'Arcy Preston retired in 1892, having not only built the Mission Church but also having added the tower and spire to the Parish Church and having extended the School.

We may mention here a notable parishioner of Freemantle who achieved international reputation. Canon S. R. Driver (1846-1914), late Regius Professor of Hebrew at Oxford, was the son of Mr. Rolles Driver, a prominent citizen of Southampton who was Mayor in 1883. Mr. Driver lived at one time at a house called 'Barnfield' in Millbrook Road. Canon Driver was one of the most brilliant Old Testament scholars of his time.

The Rev. T. W. Fair became Rector in 1892. The parish magazine was now started, and from its early copies we get an idea of vigorous life. A Communicants' Guild for Women is mentioned, a Guild of St. Andrew for men, temperance societies nourish, and in May, 1898. a branch of the Mothers' Union was begun. In 1897. new choir stalls were dedicated in the Parish Church as a Diamond Jubilee Memorial; at the same lime other work was done. including the retiling of the chancel and sanctuary, and the provision of new altar rails. Some of these improvements were a memorial to Mr. Robert Ingram, Church warden for twenty years, who died that year. He had given several gifts to the church, including the original choir stalls and altar rails and the present West Window.

Mr. Fair was succeeded in 1902 by the Rev. F. G. G. Jellicoe, brother of Admiral Jellicoe, who remained Rector until 1915. During his time the chancel screen was given by Mr. George Worth, the font cover by the Rev. A. L. Lewington, and a new lectern and Bible were provided in memory of Mr. T. (?. Lowman, Rector's Warden for many years. The first World War took a heavy toll of the Parish; the names of the men who gave their lives may be seen on the memorial on the north-west wall of the church. Mr. Jellicoe's early years were marked by the increasing need for money for the schools, a matter which became critical in the time of his successor, the Rev. C. Collis, who was Rector from 1915 to 1929. Mr. Collis fought continuously to save the schools. He was obliged to launch one appeal after another for almost the whole of his time. In 1926 the Parish Hall was acquired, and in September of that year Archdeacon Daldy unveiled six oil paintings which had been painted and given by Mr. W. Gange. In 1928 an organ was bought for the Mission Church and a bell was given by the Missions to Seamen. In the same year electric light was installed in the Parish Church.

The Rev. G. Uppington was Rector from 1929-1935. when he was succeeded by the Rev. F. G. Reeves. In 1931 the organ was taken down and rebuilt. In 1937 the church was considerably beautified by the new altar, reredos and panelling given by Miss Worth, together with the Lady Chapel altar in memory of Edward and Mary Jane Robinson, reredos and sanctuary in memory of Mr. H. F. Bath and several others. In the following year the baptistery was renovated and the west door screen and lobby were completed. The present lectern Bible was dedicated in memory of Mr. A. J. H. Marshall, formerly headmaster of the school. Also the choir vestry screen was extended, and floodlighting was provided for the chancel and hanging lights over the pulpit and lectern by Mr. James Russell, the Verger. Many parishioners will remember Mr. Russell's long service and profound knowledge of ecclesiastical matters.

During the second World War. the parish suffered severely from enemy bombing, and the church activities were greatly disorganised, but services were maintained without a break. By the mercy of God the Parish Church and Mission Church escaped destruction, though several windows were broken and minor damage was caused to (he Parish Church. The Mission Church was taken over by the Dockland Settlement, who had been bombed out of their original headquarters. Mr. Reeves became Vicar of Bursledon in 1944 and was followed by the Rev. W. A. H. Barnes, who was in charge until 1951, when the Rev. E. Dowse succeeded him.

The Rev. Raymond C. Spittle succeeded Mr. Dowse. A feature of his years has been the renewal of contacts with past ministries. He was able to bring back Rev. G. Uppington, Rev. Hedley Shearing the beloved Curate of Rev. W. H. Barnes* time. and Rev. Edgar Dowse, all to take part in special services. Each of these visits high-lighted the continuity of the life of the Church; how its tradition and spirit have lived through the years and all changes of personnel.

The process of beautifying the house of God has gone on. In 1956 the Misses E. and W. Thorne gave new floodlights for the Sanctuary in memory of their Mother, and in 1963 Altar lighting in memory of their Father. Mr. A. Thome lived to over 90 and had been a pillar of worship and activity here for most of his life. In 1961 the Mothers' Union gave a Sanctuary Vase in memory of Mrs. Bath. who in her day had done yeoman work for the Mothers* Union. In 1962 Mr. E. Quick gave a rich banner for the Sunday School in memory of his Wife. In 1964 Mrs. E. Rossgavea new set of Choir Psalters in memory of her husband Edwin Ross. a great maker of music for the glory of God. In that same year Mrs. Gough gave a Sounding Board for the Pulpit in memory of her husband Mr. B. Gough a parishioner and neighbour for over 50 of our hundred years.

So lives the Church, and that brings the outline of the story of the devotion and concern of the members up to the present. Outward conditions have changed.

Here is a quotation from the Magazine in Rev. T. W. Fair's time. 1900.

'For the last six weeks our Soup Kitchen has been in full swing, and three limes a week 50 gallons of good soup have been distributed each day. With so much sickness prevailing this Winter, and with coals at almost prohibitory prices for poor people, the soup has been more than usually appreciated, and the demand for it is likely to be kept up for some lime to come.'

The Centenary Year is in more prosperous times, hut the need for the Gospel of the Grace of God is no less, and Christ Church Freemantle remains to proclaim and teach it.

Alternative text
Christ Church, Freemantle is a Victorian church which was consecrated in 1865. It was designed by William White who was also responsible for St Michael and All Angels Church in Lyndhurst.

The dedication date in 1865 was an important day - and one which we remember and celebrate each year - but it is just one of a number of milestones in Christ Church's history. The church is one of the oldest buildings in the parish of Freemantle, mainly because it came into being in response to Freemantle being created. Until the 1850s the area was part of a large privately owned estate. When the estate was sold and broken up a large number of houses were built and the population grew.

Miss Charlotte Hewitt, sister of the previous owner of the land, was responsible for starting off the appeal for money to establish a place of worship in the area and the first services were held in a temporary building in 1856.

We have reason to be proud of our Victorian forebears - when looking at the needs of the new population they decided to put the need for a school to be built ahead of the need for a new church building. So, with little money, they set about the building of the new school, which still exists today, and used the building on Sundays for their worship. Only with that task completed did they turn their attention to the new church which was to be four years in the building. The delay was caused by continually running out of money but their goal was finally reached although the church looked different, both inside and out, to the building we see today. The main difference was that the tower and spire could not be afforded and were deferred until 1875.

Christ Church has grown and changed along with the parish of Freemantle. At one time the church was said to have had the atmosphere of a cathedral close but Waterloo and Paynes Roads have gradually encroached leaving the church exposed and visible to all passers-by

It is not just the church building which has changed, rectors, curates and churchwardens have come and gone, new rectories have been built and old rectories pulled down but the life and worship continues.