Recent Change in Church And State

Recent Change in Church And State

The Industrial Revolution increased the size of Hampshire’s bigger towns, and the coming of the railways in the first half of the 19th century encouraged the growth of new centres of population. Not only had local government to be reformed, but the Anglican Church had to keep up with the times, and eventually the boundaries of the old diocese were re-arranged and new sees created in heavily-populated areas. For 40 years, from 1827, the diocese was under the care of Richard Charles Sumner, a great evangelist, and the first bishop to be installed in person in Winchester Cathedral since the Reformation. His best-known reform was the implementation of a proper scheme for the administration of St. Cross Hospital, which had been the subject of a major scandal, and his clergy included such differing men as John Keble at Hursley and Charles Kingsley at Eversley. Keble, the writer of many famous hymns, was the friend and tutor of Sir William Heathcote of Hursley Park (1801-81), that very prototype of a perfect Victorian squire and English country gentleman, whose circle included the famous novelist, Charlotte Yonge of Otterbourne House, Florence Nightingale and George Moberly, the reforming head­master of Winchester College. Charles Kingsley, author of The Water Babies, was nationally known for his support of social reform; unlike Keble he was a low churchman and a follower of Charles Simeon, whose biographer, Canon Carus, lived in Winchester and created a new parish there—Christ Church, to meet the needs of its growing population.

Petersfield c. 1830
Petersfield c. 1830

In 1895, the northern (London) end of the diocese became the independent bishopric of Southwark under E. S. Talbot, a great leader who moved on to become bishop of Winchester in 1911. Cyril Garbett, one of his successors in both Southwark and Winchester, had served as a parish priest in St. Mary’s Kingston, near Portsmouth, where he had been outstanding in his realisation that the Anglican Church had a real message for the mass of working-class folk to be found in Hampshire’s growing towns. By the time that he became Bishop of Winchester in 1932 the two sees of Guildford and Portsmouth had been created (in 1927), though the present diocese still, includes the Channel Islands, annexed to it in 1568, and most of the pre-1972 county of Hampshire including Bournemouth, but not the Isle of Wight, which is under the Bishop of Portsmouth. There has been more recent recognition of the importance of other centres of population in the titles of the suffragan bishops, of Southampton and Basingstoke, the latter a very recent creation. From the mid-19th century onwards, too, there were great changes at parish level. Many new parishes were formed, new churches built, and by 1918 nearly half the parishes in the diocese had been created in the previous one hundred years. Bournemouth, that new town, had 14 parishes, Portsmouth 19 new churches, Southampton 16, and there were others in Aldershot and Eastleigh, as well as in the Botley area, the ‘straw­berry’ churches built in the early stages of a growing population, long before the days of the famous South Hampshire Plan.

Since 1945 the situation has changed radically, and though the Anglican Church still has a conscious policy of putting churches where there are people, many parish churches have been closed, declared redundant, pulled down, used for secular purposes, or at best united with neighbouring parishes. Gone are the days when a vacancy for a curate in some well-known parish could produce more than 70 applicants, as was once the case in St. Thomas’s church in Winchester. The real shortage of candidates for the ministry is not confined to the Anglican Church, and many a Hampshire town and village now has its share of empty chapels, either through lack of support or because the ecumenical movement has united those who used to be in separate congregations.

Yet much of Hampshire has remained untouched by the Industrial Revolution, and there are still remote villages with historic parish churches greatly loved and admirably maintained by a local population composed largely of commuters travelling daily to Hampshire’s large towns or to London. Only a very few small towns and villages can offer a reasonable and varied measure of local employment, and the number of men required for Hampshire’s oldest industry, farming, is falling rapidly. The ‘journey to work’ can be a tiresome problem, though it has to be admitted that some people prefer not to find work on their own doorsteps. Among the smaller towns famous for particular industries, Alton has long been the centre of a great brewery, which has just moved to Reading; Whitchurch and Laverstoke still produce the famous paper for the banknotes of the world: Henri de Portal, a Huguenot refugee, had opened a paper mill at Bere Mill on the Test near Whitchurch in 1712, which proved to be a marvellously successful enterprise. Conder Engineering, which began in Kings Worthy in 1947, had been amongst the most successful of all Hamp­shire’s post-war developments, and become a world-famous name. Other successful family businesses prospered on the coast. In the 18th century famous shipbuilding families included the Adams of Bucklers Hard, who built the Agamemnon, the first ship of the line to be commanded by Nelson, whose flagship at Copenhagen was the Elephant, built by the firm of Parsons at Bursiedon, another small family business. But these small yards which had built wooden ships were soon surpassed by the naval development of Portsmouth, where Victoria opened the Steam Basin in 1848 and where there were extensive extensions of the Dockyard, including the building of dry docks. The Royal Naval Gunnery School, started in 1832 in H.M.S. Excellent, was transferred to Whale Island, a site reinforced by convict labour from the prison hulks nearby. The population of Portsea Island, 34,484 in 1811, had virtually doubled by 1851, and by 1901 was 180,000.

Fareham c. 1830
Fareham c. 1830

The revival of Southampton from the decline noticed by Celia Fiennes and Daniel Defoe was brought about in the first instance by improvements in transport and 18th-century interest in watering places and spas. Sea bathing on the western shore there was tried by the Prince of Wales in 1750, who returned many times, and the place became fashionable. There were further visits from, royalties; baths and assembly rooms were created, the Polygon was begun, and the eccentric second Marquis of Lansdowne built himself a Gothic mansion on the site of the Plantagenet Castle. The future of Southampton did not depend, however, on its visitors or on its success as a spa. The rapid commercial development of the port was signalled in 1833 when the Duchess of Kent opened the chain pier; a dock company was in-. corporated in 1836, and the first dry dock opened in 1846. The completion of the London-Southampton railway line assured Southampton’s future as a great commercial port of call for the freighters and increasingly large passenger liners which helped to produce the town’s later prosperity. Richard Andrews (d. 1859), a radical politician of very humble origin who had made a fortune, did much for this prosperity by encouraging the interest of wealthy Ameri­cans, and Southampton’s role as Hampshire’s fashionable seaside resort was filled by Bournemouth. George III had visited Mudeford in 1803, and it was from this fashionable village that L. D. G. Tregonwell (1758-1852) drove over to ‘Bourne’ in 1810 and decided to build himself a hme there. The staple industry of that little village had been smuggling, but the building of a family mansion at ‘Bourne’ by Tregonwell assured the place a wholly respectable future, and soon much of the area was laid out to the design of a fashionable architect from Christchurch, Benjamin Ferrey. The Bath hotel, built in 1837, was opened on Victoria’s Coronation Day in 1838, and the district became famous not only for its natural advantages of delightful scenery and good climate, but also for its hotels and large private houses. Ferrey’s successor, Decimus Burton, suggested that a carriage-bridge be built over the Bourne stream, and one result of this was The Square. Bournemouth’s prosperity was assured by the railway, as was the growth of Eastleigh and the establishment of the great military centre at Aldershot in the north of Hampshire, a vast camp built on undeveloped land purchased by the government.

To some limited extent the brewing of beer took the place formerly held by the cloth industry, and by the middle of the 19th century few towns had much left in the way of the weaving and textile domestic industries which had once produced some measure of local prosperity. Sacks for hops were made at Alton, stockings knitted at Christchurch and Ringwood, and special kinds of silk made at Overton, Whitchurch, and Winchester, but Hampshire’s deservedly famous cloths had long disappeared, and the textile industry was established in the north of England. In 1901 less than 50,000 people were employed in Hampshire’s shops and factories, and the county was still predominantly agricultural, although there was some talk of prospecting for coal. It was the commercial and naval development of south Hampshire which produced the problems of the century, for the populations of Southampton and Portsmouth continued to grow steadily in the later years of Victoria’s reign, and public buildings grew in size and splendour, too, although there was much bad housing and many slums. Some good houses survived, including Charles Dickens’ birthplace in Portsmouth. John Wood’s County Hospital (1759) in Winchester was replaced by a new building designed by William Butterfield, whose advisers included Sir William Heathcote and Miss Nightingale. Portsmouth’s splendid new town hall was designed by William Hill of Leeds in 1886-90; old St. Mary’s church at Kingston was replaced by Sir Arthur Blomfield’s vast building. The mother church of Southampton, St. Mary’s, was rebuilt, too, its spire com­pleted in 1914, in order to cater for the parish’s population which had increased nearly 50-fold by the end of the 19th century; Southampton’s new Civic Centre, the lineal descendant of the tiny Guildhall over Bargate, was not completed until 1939. Both these coastal towns had major social problems. In Southampton too great a proportion of the population relied on the docks. In Portsmouth, the major employer was the Royal Dockyard. Neither town could find sufficient land to house their growing populations within their own boundaries, and the war of 1939 only increased these difficulties. Homes and jobs were in short supply, and the destruction by bombing of large areas of Portsmouth and Southampton left many families homeless. This real need for new houses coincided with a shortage of traditional building materials, with a system of licensing for all kinds of building, and with the first real Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. Moreover, London was thought to be too crowded, and the Town Development Act of 1953 made it possible for local authorities to build houses outside of their own areas, with the result that there were soon suggestions for settling ‘overspill’ populations in Hampshire towns: Hook, Ringwood, and Winchester were among the possibilities, as well as an entirely new ‘Solent City’ between Southampton and Portsmouth, for South Hampshire was considered to be a major growth area. Heavy industry was no longer confined to the Royal Naval Dockyard at Portsmouth or to the needs of the Merchant Navy at Southampton, and the construction of a huge oil refinery on Southampton Water seemed to be an indication of South Hampshire’s future. The New Forest no longer produces timber for the Royal Navy, but if it is to survive it will have to be vigilantly protected from those who love to visit it, for the tourist industry has become a major factor in Hampshire’s modern economy, and it is fortunate that the scheme to expand Ringwood was never implemented. Bournemouth, the Isle of Wight, and Winchester, too, have all become important holiday and tourist centres. Agriculture had declined since the 1880s, but it revived to some extent during the war years of 1939-45. Today there are severe demands on land for building. With the help of a large consultative committee, the South Hampshire Structure Plan was pub­lished in 1974 by the Hampshire County Council and submitted to central government, and though a final decision has not yet been reached, it seems certain that ‘Solent City’ will not be created, and that the growth of Southern Hampshire in terms of population will not be so great as was first expected.

In the north-east of the county work began in 1974 on a similar plan on a sub-regional basis, and covering the area of Reading, Woking, Aldershot and Basingstoke, another potential ‘growth area’ but Basing­stoke, one of Hampshire’s typical small market towns, had already been expanded, and the parish church of St. Michael is now dwarfed by skyscraper buildings. Many London firms have opened offices; there are new headquarters for the Civil Service Commissioners and the Automobile Association; and homes have had to be provided for many hundreds of Londoners. There are new schools, and a new shop­ping centre in the midst of the old town, and there is inevitably much controversy over the appearance of the whole place. Andover is Hampshire’s other ‘expanded’ town. In 1961 the Borough Council there agreed with Hampshire County Council and the Greater London Council that population and industry should be brought from London, and Andover, once a quiet little market town, has today grown beyond recognition and is the largest town in the new District of the Test Valley, with a population of about 27,000. New housing estates have been constructed on the edges of old Andover, the shopping centre has been rebuilt, though the Market. Place has survived with the Old Guildhall and the parish church after a good deal of local controversy. A vast new complex, completed in 1975, includes Cricklade College which is a Technical College and a Sixth Form College combined, Magistrates’ Courts, and a Sports Centre. There are big industrial estates to the east and west, many new car parks, and an Andover by-pass was opened in 1969, though one of the two railway stations, the line to Southampton, was closed down in 1964.

Winchester’s silk mill in St. Peter Street, which moved to large premises in the Abbey Mill in 1793, was an unusual development in a town little changed by the Industrial Revolution and one where change ‘ usually meant the development of the traditional industries found in a county town, particularly brewing and printing. There were six printing firms in Winchester in 1859, breweries and malting houses were increasing in number, and manual labour was needed in the leather trades and brickmakers’ yards; for the city had outgrown its medieval boundaries, and new buildings were beginning to cover the empty western and eastern downlands which overlooked the ancient town. Churches and the town hall were rebuilt to meet the new needs.

Change of a differing kind has come to Winchester since 1939; it is still the county town of Hampshire, and the diocesan capital, but it finds itself under increasing pressure from office development, and from the many tourists which helped its prosperity. Very few people, less than 1,000, now live within the city centre, and the place has devoured its neighbouring hamlets and villages of St. Cross, Fuiflood, Weeke, and Winnall, the last now developed as an industrial estate. The cathedral is no longer the largest building in the city, but is rivalled, if that is the word, by modern offices and car park development. Winchester, in fact, shares the problems of all of Hampshire’s smaller historic towns, suffering from the twin pressures of population and the motor car. Old Southampton and old Portsmouth were almost inevitably the casualties of a world war, but it would be a historic disaster if the smaller towns were to become the casualties of peace. There is no doubt that Hampshire, always a county of change, a county made by the passing of time, is changing rapidly in 1976, and that some of this change is too rapid. The land must retain its distinctive character, with its inherent variations, and a knowledge of Hamp­shire’s history helps to secure its future place in the life of the nation.