Sacred Heart Church History by Justine Symes & Ann King
with extracts taken from the 'Centenary of the Sacred Heart Church Fareham 1878-1978'
Part One: Life before the Sacred Heart
The records of Catholicism in the Fareham Area prior to 1878 are scarce and unfortunately records prior to 1939 were destroyed in
Portsmouth during the Second World War. The following are extracts taken from the 'Centenary of the Sacred Heart Church Fareham 1878-1978'.
We start with a period called the 'Penal Days' during Queen Elizabeth I's reign. She ejected Bishop White of Winchester in 1559 who then died a year later leaving the Catholics without a leader. They struggled for another 250 years practising their religion at risk of their freedom and their life. The parish churches were taken over by the Queen's official church and you were fined £5.00 if you did not attend and imprisoned if your absence continued. The rack seldom stood idle in the Tower for the later part of Elizabeth's reign.
We know of two Fareham men, who despite the Penal Laws, went to France and became priests. The first was Fr Augustus Hill who was ordained in 1660 followed by Fr John Route. Both priests were ordained in Douai but returned to England to continue their serve to God.
During these Penal times there are records of 3 local Catholic families who were all paupered because of their religion: The Ludlows of Cams Hall, The Tichbornes of Portchester and the Henslowes of Boarhunt. You can visit Thomas Henlowe's monument at St Nicholas' in Boarhunt which is inscribed with 'He fought the good fight, he finished the course and he kept the faith.'
Though harsh, the Penal Laws failed to eliminate Catholicism from England. The earliest Penal Days Chapel in the Fareham area was at Southend House near Soberton. In 1715 a list of Catholics produced by the Government named 108 in Hampshire but by 1773 the Bishop Challoner's report in Rome showed that there were now 1200 Catholics, 11 priests and 10 missions.
In 1778 came the first small measure of legal relief from penal laws, with a second Relief Act in 1791 making the Mass legal and priests free to practise Catholicism. Finally in 1829 came the 'Emancipation'.
After 1829 there was rapid change to the attitudes towards Catholics and by 1882 the Diocese of Portsmouth was created.
Within Fareham town itself, a mission was first started in 1873. Fr James Bellord who was a military Chaplain serving the troops in the neighbouring forts, was one of the first to devote himself to the Catholics of Fareham. Mass was said once a week in a shed situated in an alley off West Street, furnished with a few wooden seats and affectionately known as The Tabernacle. But it was too small and obviously only a temporary solution, so the search was on for a permanent site for a Church. Unfortunately they were gazumped at the first attempt to find a site, which was in West Street near the top of Portland Street.
On the 24th October 1874 Fr Thomas Foran was appointed as Chaplain to the Catholic Army troops stationed on Portsdown Hill. He took up residence at 11 High Street and administered to the small number of Catholics in the town. Finally after much hard work and effort he obtained a piece of land, with the backing of a Mr Stapleton-Bretherton and a Mrs Grace Grace, between Hartlands Road and Portland Street.
It was originally a timber yard owned by a Mr Sandy and was bought by a Mrs Kennedy who sold it to the Diocesan Trustees. By Autumn 1878 the building work was complete.
The Church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, was solemnly opened by Dr James Danell, the Bishop of Southwark, assisted by a number of clergy and in the presence of a large congregation, on 4th September 1878. The church itself was designed by John Crawley of Bloomsbury, London.
Part Two: 1874 to 1945
Though the first priest in Fareham, quite possibly was Father Gascoigne, the real founder and first resident priest was Father Thomas Foran, who came to Fareham in 1874 as Chaplain to the troops stationed on Portsdown Hill. It was Father Foran's hard work that led to the building of the present church.
Early in 1882, just before the Portsmouth Diocese was formed, he left Fareham after 10 years of hard work.
Following Father Foran for a brief term were Fr Peter Kernan, Fr James Conway and Fr Timothy Doyle. Towards the end of 1887 Fr Edward Collins came to Fareham from Fordingbridge. He worked for the Parish for 18 years, which is one of the longest in the history of Catholic Fareham. It was Father Collins who arranged for the School Room (the present church hall) to be built in 1894, with the generosity of the Stapleton-Bretherton family. The total cost was £134.1.6 which included the erection, furniture and gas fittings. It was known as the School Room as it was used for Sunday School classes. These Catechism classes were absolutely essential as there was not a Catholic school in Fareham.
Father Collins was forced to resign due to ill-heath and old age in 1905. But not before the Church had been registered as a place for the solemnisation of marriage on 10th February 1903.
Very little is recorded about the choir before 1916, except that they were accompanied by a small Harmonium and they occupied a position downstairs on the left hand side near where the Font now stands.
In 1927 Canon Bailey became our Priest and during his time the School Room was divided by a wooden partition to provide two rooms. Two folding doors were fitted to allow the whole building to be used for occasions such as First Communion Breakfasts and Wedding Receptions.
When the Sacred Heart Church was originally built it had only side isles that caused great inconvenience and during the late 1920's a Mr Coles, who was a member of the choir, was given the job of cutting the benches and creating a centre isle. A choir balcony was also built and a small organ was acquired to replace the harmonium. A replacement organ was bought from Hook Church by Father Twomey (1931-1936) with it's original hand-blower.
In 1936 Captain Bretherton was given permission to form a choir for the singing of part sung masses and motets.
Mr Chris Cadogan took over as choir master when then 2nd World War came as Captain Bretherton was recalled for active service. The war brought black out regulations and until these could be met, choir practice was held in Hall which was more readily blacked out than the church.
It was not until 1945 that the Sacred Heart Parish was given an assistant priest. The first being William McDonald and this reflected the population growth in our parish. Prior to the 2nd World war we had less than 200 members and looked to the parish for social as well as spiritual lives. The parish had a football team, tennis, dancing clubs, drama society and a flourishing choir that was known throughout Fareham.
The Church was nearly lost during the War. On 10th January 1941 an incendiary bomb fell through the roof and lodged in the organ gallery.
It was only the presence of sailors attending a social in the church hall that Saturday night that the church was saved.
Our Lady of Walsingham Church History by Joan Hamilton
Christianity in Portchester goes back many centuries - in fact it is thought that there was a Saxon timber church here in the 7th Century.
The present church in the grounds of the Castle was founded on the same site in 1128 as a Priory for Augustinian Canons. It is said that King Henry the First required the Canons to say Mass daily for the souls of his mother, father, brother and for himself. Before long the Canons found life in the castle unsuitable and moved over Portsdown Hill to Southwick to found a Priory there where it was relatively peaceful and quiet.
All this is far removed from the more recent life of Portchester Catholics. The first public Mass since the Reformation was celebrated in the Parish Hall, Castle Street, Portchester on the 21st December 1935. This was followed by a monthly Mass in the Parish Hall, although, during the Second World War, many Catholics would make their way to Mass at Fareham, often walking the 2 - 3 miles each way. Later, Mass was celebrated on a Sunday morning at the White House Cafe on the A27, when before Mass could begin, the tables and chairs and the general mess from the night before had to be cleared away!
As numbers increased, the present church, originally called Our Lady's Chapel, was built in 1954 in White Hart Lane and the first Mass took place on Christmas Eve, although the church was only a shell. Those who were there at the time recall that sacks were hung over the open doorways and described it as a vivid reminder of the stable where Christ was born. During this time Sisters from the Holy Souls Convent in Portsmouth came to visit parishioners and also take Catechism classes, as they did in a number of parishes in the area.
Until 1973, Portchester Catholics were served by the priests of Fareham, but in that year Bishop Worlock made Portchester a separate Parish. A house was obtained in Windsor Road to serve as the Presbytery and Fr. Anthony Maxwell-Ward, the Diocesan Chancellor, was appointed Parish Priest. He had been an Anglican and had a great devotion to Our Lady of Walsingham who was honoured in both the Anglican and Catholic traditions. The Chapel of Our Lady was re-dedicated as the Church of Our Lady of Walsingham and this forged strong links with St. Mary's Anglican Church in Portchester, leading to an ecumenical pilgrimage to Walsingham. In January 1976, Fr. Maxwell-Ward left Portchester to become Parish Priest of St. Vincent de Paul, Lordswood. He then served in Parishes in Jersey and Bournemouth. He died suddenly in 1986 in Walsingham, whilst on pilgrimage.
In 1976 Fr. Richard Hind, the Diocesan Chancellor, was made Parish Priest. However, his stay was very short since, in 1977, he was appointed Bishop's Secretary and left Portchester. He subsequently became Parish Priest in Ryde, Ringwood and Hayling Island before, once again, becoming Diocesan Chancellor and moving to Fareham.
Fr. John Doran was Portchester's next Parish Priest and served the Parish until 1996. For part of that time he was also Catholic Chaplain to QA Hospital in Cosham. For a number of years he used to regularly visit Portchester Community School to meet and pray with the Catholic pupils. He also initiated the Clergy Fraternals - meetings of the Clergy from all the denominations in Portchester.
It was in 1996 that Bishop Crispian felt he could no longer keep a resident priest in Portchester. He visited Portchester's Pastoral Council and explained that, although it would remain a separate parish, Portchester would now, once again, be served from Fareham. Fr. Doran left for a sabbatical before being based at Ryde where he was engaged in ministry in the Isle of Wight. He then moved to Kiln Green where he now has a ministry in Berkshire, particularly at St. Joseph's, Maidenhead, where his uncle was, at one time, Parish Priest.
Portchester was never a very wealthy Parish, but a visiting priest once remarked that, though financially poor, spiritually it was very rich.