History - Holy Trinity
At the time of the 1831 Census, Fareham was a prosperous market town, famous for its red brick and chimney exports, with a population of 5,579, living in 690 houses. The ancient church of St Peter & St Paul was at the top of the High Street but because pews were reserved by the rich, the poorer residents were denied their socially important access to Sunday church. A great benefactor in the town, Lady Jane Thompson (wife of Vice Admiral Sir Charles Thompson) bequeathed sufficient money when she died in 1833, to build a new church “….as affording greater accommodation for the poor”.
A meadow was bought by public subscription on the south side of West Street and in December 1835, at a cost of £4,200, Holy Trinity Church was consecrated. Lady Jane’s son Sir Henry Thompson, who had trained to be a vicar at St Peter & St Paul church, became the first minister of Holy Trinity. It was decided that a third of the seats in this new church would be free of charge, the remaining being available for an annual rent of 5/- (25p) a year, with the income going to the Minister.
Holy Trinity is built of local white brick with stone dressings. Designed by architect Thomas Ellis-Owen, it is one of the earliest Gothic Revival-style churches, a style which came to dominate Victorian church building. Its internal iron columns are an architectural rarity.
Originally there were only two aisles on either side of the main nave, with a gallery running around three sides of the building. An organ was installed in the west end gallery, where the choir sat. One of the boys who sang in Holy Trinity choir over time was one William Randal Cremer who would go on to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1903.
The dominant feature in the original plans was a three-decker pulpit, as preaching to the often-illiterate congregation was the main focus of a Victorian Sunday service. It was in 1837 that a spire was added to the tower, and the clock and bell were installed in 1842.
Major internal re-ordering was done between 1889 and 1913. The focus of services had changed from preaching to sharing the Sacrament (Holy Communion). The large pulpit was replaced by a brass eagle lectern which now stood to one side, the galleries along the north and south sides were removed and the choir and organ were relocated from the west gallery to be forward of the congregation. The main change however, was the installation of an altar, front and central to the building’s focus. Shorter pews were installed to enable a central aisle to be created – this being a clear route from the entrance and font at the rear, direct to the new altar.
In 1920 an extension was built at the eastern end of Holy Trinity church. A new wooden screen was installed, creating a barrier between the congregation and the new choir stalls and high altar. The stained-glass window created for this new east end wall allowed the old one to be relocated to the west end of the church. Both of these beautiful windows are still in place to admire today.
Changes continued, with the first church hall being built alongside the church in 1932, costing almost as much as the church had done, nearly a hundred years before. Post-war, Fareham’s population continued to increase. A new parish was created south of the Avenue – St John the Evangelist Church being built on Redlands Lane/St Michael’s Grove. In 1960 a new Holy Trinity hall was built beyond the site of the original meadow, to the south of the church. Then in 1963 what had felt to be the ‘daughter’ congregation of St Columba, moved from the tin tabernacle in Catisfield to a new brick church which was built on the corner of Highlands Road and Hillson Drive. This brought God’s presence more visibly to the growing population of north west Fareham and with the move, came a greater recognition that the two churches were equal ‘sisters’ in the work of the Parish (see separate section for more details about St Columba).
In 1971, the town and Parish activities were really growing and so a Team Ministry was created (still quite unusual today) with several priests employed to look after Holy Trinity, St Columba and youth work across the two congregations. By 1985 it was decided that the second church hall was inadequate so the current Parish Centre was built, this time attached to the church via an internal linkway.
The interior of the church had some extensive reorganisation at this time, with the wooden screen being moved back towards the eastern window, creating a smaller chapel area (which now includes a round table for more intimate celebration of Communion and a candle stand in one corner, for personal prayer). The enlarged space in front of the screen means the choir now sit nearer the congregation but more importantly, the altar has moved forwards too. Being placed on a new raised platform the priest now celebrates Holy Communion facing the congregation, encouraging a feeling of sharing and participation.
Perhaps the most significant change for many was the ordination of women. Holy Trinity and St Columba congregations welcomed women priests in 1994. Another great advance in our Parish has happened in 2020. After much consultation amongst our congregations, prayer and discussion, the Parish has become a member of the Inclusive Church Network.
Fareham in 1856