Holy Trinity with St Columba, Fareham

History - St Columba

St Columba Church
St Columba landed on the island of Iona, off the West Coast of Scotland in 563 AD, with the primary purpose of converting the Picts on the mainland of Scotland to Christianity. Columba had previously founded monasteries in Ireland, where he was a member of the royal family, and by the time he had died on 9th June 597 AD, he had established missions over a large area of Scotland.

The First St Columba Church

  Captain William Thresher The original St Columba church was the old tin tabernacle in Catisfield Lane. It was designed as a mission church to serve the outlying parts of the parish; it was built by a retired naval officer named Captain William Thresher (right) who was previously a Churchwarden at Holy Trinity church. It was constructed in 1891 on land which came from The Limes estate. The church was a daughter church to Holy Trinity and had three local Trustees.

As tin tabernacles go, it was quite substantial. The external cladding of corrugated iron had a wooden lining, there were arched lancet windows, and a small wooden spire over its bell tower. It had a harmonium and a choir, originally of boys, but men and women joined the choir later, and an organ was fitted in 1948.

The church received many gifts, including an oak chair in 1924, a priest’s desk in 1925. It also received a stained glass window in memory of Ellin Napier, as well as many smaller items from members of the congregation. The window was dedicated by the Bishop of Portsmouth, Dr Neville Lovett.

The church was painted green in 1956 and a weather vane presented by HMS Collingwood was installed in 1957 to replace the old wooden spire. Celebration of the Patronal Festival is first recorded in 1955. Christmas, Easter and Harvest celebrations were regularly held at this time and were well supported.

The Present St Columba Church

Laying the foundation stone In 1961 plans for a new St Columba church were drawn up. In May 1962 the foundation stone was laid and the church was dedicated by Bishop John Henry Lawrence Phillips of Portsmouth at 7.30pm on Wednesday 20th February 1963 after a Service of 9 Lessons and Carols.

The link with Iona was imaginatively preserved by using a carved granite stone from the old ruined abbey church on Iona (St Columba’s home) as a font. The block of stone was delivered by HMS Alderney returning from a patrol off the west coast of Scotland to HMS Dolphin in Gosport.

HMS Alderney 1961 In 1966 St Columba and Holy Trinity were declared inter–dependant with a joint PCC and a Churchwarden and Deputy for each. St Columba was at last licensed for weddings.

The new church incorporated many items from the old church, including the Dove from Ellin Napier’s window, clergy chairs and the candlestick holders. The service pattern centred on the 9.30am Family Service instead of Matins, and an Intercessions group started, among other innovations. In the late 1960’s the fine blue aisle carpet was given, the gold curtains, reputedly as fitted on the QE2 were hung, with the Sanctuary Cross given by Archdeacon Geoffrey Lewis Tiarks in memory of his daughter.

The hall was built in 1971, a product of energetic fundraising and generous donations. This had followed a similar story to the building of the church in that the structure had to be built within a very tight budget. In the same year, the Queen by Order in Council set up the Team Ministry covering St Columba and Holy Trinity with Revd. Simon Burrows as Rector, Revd. Martin Pierce as Vicar of St Columba and Revd. Geoffrey Neale as Vicar for Education.

The tenth anniversary of the new church in 1973 was celebrated by the building of a Vicarage adjoining the Church.  

In 1979 Quest groups for 11 to 13 year olds were started and St Columba had a Youth Club with 163 members. Jane Taylor became the parish’s first Deaconess. The first Iona pilgrimage took place that year, and a second in 1989, this led to the inauguration by Reverend John Williams of a new monthly Iona style Sunday evening service in which greater participation by the congregation is encouraged.  

In the 1980’s there were innovations like the Pike Hike on New Year’s Day, and the Parish Camp in the summer, the children’s project days, and the all–age Parish Experience. There were also the ecumenical Men’s Breakfast and participation in the “Good News to You in Fareham” mission.

In the following year Heather Carling’s Lincoln Mystery Play led to the start of the Three Churches Touring Company. This church theatre group used St Columba Church as a home base for its performances, which have included “The Fox and the Dove” – the story of St Columba’s life, and in 1991, the Centenary year, “Colum Cille” – an impression of the life of St Columba in poetry and music.

Also in 1991 for the centenary, the choir, under organist Allen Cole, donned new red robes in preparation for even greater musical performances.

Meanwhile the work of St Columba Church goes forward. The old St Columba was a mission church, which became like a traditional Parish church in miniature. The new St Columba built as a mission church to serve the new estates has grown and established its own niche in present day Fareham.

The hall built adjacent to the new church in 1971 is now near the end of its life and so prompted a review of the whole site. This review arose out of the Vision 2002 consultation process and now the parish is in the process of formulating a new Parish Plan to take the development forward.

Stage 1 of the new development plan was completed at the beginning of 2020 with the fitting of de-stratification fans, bannister handrails updated along with a new rail placed on the balcony for added safety, and cupboards installed for extra storage. Stage 2 is now planned, which will include the removal of interior walls to the rear of the church building. This will remove two small rooms and open-up the space to allow a more flexible space for community use.