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Gosport

John Wesley visited Gosport in 1773. By thhe early 19th century a small society society was,meeting in a shop in Chapel Street, Hardway. The society grew and in1868 moved into a purpose-built chapel in Priory Road, which celebrated ts Centenary in 1868. During World War II, the premises were commissioned by the military and the society found a temporary home with the Anglicans.

In Gosport itself Wesleyan baptisms were taking place in Middle Street from 1808, but this may have been in temporary premises as no other details exist before the foundation stone of a new Wesleyan Chapel, in Middle Street, (now High Street) was laid on Thursday 3rd May 1810. The building, which was square, was accessed through a narrow passageway from the High Street and according to the 1851 Religious Census seated 650, including 200 free seats. Attendance was reported as 238 (including 123 children) in the morning, 25 in the afternoon, and 135 in the evening. 'The attendance is variable, but considerably the best in summer.'

In November 1907 the Wesleyan Home Missions Committee recommended that the Gosport and Fareham Circuits amalgamate and this was formalised at a recognition service at Gosport on 9th September 1908. The Superintendent Minister’s residence was in Fareham, so a smaller manse was rented at 4 Peel Road, Gosport. Gosport and Fareham are now part of the East Solent and Downs Circuit.

The last service in the High Street chapel was held in the evening on Sunday 26th December 1909, led by the superintendent minister, the Rev. W.T. Atkin. The building had already been sold for £1,030. It then became the Gosport Theatre Cinema from 1910 to 1938 and later was used as Coates’ Auction Rooms. The premises were later demolished and replaced by ‘Old Auction House’ flats.

The congregation met in temporary accommodation while a new church was being constructed in Stoke Road. This was built of red brick with an impressive 95 feet spire. It was opened on Wednesday 22nd February 1911 by J.G.Parham. The opening service was conducted by the President of the Conference, the Rev. J Hornabrook. The architects were well known builders of Wesleyan chapels: Gordon & Gunton, of Finsbury House, Bloomfield Street, London.

In 1989 this church suffered a disastrous fire that destroyed much of the building. It was later rebuilt, retaining the original shell but completely remodelling the interior to provide facilities that would be of more benefit to the community. The former Sunday School hall which survived the fire (along with the tower) is used as the place of worship.

The Centenary was celebrated in 2010. Among the special guests who took part in the celebrations were Lord Leslie Griffiths of Pembrey and Burry Port, the Rev. David Gamble and the Rev. John Maddern from Australia, who spent three years as the Minister at Stoke Road between 2003 and 2006.

The Wesleyan Methodist Association had a chapel in North Street, opened in1840 with, it was claimed, considerable encouragement and support from local Dissenters. It reported at the time of the 1851 Census as accommdating 210, including 100 free seats. Morning attendance was 30 plus 24 children and evening as 85. It seated 250-300 worshippers. It was well situated, being in a densely populated part of the town where there was no other place of worship. It witnessed some early success, but it is not clear how long this lasted.

Sources

  • Hampshire Advertiser
  • Hampshire Telegraph
  • East Solent and Downs Methodist Churches Website
  • Hampshire Record Office

Entry written by: MSB
Category: Place

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