The Stubbington and Hill Head History Society
Old Church window
The St Edmund's window in Crofton Old Church
Holy Rood Church
Today (2014)
 
The Church before the building of the
tower (pre 1928)

A BRIEF HISTORY OF HOLY ROOD CHURCH

For many centuries Stubbington and Crofton were served by the ‘Old Church’ of St Edmund the Martyr in Titchfield Road. However, by the mid 1870s it had fallen in to a bad state of repair and was in need of much restoration if it was to continue to be used as a parish church.

With Stubbington growing rapidly it was decided that a new and more centrally situated church was needed and so the Vicar called for subscriptions towards the new church. Sir F. Sykes gave a donation of £500 and others followed so that the total building cost of £4,000 was soon raised. The Lord of the manor, M.P.Delme, gave a considerable sum and also provided building sand and gravel from his pits at Titchfield. Local farmers helped by carting sand, gravel and shingle as required. Thos. Goodchild prepared the plans and the Fareham firm of Plummer and Gamblin carried out the work.

On October 2nd, 1878 the new church, with its 500 seats, was consecrated by Harold Browne, Lord Bishop of Winchester. Pitt Cobbett, son of the famous economist and editor of the "Rural Rides " written by his kinsman William Cobbett, was the first incumbent. (For many years after, the Old Church of St Edmund was used only on special occasions, but during the 1980s it was taken in hand by the Friends of Crofton Old Church and is now beautifully restored and cared for, with services taking place every Sunday.)

Throughout the succeeding years various improvements and additions were made to Holy Rood, although the tower, the church's most graceful external feature, was not built until the 1920's. A severe chancel fire in 1968 was used as an opportunity to thoroughly modernise the interior, and in 1998 further re-ordering took place with the result that Holy Rood’s interior today is warm, bright, welcoming and practical.

The east end of the church, dominated by a beautiful window depicting the crucifixion, took the worst of the damage from the fire. Because of this the decision was made in 1998 to reorganise the seating to face west, looking towards the magnificent west window. Today only a tiny fragment of the east window remains (the head of St John) which has been incorporated into a south aisle window. The font, (which is supported on a cluster of small marble columns and has a bowl richly carved with foliated patterns and with a ball design beneath), has been re-sited at the east end, at the main entrance.

By the end of the 19th century, with the continued growth of the parish, the vicar felt unable to continue single handed with the work and wished to sacrifice part of his income towards a curate's stipend. This was readily agreed and the vicar's own stipend was raised by £100 a year to meet this new cost. The vicar, however, did not survive long into the next century for he died "a man of gentle courtesy and simple faith" in November, 1901. The Reverend Richard E. Leigh was appointed in his place.

Just south of the village shopping centre, the church of the Holy Rood forms Stubbington's chief landmark. In a small, neat grassed churchyard, the church is dignified and solid in construction. It consists of the north-west tower (added in 1928) and a nave, north and south aisles, south porch, chancel and vestries. In the early English style the church is of flint with stone dressings and with, above every window except those of the clerestory, arched corbels supported on corbel heads of foliated pattern. The aisle windows are of two lights each, whilst in the clerestory above - which runs the length of the nave only - we see circular windows on each side. The south porch is of wooded gabled construction on low flint walls and leads to the south door of the church, with a pointed arch whose corbel arch rests on two well carved corbel heads in the form of female faces. Today, the main entrance is from the east end of the church, through the Church Centre.

Externally the most notable feature is the soaring three storey tower which is of flint construction with stone dressed buttresses, stone battlements and projecting bird head water spouts out of each top corner. In the lower floor is a west door, in the storey above are single lancet windows whilst the top and bell chamber has two light windows similar to those in the aisles. The tower was proposed in 1927 to complete the architectural unity of the church and was dedicated on June 30th, 1928, by the first Bishop of Portsmouth into whose diocese the parish had just been transferred. As a plaque in the lower room of the tower tells us, the cost of the tower was borne by Old Stubbingtonians, their relatives and members of the Foster family in memory of the many Stubbingtonians who fell in the South African and 1914-18 wars or who gave their lives in their country's service since the foundation, in 1841 by the Rev. William Foster, of Stubbington House School. (This school was housed in the great rambling mansion across the field from the church, a mansion now owned by the Fareham urban council and now rebuilt as a Community Centre).

The clock in the tower's west face was added in 1935 by the local inhabitants to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George the Fifth. The single bell was installed in 1928 to replace one that was far older and with much history to it. This old bell had originally hung in Place House, Titchfield (the abbey site) and was moved to Cams Hall, the home of Montague Foster. He gave it to the church when it was built but, in 1921, when the new bell was purchased, the old was transferred to St. Faith's Church at Lee-on-Solent where, after its long and useful life, it still sees service. The initials of the Earl and Countess are engraved on the bell. In the room beneath the tower plaques record these events, and also to be seen is a framed Roll of Honour of those of Crofton and Stubbington who fell in the 1939-45 war.

The interior of the church is tall and spacious with white bricks used extensively and with thick walls and heavily recessed and splayed windows. The use mostly of clear glass gives, with the light bricks and stonework, a feeling of spaciousness and airy beauty. The lean-to roofs of the aisles, like the great nave roof are of wooden beams picked out with white in between. The main roof of the nave is carried by beams that continue down the clerestory walls to rest in foliated corbel heads on the stringcourse above the arcade arches. The clerestory windows, six on either side, are circular, deeply recessed in rounded arches and of clear glass. The aisles, also of white brickwork, have two light windows in the Early English style, four in the South Aisle and six in the North. All are filled with the greenish-tinged clear glass so beloved by the Victorians but one window in the South Aisle, close to the porch, has one of its two lights filled with stained glass depicting a Bible scene ("Behold, I stand at the door and knock") . The Hussey Window in the North Aisle

There are various memorials and tablets on the aisle walls, including a monument to Henry Peter, the deceased brother of S. R. Delme, a man who had for long been a benefactor and supporter of the church in its early years of struggling growth. There are also memorials to the 66 parishioners who gave their lives in the Great War; those who died in the 2nd world war, and the 4 men lost during the Falklands conflict in 1982. S. R. Delme (Seymour Robert), Lord of the Manor, who died in 1894, is also commemorated in the church by a memorial tablet.

The nave, high and impressive, is carried on north and south arcades of pointed Early English style arches supported on low round stone columns of massive size with plain capitals. Over each arch the corbel tines come down to rest on foliated corbel heads between the arch. The west window which floods this end of the nave with subdued light is of four lights and was given in August 1887 by Thomas Eastman of Stubbington Lodge as a memorial to his wife who had died in January of that year. It shows scenes from the Bible and is richly coloured. Stubbington's Holy Rood church is a place of dignity and simple beauty. A place to visit and savour. Many thanks to Colin Prestidge for permission to quote from his excellent book ‘A History of Stubbington’, published by Warsash Publishing, ISBN No 0948646837. Please click here to return to the Holy Rood home page or click here to return to the Village History page

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