HISTORY by Ted Roe
In the year 1883 Mr. Gillam, a Wesleyan Methodist came from Hartley Wintney to live in Fleet, and as time went on an increasing number of people came to live in this paradise of pines and heather and it became evident that there were ample people for the establishment of a Wesleyan Methodist Church in Fleet. In 1886 the Superintendent Minister of the Sandhurst Circuit persuaded Mr. Gillam to open his house for preaching, which he did and soon found it crowded. Open air meetings were also held. After about three months a beautiful site was purchased at the junction of Branksomewood Road and Fleet Road and a little wooden Church was erected amid the pines and opened for public worship in 1887.
By 1899 it had become too small for the congregation and a beautiful large brick and stone church was built on the same site facing Fleet Rd. The opening ceremony was held on May 25th, 1899, at which Mrs. Cornwall of Crondall presented a silver key to Mrs. Lock of South Hackney with which she officially opened the Church.
A publication of 1874 mentioned a Primitive Methodist Church built at a cost of one hundred pounds, but there seems to be no other record of this church or where it stood. In 1883 a Primitive Methodist Church was built in Reading Rd South, and the stone laying ceremony was performed in March 1883. The opening service of Dedication was held on Easter Sunday 1884. A school room was added in 1898 and a vestry in 1916. In 1949 one of the buttresses crumbled, and when the builders were removing some of the bricks prior to repairing, several interesting items were found, including a poster advertising the stone laying ceremony. This poster was headed 'A New Primitive Methodist Church', which seems to suggest that there had in fact been an old one.
The two Methodist Churches united in
1963 and the membership joined together in Worship using the Fleet Rd
Church in the morning and the Reading Rd Church in the evening until 1966
after which all services and Church work was carried out from Reading Rd.
The Fleet Rd church was sold the following year. A site in Reading Rd
adjacent to the church had previously been purchased, and here a new
modern style church with seating for about five hundred persons was built.
On July 22nd, 1972 the new church was opened by the Rev. Ronald Kemp
(Minister 1966-71) and Dedicated by the Chairman of the London South West
Methodist District, Rev Cyril Wainwright B.A., B.D.
A small Catholic church was built in Kings Road Fleet in 1908. It was intended that a larger building be added when the need arose, so that the first part would be a side-chapel of the main church. When however, the enlargement was made in 1934 a new plan was followed which severely limited any further development. The last addition was made in 1948, bringing the seating capacity up to 172.
The present building was designed and built by Lanner Ltd., of Wakefield Yorkshire, to a ground plan put forward by Canon Walsh. The octagonal design of the main building allows seating for 326 to be so arranged that there are only ten rows in the main aisle and nine in the two sides.
The porch, tiled in checker board pattern of terrazzo, confronts one immediately with the font seen behind a clear glass and mahogany screen. At the same time one sees through to the altar which, in its hexagonal base and the Welsh slate from which it is made, proclaims its unity with the font. Both are the work of Michael Murray, who also made the altar candlesticks, the sanctuary lamps and the combined alter-cum-processional cross.
The vaulting of the nave is by four pairs of laminated wooden arches meeting in a steel pressure ring, each pair giving a clear span of 68 ft, surmounting the ring is a slim fleche.
The walls are of reconstructed Cornish granite, the floor of maple, except for the altar area which is of Yorkshire stone.
The mosaic of the Madonna with angels overshadowed by the Holy Spirit is the work of Dr J. 0. Bajo, a Hungarian working in this country. The Stations of the Cross were cast in bronze at Angers in France by Rene Gourdon.
The silver-crowned statue of the Madonna and child is a link with the old church, and was retained at the request of some senior parishioners.
The Solemn Blessing of the new Fleet Catholic Church of Our Lady was on the 25th March 1966, by The Rt Rev. Mgr. Derek Worlock Bishop of Portsmouth.
The church was served by Priests from the Salesian College, Farnborough until 1947, who allowed a priest to live in Fleet.
CHURCH CROOKHAM C of E
By 1839 the tithing's of Ewshot and Crookham (a Tithing was the tenth part of the hundred combined together for co-operative farming and defence) had a population of about 1,200 persons. There was no school and the church was three miles away at Crondall. This was too far for many to walk, so these people, particularly the children, were receiving no religious instruction. This gave concern to the clergy at Crondall and they decided to raise enough money by public subscription to build and endow a Church in the Crookham Tithing to serve both Crookham and Ewshot. To this end they printed and distributed a little booklet setting out the need for a new church. This booklet contained a map of Crondall showing the site of the new church to be mid-way between the two villages. Such was the enthusiasm for this church that £929 was soon subscribed by the public and Church dignitaries. The gentry subscribed the remainder of the £2422 needed for the building plus £1 ,000 for endowment.
A page from the booklet reads as follows:
And although the Rev. White, Curate of the Parish, has been in the habit of delivering lectures in a private room, yet this provision is very insufficient for the religious instruction of the people and the large and scattered population of the parish, his other duties are such as to demand his whole attention.
And no church being near, the people are in fact destitute of all means of public worship, except such as can be obtained through the dissenters (non-conformists). It is proposed therefore to build a church large enough to accommodate 400 persons on the site marked on the annexed map which is exactly two miles from the Parish Church, and that a Burial Ground and a District be attached ...............................
The church was built and dedicated in 1840. Thus 'Crookham-cum-Ewshot' was established as an ecclesiastical parish. The part of Crookham in the vicinity of the church became known as Church Crookham and the part that had been long established, Crookham Village. The forming of this joint Parish, settled a long standing feud between these two villages concerning the boundary lines. The new District (Parish) extended from the stream at Pilcot to Warren Corner, Ewshot Hill and from the bottom of Redfield's Lane to the further side of Fleet Pond.
(Quotation from Grace Lefroy's book "History of Crookham"):
The first stone was laid in March 1840 and the church consecrated August 31st, 1841 by Bishop Sumner of Winchester. The non-resident Vicar of Crondall was the Rev. W.D. Harrison, Vicar of Stoneham, Hampshire. The Curate in charge of Crondall was the Rev. Anthony Cottrell Lefroy, first incumbent of the new District.
As originally built, the chancel was of the same proportions as the transepts with a similar wooden roof; the carved pulpit was on the north and the choir seats were on each side before the chancel steps. Benches for the school children were in the transepts; the boys sat beyond the pulpit and the girls by the vestry door, near the harmonium, which was played first by Mrs. Lefroy. Men in the congregation in the nave sat on the north side and women on the south. The church was built to hold 400 people.
During the incumbency of the Rev Gordon Wickham, the proposal to build a larger chancel was carried out at a cost of £1,868; over £1,000 of this was given by Mrs. Spurge Bourne. The architect was Mr. H. Woodyer, and the builder Mr. James Liming. It was completed and consecrated in 1877. The addition included a side aisle on the north for the children's seats, a new organ, organ chamber and vestry were added on the south side; new choir seats were placed in the chancel, a stone pulpit and brass altar rails replaced those of carved wood; a new east window was inserted, and many handsome additions to the furniture and adornment of the chancel were made. The oak lectern was carved by Miss Edith Kerr, the present font was given by Mr. Galsworthy and the new altar rail by Mrs. Chinnock.
The beautiful banner was embroidered and other needlework done by ladies of the parish. Among the memorial gifts added is the scaffito on the chancel walls, in memory of Miss Spurgess Bourne and Lady Fredrick Kerr; and the carved oak rerodos, in affectionate remembrance of Mrs. Wickham. The brass and copper screen to the chancel, in memory of the Rev A.C. Lefroy, was dedicated on the occasion of the jubilee, which was celebrated on August 31st, 1891. In the same year a Mission Room was opened in Crookham Village, and a Parochial Room in Reading Road South in 1912. (Both these little rooms are no longer in use).
In 1924 the children's aisle was extended eastwards to form a Lady Chapel, which in the early 1930s was divided from the aisle by an oak screen (carved by Mr. G. Parsons of Fleet) a memorial to the Rev Gordon Wickham, Vicar of Crookham 1883-1925. Within the chapel stands the Sacramental Altar, furnished with a brass cross and candlesticks, it also contains a Memorial Book in which the names of departed parishioners are recorded. The Glass Madonna was given by a former priest in memory of his wife, and the Russian Ikon was a gift from Sir Richard Morton.
In 1970 another and larger vestry was added on the south side.
SAINTS FLEET C of E
In 1857 Mrs. Charles Lefroy died, and the squire resolved to build a church in her memory at Fleet. The first stone of the church was laid on 6th August 1860. Mr. Charles Lefroy and his two little motherless children, aged 11 and 12, were present. His own death in April 1861, occurred before the church was finished, and the work was carried on and completed by Mrs. Lefroy's father, Sir James Walker. It was designed by Mr. Burgess, the architect, in the style of an Italian Basilica, with a small apse for the chancel, and the narthex at the west end. The consecration took place in 1862 and a District was assigned to it and placed under the charge of the Rev. William Plummer. The church of All Saints contains a beautiful tomb with carved figures of the founder and his wife in effigy. The inscription on it reads as follows: To Janet the most dear wife of Charles Edward Lefroy, Esq. on whome may Jesue have mercy". To record the benefactions of her father, James Waker, Fsq. CE., F.R.S., to the parish of Crondall and his most liberal contributions to Christ's work of this building; this monument is placed MDCCCLXL". Also to Charles Edward Lefroy, Esq., born March 9th, 1810, died April 17th 1861, founder of this church, who in the midst of his work for God's Glory and the good of the parish, was taken to his rest".
The following is an extract from Notices of the Parish of Crondall by Sir J.H. Lefroy, R.A., privately printed in 1968: 'The last of the works it was given to my brother to inaugurate though not to complete, was the church at Fleet, in 1860-61. Many and mixed feelings induced him to select this distant corner of the parish for a monumental church to his wife's memory. It was not at the time much wanted, although a population was beginning to collect in the neighbourhood, evinced by the fact of a small railroad station having been established there, but it was certain to be wanted at no distant date, and the wild country, the open heath, the absence of elements of opposition, the pleasure of exercising a sort of creative power, all turned the scale against the suggestions to lay out the money in other ways nearer home. He did not live to complete the design, it was completed by James Walker, her father.'
The cost was: £ s. d.
C. E. Lefroy, or his estates by money or material 1122.0.0.
James Walker exclusive of an endowment of
The early Marriage Registers of Fleet contain many items of interest. The first marriage in the Parish Church was eighteen months after the consecration, and neither the bride nor the bridegroom lived in Fleet; the marriage was after the granting of the Superintendent Registrar's certificate; the entry in the register was wrong and had to be corrected two days later by the Rev. W.H. Plummer in the presence of the parties concerned. The second entry is also of interest, for the bridegroom aged 24 was a widower, and neither of the witnesses could write, and had to make a mark. Of the first eighteen marriages there were eight in which at least one of the parties could not write. Another interesting feature is the description given under the heading 'Rank or Professions', 'Coachman or Groom' figures frequently in the early days. 'Oil and Colourman', 'Railway Gateman' also appear and a remarkable number of 'Gentlemen'. In the first ten years after the opening of the church there were only eighteen marriages. The first Register book was not completed until 1922, and contains the records of less than 500 marriages, many of which were of families whose names are still frequently met in Fleet today.
The Church took over from a previously built school in 1863, and thereafter it was run as a Church School, supported by the Church, a little Government grant and the scholars' pence. (Each pupil was required to pay 2 pence per week towards the cost of their education).
In 1934 the church was enlarged to the west, which included the abolition of the narthex; and the removal of the west doorway with its sculptured typanum of Christ in Majesty to the south side, and a similar doorway of the Transfiguration (sculptured by Mr G. Parsons) being provided on the north side, and the removal of the founders tomb from near the altar to the south west corner of the extended north aisle.
In 1958 a new Lady Chapel and large modern vestry were added and dedicated by Ivor, Lord Bishop of Guildford, on the feast of Corpus Christi.
From time to time the church has been enriched by various gifts. The Processional Cross is a memorial to Lady Grace Bridges, and the silver cross and candlesticks on the high altar were presented by Lady Crookshank. The pair of eighteenth century Italian candlesticks were given in memory of the Rev J. Walker, and the large standard candlesticks in memory of Mr John Stronach.
The three windows in the apse representing Our Lord in Majesty, St Agnes Virgin and Martyr, and St Mary of Bethany are memorials to Colonel Bircham, Mildred Spurling and Grace Clare Oakley; and the large west window is in memory of William Mascall Kenrick, who carved the panels on the high altar. The Lectern was a gift in memory of Colonel Birchham. The statue of our Lady to the right of the altar was presented by Mr John Purser, A.RJ.B.A., and the della Robbia plaque of the Holy Family by one of the Clergy. The small cover for the font was designed and executed by Mr Seddon in memory of Miss Chinnock, a generous benefactor to the church.
HOLY TRINITY - CATHOLIC
The Parish of The Holy Trinity, Church Crookham was formed in 1958 by a division of the parish of Fleet. There was a church in the area already, the Garrison Church of Our Lady of Lourdes. This church which had been built for the troops about 1920 had been looked after by the Salesian Priests from Farnborough who acted as Officiating Chaplains. This duty was taken over by the Parish Priest. The territory of the new parish comprised the area of Fleet south of the Basingstoke Canal and the villages of Crookham, Dogmersfield, Winchfield, Ewshot and Crondall. Daily Mass began in 1958 when the first Parish Priest took up residence in the presbytery in Moore Road.
In 1960 a plot of land in Aldershot Road was purchased. On this site an old house called Woodey Corner had stood, it had a lot of timber in its construction and the roof was thatched. One day the owner Captain Duckworth and his wife went out leaving a fire in one of the rooms and when they returned the house was completely burnt down.
The growth of the parish and the running down of the army necessitated the building of a new church. This was designed and constructed by the same company that built the Fleet Catholic Church and the design closely resembles it. The church was opened in 1968, and the following year the presbytery was built and the old presbytery in Moore Road was sold.
The number of parishioners continued to increase and in 1973 it was decided to build a hall in order to provide a social centre and meeting place. By 1975 the debt on the church was paid thus paving the way for the Dedication and Consecration which was carried out at a special service on 5th July 1975 by The Right Reverend Derek Worlock, Bishop of Portsmouth.