The Story of Methodism in Hedge End goes back to 1857. At that time Hedge End itself was just starting up as a settlement and was known as Botley Common. There was no Church in Hedge End the nearest Church being the one at Botley which is today in the Manor Farm Country park. Around this time a few people living in the area who were worshipping outdoors and were known as “Ranters” decided to convert a small cottage into a Church to be more comfortable. This cottage was down the bottom of the road now known as St Johns Road they put a stone slab outside to tell people that it was a Bible Christian Church.
The Name Hedge End was officially given to the Parish in 1863. In 1874 the Methodist Worshipers were joined by the worshipers of St Johns Parish Church which was built that year. In the 1860’s the population of the Village was approximately 750 people today (2014) approximately 23,000 people live in Hedge End.
The Cottage became to small for the Worshippers and in 1865 a new Bible Christian Chapel was built still in the same road, near where until recently the Fountain Inn was situated. The Foundation stone for this building still exists and is currently stored in the existing Church. On the wall over the Pulpit in this church were the words “prepare to meet thy God”.
Forty years later in 1905 it was thought this building itself was to small and it was proposed that funds be raised to built a new bigger Church. In 1909 a piece of land was purchased for the new Church this is where the Church stands today. The records between 1909 and 1921 are missing nowadays so we dont know exactly how the plans progressed during this time. The Specifications of the proposed Church were set out during a meeting in 1921. They were as follows:-
The porch to be outside the main building.
Rising floor in the Church.
Side seats to be at an angle to the pulpit.
Church to seat 250, no gallery, Sunday School accommodation for 150.
Telescopic reading desk.
Church to be built of Terra Cotta bricks with buff stone facing at front and open roof.
Choir seats to allow the choir to see Preacher’s face.
Cathedral glass windows in Church.
Ample turning at the entrance for a corpse.
Building to be set back as far as possible on the site.
All costs not to exceed £2,000.
Building time one year, 30th July, 1923, to 30 July, 1924.
During September 1923 interested parties purchased engraved stones in aid of the building fund these stones were laid out round the ground floor of the building in total 26 of these stones were laid. The new (and present day) church was opened during the morning of the 27th of August 1924, by a Mrs Bell of Andover. The service was conducted by the Rev. T.J. Chapman. The Church had cost nearly £6000 to build.
During the second world War the Church ran a Canteen for service personnel in our halls, as well as sandwiches and cups of tea games equipment and a Piano were available. At the time of the Air raids on Southampton people sought shelter in the Church and at times about 100 people a night slept in the Church. On the 60th Anniversary of the end of the Second World War Hedge End Town Council presented us with a plaque in recognition of the Churches work during the War.
The First Electricity was installed in the Church in 1946. This helped with blowing the Organ as previously a hand pump was used.
In June 1957 the Methodists of Hedge End celebrated there 100th Birthday. This was reported on in the Southern Evening Echo. According to the Report the Service was led by the Rev. Russell Shearer the Chair of the Birmingham Circuit and was followed by a tea for 160 people including a birthday cake with 100 Candles. This Tea was followed by a rally at which the Rev. Shearer commented that
‘I am glad to be taking part in this unique meeting. The members have been progressive at Hedge End, for this is the third building, each better than the one before, in which the same community have sought to propagate the Gospel since the day of the pioneers in 1857.’
‘A distinguishing thing about Methodists is that we are convinced that everyone needs to make a personal response to Jesus Christ. No one can bargain or earn their way into the Kingdom of God. There are no folk like Methodists for expressing a sense of good fellowship, they are good at mixing and great on hand-shaking, but there must be the underlying Christian fellowship which creates, and sustains, gives impetus and drive.’
In the Early 1970’s the church was refurbished at a cost of nearly £4000. There were major Changes to the Dais area at the front of the Church. The platform at the front of the church was extended, the Choir Pews were resited, the organ was moved and overhauled. The Memorial Tablets were moved to the rear of the Church, new curtains, new pulpit, new lighting and Carpets.
By the Middle of the 1980s it became obvious that something needed to be done about the organ which had been bought secondhand from a large house in the West Country on opening in 1924.The new Copeman Hart instrument was installed in 1989.
In 2001 new Church Windows were installed.In August 2007 we nearly lost the building when there was a lighting Strike on the roof. fortunately the fire Brigade was called rapidly and they were able to save the building. We now have a lightning conductor.
In 2014 we were happy to celebrate 90 years in this building and 157 years of Methodists in Hedge End. We wonder what will happen in the next 157 years of Methodism in Hedge End ?
The writer of this article is indebted to Stuart who prepared the presentation at our
90th Anniversary Celebrations as most of the information for this article is taken from this source.