History of the Parish - From the Hampshire Telegraph, 16th August 1875

Opening of a New Roman Catholic Church at Havant

The quiet little market town of Havant has seldom been so much disturbed as it was yesterday (Tuesday), on the occasion of the opening of the new Roman Catholic Church of St. Joseph, situate on the road between Bedhampton and Havant. For a number of years past the Roman Catholics of the neighbourhood have worshipped in a small chapel at Brockhampton, about a mile-and-a-half from Havant; but the growing population of the district has at last rendered the old chapel altogether inadequate for the accommodation of the rather large number of Catholics who attend the ministrations of the Rev. Father E. Reardon, the energetic parish priest. Fortunately, some Catholics who lived in the vicinity a few years ago, recognising the desirability of providing a more suitable building for worship, and one nearer the town, left certain sums of money in the hands of trustees, and these having been judiciously invested have, with sundry other amounts contributed by "the faithful," warranted those in authority connected with the Brockhampton Church in taking steps to secure the erection of an entirely new sanctuary, with a house for the priest, and a school in the rear. Notwithstanding the kind assistance to which we have referred, the little flock found it very difficult to carry out their object, but they worked with a will, and the result has been satisfactory in every sense of the term.

Mr. J. Crawley, architect, of 2, Bloomsbury Square, London, was consulted, and the result has been that a new church, capable of accommodating about 350 persons seated, a large and commodious parsonage, and a mixed school to receive about sixty children, have been erected at a cost of something like £3,400. The style of the church itself is an adaptation of the 14th century Gothic. It is 78 feet in length, 42 feet in breadth, and has been built of native flint and stone by Mr. Stailard, of Havant. The great feature in the church is the altar, which is one of the best, if not the best, we have seen in the district. It is the gift of Mr. J. Bulbeck, of Havant, and cost several hundreds of pounds. The work of its design and execution was left in the hands of Messrs. Farmer and Brindley, of Westminster Bridge Road, London (who accomplish most of the high class work of Sir Gilbert Scott, the eminent architect), who have acquitted themselves very creditably. The subject chosen is the life of St. Joseph, from which there are three incidents worked out in the highest style of sculptural art, the first representing the birth of the patron saint, the second his journey into Egypt, and the third (which occupies a conspicuous place in the front) his death. The upper portion - or what is termed the super altar - is one mass of exquisitely carved stone and marble, and is a sight in itself. The ceremony of opening the church took place, as we have said, yesterday, when the sacred edifice was crowded in every part.

Among the congregation were the Mayor of Portsmouth (R. E. Davies, Esq.), Colonel Sir Frederick Fitzwygram, Bart., Mr. Maderman Baker, the Vicar of Portsmouth, (the Rev. E. P. Grant), Mr. J. Douglas, and numbers of the surrounding nobility and gentry. Admission to the church was by tickets, 5s. each; but not withstanding this high charge many of the poorer members of the faith were present. The service which, we need scarcely say, was exceedingly impressive, commencing shortly after eleven o'clock, with Pontifical High Mass, sung by the Right Rev. Dr. Danell, R. C., Bishop of Southwark, who was supported by the Very Rev. Canon Doyle, assistant priest; the Very Rev. Canon Butt, deacon: the Rev. Canon Butt and the Rev. Father O'Leary, sub-deacons. The attendants at the throne of the Bishop were the Rev. Fathers Wood (of Lewes) and Lawler (of Chichester), the head master of the ceremonies being the Rev. J. Guiron, secretary to the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster (Dr. Manning) : and the assistant masters of the ceremonies the Rev. Canon Drinkwater (of Bermondsey) , the Rev. J. Horan (of Portsmouth), and the Rev. Father Foran, military chaplain. The musical part of the service was performed by members of the choir of the Roman Catholic Cathedral at Arundel and local vocalists belonging to the faithful, the instrumental portion being executed by a well-selected string band. The music was from Mozart's "Mass" (No.2), in C, and was performed under the direction of Mr. Bulbeck, jun.

At the conclusion of the Mass a sermon was preached by the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster (Dr. Manning) from the prophecy of Isaiah: "There shall come a Redeemer to Sion, and to them that depart from iniquity in Jacob, and this is the covenant that I make with them, said the Lord. My Spirit which is upon thee, and my word which I have put in thy mouth shall never depart out what He teaches me, and I will follow that which He commands me. Never has the world been left without the presence of a Divine teacher from the hour that the Son of God came into it, and I know it never will be until He comes again with glory."

The solemn service having been brought to a close the clergy and a large number of the members of the congregation proceeded to the Town Hall at the other end of the town, where luncheon was served by Mr. J. Purnell, of the "Dolphin" Hotel who, notwithstanding the excess of guests over those expected to be present, acquitted himself in a manner which gave the utmost satisfaction to everybody. His Eminence, the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, occupied the chair, supported by the Right Rev. the Bishop of Southwark, and faced in the vice-chairs by Messrs. Potter and Batchelor. Luncheon over, the CHAIRMAN said he regretted very much that he should be compelled to leave them, as he had to get back to London by the next train, which would shortly be due. He had to thank his friend and brother Dr. Danell, the Lord Bishop of Southwark, very much indeed for having, on two occasions in one week, given him his assistance at the opening of two new churches. He (his Eminence) assured the company that nothing gave him greater pleasure than to be present at the opening of new Catholic Churches; and he promised them that if they could get two other new churches erected, he would come with a great deal of pleasure to open them. (Hear). He hardly knew what other duty was now left him to discharge, except to express his hearty wishes towards his dear friend the parish priest of Havant : (the Rev. Eugene Readon), and towards the flock worshipping under him. He asked the company to drink the health of Father Reardon and his flock at Havant, and success to his mission. - The Rev. Father REARDON, in reply, said that of course the erection of the church had had its difficulties; but, in consequence of the assistance, he might say the very generous assistance, of many friends whom he saw present, his duties had been greatly lessened. He thanked his Eminence very heartily for the gracious manner in which he had proposed his health, and referred the company to the general habit of the Cardinal in always responding to the call of any priest, however humble, on such an occasion as this. He also thanked the Bishop of Southwark and his fellow priests for their kind assistance, and said that one or two had rendered him assistance which was beyond his thanking in connection with the arrangements for the opening of St. Joseph's Church.

He also took the opportunity of saying that Mr. Crawley, the architect, had done a very great deal on very small means; and he had to thank Mr. Stallard, the builder, for the manner in which he had carried out his work. Of course from time to time he (the speaker) had had to object to the way in which the contract was being carried out as far as some of the materials were concerned, but, on the whole, the work had passed off very pleasantly indeed. Although they were in so satisfactory a state regard to funds, there was still a good field for the exercise of their liberality, and as an instance of the need for further help be mentioned the fact that his furniture at the house at Brockhampton was so old that the men who removed it to Havant, instead of putting it into the new house, put it into an outhouse, not deeming it worthy of the new building. The remainder of his furniture would, he could assure them, be removed at night. (Laughter.) - The Right Rev. Dr. DANELL, R. C. Bishop of Southwark, proposed the health of His Eminence Cardinal Manning, Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, whom he described as one of the most eminent, learned, and eloquent men of the time, who had exhibited great zeal in the defence of their faith, and who now held one of the most distinguished positions it was possible for him to hold. In common with all Catholics, he (the speaker) paid the highest tribute of thanks to His Eminence for coming amongst them to open the beautiful church at Havant, and he endorsed all that had been said with reference to His Eminence being always ready to help forward any similar undertaking. - The CHAIRMAN very briefly returned thanks.

In the course of his observations he said that there was no building in England in connection with the faith that he did not take a very great interest in, and he was always exceedingly pleased to be present at the opening services. No priest, however humble, ever called upon him in vain, and the humblest of the flocks he was always glad to attend to - Father REARDON proposed "Pope Pius IX," after which the proceedings terminated. - The Rev. Father Connolly, of Portsmouth, had charge of the general arrangements for the day's proceedings.