Church History

Mrs Hart, one time president of the “Avenue Spiritualist Church and Minister of the Spiritualist National Union suggested to Mr & Mrs Fowler, who were resident in Bitterne, that they should try to arrange meetings for a few people  who were attending the Avenue church yet lived in Bitterne, Woolston and the surrounding area.  So a small group of people met together in the front room of Mr & Mrs Fowlers house where they held circles and various functions, until someone had heard of a hall in Dean Road which could be hired from St John Ambulance Organisation.

The opening service was held on 18th May 1947.  Sunday morning and evening services were held with an “after circle” meeting of clairvoyance after the evening service.  The cost of the hall hire was 10/- or 7/6 if only used for an evening service. 

A healing circle and open circle and various other meeting were held in Fowlers house in Mousehole Lane, Bitterne.  These dedicated people raised money for funds for the church which was affiliated to the S.N.U. on 9th November 1947.

It was noticed that a site was for sale at the top of Lances Hill (where the church still resides), which was set out as tennis courts with a wooden pavilion and had been used by a firm of drapers named “Frazers of St Mary’s Street” (no longer in existence)  A deposit of £30 was paid on April 16th 1951 for the purchase of the land to Miss Dilly Jones (total cost being £316.17.6d).

Treasurer’s accounts show that in 1950 a load of rubble was purchased for 10/- also glass, wood, ballast and posts etc.  The base was laid and the walls were built to a height if three feet. 

A Nissen type hut was purchased in 1951 for £385 and was assembled by voluntary workers involving nearly all of the original group members.

On May 22nd 1952, Bitterne and District Spiritualist Church was officially opened by Mrs Hart, MSNU and by Mr L Burnett.  The collection taken at this service amounted to £7.11.5d. 

Services were held on a Sunday morning and evening and also on a Wednesday evening, a Healing Service was held under the leadership of Mr Burnett and an Open Circle, discussion groups and Whist drives were held weekly.  Ladies Guild met every Wednesday afternoon when sewing was done to be sold at forthcoming coming bazaars.

Garden Fetes were annually in the grounds of the church, and Woolston O.A.P. Concert party, under the leadership of Mrs Nellie Mitchell, frequently entertained members. Notable people officially opened some of the garden fetes, including Lord Maybray King, Alderman Dicks, Peter Clark of Southern television and reverend Butler from the Liberal Catholic Church.

A memory garden is situated at the extreme end of the property. Initially there were two silver birch trees, which have since been taken down safety reasons. Crazy brick path meandered through the grass to a wishing.

A Lyceum was formed in May 1953, but unfortunately disbanded in 1955 owing to lack of support. Another Lyceum was formed in March 1959 and the attendance of 24 people, yet again, due to the fall in numbers, was closed in 1961.

The ledge provided by the joining of Nissen hut to the side of the wall proved a convenient place for a trail of pennies. This continued until the old church was pulled down. It provided the coffers with quite a few pounds altogether.

The Council issued a licence for retention of the Church renewable every five years until 1971 when the committee was informed that the church would have to be demolished.

Due to the forethought on the part of some committee members, plans were submitted to the local council. President Mr Albert Faulkner, Secretary Barbara Fyffe vice president Mary Clifford, met with Mr Cheer of the Town and Country Planning Department. The meeting was held at the Civic Centre to discuss the siting of the church and church activities.

This was in order to provide the council with a full picture of the likely meetings, and the number of people in vehicles likely to be attracted. Not so was the main thoroughfare, and the council were concerned about the volume of traffic that might be attached via Lances Hill. Therefore our parking facilities had to be restricted.

The council eventually passed the plans for the “Compton” sectional concrete building to be erected on land which was formerly the site of the pavilion. The building was ordered from Compton’s in July 1969 with work on the base commencing by local builder Mr Ron Britton.

The prefabricated building cost £1720.1.6d and in addition we paid £1751 to the local builder for its erection and the main devices. Interior decoration was undertaken by a few stalwart members, again on a voluntary basis. Mrs Nan McKenzie of London, officially opened the building on 26th September 1970. It was named “Hilltop Hall”. The neighbours of the properties ajoining the church were invited to the opening but only one family responded to the invitations. It was agreed to allow the hall to be used for wedding receptions. Mr Tom Brandon was appointed “caretaker” and donations were accepted from people who use the building.

Peter Clifford carved a wall hanging on a nameplate for the “Hilltop Hall” but this was unfortunately stolen. Mr Brandon attended to the bookings and Woolston Camera Club used to hold weekly meetings.

The old church was completely demolished in 1972. The first church service was held in the existing building in July 1972. It was re-registered marriages on July 27th 1973. Gordon Higginson M.S.N.U. The president of the Spiritualist National Union, dedicated the building to the service of God and the Spirit World in January 1974.  The church could no longer be used by outside organisations after the dedication service.

Minister Higginson also conducted the ordination service for Mary Clifford. Mary a member of the church was that year the youngest minister to be ordained in the S.N.U.

In 1977, at the end of several years as president, Mrs E. Shaw received the S.N.U. Certificate for Long Service award. The 1980’s saw encouraging advances in spiritual awareness through the courses conducted by Mrs Mary Clifford S.N.U.