St John

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From St John Forton Recollections and Remembrances By Mr George Paxton

Link to Map Of Forton 1832 - Showing St John’s Church

In 1829 Forton was a quiet village within the Parish of Alverstoke with its Church of St Mary the nearest church. On 14th July 1829 there is a record of the purchase and consecration of a piece of land for the building of a Chapel of Ease to be called St John the Evangelist.

The first church was built and consecrated in 1831. The Priest in Charge, the Rev. H.A. Veck became its first Vicar in 1841. He died at Bishops Waltham on 3rd June 1866 and is buried in Elson Churchyard - that at St John having been closed. His successor was the Rev. C.P. Hutchinson and it was during his incumbency that the church was thoroughly renovated and free seats provided to replace the old pews, for which pew rents used to be paid.

The Royal Marine Light Infantry were allowed to use the church for their parade services in 1869.

The Rev. C.P. Hutchinson resigned the living in 1888 and the Rev. Jacob Stephenson became the third Vicar. He was in for a strenuous time. He carried out badly needed renovations at St. Luke’s Mission and then turning his attention to the Parish Church found that its condition was very serious and expert advice showed that tremendous effort and enthusiasm would be needed to raise funds to execute the necessary repairs and improvements. Eventually, however, it was decided to build a new church - a very wise decision because the roof of the old church collapsed before the new building was completed .

The foundation stone was laid in 1891 and in the following year the nave and aisles were completed and conscrated. The cost (4,760) had been defrayed - with the promise of 55 towards the Chancel Fund. The consecration of the Sanctuary, Chancel and Vestries took place on 29th September 1906 and thus we have the church as we find it today.

The stonework of the window above the altar in the Lady Chapel is a memento of the first building having been the east window of that church. The glass, unfortunately, was destroyed by bomb blast in December 1940.

My first recollection is not of a building but of small stones — stones for the mosaic pavement of the Sanctuary and Chancel — somehow, strange to say, a number of these came into the possession of the infant school children — what an ideal set of five-stones?

The Day School was used for the Sunday Schools. A normal Sunday consisted of meeting in the school before Mattins. Above infant age one was expected to recite a verse of a hymn and the collect for the day — learned (?) during the week before.

In church the children sat in the side aisles. The afternoon was a normal Sunday School although I can recall being in church for a baptism. The Red Letter Day in the year was the annual Sunday School Treat. This began with a service in church attended by all the Sunday School children of the parish. Each child had to provide a cup or a mug and one can imagine the noise of crashes and bangs which went on during the service resulting in not a few broken cups as well! After the service all formed up for THE GRAND PARADE! When all were in an orderly formation we all marched with flags flying to the Marine Field, now St. Vincent School Playing Field.

Inside of the Church built between 1891 and 1906 Rebuilt 1951

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