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The History of St Faith’s Church


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When people visit St Faith’s for the first time they are usually surprised by the beauty of the interior. In the Hampshire and Isle of Wight volume of ‘The Buildings of England’, Sir Nikolaus Pevsner’s most interesting comments about St Faith’s were:

‘Demure outside … inside original and impressive’.

‘Strange and slightly jazzy chancel fittings’.

‘A wide south chapel, against the middle part of the nave, adds a little spatial complexity’

In terms of Church history seventy-five years is not such a long period of time, but this fine building is more than just a piece of good architecture. It represents an important facet of community life and development. It is not just the work of architects and builders but the faith and labour of hardworking parishioners who have been committed to keeping the church in good condition as a place of worship and a meeting place for the community for generations to come.

The Church, like Lee-on-the Solent itself, is relatively new. There is no mention of Lee in the Domesday Book although in the 11th Century the land belonged to Count Alan of Brittany. In 1236 a sub-tenant Gilbert le Bret, held a land holding known as the Manor of Ly and another sub tenant Roger Markes, also held land. The two manors became known respectively as Lee Britten and Lee Markes, names which survived at least in law until the abolition of copyhold lands in the 1920s and which exist now only as road names in Lee and Stubbington.

By the end of the 14th century Lee Markes had become the property of Titchfield Abbey, and after the dissolution of the monasteries, with Lee Britten, it became the property of the Earl of Southampton. For the most part, and for many centuries, what we now know as Lee was little more than a hamlet of a few houses and farms. But there is a religious twist!

Quarr Abbey (left) on the Isle of Wight (founded in 1132) required a mainland base to land and keep a boat. Hamo Le Breton granted them a piece of land close to Browndown Point with permission to land at any point along the seafront. When Titchfield Abbey (right) was founded in 1232 Lee became the mid-point between two monastic communities and the landing point for essential journeys. Rents and tithes were paid to the monks at Titchfield (Premonstratensians - the same religious order as the community at Mondaye in France to which St Faith’s relates today). At the Reformation when both monasteries were closed, the nearest parish churches were at Rowner and Crofton, and the land which eventually became Lee was used mostly for farming and grazing.

By the mid nineteenth century, Lee still had no church building and not many houses but the community was growing. A Victorian developer and member of Queen Victoria’s court, Sir John Robinson, had seen the potential of Lee as a seaside resort so development began. For the second time in its history the proximity of Lee to the Isle of Wight (and to Osborne House in particular) was a significant factor in its development. Roads were laid out (a place dedicated for the Parish Church in appropriately named Victoria Square) and plots of land sold for building development.

A ‘tin church’ dedicated to St Faith was built, the second dedication to that saint in this deanery so clearly a saint of some importance at that time in Victorian England. Within the context of Victorian grandeur and optimism, a child saint was chosen for her simplicity, purity and courage when facing martyrdom under a period of Roman persecution. The tin church was seen as a temporary place of worship to be replaced when Lee had sufficient population to build and sustain it. The Parish of Crofton (created out of Titchfield) had responsibility for the new church and curates were sent down to take services before one eventually became priest in charge. The Vicar of Crofton between 1874 and 1901 was the Revd Pitt Cobbett who not only planted the seed of a Church in Lee but still in a way influences it today. A recent bequest of Revd Cobbett’s last surviving relative is being used to help fund a Youth Minister to work in this parish and neighbouring parishes of Rowner and Bridgemary.

The longest established group within St Faith’s is the Mother's Union which has had a branch here since 1904 and of course began with a membership from the old tin church.

Housing was increasing and the community was sufficiently established so that a school, a tennis club and sailing club were all formed at around the same time. The airfield was built and people were beginning to say – “We need something more significant than a tin church”.

In the 1920s discussion began about the possibility of Lee becoming a separate parish. There were plans to develop the seafront with the tower complex, hotels, flats, a swimming pool and of course the railway. The High Street was filling with shops and Lee was certainly becoming a place to come to and was thought to be a community with a future. The Diocese of Portsmouth at this time did not exist – we were part of the Diocese of Winchester, and the then Bishop, Bishop Garbett, agreed that a new church at Lee should be built.

Seeley and Paget

Henry John Alexander Seeley, Lord Mottistone, OBE, FRIBA (1900 -1963) Seeley Architects John Seeley and Paul Paget were asked to design a church. This was their first major commission. John Seely, the son of Lord Mottistone, and Paul Paget the son of the Bishop of Chester, were certainly gifted but there was no doubt that their being well-connected helped in their receiving this work. Their previous project had been a restoration of Mottistone Manor on the Isle of Wight (on which the architect Edward Lutyens remarked on their drawings “Well boys, you’ve got it absolutely right. Mottistone Manor – and you’ve kept it modest in manner”) and their subsequent commission was the restoration of Eltham Palace, a former home of Henry VIII but soon to become the magnificent Art Deco home for the Courtauld family in south London. Paget Paul Paget LRIBA (1901-1985)


After this they worked on commissions by friends J.B.Priestley and John Betjeman, on building further churches such as St Mary’s Islington, and also on the restoration and maintenance of City of London Churches and buildings (Lambeth Palace, Fulham Palace, the Deanery and Canon’s House of Westminster Abbey) some of which were damaged during the war. Seeley's obituary, published in The Builder (January 25, 1963) noted that he became a Fellow of the Royal Institute of British Architects in 1932, and that he was at one time the only practicing architect sitting in the House of Lords. Paul Paget’s final post after Seeley’s death was as chief surveyor to St Paul’s Cathedral.

These two men were quite a remarkable pair. Having met at Cambridge they formed what Paul Paget himself described as a ‘marriage of two minds’. John Seeley was the creative architect whilst Paul Paget managed the business. They enjoyed the company of the great and the good, especially in the pre-war years. They worked with architects Oliver Hill and most notably Sir Edward Maufe whom Paget humorously described as being ‘exactly like Guildford Cathedral’. Maufe was designing the cathedral at the same time that Seeley and Paget were working on plans for St Faith’s.
 
Guildford Cathedral
     
It is quite possible that the drawings of St Faith’s were worked on at Seeley and Paget’s country retreat known as ‘The Shack’ on the Isle of Wight. The Shack, visited by J.B. Priestley and the Courthaulds, was an architect designed ‘shepherd’s hut’ with every imaginable 1930s luxury. The Shack, now located at Mottistone Manor is owned by the National Trust and open to the public.

 

This was a time of local promise and of good things to come, but alongside this was the rise of dictatorships and fascism in Europe. The wider church reacted to world events in 1925 when the Catholic church introduced a new feast ‘Christ the King’ - an attempt to say that Christ stands above secularism and human political strength. Above the High altar, Seeley and Paget installed the symbol of Christus Rex which is a key to interpreting the design of this building.

 

Many people comment on the remarkable arches in St Faith’s and of how the building might represent an up-turned boat, an image often used to describe church design but the shape of these arches is quite distinctive. Paul Paget (in an interview for Country Life Magazine) said of St Faith’s - “It was thought pretty dashing in those days because ‘the partner’ (which is how he usually referred to John Seeley), had formed a theory that the most stable form of structure was the catenary arch”. A catenary arch is the form that a chain naturally takes when dropped but suspended from two points. Every segment of chain pulls on every other segment of chain, giving the hanging chain its curved shape. The chain is almost vertical near the points of suspension because this part of the chain has the most weight pulling down on it. Toward the bottom, the slope of the chain decreases because the chain is supporting less and less weight. “So the church is composed of a series of reinforced catenary arches, which were cast in situ, thought quite a job in those days… then a number of churches followed in the London Diocese and elsewhere.” (Country Life Magazine May 1937)

 

Looking at the arches today they remain a statement of strength and power but there is no evidence to suggest that an upturned boat was the model for their design, apart from the church’s proximity to the sea. Strength and power are perhaps the keywords and it is possible to see in the shape of the arches of the side aisles a sharper and more defined shape – that of upturned bullets. By identifying the Church with a saint who, as a young girl, was martyred under early Roman persecutions and who was a symbol of purity, courage and faith, Seeley and Paget took power and strength of faith as their theme, with arches resembling up-turned chains and bullets as if turning ‘swords into ploughshares’ – a strong and creative place for people of faith and peace.

Very few of the architect’s drawings still exist though one set indicates provision for a shorter nave with a porch at the west end rather than the south porch which we use today. Possibly due to lack of funds, Seeley and Paget worked on a building that might be extended at a later dater since these drawings indicate the fitting of temporary weather boards on the west wall. Subsequent confidence that the money would be found obviously persuaded the parish to go for the larger building which we know today.

St Faith's under construction during 1932
Laying the foundation stone
16th May 1932
The new St Faiths

 

A Living and Changing Building

The foundation stone at the east end of the Church was laid by John Seeley’s father, Major General The Rt. Hon John Edward Bernard Seeley CB, CMG, DSO, Lord Lt. of Hampshire on 16th May 1932 and simply proclaims the words “To the Glory of God.” Just over a year later St Faith’s was dedicated on 21st June 1933 at a cost of £10,188 of which at the time of dedication, £2,000 had still to be raised. Such was the involvement of Seeley and Paget in the design of the Church that the order of service indicated that ‘no gift would be accepted for the inside of the church without them being consulted’.

Pages from the Dedication Ceremony in June 1933

 

The painting of the Woman of Samaria (a gift of C.E.Pilcher Esq), the sanctuary lamp (a gift of Miss Adams), the Sanctus Gong (a gift of Mr and Mrs Adams) and a framed version of the Mothers’ Union Prayer (a gift of Mrs Noster) are just a few examples of how local people contributed to the fabric.

 

The architects had planned for the inclusion of a velvet curtain to hang behind the High Altar but this along with reading desk cushions, kneelers and candle sticks had to wait until funds were available. Three curtains were eventually hung behind the altar for a period but proved unpopular and were removed. The internal colour of the church has become increasingly blue with successive decorations and whilst this is not in accordance with the architect’s plans, the colour scheme remains a popular feature. There is no evidence to suggest that blue ceilings were ever part of the original plan and even the wall at the east end of the church behind the high altar was originally white.

We know nothing of the origin of the roundel in the Lady Chapel featuring the Virgin Mary, although it pre-dates the church itself.

 

Churches however are living buildings and they begin to change the moment people are introduced! In the autumn of 1933 Mrs Georgina McCausland offered to fund the design, manufacture and installation of windows in the Lady Chapel in memory of her husband Lt General Edwin McCausland who died in 1923 (the window featuring St George over the conquered dragon) and her son Major Frank McCausland who died in January 1933 (the window featuring a kneeling knight).

These windows would have needed the approval of Seeley and Paget. They still fit with the theme of Christus Rex: St George has conquered evil and carries his sword pointing down whilst what he carries upright is the cross and flag of St George. The obedient soldier in the adjacent window is kneeling, hardly a fighting position, with sword to the ground and looking up to the cross of Christ. It may just be, however, that in trying to get the emphasis of peace over war they neglected to get their facts right – Frank McCausland was in the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Scots and not the 1st as indicated in the window!

 

 

Brass plaques in the Lady Chapel were transferred from the old tin church. The first is a dedication to Reverend Edmund Davys who was the first Priest-in-Charge of the old church from 1894 until his death in 1901. After his wife’s death (aged 38) in 1872 he had been a missionary in China with CMS and his ministry here was a retirement ministry where for seven years he was clearly generous in giving of his time, experience and pastoral care.

The second plaque is not for a priest but a doctor, James Priestley who died in 1903, aged 38 from blood poisoning. He was a medical practitioner in Lee. The plaque was paid for by his widowed mother. Little more is known about him other than what is inscribed in the plaque itself.

At the dedication service it is, however, difficult to imagine the response of the congregation who listened to Bishop Lovett. In fact many would not have heard him at all because whilst the acoustic of the building is superb for choral music it proved to be a disaster for the spoken word and over the years many different sound systems have been installed in attempts to conquer this problem.

The building however, was impressive, the architects having also designed all of the furniture and fittings for the chancel and sanctuary. The original wood fittings of the choir and high altar furniture and communion rail incorporate English-grown cedar of Lebanon. The choir area was extended to provide a curved dais for a nave altar in 1995 and the new wood rail was constructed from Douglas Fir.

 

 

The Bishop of Winchester donated and dedicated the window at the west end of the church in memory of Bishop Theodore of Winchester (1924-1932). This window was originally for Winchester College Chapel (the school of Paul Paget) but was abandoned on account of the war and was adapted and finished to fit its present position. The window was removed and restored in 1994 by the Salisbury Cathedral Windows Department.

 

The small windows in the chancel became the focus for controversy over the years. Designed by the architects they were manufactured according to a new process of plain-glazing. Early congregations blinded by sunlight at first had the windows stained, then boarded over and then uncovered as they are now.

 

 

In 1935 a separate ecclesiastical parish of Lee-on-the-Solent was created so that the new building became the parish church. Between 1939 and 1946 the church was used for the parade services of HMS Daedalus on Sunday mornings. As a thank offering for this use, the officers and ship’s company presented a bell which was hung in a new bellcote above the west wall and dedicated in October 1949.

 

The first vicar - Revd Douglas Hunter

 

 

The vicarage (built 1929-30)

On 16th May 1944 during one of the last air raid alerts, an anti-aircraft shell fell on the vicarage and caused the death of the first vicar, Douglas Egbert Hunter. The shell hit the corner bedroom where he was sleeping and he was thrown across the room. He died on the way to Haslar Hospital. Mrs Hunter was outside by the back door and was only slightly hurt. Douglas Hunter was 60 years old and close to retiring on health grounds having given so much of his energy and enthusiasm to the building and organization of the new church. He was remembered as a hard working parish priest and a kind and loving husband to his wife and loving father to his two daughters.

Pinned up Douglas Hunter’s roll top desk was a notice:

“If you ever feel blue find something to do
for somebody else who is sadder than you.”

   

 

The reporting of his death, although just three weeks before D-Day was subject to newspaper censorship. The Portsmouth Evening News that day simply said that there was a ‘noticeable attempt at concentrated bombing over one coastal area’ and the next evening that ‘the vicar of a south coast town was fatally injured by an anti-aircraft shell which struck the vicarage’. Three days later censorship was lifted and the Hampshire Telegraph reported that ‘the corner of the vicarage where his bed was situated was demolished’. The Bishop of Portsmouth conducted Douglas Hunter’s funeral in St Faith’s and afterwards the cremation at the new crematorium in Southampton. His ashes are interred close to the south porch of the church.

Douglas Hunter's wife is in the third row adjacent to the aisle in this photograph of St Faith's congregation taken around 1938.

It was in his memory that alterations to the high altar were made by re-facing the original concrete design with Gris Moucheté, a Belgian stone. The work was completed in 1948 and consecrated on Whit Sunday that year. The architects Seeley and Paget designed the altar at no charge as their contribution to Douglas Hunter’s memorial, having been themselves frequent dinner guests at the vicarage at the time that the church was being built.

Considering the design of the church in the years preceding the war, there is a tragic irony about the fact that it was an anti-aircraft shell that came through the vicarage roof fatally wounding the dedicated priest who had made himself ill by working so hard to establish the new church. Douglas Hunter maintained St Faith’s in high church tradition with incense and sanctuary bells but since his time the church has changed considerably with the different priests who have come and served here.

Memorial work after the war became a feature of Seeley and Paget’s work. An example of such work can be seen at St Mary’s Church, Petworth where they designed a new altar in memory of two teachers and twenty-nine children killed in an air raid on the village school there.

 

 

Revd Douglas Hunter's daughter Rosemary visited St Faith's in September 2008
Rosemary showing some of her photograph albums to Lydia Dixon

 

The pattern of Sunday worship from the start was:

8am Holy Communion
10am Sung Eucharist
11am Matins and Sermon
12 Noon Holy Communion, 1st and 3rd Sundays
3pm Children’s Service
6.30pm Evensong and Sermon

The weekday pattern of worship was:

Wednesday 7.15am Holy Communion
Thursdays 8.00am Holy Communion
Feast Days 8.00am Holy Communion
Baptisms were conducted on the 2nd and 4th Sundays at 3pm

 

Robert Hutchings
in 1943

The picture is of Robert Hutchings whose family came to Lee from London in 1939 when his father was recalled to the RAF to serve at HMS Daedalus. When his mother died, the funeral took place at St Faith’s and the Revd Douglas Hunter spoke to Robert and introduced him to the choir. This began a long association. Mr Hawkins, the choirmaster was affectionately known as ‘Pop’. There were two practices each week and the choir attended all services on Sundays along with weddings on Saturdays for which choristers were paid a shilling. The men in the choir rarely came to practices – they could read music and so just came to services. Among the boys that Robert recalls were: Norman (Nobby) Grout, Donald Mulholland, Anthony Webber, Denzil Denton and Ronalf Bellamy. Among the men, he recalls the Dimmer brothers and Mr Griffin.

Robert recalls how Pop Hawkins had an organ at home in a sound-proofed room. With his brother, a church warden, Pop was very committed to the church. He organised choir outings including one which Robert remembers well, which was to Arundel Cathedral for a meeting of church choirs from along the couth coast. During the war, when choir members were away their pictures were put up in the vestry and with the blackout, head choirboy ‘Nobby’ Grout put a candle in a jar to light the journey home for chroristers using the back alleyway.

After the death of Revd Hunter, Robert remembers that the new priest, Revd Robathan, arrived and worked hard to get the congregation more involved. He attended scout meetings in the old Lowry Hut as well as sports and social activities. On Revd Robathan’s request, Robert became a server, a role he undertook until leaving for Canada in 1953.

In his account of time at St Faith’s, Robert writes of the Revd Oswald Sills who introduced baptisms into the main morning service in 1956 replacing the practice of private baptisms in the afternoon. The first child baptised in a morning service was Robert’s son as the family had by then returned to Lee.
Revd Oswald Sills at the baptism of Christopher Andrew Prout on 6th June 1965

Sermons in those days could be long. Choir boys to pass the time would draw one another or one of the girls from St Boniface School who sat in the front two rows.

All of the main festivals were well attended and often at Midnight Mass there was standing room only.

The youth of St Faith's in 1955 with Revd Oswald Sills

The Lowry Family

After the first world war the Lowry family gave a wooden hut to the church for community use – this wooden hut in the High Street became a focal point for community life. William Lowry (a retired tea planter) born in Ireland and his wife Annie born in Chester settled in Lee-on-the-Solent around 1900. They had four children – William, Auriol, Catherine and Cyril. All three boys served as officers in the Army during the Great War and all three boys were killed in action. On 4th June 1915, William Lowry aged 25 died in the Gallipoli campaign. On 25th March 1918, Cyril Lowry aged 20 died on The Somme and on 23rd September 1918, Auriol Lowry aged 20 died in the 4th Battle of Ypres.

William & Annie Lowry wanted some suitable local memorial in tribute to their sons. As Lee had no parish hall they offered in 1923 to purchase a surplus YMCA wooden hut at Gomer and to have it erected on a suitable site which they also bought and donated to St. Faith’s primarily for Church purposes. The PCC readily agreed and the hut was established on the eastern side of where the British Legion is now located. It was named the Lowry Memorial Hall (usually referred to as the Lowry Hut) and was regularly used for all sorts of functions.

 

 

 

By 1970 the Lowry Hut was in a poor state of repair and the PCC agreed to sell the land with the proceeds going to building a new hall adjacent to the church – to be known as the Lowry Room and was opened in November 1979 at a cost of £35,000. Under the leadership of the then vicar, a former army chaplain, Revd Ken Kendra, the Lowry Room was built to the north side of the church and replaced what some in the community thought of as a ‘parish hall’ (the old Lowry Hut) with a small ‘church hall’. There was some outrage in the community which felt it was losing its village hall. However the church ensured that the room was a success and saw the formation of Lee Voluntary Care providing a lunch club and a playgroup.

The Lowry Room however was too small for many functions whether for church or community use, and so the Church decided in 1996 to build a Parish Centre which would incorporate the Lowry Room but importantly add a further large hall to the complex for both church and community use.

 

Music in St Faith's

Music has always played an important part in the life of the church. The first organ, installed in 1936 at a cost of £400, was dedicated by Bishop Lovett. It was restored in 1961/2 and totally refurbished in 2005/6 by Henry Willis and Co. at a cost of £60,000. In the last 100 years however, the two churches on this site have been served by just two organists Mr Hawkins and Mr John Witham.

Refurbishment of the organ in 2005/6

The original organ in the 1933 building was an enlargement of the instrument from the tin tabernacle (as it was called) dating from the 1950s, which stood on this site until the 1930s. The organ was a single manual and pedal instrument of unknown origin, and could have been by Henry Jones, an organ builder who was active in the late 19th and early 20th century and who is known positively to have constructed two other organs of similar size in the locality.

The organ was enlarged to two manuals and pedals when it was installed in this new building in 1933 by organ builders, Sweetland of Bath. It then consisted of two manuals and pedals (Swell 6 stops: Great 5 Stops; Pedal 3 Stops; 3 couplers). The highest pitch on the organ at that time was a 4 foot stop. All but two of these stops are still on the instrument today.

The organ was taken into the care of Henry Willis and Sons around 1954, since when it has been regularly tuned and maintained by them. Each time the organ has been cleaned and overhauled, a few improvements and modifications have been carried out, giving us the very successful instrument of today.

New front on the organ in autumn 2007

John Witham, organist from 1957,
and his wife June

Over the years the choir has changed and developed. The choir has participated in RSCM events and enjoyed many choir camps and other activities. A great many young people have known St Faith’s through involvement in the choir.

The church choir in 1933
The church choir in 2007
The church choir of 2007 with visiting ex-members from the previous 50 years

 

Major projects to maintain and improve the fabric of the church:

Other key projects undertaken have included the redecoration of the church in 1958 and 1992, the re-ordering of the chancel to accommodate a Nave Altar in 1995, the installation of a new sound system in 1996 and the replacement of high level Windows in 1998. The floor was re-sealed in 2005. New Heating Systems were installed in 1937, 1952, 1982 and 2005.

The moderate re-ordering of the Church in 1995 to accommodate a Nave altar followed a controversy over initial plans that would have involved the removal of lecterns and choir stalls. The final design which extended the sanctuary area to create a dais with movable communion rails enabled the congregation to gather around the altar and has proved popular.



The Parish Centre, completed in 1999 at a cost of £365,000, was made possible owing to a bequest from Ronald Bulson after whom the main hall is named. Ronald Bulson (1919 - 1970) was not always sympathetic to the church - he once wrote a letter to a vicar and, wrapping it round a brick, threw it through a vicarage window - but he was enthusiastic about the church’s role in community. With much fund-raising and a £66,500 grant from the National Lottery, the Parish Centre, designed by architect Michael Warren, was completed. Bishop Kenneth Stevenson laid the foundation stone (to the left of the main entrance) on 25th June 1999.

Repairs to the bell were undertaken November 2006.


Whilst repairing the bell it became obvious that other improvements would be necessary soon.
These were carried out in 2010.


 


St Faith's Today

The Church and Parish Centre are situated on Victoria Square and over the years the site has been transformed from being a very large and often overgrown Vicarage garden to offer the surroundings it does today. The Vicarage was fenced around in 1981, the new car park laid out in 1999 and a Garden of Remembrance set out in 2000.

There is no burial site in Lee so this Garden provides a much valued place for the interment of cremated remains by bereaved families who continue to maintain the garden. The garden was designed, laid out and planted over one weekend by the family and friends of Roger John Hurley, a young man who died tragically at work in 1999.

 

 

 

In the Garden of Remembrance there is a dedicated memorial and it is in memory of Capt Llewellyn Thomas Jones MBE, MN. Unfortunately it is now badly weathered but most of the inscription is legible. It reads:

In memory of Thomas Llewellyn Jones MBE Commander Retired,
Eastern Telegraph Company, of Roseau, Lee-on-Solent November 1 1933.

Roseau was the name he gave to the house he had built in Newton Place and it was the name of the sugar plantation in St Lucia owned by his grandfather and where his early years were spent.

Captain Jones was born in Norwood, Surrey in 1878 and moved with his parents to his father’s birthplace, St Kitts in the West Indies 10 years later. At the age of 15 he commenced his seafaring career as an apprentice under sail followed by 2 years under steam. Afterwards he spent the whole of his seafaring life working on cable-laying ships, mainly with the Eastern Telegraph Company. He gained his Master’s Certificate in 1909 and served much of his time in the Red Sea and East African station.

In the First World War he was commissioned into the RNR and worked for the Admiralty in the English Channel, North Sea and the West coast of Ireland mine-laying as well as cable laying frequently on the CS Cambria. For his wartime work he was awarded the MBE in 1920.

After the war he returned to the Eastern Telegraph Company until his retirement in 1928 and the following year he moved to Lee-on-the-Solent, where he had a house built in Newton Place. In November 1933 he died following an operation in Marylebone and was cremated in Golders Green. His widow, Mrs Dora Jones, donated the memorial plus a sum for maintenance a few years later.

 



St Faith’s today sits somewhere within the liberal catholic tradition. The more catholic traditions of ‘bells and smells’ of the 1930s have gone although incense is often burnt in the Lady Chapel at midweek services. The Lady Chapel is the place of daily prayer and is considered by those who use it regularly as the ‘engine room’ of the church. All activities due to take place in the centre on any day are prayed for at Morning Prayer, as is the ministry and mission of the church in the community.

 

 

There is evidence in early magazines that Douglas Hunter had to badger people to come to church but they did so in great number, as they do today when the average number at the Parish Eucharist is around 180. Lee has, however, grown significantly since the Church was built and the hamlet of one hundred years ago has become a busy community seeking market town status with a population of around 10,000 people. Politically conservative it often resists change and still many people defiantly refer to ‘the village’ which it clearly is not. In many ways new housing has been good for the community and local economy but the majority of those who work commute elsewhere to do so. New housing and flats mean that Lee is not just a seaside place for retirement. The schools are full and there are plenty of young families and it may well be that eventually our church buildings are not big enough!

 

 

 

The church recognises that it is fortunate to have a building in good repair, in a great location and good facilities. It is not complacent and recognises that some of the challenges that lie ahead are as great as they were for those who allocated land to the monks at Quarr, to those who first built the tin church, then the present building, and those who have managed the changes that have taken place since. The review of current assets in terms of land and buildings, the nature of church growth and patterns of church attendance, suggest that the church buildings on this site will have to continue changing in the coming years.

Architectural journalist Stephen Bayley wrote that ‘architecture is more important than politics because nothing has so much influence on people’s behaviour as their surroundings’. This church building and the buildings that have been developed around it exist to enable the Christian community to fulfil their vocation. Probably John Seely and Paul Paget, had they had a free hand, would have renamed the Church ‘Christ the King’ but fortunately the name of St Faith was there already. The child who gave her life for Christ in the Roman persecution of 304 remains an inspiration for Christians in a world where the temptation is simply not to believe. The church dedicated to her enables Christians today to express not only their faith, but also their confidence in God.

Incumbents of Crofton with Lee-on-the-Solent

Pitt Cobbett MA

1874 - 1901

Richard E Leigh MA

1901 - 1926

Hugh P Metcalfe BA

1926 - 1947

 

 

 

Priests-in-Charge at Lee

   
Edmund Davys MA William F Aston MA JB Bourne MA EW Morley BA TN Rathbone Griffin MA Charles R Hall BA Eric H Dixon LTh Douglas E Hunter BA
1894 - 1901 1901 - 1908 1908 - 1910 1910 - 1912 1912 - 1921 1922 - 1927 1927 - 1930 1930 - 1935

 

Vicars

 

 

1935 - 1944

Douglas E Hunter BA

1944 - 1954

Kenneth M Robathan MA

1955 - 1965

A Oswald Sills MA

1965 - 1970

Derrick Halliwell

1971 - 1980

Kenneth Kendra OBE MA

1981 - 1992

Michael Kenning BA

1993 - present Peter Sutton BA

St Faith

In Agen, now in Southern France in the year 304, a young Christian girl named Foy (from the Latin Fides) refused to make a sacrifice to pagan gods and was put to death on the orders of the Roman Governor Dacien. He had her roasted on a brazen bed and then beheaded. Other versions of the story record a miraculous shower of rain extinguishing the fire and necessitating the subsequent beheading. Other Christians from Agen, among whom were Bishop Caprais, moved by her example, submitted in their turn to an agonising fate.
In the 9th Century a monk allegedly stole the relics and took them to the abbey-church in Conques, a popular stopping place for pilgrims on their way to Santiago de Compostela. The abbey at Conques was re-dedicated to St Faith and, discreetly glossing over its highly questionable acquisition, grew and prospered. Crusaders and pilgrims going to the shrine of St James at Compostella invoked her intercession and heaped treasures and gold on the community. The celebrated reliquary jewel-encrusted statue of the saint dates from this time and has long been revered as a memento of her life and death

 

 

Acknowledgements:
This history was written and compiled by Revd Peter Sutton with particular thanks to John and Lydia Dixon for research and to June Witham, Margaret Munro, Andrew Munro and Pippa Dice who have helped with the text.

 


 

 

 

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The Parish Office is open every weekday morning from 10.30am - 12.30pm
the church is open for visitors all day

St Faith's Church, Lee-on-the-Solent
Parish Office 023 9255 6445 
parishcentre@stfaiths.mail1.co.uk
Webmaster jkmcdonald@ntlworld.com