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St George’s News - Waterlooville’s Parish Magazine

The Website for St George’s Church, Waterlooville and its Parish Magazine St George’s News

Summer 2020 issue

Looking back on 100 years of worship

Life that once made the Church our beginning and end has altered tremendously. At the beginning of the century families always went to Church some time on a Sunday, even where there were servants they had to go too. The bible was the only book read on a Sunday, only the most necessary work was done. This was a day of rest, no sewing or reading, nor were any games played.

“Sunday Best” clothes were a feature of the Late Victorian and Edwardian reigns, and were always worn for Church. They had to be clean, often starched, boots or shoes had to be polished and hats had to be worn. They then removed their hats on entering the Church, but for the women they did become quite a status symbol. Arms and legs had to be covered and gloves worn or carried.

These clothes were never worn to work until they had been replaced by something just as good or even better and a winter coat lasted the whole winter. This was before World War I after which a great change came over the whole population and spread into every way of life.

Wartime Britain

The Church was not a very exciting place during the first world war especially for children. It was the first time that for everybody it affected our own island, wars previously had been fought far away not close to one's shores, with so many of our forces being killed. The atmosphere was sad, people were anxious, clothes sombre and most men were in uniform. This was particularly noticed in church. Women no longer wore their jaunty hats perched on an extravagant hairdo. Short hair became the fashion, it was called ‘The Bob’, with soft hats often pulled right down over the eyes. Most men were in uniform, khaki, navy and a very few in the new blue of the Royal Air Force. These were very exciting as they flew! So much for appearances, and the church apart from the flowers had few decorations.

My parents seemed to give up being regular in their church going and my sister and I went to an afternoon service for children which started at 3.o’clock and ended about 4 o’clock. This was taken by a much older curate, and I can still remember his name. He was always known as Mr de Wall, a very kindly man and was well liked. So the years went on until we were old enough to be confirmed, and I had to attend a class one evening a week. I felt very grown up and as we didn't live far from the church I went with another girl on my own. I grew up fast and I found new friends and another side of the church where quite a lot went on, such as a church summer picnic, and Mr de Wall took us, and we had a great time with tea and games and ran races in one of the fields near by, having walked there in a crocodile line. It was the first time that I was really without a member of the family with me. I was duly confirmed dressed in white, veil, long white dress, white shoes and socks and white gloves − I felt very holy and thought I would like to be a nun!

After this we attended church regularly on Sunday Morning service, and going to Communion one Sunday a month and sometimes more, at the 6.am or 7.am morning service. About this time we learnt a new hymn at School. “He who would valiant be ’gainst all disaster”. Now this was different from our usual four liners and we all sang it lustily. It is still one of my favourite hymns and I wonder why it took me so long to become a pilgrim and go on my first pilgrimage which was to Walsingham in the 1980’s. I find it so easy to worship there spiritually, and enjoy the light hearted atmosphere it gives. Perhaps Chaucer felt this when he wrote Canterbury Tales.

The war had proved that women could do so many jobs that were usually for men only, but it was to be a long time before their potential was recognised, even after Mrs Pankhurst had won her fight for Womens’ Rights to have a vote in the election of Members of Parliament, women who had married had to leave as they would now have a home, husband and family to look after. It took years and another war to achieve anything much.

The next exciting thing that happened was that the old Rectory at Barnes was to be pulled down and a new one built and the acres of land surrounding it was to be used for building houses. It was a great shock to those who lived in what was no more than a village. The Rector retired, he was quite elderly, with a shock of white hair, and of the old ‘blood and thunder’ style of preaching, who thumped the pulpit to prove a point, and to make anyone sit up who had fallen asleep, but for all that he was sadly missed. A true churchman, it was always said of him. I never got to know the new man, but rather drifted to trying different churches, one of which was Hammersmith Parish Church where many of my school friends worshipped.

The building of many houses came to Barnes and the urban sprawl came and spread all over what had been farmland right down to, and along the river to the old village of Barnes. The beautiful Rectory garden was reduced greatly. I can remember the old one well as at one of the fêtes held there I got lost exploring and was found sitting in the middle of a great clump of red poppies, and was spanked for running away. These fêtes which we had every summer went on all day with stalls of every kind, lemonade and ice cream cornets, sweets, beautiful needlework done by the ladies, coconut shies, pony rides, hoop-la and many other games, concerts in the afternoon and evening, teas and buns and cakes never seemed to run out, and all this was done mostly by the ladies of the church. I don’t know what it made moneywise but it was always full of people enjoying themselves. Money in those days never seemed to be a problem and as it was never discussed in front of children, I don’t think we ever thought about what a great deal of thought and time had gone into it. “One did not discuss money, it was bad manners”, so when young you didn’t think about how a church was run or what it cost. As long as you had put a coin in the bag on Sunday everything would be all right.

I think that the urbanisation of Barnes must have brought a lot more money into the town, and the church I should think has had its share.

Ruby Bullock

To be continued.

This series is taken from the St George’s News archives, and was first published in 1999.

I imagine ‘The Church of England’ for centuries has tried to find its way through all the different beliefs of its worshippers. Henry VIII took it into his own hands to abolish the Pope's authority here in 1534, and establishing himself as the head of the Church of England to suit his own life style.

Excommunication by the Pope did not make any difference to him as long as he had his own way. He had his own ideas of treatment for people who opposed him. The confessed Roman Catholics suffered badly. Many fine churches, Monasteries and buildings were burned or destroyed, valuable treasures were stolen, gold and silver were melted down to fill his coffers, Monks were burned out of their monasteries, Mass was a forbidden service.

Many people died for their religion and others went into hiding, there was many a hidden priest in the large mansions about the country. In some houses a ‘priests hole’ can be seen when you are visiting today. Many different types of worship sprang up all over Europe and as missionaries began to take their faith abroad religious wars were never very far from the surface.

In these days we are far more fortunate. There has always been difference of opinions as to how and where we worship but now we do have free choice. Elizabeth I of England tried to establish it in her reign and it has taken many years to get where we are today.

Things never stand still and when looking at our Church today compared with a Church in 1900 one can hardly believe what you see.