The History of Avenue Congregational Church

In 1892 the members of Albion Congregational Church, in St Mary Street, Southampton, who were wealthy business men, were less inclined to live over their shops. They were moving to private residences in the leafy outer suburbs of the town, such as Portswood. It was a long walk to Albion Church in St Mary Street on a Sunday, so they looked for a place to site a new Congregational Church. In July 1892 Avenue House, on the corner of Alma Road and the Avenue, was purchased for £2000. A temporary church building was erected in the gardens of the house. This was a portable tin church, and was purchased by the Elders of Albion Chapel, for their new daughter church in the Avenue, from St. John’s Free Church of England in Clifford Street. The first service, of what became the Avenue Congregational Church, was held on 21.12.1892. This building was not sufficient for the needs of the new church and so the foundation stone of the present building was laid in 1897 and the church was opened in December 1898.It was the first public building in Southampton lit by electricity. The 1900 Stonehenge Bazaar was held to help cover the costs of the new building.

The tin church then became the Avenue Hall, and served magnificently as The Soldiers’ Home during the First World War. The present Avenue Hall replaced it, and along with the adjacent Spencer Hall, were both built in 1934 at a cost of £9600.

When, in 1935, Albion church closed, most of its members moved to the Avenue Church. After the Second World War, there were only two Presbyterian or Congregational churches still in existence in Southampton. St Andrew’s had absorbed and united with the congregations of Above Bar and Northam Church. Avenue had absorbed Albion, its mother church. These two churches became United Reformed Churches (URCs) in 1972, with the uniting, nationally, of Congregational and Presbyterian Churches.

Ministers of Avenue Congregational Church (URC from 1972)

1894-1906 Rev. A. D. Martin

1906-1909 Rev. G. E. Startup

1910-1912 Rev. Meredith Davies

1913-1929 Rev. H. T. Spencer

1930-1939 Rev. Stanley Herbert

1939-1950 Rev. D. Marlais Davies

1950-1952 Rev T. G. Brimley (interim guest ministry)

1952-1960 Rev. Vine Russell

1960-1971 Rev. Donald James

1972-1982 Rev. Ronald Ward

1982-1986 Rev. A. J. Spring

Please see below an article published in The Congregational History Society Magazine Vol 10 No.1, Spring 2022, pp.17-35.

‘Extending Nonconformity’ in late Victorian Southampton: The Founding and Construction of Avenue Congregational Church 1892-c.1905