The History of St Andrews Presbyterian Church

St Andrews Presbyterian Church

Above Bar Church was the first independent church in Southampton, and catered for the needs of worshippers, be they Congregationalists or Presbyterians. English Presbyterians had separated themselves from the Presbyterianism of Scotland and Northern Ireland, firstly as a branch of the Scottish church and after 1836 as an independent body. At this time the town was rapidly expanding. Its population had trebled between 1811 and 1851. Southampton had been a fashionable Spa, and was then becoming a centre of commerce .With the opening of the railway and the docks in 1840 and 1842 respectively, Scottish marine engineers, of the steamship companies, plying their trade throughout the world, came to live in Southampton, bringing their families with them. As many were Presbyterian they met for worship, initially in 1848 in the Baptist chapel in Portland Street. They had been inspired by talks given in the Royal Victoria Assembly rooms in the town, by two Scottish ministers resident in Southampton, Rev. Thomas Pullar of Albion Church, and Rev Alexander Maclaren of the Portland Baptist Church. Application was made to the Presbytery of London in the spring of 1849 for recognition as a preaching station, and oversight of the congregation was given by Rev. A. J. Ross of Brighton. The first meeting of the committee for building their own church premises was held in the Victoria Rooms, Portland Place, on 12th June 1849. From 1849-1853 they met for worship in the Victoria Rooms. Andrew Lamb, the shore-based P&O superintendent engineer, owned land, next to his house, in Charlotte Place. As a prominent member of the congregation, he gave the land to build St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church; and once it was built Scottish engineers were advised to attend worship, or else their chances of promotion would be reduced. Andrew Lamb was a man of status in the town. He was also the first chairman of the Red Funnel Line, a Justice of the Peace, and the first chairman of the “Southampton Times”, a position he held until his death. He did much work in designing and developing marine steam engines, which in some cases led to patents being taken out. His skill was also directed to the construction of iron ships and marine boilers. The church building was situated at the South East corner of the old Bellevue Estate. Later, new road construction led to the Charlotte Place roundabout being built right outside the church. In the 21st century the Jury’s Inn sits on this roundabout. The church architects were Hinves and Bedborough, who had designed Albion chapel, and Kingsfield Church as well as many Anglican churches in Southampton. The sculptor, David Brain, carved Scottish leaders of thought and religion, such as Knox, Carlyle and Irving, on the front of the new church, and on its tower. The total cost of the building was £3,500. Its foundation stone was laid on 18.5.1852, and the church was opened on 29.9.1853, when a minister from Belfast gave the sermon on the Lord’s Prayer to a ”fashionable and delighted audience”. The next Sunday he preached again to a congregation described as “highly reputable people of every denomination”. The collection for the first Sunday was over £50. As well as seating for 550 in the church, and 100 in the gallery, there was a small lecture room and minister’s vestry adjoining the church. A room built over the vestibule was designed to house a church library, but stairs were later removed as it was unsafe. A Sunday School met in the minister’s vestry, but as numbers increased, they outgrew the room and the church opened a branch school in Bedford Place, and hired rooms in Bevois Town Board School. Over the following years other ventures were started, and included a Ladies’ Work Meeting, a Mutual Improvement Society, a Band of Hope, Christian Endeavour, Dorcas Society, Women’s Own, Tract Society, a Maternity and Sick Room Mission, and they gave free Christmas breakfasts. Hymns were originally sung to a harmonium, with a paid choir, but in 1879 an organ was installed. In the second half of the 19th Century the church concerned itself with local benevolent objects, and local mission, in addition to liberal support of denominational funds. It helped establish small Presbyterian congregations in Freemantle, Totton, Woolston, and Boldre near Lymington. The church’s Lamb Memorial Hall, (named for the benefactor and member Andrew Lamb, who died three years previously), was built in 1884, and a portrait of Lamb hung on its walls. A large contribution to build the hall was given by the Lamb family, including one of the sons, who was a barrister. As the Second World War started, the minister left to enter the Church of England. During the war there were severe incendiary bombing raids on Southampton. The church was hit, destroying the ornately carved pulpit and canopy. The church was rendered unusable for several months, so services were held in the Lamb Hall, by permission of the Military Authorities, who had requisitioned the hall as a medical examination room. In 1940 both Northam Congregational Church and Above Bar church were demolished by enemy bombing. Above Bar had a minister without a church, and St Andrews had a church but no minister. The solution seemed to be that the congregations should combine forces. Having worshipped elsewhere for over a year, on 26th April 1942, Above Bar and Northam came to worship with the St Andrews, but as separate congregations for administrative purposes. The minister of Above Bar, Maxwell Janes became the minister of the St Andrew’s congregations. He did much to cement the closer fellowship and joint worship of the two congregations.

A commemorative booklet reprinted from the “Southampton Times” August 23rd 1913 to mark the Diamond Jubilee of St Andrew’s Church is kept in the Church Archives.

Ministers of St Andrews Church

1851-1855 Rev. W Hunter

1855-1880 Rev. John Grant Wright LL.D.

1880-1885 Rev. Robert Vint M.A., B.D.,

1886-1886 Rev. Harvey-Jellie

1887-1905 Rev. Hugh Rodger

1906-1929 Rev. Robert Grimson

1930-1939 Rev. L. Race Clough B.D.

1939-1939 Dr. R.C. Gillie and A.M. Jack

1939-1942 Dr. W.S.Carruthers (supply minister from St. Mary’s Presbyterian Church Woolston)

1942-1945 Rev. Maxwell O. Janes