St Matthews was originally a Mission Church which was established in 1889. In 1904 it was decided to split the parish of St Bartholomew and create a new parish of St Matthew. The vicar was to be Bruce Cornford, a charismatic high churchman with lofty ambitions. For him the old Mission Church was not big enough and so a new church was needed. This was to be built on land between Heyward Road and Fawcett Road. It was finally opened in 1924 at which time the old church was converted into a Parish Hall. Neither the new nor the old church survived WW2, the old being completely demolished and the new being left without a roof. A new parish hall was built on the site of the old and a new church dedicated to the Holy Spirit was created from the newer St Matthews within the original brickwork in 1958.
1. St Bartholomew's Church, Cambell Road 2. Inside St Bartholomew's 3. Rev Bruce Cornford
Clare Ash's Mum, Queenie Futcher, was Baptised at St Matthew's in 1912 by Rev Richard O'Gorman Power (then Curate)
from The Sketch c. 1913
Local residents Dave Hartt and Norman Hart recall: "We used to play in the derelict St Mathews in the early fifties.The things we got up to as kids." "Me too, always thought it rather spooky down the steps to a basement part, which I never recall as being open, I didn’t think the main part was accessible either, part of the building was stil in use, access to this was via Heyward Road through a door half way along, then the hall down the bottom in the corner." "I used to go to ‘Sunday School’ in that part of St Mathews. A Mr Young used to teach us. I believe he lived nearby in Oxford Road. As an aside I also climbed up a tower at the east end of the building. I think it might have been the bell tower." - excerpts from Memories of Bygone Portsmouth Facebook group
1. The original St Matthew's Church 2. After an aerial raid January 1941 3. The War Shrine
Sue Kanavan recalls, "Yes. and my father was the church warden and we lived just next door in 11 Heyward Road, as it was then because after that night there were 3 enormous bomb sites and only 11 houses left standing. The children all played out in the street and on the bomb sites and the balls used to go into the church through the blown out windows. My father held the key to the church and I loved going in there with him to retrieve the balls every few weeks . Dad would get a bit emotional and sad as he so loved the sacred place. I loved it too through his memories. I loved it then as a beautiful ruin and then I was privileged to be at the service of Reconsecration in 1958, and continue to love it today in all it’s present glory. God is good and His mercy endures for ever."
The Church was restored in 1956-8 by Stephen Dykes Bower incorporating 19th Century fittings by Temple Moore from St Agnes, Kennington, London. At this point, it was renamed as The Church of the Holy Spirit joining together the church communities of St Batholomew and St Matthew - see Archives
What you see now (with the new hall complex at the rear and the new altar, font, etc) are the fruits of a major re-ordering which was completed in 2010.
If you would like to find out more about our history please read Nigel Yates' 'Holy Spirit Southsea Parish History (1980)'